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What Is the Best Chili Paste Substitution?

Recently, spicy foods seem to have taken the internet like wildfire for some reason. From the two-minute spicy Asian dishes to your spicy buffalo wings, chili has become an important ingredient in almost any dish.

However, despite the demand for chili or chili paste, it is still a little bit difficult to find them in local grocery stores. So today, we are going to help you find the best chili paste substitution that is compatible with almost, if not all dishes.

bowls of various dip sauces

So step back from your kitchen for a few minutes to go through this article. In a while, you’ll master the skills of making a traditional chili paste or a mouth-watering chili paste substitution! Let’s get rolling.

What Is Chili Paste?

So basically, traditional chili paste comes from chili peppers which is indeed a condiment.

Usually, what you mean by a chili paste is a paste made with the condiment along with adding some extra ingredients to intensify the taste. When we say chili paste, we have to remember that there can be many types of these pastes, from traditional Asian chili paste, Thai chili paste to even green chili paste; there are dozens of varieties. Considering the Asian continent, the condiment can be found in different forms and flavors; you can add sweetness, sour taste, or even extra intensity.

Although the red chili paste is primarily popular, the United States is a big fan of the green chili paste.

Chili paste ingredients

If you’re a devoting fan of spicy food, then there’s every chance that you have a collection of different types of hot sauce, ground chili powders, and some chili paste you bought from the grocery store. But if, in any case, all of these items finish at home, and you are just left with some raw spicy ingredients, there’s nothing to worry about actually. Just a little patience, the right ingredients, and the proper procedure to glue things together to make a fine chili paste.

Typically, it would be best if you had some reconstituted and toasted dried chilis for the intense and more flavorful chili paste; candlenuts or cashew nuts for thickening the paste, shrimp oil, or fish sauce, tomatoes to add flavor, spices, and a bit of ground cumin for taste.

How to Make Chili Paste from Chili Powder?

So, if you think it might be somewhat possible to make chili paste with chili powder as the primary ingredient, then drop the thought. However, the chili powder can add the spice and taste that you want from a traditional chili paste. Now, how to do it?

The answer is tomato sauce. Yes, I’m sure you must be thinking about it already. Tomato sauce can be used as a suitable replacement for the chili paste, considering the beautiful thickness and consistency it has. But tomatoes cannot replace the chili flavor. So, what you got to do is add one or two teaspoons of chili powder with it. You will not believe it, but it is a worthy hack. Just do a nice mixing job, and voila! You are done.

You can try making it in a food processor as well, and using chili flakes or a dash of hot sauce can do the trick too. Regarding the tomato flavor, some love it. If you’re one of them, then this chili paste recipe from chili powder is a must-try for you!

List of the Best Chili Paste Substitutes

There are a lot of good substitutes for chili paste. Other spicy sauces such as the Tabasco Hot Sauce, Sriracha, and the like even made their way to the market already.

Although spicy and the chili flavor has somehow taken control over our tastebuds, finding a good chili paste in the local grocery stores can be a handful task. But clearly, that does not mean you will stop having your favorite spicy Asian dishes or the one chili chicken curry you are craving for, right?

Hence, here we are, giving you a hand in finding some of the best chili paste substitutes, even the sweet and non spicy chili paste substitutes that will suit your needs for various recipes. We’ll give you a few options, so you can pick one that is more convenient and ideal for your tastebud.

There are even substitutes that are not liquid, but rather dry or in powder form So instead of answering this question with one particular ingredient or method, we are going to list down a few options for you to try:

1. Bottled Hot Sauce

When you don’t have some chili paste, and all you can see is a bottle of hot sauce in the pantry, what are you waiting for? Just grab it! We recommend it because the flavors in it are almost the same as the chili paste, considering they have practically the same ingredients.

Any bottled hot sauce can do as a chili paste substitute as long as they have similar consistency and taste. Sriracha, hot sauce, the Korean gochujang paste, and Thai chili paste among others can be a good substitute for the conventional chili paste.

Korean red pepper paste gochujang

But then again, this won’t guarantee you of an exact similar flavor or consistency. It can only give a hint of spiciness. This is because this bottled hot sauce has different flavors that are entirely distinct from one another.

You can go for some sriracha hot sauce, Louisiana-style hot sauce, or even gochujang. I would suggest the Louisiana because it has ingredients solely designed for that intense chili flavor like chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. And the rest of the sauces, I’ll talk about in a while. But do remember to pick a thicker sauce than the thinner ones; otherwise, the flavor will not be as intense as you are willing. They can be a pretty nice substitute for the traditional chili paste.

Choose the one that is most appropriate for your dish to avoid that off-taste or “wrong kind” of spiciness.​

2. Ketchup With Chili Flakes or Ground Cayenne Pepper

Ketchup has an excellent consistency similar to the traditional chili paste. This is why when added with the right ingredients, the ketchup might work as a real chili paste substitute.

Cayenne pepper

All you have to do is simply add ground cayenne pepper or chili flakes. Just one to two teaspoons of ground cayenne pepper and it’ll give you that fiery kick similar to the traditional chili paste already.

However, if you still find it lacking, there’s one final substitute you can try. And that is to make your own!

If you don’t even have the spicy tomato sauce, then that bottle of ketchup on the shelves will work for you too. No, I’m not misleading you. The ketchup is an excellent option because the consistency being quite similar to the chili paste.

But the ketchup alone cannot fight your chili paste hunger. So, what you get is some cayenne pepper. For a single cup of ketchup, ake about 1-2 teaspoons of ground cayenne pepper. Please put it in a processor, mix it, and wait till you see that lovely red paste looking and tasting almost like your chili paste. Yes, that’ll work just fine for your delightful chili dish!

Apart from these you can try a few different ones like a green chili paste substitute or sambal oelek substitute, or calabrian chili paste substitutes as well. I assure you all will work absolutely fine.

3. Spicy Tomato Sauce as Spicy Chili Paste Substitute

You are not a die-hard fan of chili paste, but this new chili dish you saw on the internet caught your eyes. And now, when you are trying to make it, you don’t see any typical chili pastes or hot sauces in your cabinet. However, you have a spicy tomato sauce or past right there staring at you. Go grab it!

The paste-like texture is precisely the type of thickness your dish is yearning for. You just need to add in a bit of chili powder or red pepper flakes to the sauce, and you are good to go.

Now, you cannot expect a taste very similar to the chili paste because the spicy tomato paste will have a different spicy flavor due to the acidity. That’s why the pepper and chili flakes are of great help.

Hey hey! But that is your last option if you cannot find anything else.

4. Sriracha Hot Sauce

So, just a few seconds ago, I mentioned the Sriracha hot sauce to you. And I’m pretty sure many people have suggested the Sriracha hot sauce as a chili paste substitute. The reason is different hot sauces have different textures with individuality, but the chili paste substitute Sriracha is one closest to replicate the flavors and consistency of chili paste.

As a product of the Huy Fong Food, the Sriracha hot chili sauce has a nice thickness and some pretty delicate flavors that are similar to the chili paste. Yes, you may try any hot sauce to replace the chili paste, but the sriracha sauce is definitely a wiser alternative. The richness in chili pepper flavor is what makes it the best. Hey, I’ll give you a pro tip here; you can even add some paprika to the sauce to thicken it and intensify the taste.

5. Red Pepper Flakes Chili Paste Substitute

If you are a spice lover or an Asian, I’m sure there must be a jar of red pepper flakes in your kitchen cabinets or pantry. Well, I love a little kick of heat in my dishes, and I never forget to keep a small jar of red pepper flakes in store.

So, let’s say if you have one too, they are a great way to add some heat to any meal, and adding them isn’t a hassle either.

Not only can you add them to a curry-cooked hot, but adding them to a cold meal can do the trick too, maybe a glass of spicy juice, as a seasoning! However, I’ve seen most people being a fan of those red pepper flakes as alternative to chili paste on their pizzas.

Now, if dry red flakes aren’t enough for you, you have the option to make a paste out of them too. I’ll tell you my secret red pepper flake chili paste recipe –

However, do keep in mind that this will be a bit on the sweeter side but indeed tastes fantastic!

All you need to do is-

Arrange the few ingredients first-

  1. A tablespoon of red pepper flakes 
  2. A little bit of soy sauce
  3. And a few pinches of sugar, all easily available at home.

Stir the ingredients together to get a consistency almost the same as that of the store-bought chili paste and the mouth-watering spicy yet a sweet chili paste substitute. I see a real win-win situation here.

6. Or, Make Your Own!

Now, this is the best part about chili paste substitutes. If you can’t find the best substitute, you can always just make your chili paste with these simple ingredients you can even find at home.

best substitute chili paste

Here are some things you might need:

  • Chili peppers
  • Garlic cloves
  • Shallots
  • ​Olive oil
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper

The Recipe:

First, simply chop one pound of chili peppers. You can use a combination of this along with other peppers like red cayenne peppers. It does not have to be as fine because you will be processing the ingredients.

Next, chop two cloves of garlic as well. This is what will give the aromatic flavor and excellent smell for your chili paste.​

And then, chop finely two small shallots as well. This can help balance out and combine all the flavors, without making the chili paste too spicy for any dish. Make sure to process these three ingredients to make sure that they have the right consistency.​

Add all these (chili peppers, garlic, and shallots) in a pot on low heat before adding some olive oil. Cook for about 20 mins and stir the mixture occasionally.​

If you feel as if it needs more olive oil, feel free to add more. This will keep the mixture from burning efficiently.​

Add the cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. However, do not turn off the gas yet. Cook the mixture for another five minutes to let the flavors develop and combine properly. Then cool down.

​After cooling the mixture down, transfer it to a food processor. Process until smooth enough, until you get the right consistency for you. Finally, transfer this to a jar and refrigerate before using.

However, do note that the storage life of a homemade chili paste is not as long as the store-bought ones. This is why it is ideal to consume the homemade chili paste within a week. This ensures you of the best quality and taste.​

How Do You Make Chili Paste From Scratch?

So, you have no hot sauce or Sriracha at home; all you got are some raw ingredients. And that’s great because now you can make your own chili paste at home.

The simple chili paste ingredients you’ll be needing are-

  • Chili peppers
  • Shallots
  • Garlic cloves
  • Cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Chili Paste Recipe

For this simple chili peppers chili paste recipe, follow my instructions. Trust me; it’s a piece of cake!

  1. Take about one pound of chili peppers and chop them up. If you want, you can add red cayenne peppers with the chili peppers for more flavor and spice.
  2. It’s okay if the chopping isn’t fine as a machine would do because you’d be mixing the ingredients later in a food processor.
  3. Take two cloves of garlic and chop it up. The garlic adds an exotic and aromatic flavor to the paste. If you add more garlic, you can use it as a chili garlic paste substitute as well.
  4. Grab two small shallots and chop them well. Without the shallot, the chili paste might be just too much heat for use in any dish.
  5. Once you have taken these together in a pot, stir them well to give a convincing consistency.
  6. Put the pot in low heat and then wait for a minute to add some olive oil. Cook mixture on the stove for about 20 minutes with occasional stirring.
  7. Next up, salt, cumin, and pepper spices as per the preference of your taste buds. Hey, you are not done yet! Cook the whole mixture for five more minutes. It will allow for a delicate flavor with an intense smell.
  8. Let the mixture cool down before you transfer it to a food processor. Keep processing the mixture until you get a satisfying smooth texture. When you are done, please keep it in a container and store it in the freezer.

You can use the chili paste recipe for ramen, fried rice siomai, and other dishes.

Tips: It is better to finish all that chili paste in a week because you’re not really using any preservatives as the store-bought ones include. So, for assuring the best flavor and quality, finish it in a quicky, that’s why I prefer making it in small batches. You can also try the ethnic chili paste recipe Japanese style or chili paste recipe Malaysian style, or even the heavy texture chili paste recipe Mexican style.

What Can I Use In Place Of Gochujang?

Before we know the Korean chili paste substitute, why don’t we learn a little about what it is? So, it is a Korean condiment fermented that comes from a mixture of glutinous rice, red chili, salt, and fermented soybeans.

Gochujang is a great chili paste that you can use with rice as a flavorful condiment, marinade, or dip for snacks or fresh veggies. Gochujang might be a little too thick for a dip, so thin it down with the addition of some water or sesame oil to taste. If you want to make the dip even better, add about a tablespoon or two of the gochujang in a cup of mayonnaise.

Considering this as a Korean condiment, this is a special and a mandatory addition for dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi or stews. I’m pretty sure some of you love these dishes, or maybe you’re trying to make one now. But since you don’t have the gochujang at home, let’s see what you can use as a substitute for gochujang.

Gochujang delivers a very unique spicy flavor, and no matter what you try, you cannot get a similar taste as a gochujang. However, you can try a few things as substitutes for gochujang to get somewhat of a good spice flavor in the dishes.

For a tablespoon of gochujang substitute, you can try mixing some soy sauce, a tablespoon of red chili pepper flakes, and sugar to taste. Gochujang has a complex and distinct flavor. However, this quick mix will not get you that but will definitely give you a worthy substitute.

I’ll give you two more ways of replacing the gochujang flavor. Take a tablespoon of white miso and add a teaspoon of cayenne powder to it.  Yes, this works well. You may also substitute the need for gochujang with some Sriracha sauce, but the flavor will not kick in exactly the same because Sriracha is thinner.

Wrapping It Up

​Finding the best substitute chili paste for your recipe can be a little bit of meticulous work, especially if you are particular about the texture and taste.

​This is because when finding a substitute, you must find an alternative that has a similar flavor and spiciness to the original ingredient.

The best part here is, you can customize your chili paste substitute! By trying to create your chili paste, you will be able to get the exact taste and flavor that you want—one that is perfect for whatever dish you are cooking.​

If you are very delicate about the uniqueness and solitary taste of the chili paste, then settling for just any chili paste substitution will not do you any good. Well, it’s not just enough to find something hot and spicy to fill in the shoes of a classic chili paste; you need to get the right flavor, texture, thickness, spice, etc.

So, if you are not okay with the ready-made substitutes, you are still open to making some chili paste substitute right at home.

This will allow you to get the finest flavor you desire by doing it all by yourself. The intensity, the flavor, the smell, everything will be just perfect. Mammamia!

FAQs about Chili Paste

Can I substitute Sriracha for chili paste?

Sriracha is a hot sauce and matches quite the chili paste texture and taste. Adding a bit of pepper to it will do the magic.

Is chili paste the same as tomato paste?

Of course not! Chili paste has an intense chili flavor where tomato paste comes with an acidic flavor. However, with a bit of red pepper or chili flakes, tomato paste can give you a similar kick like the chili paste.

What can I use if I don’t have chili sauce?

If you haven’t bought the chili sauce but you definitely need it for the dish, make one at home with chili, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and water. You can also try using chili sauce substitutes like Asian garlic chili sauce or Sriracha sauce.

What is Chinese chili paste?

Chinese or Asian chili pastes are coarser than the hot sauces made in the US. They have a greater percentage of ground chilies, even whole seeds, and salt and vinegar to taste.

What can I use instead of tomato paste in chili paste?

If tomato paste isn’t available to add to your desired chili paste, then you may try using some ketchup, extra seasoning, olive oil, canned tomatoes etc. as substitute for tomato sauce in chili paste.

What is a good substitute for chili paste?

I’ve listed quite a few options above. But the Sriracha hot sauce, pepper flakes, spicy tomato sauce and the DIY recipe for chili paste would top my list.

I'm Laura, I like all the kind of delicious grilled foods which makes me hungry all the time I see them. That's why I built this blog to share with you all of my Grilling experiences, recipes, and all the tips about foods that I've learned from food experts.

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