Chili sauce is a condiment that uses chili peppers, spices, and tomato sauce as the basic ingredients. It carries with it a sweet and spicy flavor profile and has the consistency of catsup.
It can be used as an additional ingredient to almost any food that needs additional spiciness.
Sriracha and gochujang are good alternatives to chili sauce since they provide the same degree of spiciness as chili sauce.
Best Chili Sauce Substitute: Sriracha
Sriracha is the best substitute for chili sauce, especially in Asian cooking, since it gives the same spicy kick as chili sauce gives.
Sriracha meets chili sauce’s moderately spicy and sweet flavor profile. Sriracha is made from red jalapeno chilis, vinegar, sugar, and garlic.
Use sriracha sparingly because although moderately spicy, it is still a bit spicier than chili sauce. Substitute chili sauce with sriracha by starting with a few drops of sriracha and increasing while taste-testing the dish until it’s as spicy as you like.
Other Chili Sauce Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Other than sriracha, there are other kinds of condiments that you may use in place of chili sauce.
Gochujang is the Korean version of chili sauce. It comes as a close second to sriracha in terms of spiciness. Gochujang can be used to replace chili sauce in about any kind of dish, although adjustments may have to be made to offset the sweet taste that gochujang has.
Compared to chili sauce, gochujang has a thicker consistency, more like a paste than a sauce. Gochujang is made from a mix of red chili pepper flakes, glutinous rice, salt, and fermented soybeans, which give gochujang that added touch of umami.
Gochujang is a great replacement for chili sauce given its sweet slant – although it should be used in lesser amounts than chili sauce because it is spicier than chili sauce. Start with a few drops and increase to your taste. Gochujang is best used for dishes like noodles, wings, and rubs.
Harissa is a sauce that has its origins in Tunisia, and includes earthy spices like coriander, cumin, caraway, and mint. Harissa has a similar flavor to chili sauce, making it a good chili sauce alternative.
Harissa and sriracha have similar heat levels and are both used as dipping sauces and as great chili sauce alternatives. However, harissa has a smokier taste, and sriracha is more acidic. Pair harissa with chicken wings, burgers, and rubsto highlight this sauce’s smoky, herbally, almost nutty flavors.
When using harissa as a replacement for chili sauce, try adding a few drops to check for spiciness and gradually increase until you reach the desired level of heat for your dish.
Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili garlic sauce made from crushed red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. Like sriracha, sambal oelek is significantly spicier than chili sauce, so use smaller amounts of this sauce when using it to replace chili sauce.
Sambal oelek doesn’t have the sweet flavor that some chili sauces have, so you may have to add some sugar if you want some sweetness in your sauce or cooked food. This is best used for stir-fries and noodle dishes. Start with two to three drops and increase as you like.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
Adding fresh chili peppers or chili powder to a regular can of tomato sauce will work as a good substitute for chili sauce, especially in soups and sauces.
The actual amount of chili pepper that you can add to the tomato sauce all depends on the degree of spiciness that you are looking for. You can start by adding a pinch of chili powder or a few slices of fresh chili pepper and adjust accordingly.
Heat the tomato sauce after adding in the chili to make the tomato sauce absorb the chili much better.
Regular Hot Sauce
Regular hot sauce as available in most grocery stores is a good replacement for chili sauce, especially if it is only the heat that you are after.
Keep in mind that regular hot sauce tends to be a bit more watery compared to chili sauce, so you may want to add thickeners like flour or cornstarch for a thicker sauce.
The amount of regular hot sauce necessary to replace chili sauce depends on how spicy your hot sauce is. Begin by adding about two to three drops of regular hot sauce to your cooked food, like burgers and wings, and adjust according to your preference.
Sweet Chili Sauce
If you want a sweet, spicy sauce as a chili sauce replacement, use sweet chili sauce.
Just like chili sauce, sweet chili sauce makes use of the same ingredients, plus garlic, ginger, and a bit more sugar. The result is extra tang and sweetness. Sweet chili sauce works great on stir-fries and in meat dishes. Start with a few drops and increase according to your taste.
Black Bean Sauce
Chinese black bean sauce, otherwise known as douchi, is made from fermented black soybeans, soy sauce, oil, garlic, and ginger. The taste is adjusted by the addition of sugar and salt.
Black bean sauce works well as a chili sauce alternative in several Asian dishes, especially those made with poultry, meat, or seafood. It goes well with noodles too.
Black bean sauce carries hints of spiciness, although the heat level isn’t as strong as other chili sauce alternatives. As a replacement for chili sauce, add more black bean sauce than you would chili sauce and take note of changes in flavor as you add, since the black beans can change the flavor profile significantly.
Chili Pepper Flakes or Powder
If you are after just the heat that chili sauce offers, add a few pinches of chili pepper flakes or powder if you’re out of chili sauce.
Chili powder or flakes made from either jalapeño peppers, ghost peppers, or Korean chili peppers are very spicy. For a milder spice, look for flakes or powder made from either Anaheim or poblano peppers. Try using chili flakes as a replacement for chili sauce in sauces, soups, or noodles.
Making Your Own Chili Sauce
For the closest flavor profile to store-bought chili sauce, you can replace a bought bottle by making your own chili sauce.
Chili sauce is easy to make at home. All you need are onions, tomatoes, cider vinegar, salt, and a bunch of chili peppers. Food process everything together then simmer in a pan with a little olive oil and sugar to taste.