Chili Sauce Substitutes That Become The Heart Of A Meal

chili sauce substitutes

Chili sauce is an ingredient that becomes the heart and soul of several dishes. For those of us who love this sauce, even an amazing meal can feel lesser in its absence. So, what to do if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t use chili sauce? Well, it’s time to look at chili sauce substitutes

We would generally expect the substitute to provide the same (or very similar) taste, heat, and kick that a chili sauce brings to the table. 

Let’s see what the options are and how they size up!

Top Chili Sauce Substitutes To Try

1. Spicy Tomato Sauce

A hot and spicy tomato sauce could replace chili sauce as the condiment you need. While somewhat uncommon, there are plenty of spicy tomato sauces available in the market. Take your pick and give it a try.

If you need one quick, the easy way is to work with the tomato sauce you have available at home. The simplest way is to add some red chili flakes to the sauce (adjust quantity to suit your palate). Mix it all up well and you’ve got a decent replacement good to go.

Using chopped green chilies is a possibility as well. Using these could add a nice touch of flavor as well. If you prefer to not have bits of green chili stand out in the sauce, put the mix in a blender to get the desired consistency.

2. Sriracha Sauce

One of the most popular hot sauces, Sriracha has a way to replace conventional chili sauce and look great doing it. If you haven’t used it before, keep in mind that Sriracha is flavorful and spicy. It’s hot and different from conventional chili sauce. Yet, it’s delicious and worth a shot if you need a replacement for chili sauce.

Sriracha sauce originated in Thailand and is conventionally made using red jalapeño chili peppers. Other ingredients include vinegar, garlic, and sugar.

3. Chili-Garlic Paste

A chili-garlic paste will get you that nice zing of chili sauce and is rather easy to DIY if you’re in a pinch. It’s a flavorful alternative to chili sauce and does its job pretty well. The simple way to do this is to put equal amounts of garlic cloves and chili together. Mix them up and grind them into a paste.

If you prefer a traditional style, using a pestle and mortar is the way to go here. Many people believe that this keeps the mix more flavorful and helps with the texture. On the other hand, if convenience is on your mind, put them in a blender and let it do its job.

Some possible variations can affect the overall taste. Using dried and/or roasted chilies can make it hotter and more flavorful. Also, consider adding olive oil, pepper, and salt to the paste.

4. Hot Sauce Off The Shelf

If all you really need is a chili sauce, any hot sauce off the shelf could do. There are countless alternatives for chili sauce in regular store-bought hot sauce. Plus, there’s the possibility of getting some flavorful and delicious sauces.

As an example, using Taco Bell’s Mild Sauce or Popeyes’ Sweet Heat hot sauce could do the trick. There are plenty of artisan products, brands, and options to choose from. Give yourself the chance to try something new!

The heat and flavor of these sauces can vary by brand and preference. But, it’s a sure shot option that’s fairly convenient and useful.

5. Spicy Ketchup

At this point, we can call spicy ketchup the sibling for spicy tomato sauce. There are several options available in stores and if necessary, you can DIY it if you have some chilies and ketchup available. 

The recipe stays pretty much the same as spicy tomato sauce. The only difference is that conventional tomato sauce gets replaced with ketchup.

To put it simply, add some red chili flakes or regular green chilies to ketchup and blend the mix. Adjust the chili to your taste and perhaps include ingredients like olive oil, pepper, or some herbs to get a great taste.

6. Harissa Sauce

Made with red chilies, garlic, vinegar, and several spices, Harissa Sauce packs quite a punch. It’s flavorful and delicious and can work wonders as a chili sauce substitute. The touch of coriander seeds and cumin gives it a good depth of flavor.

Harissa Sauce originated in North Africa. It can take quite a while to prepare this sauce at home, so prefer store-bought options. Besides, getting its flavor and spices right can take quite a bit of effort, so it’s preferable to buy it rather than make it.

7. Red Chili Flakes

Those more interested in the heat of the sauce rather than the sauce itself can look at chili flakes or chili powder. These are usually made from red chilies and can be quite potent and hot. There are several commercially available mixes, which can vary by strength and potency,

Check the labels on the products to see if they fit your requirements. Most hot sauces will make it clear how hot and spicy they actually are. The ingredients can also provide you with a good idea of what to expect. 

Mixes containing banana pepper, bell pepper, or poblano will tend to be on the milder side of things. These chilies score low on the Scoville Scale. For something very hot, use ingredients that are high on this scale.

Learn more: Best Red Chili Pepper Substitutes To Bring Heat

8. Gochujang

Gochujang is a Korean condiment and its name literally translates to red chili paste. It can be difficult to come by Stateside but if you have access to Gochujang, this can be a flavorful replacement for chili sauce. 

It can be very spicy, but it is also salty and has a sweet touch. Gochujang has something of an umami taste and the fermentation brings out the flavors quite well.

9. Black Bean Sauce

Black Bean Sauce is a popular ingredient used in Chinese cuisine, especially in the famed Sichuan recipes. Made primarily from black beans with chili added, this sauce has a fermented flavor backed by a rich saucy taste. 

Again, this isn’t as easily available in US homes. But if you have it on hand, it will make a wonderful chili sauce replacement.


What can I substitute for chili sauce in meatballs?

Need a quick fix for meatballs without chili sauce? Ketchup with some red chili powder added can provide the right fix. It has the right consistency and flavor to go really well with the dish. Alternatively, you can use any tomato-based BBQ sauce. These too go rather well with meatballs.

Are chili sauce and chili paste the same?

No, they’re not the same, although they are quite similar. The biggest difference between chili sauce and chili paste is the heat, with the latter being much hotter and spicier. This is mainly because chili paste has a thicker consistency and includes a higher concentration or number of chilies. Chili sauce has a thinner consistency, and while very hot, it won’t be as hot as a comparable paste.

Can you use Sriracha in place of chili sauce?

Yes, Sriracha is an excellent substitute for chili sauce. Usually, it has the same color and adds a dash of flavor and heat to the food. However, keep in mind that sriracha sauce can have a thicker consistency than conventional chili sauce. This isn’t a problem for most recipes. Though if you’re very concerned with consistency, you can add some water to the sauce and thin it out a bit.

Read more: 8 Best Sriracha Substitute Options For You

Getting The Right Alternatives To Chili Sauce

Finding chili sauce substitutes need not be a complex or difficult task. With the modern preference for hot and spicy condiments, there are plenty of options available for use. Many of these are easily available and accessible for most people. With some added creativity and skill, you can make your chili sauce alternative a stunning choice.

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