Are you a fan of spicy food? If so, you’ve probably heard of sriracha sauce.
This popular condiment has taken the world by storm with its unique blend of spicy and garlicky flavors. But have you ever wondered just how spicy it really is?
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind sriracha’s heat and answer the burning question: how many Scoville units does sriracha sauce have?
From the history of the Scoville scale to the ingredients that give sriracha its signature kick, we’ll dive deep into the world of hot sauce and discover what makes sriracha so special.
So grab a glass of milk and get ready to learn all about the spicy sensation that is sriracha sauce.
How Many Scoville Units Is Sriracha Sauce?
Sriracha sauce is known for its unique blend of spicy and garlicky flavors, but just how spicy is it? The answer lies in the Scoville scale, a measurement of the heat or spiciness of peppers or sauces.
According to sources, sriracha sauce has a Scoville rating ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 heat units. This puts it in the low-medium range of spiciness, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy a bit of heat without being overwhelmed by it.
The heat in sriracha sauce comes from capsaicinoids, a group of molecules found in fresh ground red chilies. Two molecules in particular, capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, are responsible for up to 95% of the sauce’s spicy kick. These molecules trigger the TRPV1 receptor protein in our mouths, causing the spicy hot sensation.
But don’t worry, your body responds to capsaicin’s burn by releasing a painkilling endorphin rush, similar to the one a jogger feels after a long run.
The History Of The Scoville Scale
The Scoville scale was created in 1912 by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, known as the Scoville organoleptic test, was a subjective assessment of the capsaicinoid sensitivity by people experienced with eating hot chilies. In this test, Scoville would extract the capsaicin out of a pepper and dilute it with a solution of sugar and water until the heat was undetectable by a taste tester. Every additional dilution increased the scale.
The Scoville scale ranges from 0 Scoville heat units to 16 million, which is the endpoint for pure capsaicin. Peppers are ranked on this scale based on their concentration of capsaicinoids, with higher concentrations indicating a spicier pepper.
While the Scoville scale has been criticized due to the subjective perspective of taste testers, more modern approaches to measurement have been devised. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is a method of accurately measuring the concentration of capsaicinoids in a pepper. This form of spice measurement doesn’t use Scoville units but instead uses American Spice Trade Association pungency units – one pungency unit is equal to about 1/15 of a Scoville unit and is actually a parts per million count of capsaicin in a particular pepper.
Today, analytical methods such as HPLC have largely superseded the subjective organoleptic test. The Scoville scale remains a popular way to measure the spiciness of peppers and sauces, including sriracha sauce.
What Are Scoville Units?
Scoville units, also known as SHU, are a measurement of the spiciness or heat of peppers or sauces. It was named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 to measure the pungency of chili peppers. The test involves diluting an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from the dried test pepper with sugar water at differing concentrations and sampling it by “taste testers”. The pepper is then assigned a Scoville Heat Unit with respect to the dilution required for the “burn” to no longer be sensed.
The Scoville rating indicates the amount of capsaicin present in a pepper or sauce. The higher the rating, the hotter the pepper or sauce. For instance, a low rating indicates little or no heat. The Scoville scale is based on the concentration of capsaicinoids, with capsaicin being the predominant component.
However, the subjective organoleptic test has been largely replaced by analytical methods such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), which can be used to quantitatively measure capsaicin concentration as an indicator of pungency. The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) uses HPLC to accurately measure capsaicin (and other “burn” producing chemicals) in foods and assigns a unit of measure called the ASTA Pungency Unit, which equals approximately 15 SHUs.
The Ingredients That Give Sriracha Its Heat
Sriracha sauce is made up of several key ingredients that give it its signature heat. The primary ingredient is fresh ground red chilies, which contain capsaicinoids that trigger the TRPV1 receptor protein in our mouths. This protein usually responds to scalding temperatures above 109 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why we feel a spicy hot sensation when we consume sriracha sauce.
In addition to the red chilies, sriracha sauce also contains vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. These ingredients not only add to the flavor of the sauce but also act as a natural antimicrobial preservative that helps keep the bottle long-lasting, even without refrigeration.
Two other compounds, potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite, are added to sriracha sauce to maintain its long shelf life and vibrant red color. Potassium sorbate inhibits the growth of molds and yeast in the product and is found in other foods such as dairy products, wine, dried fruit and meats, and juices. Sodium bisulfite stops the natural browning reaction that occurs when fresh produce is oxidized, giving each bottle of sriracha that lasting, highly distinguished red color.
Comparing Sriracha’s Heat To Other Hot Sauces
When it comes to comparing the heat of sriracha sauce to other hot sauces, it’s important to note that the Scoville rating can vary depending on the crop of peppers used. However, in general, sriracha falls in the low-medium range of spiciness compared to other popular hot sauces.
For example, Tabasco Original Red has a Scoville rating ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 heat units, making it up to twice as hot as sriracha. Valentina Hot Sauce has a rating of 900 SHU, Crystal Hot Sauce ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 SHU, and Frank’s RedHot has a rating of 450 SHU.
While sriracha may not be the spiciest hot sauce out there, it still packs a punch compared to other common store-bought brands. Its simple blend of ingredients, including fresh ground red chilies, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar, allows the heat from the peppers to shine through without being diluted by other ingredients.
The Health Benefits Of Spicy Foods
Spicy foods have been consumed for centuries, and they offer more than just a unique flavor. Research has shown that capsaicin, the active ingredient in spicy foods, may offer several health benefits.
One of the most notable benefits is weight management. Capsaicin has been found to improve metabolism and increase energy expenditure, which can lead to weight loss. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who consume capsaicin are less likely to be obese or overweight.
Capsaicin may also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. This can be especially beneficial for individuals with conditions such as arthritis or other inflammatory diseases.
Spicy foods may also have cardiovascular benefits. Capsaicin has been shown to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Finally, spicy foods may have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help boost the immune system and protect against infections.