Hot honey has begun to capture the imagination of diners, growing on menus 187 percent between 2016 and 2020 alone. It makes sense—hot honey combines the sweet and spicy flavor profiles that have driven so many trends of late, from fruity seltzers to Nashville hot chicken. Hot honey is a condiment that can be put on nearly anything.
“People are generally obsessed with condiments,” says Montina Filice, senior strategist at The Culinary Edge, a San Francisco-based innovation and consulting company. “Things like ketchup and ranch have ruled the tabletop for a long time, but there’s a new wave of condiments better suited for the modern palate. Mike’s Hot Honey is becoming one of those trusted condiments that consumers love, and it aligns with another set of things, trends-wise, like consumers craving sweet heat, and natural sweeteners.”
Created by Mike Kurtz in his college dorm room after discovering hot honey during a semester abroad in Brazil, Mike’s Hot Honey was first featured in the foodservice space on pizza at Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. What’s exciting about the Mike’s Hot Honey explosion, says Kevin Villanueva, research and development chef with The Culinary Edge, is the amount of applications it has started to be featured in.
“I know Mike’s Hot Honey has made their bones on pizza, and it’s really well-suited for that,” Villanueva says. “But I’ve seen it on fried chicken, cocktail menus, breakfast sandwiches and dessert applications. And all of that makes sense, because there's truly no application I’d rule it out for.”
This slideshow is a look at some of the varied applications restaurant brands have created using Mike’s Hot Honey, and an investigation of why chefs and diners have fallen in love with the product.
Menu Item: Million Dollar Breakfast Sandwich
First Watch, the 300-plus-unit daytime cafe concept, will soon launch a Million Dollar Breakfast Sandwich featuring Mike’s.
“When we were in the test kitchen scheming up our next flavorful, seasonal brunch showstopper, I knew I wanted Mike’s Hot Honey to be a part of it,” says Shane Schaibly, senior vice president of culinary strategy and corporate chef at First Watch. “I’ve been a huge fan of Mike’s for years—it’s such a natural fit for our sweet, spicy Million Dollar Breakfast Sammy.”
Menu Item: Spicy Honey Butter Lobster Roll
Luke’s Lobster, famous for its award-winning Lobster Roll, created a Spicy Honey Butter Lobster Roll using Mike’s Hot Honey. Meaghan Dillon, marketing director with Luke’s Lobster, reports that diners go crazy for the combination of Mike’s Hot Honey and melted butter.
“We love that Mike’s uses high-quality ingredients,” Dillon says. “We take a lot of pride in how we source our lobster and other seafood, making sure to put quality first, and we’re grateful to partner with a company that feels the same way.”
Modern Market Eatery
Menu Item: Spicy Trio Pizza (red sauce, organic mozzarella, pulled pork, bacon bits, Creminelli pepperoni, fresh jalapeno, Mike’s Hot Honey)
Modern Market—a “food forward, sustainable fast casual” that operates units in Colorado, Texas, and Arizona, as well as the Denver International Airport and on Notre Dame campus—says that its Spicy Trio Pizza has been a hit with guests, packing “multiple levels of spice.”
“Mike’s is a well-balanced honey that offers the perfect amount of sweet and the perfect amount of heat,” says MacKenzie Soucie, marketing manager at Modern Market Eatery. “It’s a clean product, which is also very appealing as we aim to offer ingredients that are clean and sustainably sourced.”
Menu Item: Sweet Heat Chicken & French Toast Bites
Ruby Slipper, the New Orleans-based brunch concept, uses Mike’s Hot Honey in cocktails, coffee drinks, and more. But perhaps its most popular application is Sweet Heat Chicken & French Toast Bites, an innovative play on chicken and waffles.
“This dish highlights all of the flavors that people crave on a single plate,” says Melissa Carter, director of brand marketing at Ruby Slipper. “To some, it brings a sense of nostalgia with a childhood breakfast favorite, French toast sticks. Once you get the perfect bit of French toast, fried chicken, and strawberry coated in Mike’s Hot Honey glaze, you’ll know pure bliss!”
Menu Item: American Honey
Bridget Siegal, chief operating officer of &pizza—the Washington D.C.-based concept that has grown to have locations across the Mid Atlantic region—echoes others in saying her brand’s standard for the highest quality products is met in partnering with Mike’s Hot Honey.
“The American Honey pie is our best-selling hit,” Siegal says. “It plays on the sweet-spicy combination, with Mike’s Hot Honey as the counterpoint to all of the other flavors and textures, from the spicy, rich bite of pepperoni, to the tangy sprinkle of goat cheese. It just creates a perfectly balanced bite of pizza.”
Normal Ice Cream
Menu Item: Arnold Palmer Composed Cone
Normal Ice Cream is known for being anything but “normal,” coming up with innovative ice cream flavors at its two Salt Lake City locations. A latest creation is a play on an Arnold Palmer, featuring a twist of lemonade sorbet and sweet tea ice cream, with salty crunch, shortbread crumb, and some candied lemon wedges. On top of all that is a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey.
“It’s such a pleasant surprise any time we add Mike’s Hot Honey to something,” says Karly Zobrist, operations manager at Normal Ice Cream. “We added Mike’s Hot Honey to our menu at Normal because we love to share foods that surprise and delight us. Even if our customers are well acquainted with a product or ingredient like Mike’s, we try to share it in a way that is new and exciting.”
Menu Item: Mike’s Hot Honey Frozen Swirl (cognac, apple brandy, pomegranate, ginger, Mike’s Hot Honey)
Brooklyn-based Sweet Chick has been partnering with Mike’s Hot Honey since it opened its doors back in 2013, using it on Mike’s Hot Honey Chicken and Waffles. More recently, the brand came up with a frozen cocktail that has commanded the attention of diners in a big way.
“The swirl of Mike’s Hot Honey is something we add to the cup before serving,” says Kyle Martin, director of operations at Sweet Chick. “Once our guests saw how fun the drink looked, it would pique their interest. We got a lot of questions about what it was, and that made it even more popular.”
The Mike’s Difference
The popularity of Mike’s Hot Honey has led many companies to try and replicate the magic by creating a product that mimics the flavor profile, says Villanueva. He identifies a series of factors that makes Mike’s Hot Honey superior to the competition.
The first factor is the complex flavor, Villanueva says, citing a citrus note in the pepper, combined with a slight acidity in the honey that makes it unique. He also likes that the product is clear, not cloudy—the sediments from the pepper in other products do not exist in Mike’s Hot Honey.
“Finally, the ingredient label of Mike’s Hot Honey is super clean,” Villanueva says. “It’s Chilies, and it’s honey. A lot of other imposters are doing honey-flavored-syrup, or chili-flavored syrup and their ingredient list shows it. One of the biggest trends moving forward is the clean label, and this fits right into that.”
Filice agrees, and offers something else that she believes has made Mike’s Hot Honey the go-to sweet heat product for foodservice operators across the industry.
“It’s a condiment with a cult following because it has that cool factor,” Filice says. “Enough people know it, to where it’s clear that it has the legs to be really, really popular, but it’s still at the phase where other people are discovering it and falling in love with it. So you can get a lot of traction, whether you’re connecting with people who already know it and love it, or people who see an amazing menu item and think, ‘I want to try that.’’
For more on adding Mike’s Hot Honey to your kitchen, visit the company’s website.