7 Best Substitute For Chili Sauce

Chili Sauce Substitute

Chili sauce is a renowned global condiment, celebrated for the spicy tang it imparts to dishes. This fiery blend, featuring chili peppers as the star ingredient alongside other components like vinegar, salt, and occasionally sweeteners, lends itself to myriad culinary applications. Its varying consistency and heat levels, shaped by the type of chili peppers used and additional ingredients, make it a cornerstone of several recipes – from enhancing the flavor of a simple stir-fry to adding a punch to your barbeque marinade.

However, what happens when you’re out of this beloved condiment? This article provides the answer, presenting a curated list of the best substitutes for chili sauce. These alternatives have been chosen for their ability to closely mimic the heat profile and flavor complexity of chili sauce, or, in some cases, to offer a unique yet equally delicious spin on it. Whether you’re a culinary novice caught off guard or an experienced chef seeking new flavors, these substitutes will ensure your dishes retain their fiery appeal and rich taste.

What is Chili Sauce?

Chili sauce is a versatile condiment used in various cuisines around the world, known for its tangy, spicy flavor that livens up dishes. It’s a blend of chili peppers with other ingredients such as vinegar, salt, and often some sweetening elements. The consistency and heat levels can vary widely depending on the type of chili peppers used and additional ingredients. From sweet chili sauce often found in Thai cuisine to the smoky hot sauce common in Mexican dishes, chili sauce is an integral part of many recipes.

Substitutes For Chili Sauce At A Glance

  1. Hot Sauce
  2. Sambal Oelek
  3. Sriracha
  4. Tomato Sauce with Crushed Red Pepper
  5. Harissa
  6. DIY Chili Sauce
  7. Cayenne Pepper
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Best Substitutes For Chili Sauce

Hot Sauce

The first viable substitute for chili sauce is, unsurprisingly, hot sauce. Despite the difference in consistency – hot sauce being thinner – it provides a similar heat profile and tangy flavor that chili sauce offers.

Hot sauce is typically made from a base of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt, similar to chili sauce, but it tends to be less sweet. The heat level can also be adjusted to preference, making hot sauce a flexible ingredient to use in place of chili sauce.

Different types of hot sauce can be used depending on the specific flavor profile you desire. For example, Tabasco has a vinegary tang, making it suitable for dishes that benefit from a sour kick, while Cholula, with its subtle garlic notes, would complement recipes where garlic is a key player. The versatility of hot sauce makes it a favorite standby substitute for chili sauce.

Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chili paste known for its raw, fiery heat, which makes it an excellent substitute for chili sauce. It’s traditionally made from crushed raw chili peppers, salt, and sometimes, a dash of vinegar.

The standout feature of Sambal Oelek is its simplicity. The flavors are pure and unadulterated, offering a straightforward heat that does not interfere with the other flavors in your dish. It’s perfect for dishes where the flavor of fresh chilies is desired.

However, because Sambal Oelek is not typically sweet, you might need to add a sweetener like sugar or honey if your recipe calls for a sweet chili sauce. Despite this minor adjustment, its ability to provide clean, fresh heat makes Sambal Oelek a strong contender in the chili sauce substitute list.


Hailing from Thailand, Sriracha is a sweet and spicy sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It has gained immense popularity worldwide, praised for its balance of sweetness, acidity, and heat.

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Sriracha’s consistency is similar to ketchup, making it thicker than most hot sauces. It works excellently as a chili sauce substitute in recipes where a thicker consistency is desired.

Keep in mind that Sriracha has a distinct garlic flavor, which could influence the overall taste of your dish. If the recipe can embrace the garlicky undertones, Sriracha will not only serve as a great substitute but could elevate your dish with its unique blend of flavors.

Tomato Sauce with Crushed Red Pepper

In a pinch, a combination of tomato sauce and crushed red pepper can mimic the tangy heat of chili sauce. While not a traditional solution, this mix can bring a surprising depth of flavor to your dishes.

Tomato sauce, although milder, provides a good base with its tangy sweetness. The addition of crushed red pepper introduces the heat factor. You can control the spiciness by adjusting the amount of crushed red pepper to your taste.

While it may lack the specific flavor profile of chili sauce, this combination is widely available and can provide an emergency fix when you’re out of other options. It’s particularly handy for dishes where the tangy sweetness of tomato sauce is a welcome addition.


Originating from North Africa, Harissa is a hot chili paste that can serve as a flavorful substitute for chili sauce. It’s a blend of hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and aromatic spices such as coriander and caraway seeds.

Harissa brings a spicy kick, a slight smokiness, and a depth of flavor due to the spices used in its preparation. This makes it a complex and flavorful substitute for chili sauce, especially in dishes that can benefit from its unique blend of flavors.

Note that Harissa can be hotter than most chili sauces, so it’s advisable to use it sparingly and adjust to taste. It’s best suited for recipes that can handle a punch of heat and complex flavors.

DIY Chili Sauce

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not make your own chili sauce? This option gives you full control over the flavors and heat level. A simple DIY chili sauce can be made from fresh or dried chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, and salt.

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Begin by chopping the chilies and simmering them with vinegar and sugar until a thick sauce forms. Adjust the flavors to your liking, and voila, you have a homemade chili sauce substitute.

The advantage of this method is that you can customize the sauce to perfectly suit your palate and the specific needs of your recipe. From selecting the type of chili to adjusting the sweetness and tanginess, DIY chili sauce offers an unmatched level of flexibility.

Cayenne Pepper

Finally, if all else fails, a dash of cayenne pepper can add a spicy kick to your dishes as a substitute for chili sauce. While it won’t provide the same complexity of flavor or consistency, cayenne pepper can deliver the heat that chili sauce typically brings to a dish.

It’s best to use cayenne pepper sparingly at first, as it can be quite spicy. Its advantage lies in its widespread availability, making it a convenient option when no other substitutes are at hand.

Substitutes for Chili Sauce: Nutritional Profile

SubstituteGluten (g)CaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Fiber (g)Protein (g)
Hot Sauce0150400
Sambal Oelek050100
Tomato Sauce with Crushed Red Pepper27001711
DIY Chili Sauce0VariableVariableVariableVariableVariable
Cayenne Pepper060100

(Values are approximate and measured per ¼ cup)


Running out of chili sauce doesn’t have to be a culinary catastrophe. With the various substitutes highlighted in this guide, you’re well-equipped to tackle any recipe with confidence, even when your pantry fails you. Remember, experimentation is the key to discovering exciting new flavors and refining your culinary skills. Whether you’re reaching for a bottle of hot sauce, a jar of Harissa, or venturing to create your own DIY chili sauce, the essence is to create a dish that delights your taste buds. Happy cooking!

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