WGSN | Key Trend 2021: Global Chilli Condiments
Discover the chilli-based condiments moving beyond regional cuisine menus and gaining fans in the West to influence new full-flavoured product innovation that is satisfying consumers’ insatiable appetite for heat
Imogen Glithro
09.08.20 · 1 minute
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@ciaoimports
Executive summary

Condiments made from chillies are a staple in global dishes and are expanding as a variety of cuisines move widely around the world, inspiring new styles and spreading complex chilli heat to foods of all kinds.

A host of chilli condiments are being celebrated for their regional heritage by diners eager to customize dishes with a cuisine-specific flavour and heat kick. We identify eight global chilli condiments gaining attention and expanding to inform new flavourful foods: 

  • Japanese yuzu kosho: the yuzu citrus plus chilli blend winning over chefs and diners and inspiring new condiment riffs
  • Fermented hot sauce: inspired by Korean cuisine, these sauces offer a punch of umami as well as gut-health benefits 
  • Chinese chilli crisp: the multi-textured chilli oil condiment has a growing fan base. It has already inspired restaurant and own-label retailer variations to tap into demand
  • Hong Kong XO sauce: arising from independent chefs’ kitchens, this premium umami-rich sauce delivers a decadent and complex chilli flavour
  • Indonesian sambal: this staple condiment is turning up more often on menus in the West as the influence of cuisines from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore expands
  • Yemeni zhoug: the chilli heat and unique herbaceous appeal of zhoug adds a fresh, zingy flavour to many dishes
  • African peri-peri sauce: popular on chicken, peri-peri chilli’s flavour is now delivered in many formats
  • New Mexican Hatch chilli: this mild-to-hot green chilli is moving quickly across the US as a seasonal flavouring for snacks, dips, salsas and dressings


We analyse these condiments and their evolution, with action points for each.

@grow.to.eat
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Analysis

Consumers are becoming increasingly experimental with chilli-based condiments. The heritage as well as the broad range of flavour and heat engages people around the world.

Hot sauces have been used for centuries across the globe. Chillies were introduced to Asia, Europe and Africa by travellers who brought them from South America. Many regions now have their own variations and specific chilli varieties. Chilli condiment recipes are often passed down from generation to generation and can vary based on the family recipe or regionality.

Focusing on both flavour and heat delivery means many of the sauces elevate simple dishes, adding depth and complexity. These condiments have since featured on more restaurant menus in the West and been loved by diners, with some restaurants even packaging the condiment to sell. Many Western chefs have also taken advantage of these attributes and adopted condiments from around the world for use in their own dishes.

Old processes, such as fermentation, are seeing a new lease of life as interest grows due to gut health and flavour benefits. Some chefs are getting experimental with flavour and technique as awareness of fermentation increases.

What does this mean for you?

Awareness of chilli condiments has moved past sriracha and sweet chilli. New to the West, the lesser-known flavours we outline in this report have the power to add depth to dishes. Consider use in familiar condiments, include them in marinades or pair with dishes as dipping sauces. Be sure to respect heritage and provide recipe pairings and suggestions to help consumers with ideas.

@flybyjing
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Japanese yuzu kosho

A fresh and citrusy chilli sauce, yuzu kosho is frequently found on fine dining menus with a Japanese stance and is appearing in a growing number of cross-category formats in retail.

Yuzu kosho is a mildly spicy fermented condiment made from the peel of unripened yuzu (Japanese citrus) and fresh green tōgarashi (Japanese chilli peppers). Yuzu kosho was created in the 1970s in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost region. It's traditionally used with hot pot, sashimi and grilled chicken.

Yuzu kosho has become popular with chefs and bartenders accenting a host of dishes and cocktails in Western restaurants. It has been used to flavour mayonnaise in New England crab rolls at Eventide in Portland, Maine and at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant in Islington, London, which uses yuzu kosho to season beef carpaccio. But it’s not limited to savoury dishes. At Te Company in New York City, chef Frederico Ribeiro uses it to adjust the sweetness of his pineapple-hazelnut Linzer tarts to put a spin on Taiwanese pineapple cake.

Increasingly, it can be found flavouring a diverse range of speciality products around the world, such as an annual seasonal sour beer from a small brewery in New Zealand and hummus at the Texas grocery store, Central Market. UK foodies are finding it in Western supermarkets like Waitrose.

How you can action this: yuzu kosho offers a versatile citrus-sour chilli kick. In prepared food, it lends a Japanese-inspired tartness to seafood, poultry, steak and vegetables. In packaged products, start with mainstream condiments and snacks such as salad dressings, dips, crisps and vegetable crisps.

Confusion Kochen
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Japanese yuzu kosho

@chefjordankeen

Oklahoma-based restaurant Copper spices its collard greens with yuzu kosho alongside fried quail and grit croquettes

@tecompany

NYC tea house Te Company created a twist on its traditional linzer cake with pineapple linzer cookies spiked with yuzu kosho

@garageproject
@tastytype

Wellington-based brewery Garage Project (above, left) created a special edition kettle-soured pilsner brewed with green chilli, the fresh zest of locally grown green yuzu fruit and sea salt for 2020; while speciality US grocer Central Market (above, right) launched a yuzu kosho spiced hummus in July 2020

@traderjoes_momo

US retailer Trader Joe’s created a packaged yuzu kosho hot sauce

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Fermented hot sauce

Using the centuries-old fermentation technique imparts complex sour and umami flavour in an increasingly popular and experimental category of hot sauces.

Fermented hot sauces have risen in popularity as appreciation of sour, tangy flavour grows. The umami richness and chilli heat give these sauces another dimension. Fermented hot sauces can offer health benefits, too; they often contain levels of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.

Methods of fermentation have been used to preserve food for centuries across the globe. Traders would introduce chillies from South America to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. Often, the chillies were fermented to preserve quality for the journey.

Popular Korean condiment kimchi has become a consumer favourite on menus for its umami and sour flavour. It can sometimes be very spicy and is made by fermenting vegetables, often cabbage. UK brand Eaten Alive has created a kimchi-based hot sauce with spicy Korean gochugaru chillies to appeal to experimental fans.

Craft brands around the world are now fermenting chillies for hot sauces. In Denmark, brand Midsummer experiments with habanero, Carolina Reaper and jalapeño chillies. It pairs and macerates them with rich ingredients like black garlic for unique flavour in limited quantity batches.

How you can action this: fermentation is an ancient process that is being revisited due to its flavour and gut health benefits. Brands such as Midsummer are taking a more experimental approach to appeal to daring food-lovers. Experiment with fermentation and signpost the benefits as well as the flavour.

@weymouth51chilli
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Fermented hot sauce

@eatenaliveldn

London-based Eaten Alive expanded its fermented hot sauce range this year

@midsummer.no

Danish brand Midsummer is experimental with the fermentation process

@rileytmilburn
@_sabarac_

Texan chef Riley Milburn shows followers his experimentations with chillies and fruits to turn into hot sauces (above, left); while Australian Sabarac (above, right) has a wide range of fermented flavours in its products that blend fruits and regional chillies

@thekoldsauce

Kold Sauce raw-presses fermented hot chillies to create its hot unique sauce

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