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Best Chili Paste Substitute (11 Options)

Cooking with chili paste is pure flavor and delight. It’s just perfect for adding heat to stir-fries, soups, stews, Asian sauces, and sauces for pork chops. However, there may be times when you need a substitute for chili paste. Maybe you don’t have any or want something milder. I’ve got you covered here.

You can substitute chili paste with sambal oelek, sriracha, harissa, and gochujang. But this isn’t all, so let’s jump right into the best swaps for chili paste that you can use!

A bowl of sambal chili sauce on a banana leaf.

🤷 What is Chili Paste?

Chili paste is a thick, concentrated paste made from chili peppers, garlic, and other seasonings. It’s used to add heat and flavor to various dishes, such as soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. This paste is available in different forms and heat levels, ranging from mild to extremely hot. Take a chipotle paste substitute, for example. It’s made from chipotle peppers, garlic, and an array of seasonings.

📌 Types of Chili Paste

Here is a comprehensive chart on the different types of chili paste and their uses:

Chili Paste TypeFlavor ProfileHeat LevelCuisine
Calabrian Chili PasteSmoky, fruity, tangyMedium-HighItalian
Sambal Oelek Chili PasteTangy, slightly sweet, garlickyMediumIndonesian
Garlic Chili PasteSpicy, garlicky, savoryHighChinese
Korean Chili PasteSweet, savory, smokyMedium-HighKorean
Red Chili PasteEarthy, smoky, sweetMediumMexican
Thai Chili PasteSpicy, tangy, sourHighThai
Asian Chili PasteSweet, sour, spicyMediumAsian
Chinese Chili PasteSpicy, smoky, slightly sweetHighChinese

🧑‍🍳 How to Make Chili Paste

To make chili paste, start with fresh or dried chili peppers. You can use any type of chili pepper, but some cayenne pepper substitutes are a popular choice. First, remove the stems and seeds from the chili peppers and then chop them into small pieces. Next, blend the chili peppers and other ingredients in a food processor until they form a smooth paste. After blending, transfer the chili paste to a clean jar and store it in the refrigerator for later use.

💡 Best Chili Paste Substitute

DIY Chili Paste

Making your own chili paste at home allows you to customize the flavor and spice level to your liking. It’s the perfect alternative to chili paste, providing a delicious and flavorful kick to every dish. If you prefer a mild or spicy flavor, making your own chili paste is the best way to cater to your personal taste while also making a convenient and unlimited supply of your own.

Click here for the recipe.

Sambal Oelek

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of sambal oelek

Sambal oelek is a great substitute for chili paste. This Indonesian chili paste is made from fresh red chilies, vinegar, and salt, giving it a tangy, bright flavor with a subtle heat. It’s available in most retailers and stores online and has a longer shelf life than other alternatives. You can use this to add some spice to your morning eggs or avocado toast. If you can’t seem to find any, you can use different sambal oelek substitutes instead.


1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of sriracha

Sriracha is a popular hot sauce made from a blend of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, giving it a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. It’s known for its bright red color and moderate heat level, so you’ll have to use more of it if you want a hotter flavor. It also contains vinegar and sugar, so you’ll have to account for the added acidity and sweetness. If you want, you can use some sriracha substitutes for a similar, if not better, experience.


1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of harissa

Harissa is a delicious spicy paste swap for chili paste. It comes from North Africa and is made from a blend of hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices such as cumin, coriander, and caraway. This gives it a similarly smoky and slightly sweet flavor. Some brands are very spicy, while others are milder and sweeter. But you can try making your own at home using chili flake swaps, roasted peppers, and other spices. Or you can use some Harissa substitutes instead.


1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of gochujang

Gochujang is a delicious Korean option made from fermented soybeans, rice, and red chili peppers. This gives it a complex and unique taste with a thick consistency and deep red color. It also has a similar heat level with a slightly sweeter and savory flavor. If you wanna use it as a swap, you’ll want to dilute it a bit if it’s too thick for your liking. It can also be quite salty, so you can try using gochujang substitutes instead for a closer or even better alternative.

Chili Garlic Sauce

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce

Chili garlic sauce is the true King of Asian condiments. This delicious sauce is used in tons of Asian cuisines. It’s made by combining red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and sugar, giving it a sweet and spicy flavor. Although it’s sweeter, it’s still the perfect splash of spice and convenience for any dish. You can experiment with different chili garlic sauce substitutes for various flavors and consistencies.

Calabrian Chili Paste

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1/2 teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste

For a bold and spicy chili paste alternative, consider using spicy chili peppers such as Calabrian chili peppers. These peppers are an all-around paste that is available in most grocery stores but are very hot. Perfect for spicy pasta, pizza, sandwiches, marinades, and spicy chicken sauce recipes. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste accordingly.

Peri Peri Sauce

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of peri peri sauce

Peri Peri sauce is a fantastic chili paste substitute originating from Portugal. This hot sauce is made from African bird’s eye chili peppers, also known as Peri Peri peppers, and has a tangy and spicy flavor that’s perfect for marinades, dipping sauces, or condiments for grilled meats. Nando’s sauces feature delicious types of peri sauces that you can buy. You can also use different swaps for bird’s eye chili for a tastier and more spicy alternative.

Nando's PERi-PERi bottled sauces labelled with their respective levels of spiciness.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of spicy tomato sauce + 1 teaspoon of chili powder

Spicy tomato sauce is an easily accessible, spicier variant of its normal tomato sauce cousin. It’s a multi-use alternative to chili paste with a balanced flavor profile and just the right amount of heat. Ketchup and tomato sauce aren’t the same, so make sure you pick the right one. Some may be too sweet or spicy, so taste-test them and adjust accordingly.

Crushed Pepper Flakes

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1 teaspoon of crushed pepper flakes

Crushed pepper flakes are a fantastic option to add a spicy flavor to your dishes. These flakes are made from dried chili peppers that have been crushed into small pieces that can give your meals a bold and fiery taste. They’re also readily available in most grocery stores, relatively inexpensive, and have a long shelf life. You can even use different chipotle pepper substitutes for varying flavors.

Ketchup with Ground Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon of chili paste = 1/4 teaspoon of ketchup + 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Ketchup with ground cayenne pepper is a cheap and convenient alternative to chili paste. Ketchup is a common condiment found in most kitchens with a sweet and sour taste, while ground cayenne pepper is a spice that can add an exciting level of heat and flavor to any dish. Together, they can create a delicious and easy-to-make chili paste substitute. Just mix ketchup and ground cayenne pepper in a bowl until well combined.

🧐 FAQs

Is chili sauce the same as paste?

No, chili sauce and chili paste are not the same. Chili sauce is usually a mixture of chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, and other seasonings. Chili sauce is also thinner and less concentrated than chili paste.

How long does chili paste last?

Chili paste can last for a one week or several months if stored properly. To extend its shelf life, keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Can Sriracha sauce effectively replace chili paste in dishes?

It’s not a perfect replacement because it has a different flavor profile and consistency. Sriracha is sweeter and less spicy than chili paste and is also thinner. Therefore, you’ll need adjust the other ingredients in your recipe.

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