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9 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes (With Comparison Table)

This is one of the tastiest Asian sauces around. Chili garlic sauce is that little red jar in everyone’s refrigerator door. It’s forever on my grocery list, but when it runs out (it’s happened a couple of times), I’ve always got a couple of ways to adapt. Chili garlic sauce and sweet chili sauce can work interchangeably, but I’ve got some better recommendations that you can purchase at the grocery store or make yourself.

You can substitute chili garlic sauce with gochujang, harissa sauce, chili paste, and Tabasco sauce. But this isn’t all, so let’s explore all the garlic sauce substitutes you can use!

A opened jar of chili garlic sauce.

🤷 What is Chili Garlic Sauce?

This sauce is a delicious Asian condiment known for its spicy and garlicky flavor profile. It’s typically made from a blend of red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and sometimes sugar. Others add honey or other sweeteners to give it a slightly sweeter taste. Light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil may also be added, but if none are available, a homemade version may use light soy sauce substitutes.

🫕 How to Make Chili Garlic Sauce

To make chili garlic sauce, finely mince garlic cloves and red chili peppers, ensuring to include the seeds for added heat. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan, sauté the minced garlic and chili peppers until fragrant and slightly caramelized, then blend the mixture until smooth. Finally, season with salt and a splash of vinegar to taste, and store and use on your favorite sugar-free salad dressings or even as a sweet chili sauce substitute for egg rolls.

🥄 How to Use Chili Garlic Sauce

Dipping sauce: Chili garlic sauce has always been a popular dipping sauce served in many Asian restaurants. It pairs well with dim sum, potstickers, gyoza, spring rolls, and baos. Just mix chili garlic sauce with black vinegar, soy sauce, or lemon juice to create a flavorful dipping sauce.

A ketchup alternative: Some homemade chili garlic sauce recipes contain tomatoes or tomato sauce, making it a great alternative to ketchup in sandwiches and on burgers. Spread chili garlic sauce on your sandwich or burger for an extra kick of flavor.

As a marinade: Use chili garlic sauce as a spicy sauce for chicken or steak before grilling. Baste it on meat, seafood, and vegetables, and it will lend a glistening glow as well as rich flavors to the entire dish.

In stir-fry’s and soups: Add chili garlic sauce to stir-fries and soups to create a spicy and flavorful dish. It pairs well with vegetables, meat, and seafood. Try a spicy edamame dish or a vegan noodle bowl.

A plate of dim sum with chili garlic sauce.
dim sum with chili garlic sauce

📌 Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes Comparison Table

Before we jump in depth with the substitutes for chili garlic sauce, let’s have a quick overview of them so you get a better idea of each one.

SubstituteFlavor ProfileConsistencyBest For
SrirachaTangy, garlicky, spicySmoothDipping, sauces, marinades
Sambal OelekPure chili heatChunkyAdding heat to sauces, soups
HarissaSpicy, smoky, aromaticThick pasteMediterranean, Middle Eastern dishes
GochujangSweet, spicy, savoryThick pasteKorean cuisine, marinades, glazes
Red Pepper Flakes + Minced GarlicSpicy with garlic kickFlakes and mincedCooking, sautéing, sauce base
Hot Sauce + Minced GarlicVinegary heat with garlicLiquidDipping, drizzling, marinade base
Chili PasteConcentrated chili flavorSmooth pasteAsian dishes, stir-fries, soups
Tabasco SauceVinegary, sharp, spicyLiquidAdding a kick to various dishes
Chili Garlic PasteSpicy and garlickyThick pasteAsian and garlic-flavored dishes, marinades

💡 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

Sriracha Sauce

Chili garlic sauce and sriracha share very similar characteristics, so it’ll make a great chili garlic sauce alternative. Also known as Rooster sauce, this versatile Thai spicy sauce has a nice, strong, smokey undertone that you’ll absolutely love. It has a good flavor profile with strong garlic tones, making for an uncomplicated addition of zip, zing, and zest to your dish. You can use some sriracha sauce substitutes instead if you don’t have this one in your pantry. 

Sambal Oelek

This Sambal Oelek substitute for chili garlic sauce is a great choice. It’s made from chili peppers, vinegar, and garlic. With fierce, pungent flavors, this Indonesian chili paste has a thinner consistency than chili garlic sauce and doesn’t contain any sugar. Its nuanced flavors come from the few ingredients it is made up of – chili peppers and garlic. Salty flavor greets you at the first bite and then balances out over time. Use it as a condiment to spice up dim sum, gyoza, and other deep-fried dishes; it adds character and flavor to any dish.

A bowl of sambal oelek made from tomatoes, chili, and garlic.

Harissa Sauce

Harissa sauce is a North African condiment made from chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and some spices. It adds a mild, zesty flavor with a strong peppery and garlicky finish, making it a delicious alternative for cooking stews. It can also be used as a marinade for meats and as a dipping sauce, but you can use some harissa sauce substitutes if you don’t have any around.


The sweet, smoky, salty, umami notes of gochujang paste work as one of the better swaps for chili garlic sauce. This paste adds great depth of flavor to stews, soups, marinades, and sauces and comes in 5 different heat levels. You can use it for dipping or add it directly to recipes for an intense spicy kick. If you don’t have any, you can use direct gochujang substitutes instead. 

A bowl of gochujang paste with vegetables.
gochujang paste

Red Pepper Flakes + Minced Garlic

Combine red pepper flakes with minced garlic for a highly versatile and delicious chili garlic substitute. This combo brings both heat and the pungent aroma of fresh garlic to your dishes. It’s particularly useful when you want a texture contrast in your recipes, with the flakes delivering bursts of heat and the minced garlic infusing a distinct garlicky essence. If you don’t have pepper flakes, you can use some chili flake substitutes instead.

Hot Sauce + Minced Garlic

A mixture of hot sauce and minced garlic gives a delicious dynamic duo that offers a combination of vinegary heat and the savory depth of garlic. The hot sauce brings immediate spice, while the minced garlic contributes a robust and aromatic quality. It’s a substitute that’s perfect for those who enjoy a liquid consistency in their spicy condiments or even popcorn with hot sauce.

Chili Paste

Chili paste, often made from crushed red chili peppers, oil, and sometimes additional seasonings, packs a concentrated burst of chili flavor. It’s the paste form of chili garlic sauce with a texture that can vary from a smooth, paste-like consistency to a thicker, chunkier version, depending on the specific product. If you’re out of chili paste, you can use some different alternatives to chili paste instead.

A bowl of sambal chili sauce on a banana leaf.

Tabasco Sauce

This is a widely recognized hot sauce made from distilled vinegar, red pepper, and salt. It imparts a distinctive vinegary heat with a sharp kick, making it a top-tier for those who enjoy a tangy and spicy condiment. While it doesn’t contain garlic, like chili garlic sauce, Tabasco sauce can be an excellent substitute for chili garlic sauce, adding fiery intensity to a variety of dishes.

Chili Garlic Paste

This is the garlicky version of chili paste. We’re adding this to our list because you can easily buy the paste in a tube or make it at home. Simply grind a few chilis and garlic together, then season with your choice of flavoring. You can easily add this concoction when cooking a stir-fry, as a marinade (thin it out with soy sauce), or dipping sauce, and the homemade version will last months in the fridge. Gochujang and chili garlic paste are often deemed similar, so if you have some gochujang instead, then it’s even better.

A wooden bowl of chili garlic paste with dried peppers.

🧑‍🍳 Chili Garlic Sauces Around the World

-China boasts duo jiao, a tantalizing pickled chili garlic sauce hailing from Hunan province, concocted with chili peppers, garlic, and a pickling agent such as lemon or lime juice or white rice vinegar.

-Korean cuisine showcases the iconic gochujang, a thick, spicy paste fashioned from fermented red pepper flakes, glutinous rice, salt, and fermented soybeans, ideal for enriching stews, marinades, and as a zesty dipping sauce.

-Vietnamese cuisine features tương ớt, or chili sauce, which is made from chili peppers and has a spicy, red color. It’s used as a condiment for grilled and fried dishes and as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.

-Indonesia’s sambal oelek is a simple seasoning made of crushed, bright red chili peppers (seeds included), a little vinegar, and salt. It is used as a condiment for rice dishes, noodles, and grilled meats.

-Huy Fong chili garlic sauce is a popular brand that is available online or in specialty Asian groceries. The hot sauce creator, David Tran, is Vietnamese, but this specialty sauce is sold in America.

🧐 FAQs

What makes up Chili Garlic sauce?

Chili peppers, garlic, rice vinegar, and salt form the base of chili garlic sauce. The resulting combination is sweet, tangy, and spicy. It has an almost fresh, and quite robust flavor, with a powerful garlic bite that really sets it apart from other spicy sauces.

How long does chili garlic sauce last?

Chili garlic sauce can last for several months if stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, it’s important to check the expiration date on the bottle and discard it if it has expired. Also, check for any signs of spoilage, such as mold or an off odor.

What are some substitutes for Huy Fong chili garlic sauce?

There are several options available that can provide a similar flavor profile. Some popular substitutes include sriracha sauce, sambal oelek, and chili paste.

Is there a difference between chili garlic sauce and hot chili sauce?

Yes, there’s a difference between chili garlic sauce and hot chili sauce, as chili garlic sauce is made from chili peppers and garlic, while hot chili sauce is also made from chili peppers but lacks garlic. Chili garlic sauce has a more pronounced garlic flavor and a thicker consistency than hot chili sauce.

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