The real reason Burger King is running out of Zesty sauce

Eating at Burger King is all about the sauce, whether you're choosing the perfect chicken nugget dipping sauce, asking for ranch with your french fries, or getting a Whopper topped with the standard mayo and ketchup. So when we heard that Burger King was running out of Zesty Onion sauce, a creamy, spicy dip that goes with their onion rings, we knew something was really wrong. 

We were even more shocked when we heard that Burger King might not have Zesty sauce in stock again until next April (via Business Insider). So what's the deal? Why are they running out, and why will it take so long for Zesty sauce to come back? 

Burger King can't get one of the important Zesty sauce ingredients

The real problem with Burger King's Zesty sauce is that it contains horseradish, a root with a spicy flavor that gives the sauce its kick. Normally, sourcing horseradish to make the sauce isn't an issue, but this year, things went awry.

Though horseradish farmers say they planted more horseradish than ever this year, bad weather in the Midwest hurt crops (via CNN). Silver Spring Foods, the largest supplier of horseradish in the world, said that a combination of snowmelt in the spring, a wet fall, and an early frost contributed to making for a crop that was impossible to harvest. 

Apparently, they're not alone. They say that horseradish farms in the U.S., Canada, and Europe have also been negatively affected. 

Unfortunately, this might not be the last horseradish shortage we live through. The bigwigs at Silver Springs worry that the weather patterns that caused the shortage are just a harbinger of things to come (via The Takeout). 

"We think these are new weather patterns that will not go away," he said. "We're looking at speed as a way to mitigate this. When the weather is good we need to harvest faster."

Burger King says that they're expecting to run out of Zesty sauce completely in the new year, and the next horseradish harvest isn't until April 2020, so it might be a long time before onion ring enthusiasts can get back the Zesty dip they so love. 

Other chain restaurants that might run out of sauce

Burger King isn't alone in their sauce woes. 

Arby's makes a similarly zesty condiment called Horsey Sauce that contains horseradish, but they're not making predictions as dire as Burger King — a spokesperson for the chain said that they're "working closely with [their] partners to ensure supply with no disruptions." Maybe the next time you're craving BK onion rings, you can swing by Arby's afterward for an order of Horsey Sauce for dippin'.

Long John Silver's, the fast food seafood chain, hasn't commented on the shortage yet, but their cocktail sauce lists horseradish as the third ingredient (via Fooducate), so if there really is a country-wide shortage of the pungent root, they might be in trouble too. 

Burger King also isn't the only restaurant that uses a spicy horseradish sauce as an essential accompaniement for the decadence of fried onions. At Outback Steakhouse, their legendary Bloomin' Onion (via Outback) is served with a creamy, spicy dip made with horseradish (via Top Secret Recipes). If the horseradish shortage is as bad as it seems, they may have to come up with an alternative. 

The best horseradish substitutes

It seems like our favorite sauces are in trouble, so it made us wonder — are there any horseradish substitutes that could be used to create dips with that same zingy, spicy flavor?

Luckily, yes, though some substitutes might be harder to get ahold of than others (via Raw Spice Bar). 

The best horseradish substitute is wasabi. Horseradish is often used as a wasabi substitute, but that's because wasabi is usually harder to get ahold of than horseradish. That might change, though, thanks to the current shortage of horseradish. 

An easier to source substitute, though one that's less similar in flavor, is mustard. Look for spicy mustards with a short ingredients list — the more pure the mustard, the better. This will add a hot, zippy flavor to dips and sauces that is similar to the zing of horseradish. 

Another possible substitute is ginger. Now, ginger is a little sweeter tasting than horseradish, but it does have a similarly pungent flavor when eaten raw. For best results, use raw grated ginger in place of grated horseradish. 

If the horseradish shortage continues, who knows — maybe we'll see some sauce innovations from our favorite fast food chains using these horseradish substitutes.