The Real Reason XO Sauce Is So Expensive

Have you ever wondered why XO sauce is so expensive? Grubstreet shared that for just a couple of ounces of this spicy, flavor packed sauce you can expect spend $15 or more — that definitely has us raising our hands wondering the same thing. This condiment's genesis began in Hong Kong in the early 1980s, but today you can purchase jars of the pricy stuff online or use the power of the internet to find recipes (we like this one from Serious Eats!) to make this coveted condiment yourself.

According to The Spruce Eats, one story credits a chef at the luxury Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon for XO sauce's creation, further claiming its moniker was derived from the expensive cognac that shares the same name. Still, others believe XO is shorthand for "luxury" and "prestige." Regardless of who created the condiment or where its name was derived, the one thing most people can agree on is that it is an absolutely delicious sauce that provides umami flavor to countless dishes ranging from vegetables to meats to noodles (via The Woks of Life). The James Beard Foundation notes that XO is so highly prized in Cantonese cooking it has garnered the nickname "Caviar of the Orient," with the basic recipe containing dried scallops, dried shrimp, Yunnan (or sometimes Jinhua, according to our other sources) ham, shrimp roe, chiles, and garlic. But why so costly? 

The ingredients used to make XO sauce themselves are expensive

Per The Spruce Eats, the ingredients that go into making XO sauce, along with the laborious process of making it which can take a couple of hours, are what really make the condiment so costly. The Woks of Life  pointed out that the price is largely dependent upon the quality of the seafood used. You could shell out some serious clams on a single pound of medium-sized scallops — $100 to be exact. And then there is the Jinhua ham which is also a bit of a delicacy. Made from panda pigs (named that based on their black and white coloring), a thigh of this stuff can cost up to $1,200 (via Vice).

To further drive home how expensive XO sauce is, Grubstreet shared that when you order a dish of stir-fried dover sole with XO at New York restaurant Hakkasan, you can expect to pay $46 for this single menu item alone. Ouch. But some people believe the expense is worth it and once you taste this jammy, umami-rich sauce, you will want to use it on everything. If you only use it occasionally, there's no need to worry. The Spruce Eats states that shelf life of XO sauce is pretty lengthy, so you likely wont find yourself tossing the pricey ingredient after only a few uses.