The Best Chili Sauce Substitutes when preparing your favorite recipes are here with easy ratios to follow. This is a spicy, sweet condiment that’s commonly used in Western and Asian cuisines. That’s why, for those of us who enjoy a spice kick in our food, it can be frustrating if we run out and can’t find it at the grocery store.
Fortunately, numerous substitutes can deliver the flavor of chili sauce while also adding a unique spin to the dish, such as Middle Eastern and dry seasonings.
Let’s take a look at the best chili sauce swaps.
🌶️ What Is Chili Sauce?
It is a popular condiment that strikes the ideal balance of spicy and sweet flavors. It adds a bit of spice and flavor to any savory dish.
You can use it as a dip, marinade, or even a side sauce on the table like salt and pepper. You can also use chili sauce in cooking to make soup and stew bases.
There’s an abundance of varieties depending on their place of origin. They all, more or less, have the same basic ingredients: chili peppers, spices, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Many also contain tomato paste, which makes them much sweeter.
|Regular Hot Sauce||Taste test to determine amount to use|
|Sriracha Sauce||Taste test to determine amount to use as it’s hotter|
|Gochujang||Dilute with water, vinegar and sugar|
|Spicy Ketchup||1:1, best if used as a dip or later in the recipe so it doesn’t burn|
|Spicy Tomato Sauce||Add in sautéed garlic for best flavor match|
|Chili Powder or Flakes||Add in vinegar and sugar to add more flavor|
Chili Sauce Substitutes
Each substitute on this list has at least one flavor that you may associate with chili sauce. So, when you’re deciding which one to use, consider the amount of sauce you’re using and its heat level.
Luckily, most of the sauces, pastes, and seasonings listed below can be used in a variety of dishes and recipes. You can also make any necessary changes to match the flavor profile of your dish.
Regular Hot Sauce
Regular hot sauce is an excellent and easy substitute in most recipes. You can use it in stews and marinades, as well as on the side as a dipping sauce.
There’s a wide variety of hot sauces in the market, so you’re sure to find one that suits your taste.
Keep in mind, though, that the level of spiciness in a hot sauce can range from mild to extreme, so check the packaging for ingredients and heat levels. You should also do a quick taste to determine how much sauce your recipe needs.
It will not have the sweet notes of chili sauce, so consider adding in tomato paste or even honey.
Harissa is a North African hot chili paste that’s made from a combination of spices, red chili pepper, tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. It has a similar texture and flavor profile to chili sauce.
This chili sauce alternative can add depth and heat to any dish. You can use it as a dip or a marinade. You can also add harissa to soups and stews for a more pronounced flavor.
We love using this popular Thai sauce as a swap in recipes when running out of chili sauce. It is going to be hotter as it has jalapeños, garlic, sugar and some vinegar so use caution when making the exchanges in recipes.
If you want to make your own, whip up a batch of the less potent Honey Sriracha Sauce.
Gochujang, or red chili paste, is a thick, crimson paste made from Korean red pepper powder, fermented soybean, sweet rice flour, barley malt powder, rice syrup, and salt.
It’s a fundamental ingredient in Korean cuisine and gives most stews, braises, marinades, and sauces their unique salty-sweet-hot flavor and fiery color.
Unlike chili sauce, gochujang has an intense flavor, so it shouldn’t be used as a sauce on its own. At the very least, it should be diluted with water, vinegar, and sugar.
Overall, gochujang is versatile, and you can experiment with different ingredients to make it your own.
Spicy ketchup is an excellent substitute because it has a similar consistency and flavors to chili sauce. It’s sweet, tangy, and umami, so you’ll only need to mix in any form of chilies to make it spicier.
If you want to save time, you can buy ready-made spicy ketchup from the grocery store. It has a longer shelf life, but you won’t have control over the heat level, which is often on the mild side.
It’s worth noting that ketchup is already cooked, so if you add it early on to a dish, it may burn. That’s why this chili sauce substitute is ideal for dipping or as a finishing meat glaze.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
Another chili sauce substitute that you can easily whip up at home is spicy tomato sauce.
Just stir in chili powder or chopped chili peppers to a regular tomato sauce. You can also heat the spicy tomato sauce on the stove to amplify the spiciness.
What makes this alternative great is that you can adjust the level of spiciness to your taste. You can use it for pasta sauces, stews, soups, and even pizza sauces.
If you want to mellow out the tomato taste and bring the flavor closer to chili sauce, you should cook down some garlic and stir it in as it cooks.
Chili Powder or Flakes
Lastly, instead of using chili sauce, you can use chili powder or flakes, which are the only dry ingredients on our list. They’re easy to find in any grocery store, and they’re usually packaged in packets or jars.
Whether you use the powdered or flaked form, the flavor depends on the type of chili used. If you want a mild kick, look for Anaheim or poblano peppers. Go for jalapeño, Carolina, Korean chili, and ghost peppers if you want to add a spicy punch to your dish.
Alternatively, you can make your own chili powder or flakes at home. If you have chili peppers lying around, you can roast or dry them, then grind the peppers in a food processor.
Once they’ve reached the form you want, store them in an airtight jar or Ziploc bag. For the next year or so, you have chili powder or flakes readily available.
Keep in mind, though, that using chili powder or flakes won’t give your dish the tang and sweetness that comes with using chili sauce. Still, you can add a dash of vinegar and sugar to enhance the dish’s flavors.
Recipes With Chili Sauce
Chili Sauce Dip – This dipping sauce recipe packs a punch, but you can mix in some gochujang or spicy hot sauce to intensify the heat. We made a homemade version for our Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp.
You don’t need to refrigerate chili sauce, but you should store it in a cool, dark place. Exposing it to heat and light can change its color, smell, and taste. It can also cause the sauce to spoil.
That said, you should always follow the sauce manufacturer’s recommendations. If the bottle says “refrigerate after opening,” you should keep the chili sauce in the refrigerator.
What’s more, chili sauce can last up to a month at room temperature, but refrigerating it can extend its shelf life up to six to nine months.
The main distinction between chili sauce and hot sauce is in the consistency. Chili sauce is often thicker and richer, with a consistency similar to ketchup. Hot sauce, on the other hand, has a runny consistency due to the liquid component in its recipe.
In addition, it tends to be less vinegary and has bits of pepper flesh, while hot sauce is often packed with a vinegary punch and doesn’t have any bits in it.
In terms of heat, some chili sauces, such as Thai chili sauce, are sweet, whereas others are as fiery as hot sauce.
The level of spiciness varies depending on the ingredients, but the sauce can be hot, sweet, or a combination of both.
It is made with anaheim chili, for example, has 500 to 1,000 Scoville heat units, which is sweet with a hint of warmth.
On the other hand, espelette chili sauce scores 1,500 to 2,500 units on the Scoville scale, which is quite spicy.
Next time you need to add some sweet heat to a recipe but don’t have chili sauce, there are several chili sauce substitutes to choose from.
Some of those alternatives may bring noticeably different flavors to your recipes. Still, they’re all made from similar ingredients, so the overall flavor profile doesn’t deviate significantly.
Regular hot sauce and spicy ketchup, for example, are sweet, tangy, and spicy, and can easily stand in for chili sauce. However, if you’re looking for a game-changing condiment, gochujang or harissa paste are excellent choices.
Ultimately, you can experiment with adding other ingredients or combining different chili sauce substitutes to enhance the flavor of your dish.