Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

9 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

Our family loves chili products. And recently, we rediscovered our love for chili garlic sauce. But apparently, the entire world did too, so finding some at the shop was nearly impossible.

Our dead-end search led us to this article today. After experimenting a lot, we came up with some amazing alternatives, and some that didn’t quite work out.

Our recommendation is to use chili garlic paste, spicy ketchup, sriracha, or harissa paste as the best substitutes. These sauces all contain high levels of garlic, chili, and acid.

Other products, however, can also be used and altered to re-create your favorite flavor.

This article will show you how to substitute chili garlic sauce in various recipes, and we’ve included our favorite options in a comprehensive list.

What Is A Chili Garlic Sauce?

Some of you may not be familiar with chili garlic sauce, while others find it a staple ingredient at home.

Initially, we never used it, but after being introduced to it, it forever changed the way we view food and recipes.

Despite its popularity across the globe, chili garlic sauce is not simply a home-made concoction. It is an actual Chinese and Vietnamese condiment that is delicious and packed with flavor.

Whatever way you use it, it will add an incredible amount of flavor to your food. Some prefer adding it directly to the recipe, while others prefer to use it as a condiment.

This sauce does not have one set recipe. All recipes should include chilis, garlic, and vinegar as the base ingredients.

You can change the type of chilis and vinegar you use, as well as the amount of garlic you use.

Adding sugar and spices to the recipe will create a complex flavor profile, if you like to experiment with flavors.

For a step-by-step tutorial on how to make homemade garlic chili sauce, visit Yummy Kitchen on YouTube.

Choosing The Best Substitute For Chili Garlic Sauces

Once you find a product you are obsessed with, it can be challenging to find a substitute for chili garlic sauce.

When it comes to chili garlic sauce, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration.

There is likely to be some adjustment needed for each of the options below. This way, you can more accurately get the flavor that you want.

When choosing an alternative for chili garlic sauce, consider the following factors.

Spiciness Level

Many chili garlic sauces do not contain a lot of heat. Some have a very pleasant and mild flavor. This is one reason we love chili garlic sauces.

Obviously, your substitute must be spicy, which is perhaps the most important factor to consider.

The hottest chilis or hot sauce are pointless if you don’t like them. If you have a frame of reference for spice level from a sauce you have previously tried, make sure your alternative is similar.

If not, select an option based on what you like. For example, if you prefer harissa paste over chili sauces, then that will be a better option for you.

Amount Of Garlic

In addition, there is a flavor factor to consider. Not every person loves garlic. Some eat it raw, while others enjoy its aroma only.

Chili garlic sauces vary in amount of garlic and each has its own unique flavor.

You may want to consider using a hot sauce with some garlic flavors if you prefer a sauce with less garlic (such as freshly minced garlic).

Overall Flavor

Chili garlic sauces also contain vinegar as a base ingredient, as well as additives.

As well as helping to balance the acidic and chili flavors in the sauce, they help create a unique flavor that you will enjoy.

If you have a favorite chili garlic sauce, look for (or create) a substitute with similar flavors. If the sauce you choose is very acidic, add more lemon juice or vinegar.

A sweeter chili garlic sauce can be made either by replacing the sugar with honey or by adding your own sugar or honey.


There are naturally some varieties of chili garlic sauce available, but most of them are thick and textured.

Traditionally, chili garlic sauce has the same consistency as ketchup, but with bits of chili seeds and chopped garlic added. If you have a sauce with a thinner and smoother consistency, use that instead.

Let’s say you’re making chili jelly using a filtered (thin, runny, and smooth) sauce. The consistency of the sauce will affect the outcome of the jelly.

The jelly will not set if you replace it with a textured one.

In some recipes, it won’t matter if the consistency changes. However, you may want to consider it in some recipes.

Accessibility And Price

Depending on where you live, not all alternatives will be available or affordable. At the end of the day, you don’t want to pay more for an alternative than you do for the original!

Don’t import an alternative that will cost more. This isn’t environmentally friendly and wastes a lot of money. Instead, buy seasonal and local products.

Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

Below are our top chili garlic sauce alternatives. Each has its own unique qualities and flavors, so you can choose the one that best suits you.

Even after you choose one of these, you can still adjust the flavor. They serve as a base upon which you can add sweeteners, spices, acids, and consistency changes.

Let’s get started!

1. Chili Garlic Paste

The key difference between a chili garlic paste and a chili garlic sauce is the consistency and accompanying ingredients.

It is common for store-bought chili garlic paste to be marinated in oil. This oil acts primarily as a preservative and doesn’t add much flavor.

Garlic and chili are far too powerful to be overwhelmed by any additional ingredients.

Furthermore, there are also options that consist only of freshly chopped chili and minced garlic. However, these are often freshly made and will only last a day or two.

You can even make a fresh chili garlic paste at home if you wish to use these options.

The consistency won’t matter whether you add this option to marinades, basting sauces, or as a condiment, as this will give you the most authentic chili garlic flavor.

How To Use This Substitute

Because it has a thicker consistency than its sauce counterpart, you can thin it with liquid if necessary.

Add some vinegar to give it some acidity. Or, you can just add more oil, preferably olive oil, to give it a more authentic flavor.

You can also add additional ingredients to make the taste as close to your preference as possible.

2. Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce is one of your easier ready-to-use alternatives. There are several flavored varieties of Sriracha available, including one that focuses on garlic flavor.

The sauce is made with jalapenos, garlic, sugar, and vinegar, and is only slightly sweeter than a traditional chili garlic sauce.

As a one-to-one substitution, Sriracha isn’t textured and has a slightly runnier consistency, but in most recipes these factors shouldn’t be an issue.

How To Use This Substitute

Due to the jalapenos, Sriracha sauce is spicier than chili garlic sauce. If you don’t like your food as spicy, you may want to reduce the amount.

Alternatively, you can use ketchup or mayonnaise to replace the rest, or you can add a little bit more vinegar or sugar to balance the flavor.

3. Spicy Ketchup

Having spicy ketchup or spicy tomato sauce on hand is a great solution. They are both easy to find and can even be made at home.

It has a thick consistency similar to chili garlic sauce, but without the texture. Most of them also include some garlic, but not a lot.

Adding tomatoes to your recipes will add a much richer flavor, and many options will include spices like cumin and dried herbs as well.

How To Use This Substitute

The chili and vinegar parts of the chili garlic sauce can be substituted with spicy ketchup. However, you may need to add more garlic if you want a more noticeable taste.

A spicy ketchup can be made by adding chili powder or hot sauce to regular ketchup, or you can add chopped garlic or chilies for more texture.

4. Harissa Paste Or Sauce

Although chili and garlic are the main ingredients in harissa paste, cumin and caraway seeds are among its most popular spices.

You can thin the paste with vinegar if it has a thick consistency.

How To Use This Substitute

You can alter the consistency of harissa paste with sugar or honey, but it’s not as flexible as other options.

Because it’s loaded with spices, you can’t simplify it. That’s okay in our opinion. However, it depends on what kind of dish you make. The spice flavor may not go well with your dish.

5. Fresh Chili And Garlic

It should be the last resort, but it works very well nonetheless, which is why we ranked it so high.

If you don’t like any of the alternatives or can’t find them, or you are in a bind, chopping and adding some fresh chili and garlic isn’t a bad idea.

It’s obvious that chopped chili and garlic do not have a saucy consistency – not even a paste-like consistency. So, use this alternative when necessary.

How To Use This Substitute

You can use this substitute for marinades, sauces, dressings, and dips. However, it won’t work as well for sandwiches.

Besides stews, casseroles, and soups, you can also use it to thicken sauces.

Add some lemon juice or vinegar to turn the ingredients into a sauce if you have it. You can adjust the consistency by chopping the ingredients coarsely or finely.

6. Spicy Peppers

Add some chopped or ground spicy peppers to replace the spicy flavors. There are literally hundreds of them to choose from, and they’re all quite easy to find.

Scotch bonnets, jalapenos, serrano peppers, habaneros, and cayenne peppers are some of our favorites.

Luckily, these have varying spice levels and, surprisingly, different flavors, too. So, if you have a favorite, make sure you read up on it first to ensure it will work for you.

Using this substitute will ensure you have access to hot peppers whenever you need them. There is no need to worry too much about the flavor, and you can add or adjust the amount of garlic if you wish.

How To Use This Substitute

In a similar manner to using chopped chilies and garlic as a substitute, using fresh chilies or peppers will result in a different consistency.

In some recipes, you can just chop them up roughly. But, if you are making smooth sauces, you may need to grind them into a paste.

7. Dried Chili Products

Adding dried chili to your dish is an even easier (and more affordable) way to add spicy flavors. You will always be able to find some form of dried chili.

The use of whole dried chilis, chili flakes, chili powder, or chili salt all has pros and cons. The most important thing is to consider when and where to use them.

How To Use This Substitute

When used as a condiment, all of these options require a liquid, so you cannot substitute the sauce with chili powder. Instead, choose an entirely different option.

Sauces, dips, dressings, soups, marinades, broths, and other saucy dishes work well with them.

The easiest and most versatile way to use chili powder and flakes is to whisk them into a recipe and they will instantly add flavor. Just make sure they don’t clump together.

The whole dried chili is not easy to incorporate and eat in some dishes, such as a condiment. Whole dried chilis are better used in soups, stews, and broths where you can remove them later.

8. Tomato Sauce

Rather than ketchup, we are referring to a sauce made from whole tomatoes. You can find them in canned or bottled forms and they have a very tangy-sweet flavor.

This technique will also allow you to precisely adjust the spice level and garlic amount needed for your recipe by simply adding chili powder or chili powder.

How To Use This Substitute

A dollop of hot sauce can even be added to tomato sauce if you wish. Chili and garlic can be used dried or fresh.

In stews and soups, this substitute works best, but if blended and cooked over low heat for a few minutes, it becomes a sauce by itself.

Avoid whole tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes if you’re picking a tomato sauce. They won’t work well.

9. Black Bean Sauce

The following option may surprise a few of you, but we think it is well worth trying. Black bean sauce is a staple of many Asian cuisines.

To make this sauce, you will need soybean oil, chili, salt, and water. If you want garlic, you’ll need to rehydrate garlic flakes or chop fresh ones.

This sauce is black, so it may change the flavor of the recipe you are using it in.

How To Use This Substitute

It’s okay to add as much black bean sauce as the chili garlic sauce the recipe calls for. If you want, you can add additional garlic, too.

This sauce has a similar consistency to chili garlic sauce, making it easy to add without worrying about the consistency.

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