Chili paste is a condiment made from ground, dried chili peppers. While there are several varieties available, the paste typically has a thick consistency and spicy flavor with a subtle note of sweetness. Chili paste is commonly used as a cooking ingredient, dip, marinade, topping, or spread.
Other condiments, such as ketchup and cayenne pepper, sriracha sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes, make suitable substitutes for chili paste because they impart the same spicy flavor to dishes.
Best Substitute for Chili Paste: Ketchup and Cayenne Pepper
The best substitute for chili paste is ketchup and ground cayenne pepper. Ketchup and cayenne pepper, when combined together, match chili paste’s spicy flavor, thick texture, and vibrant red color. Both ingredients are household staples and readily available in local grocery stores.
Like chili paste, a combination of ketchup and cayenne pepper is versatile and can be used as a glaze, marinade, cooking ingredient, or dip. To replace chili paste, substitute with equal amounts of ketchup and add a pinch of cayenne. Adjust these amounts based on dish and heat preference.
Crushed red pepper can be used instead of cayenne pepper at the same substitution ratios.
Other Chili Paste Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Other foods you can use in place of chili paste include sriracha hot sauce, red pepper flakes, tomato paste with chili powder, tabasco, chili oil, and paprika powder. If you have plenty of spare time, you can also make your own homemade chili paste with our recipe below.
Sriracha Hot Sauce
Sriracha hot sauce is a spicy Thai sauce made from ground chile peppers, distilled vinegar, salt, garlic powder, and sugar. While it doesn’t match the consistency of chili paste, sriracha hot sauce adds a similar heat, color, and tanginess to dishes. Sriracha hot sauce has a Scoville rating between 1,000 and 2,500.
Substitute chili sauce with sriracha at a 1:1 ratio. Sriracha hot sauce can be thickened, if necessary, with paprika powder or cornstarch.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are made from dried, crushed red chile peppers and impart a hot kick to dishes. Red pepper flakes lack a paste-like texture, but they’re still an ideal substitute in toppings, stir-fries, and dry rubs.
Use a few pinches of red pepper flakes, to begin with, then taste and adjust the amount according to your preference.
Tomato Paste and Chili Powder
Tomato paste is a concentrated, thick paste made from tomatoes that are cooked for several hours and strained. Tomato paste makes a suitable substitute for chili paste because it matches chili paste’s texture and consistency, and, when combined with chili powder, has a spicy flavor.
Keep in mind that even with the chili powder added, this substitute isn’t an exact flavor match with chili paste. Expect your dish to gain a rich tomato flavor and tangy kick.
Substitute chili paste for tomato paste at a 1:1 ratio, and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of chili powder. Heat the tomato paste and chili powder together on low heat to bring out the best flavors.
Tabasco is a hot sauce made of tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. The sauce has a thin consistency and a tangy, spicy flavor. Tabasco can work as a substitute in a pinch in dishes where a thick consistency isn’t required.
Tabasco’s tanginess can overwhelm a dish, so substitute with half the amount the recipe calls for.
Chili oil, an oil infused with chile peppers, is a staple cooking ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Chili oil doesn’t match the consistency or potency of chili paste, but it’s versatile and still packs a lot of heat.
The condiment makes a spicy topping and excellent substitute in Asian stir-fries, noodle dishes, and soups. Used in the right quantities, chili oil won’t mask a dish’s original flavors.
Substitute chili paste with 2 tablespoons of chili oil, adding more or less based on taste.
If you’re after a substitute that’s mild and sweet in flavor, paprika powder — particularly sweet paprika — makes a great replacement. The spice isn’t as hot as chili paste and imparts a mild, slightly peppery flavor to dishes.
Because paprika is a powder, it shouldn’t be used in dishes where consistency is a concern. Paprika is well-suited to Hungarian and Spanish cuisines.
Substitute paprika for chili paste at half the amount the recipe calls for, adjusting the amount based on taste preference. Avoid overcooking paprika because it’ll lose its vibrant color and become bitter.
Homemade Chili Paste
Chili paste is relatively easy to make at home if you have the time and ingredients on hand.
- 1 pound of chile peppers, of your choice variety
- A few pinches of salt
- A pinch of sugar, based on taste
- 1–3 chopped shallots or 1 onion
- 2–3 chopped garlic cloves
- ¼ cup of olive oil or vegetable oil
Remove the stems from the chile peppers and dice the peppers into small pieces. Combine the chiles, shallots, and garlic into a food processor and blend until they form a fine paste. Then, heat the paste in a pot with the oil on low heat.
Once the oil has absorbed into the paste, add the remaining seasonings, then take it off the heat and let it cool down. Store the chili paste in an airtight jar inside the fridge.