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7 Best Sweet Chili Sauce Substitute Options

Both Asian and Western cuisines use classic Asian sauces, but none more often than sweet chili sauce. It’s a must-use sauce that adds a splash of heat and flavor. But if you’re out of the good stuff and don’t want to make a trip to the store, I’ve got you covered with 7 sweet chili sauce substitutes.

You can substitute sweet chili sauce with sambal + vinegar, hot sauce + honey, cocktail sauce + honey, and a homemade sweet chili sauce. But this isn’t all you can use, so let’s cover all the best sweet chili sauce swaps you can use!

🤷 What is Sweet Chili Sauce?

Globally known as Thai sweet chili sauce, sweet chili sauce is both sweet and spicy with a tangy flavor profile. The sauce is made from sugar, vinegar, and chili peppers, with a heat level that can vary from less spicy to very spicy, depending on the chili pepper used. Knowing how to make sauce less spicy can help with this, though the sauce is generally considered to be mild to moderate. The sauce can be used as a marinade, a sauce for pork chops, or as a salad dressing

🧑‍🍳 How to Make Sweet Chili Sauce

To whip up a sweet chili sauce, start by combining chopped red chili peppers, sugar, rice vinegar, water, and minced garlic in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Let it gently simmer for 10-15 minutes on low heat, allowing the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken slightly. Adjust sweetness and heat levels as you go. You can even add ingredients like soy sauce or ginger for more added flavor. Once thickened, remove it from heat, let it cool, and transfer to a jar.

📌 How to Alter Sweet Chili Sauce

  • Use a mix of low-heat chili peppers if you’re not one for very spicy food. You can also add fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato puree, or ketchup to reduce the heat if you overdo it. 
  • Some bottled sweet chili sauce lacks heat. You can adjust the heat to your desired strength by using even more chili peppers.
  • Some bottled brands lack flavor. If you make it your own you can add umami flavors by using fish sauce or soy sauce instead of the typical salt.
  • To achieve a brighter red color, deseed and chop up even more chilies. You can use gochujang chili powder to add heat and color at the same time, or use paprika if you just want to add color. Gochujang substitutes and paprika substitutes will help if you don’t have either.
A plate of fried wontons with sweet chili sauce.
fried wontons with sweet chili sauce

How to Use Sweet Chili Sauce

Dipping Sauce: Use sweet chili sauce as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, egg rolls, dumplings, chicken tenders, or other appetizers.

Glaze for Meat: Brush sweet chili sauce onto grilled or roasted meats such as chicken, pork, or shrimp during the last few minutes of cooking for a flavorful glaze.

Stir-Fry Sauce: Incorporate sweet chili sauce into stir-fry dishes to add a sweet and spicy flavor to the vegetables, proteins, or noodles.

Condiment for Burgers and Sandwiches: Spread sweet chili sauce on burgers or sandwiches for an extra layer of flavor. It pairs well with grilled chicken, beef, or even tofu.

Pizza Topping: Drizzle sweet chili sauce over pizza for a sweet and spicy kick. It pairs well with ingredients like chicken, pineapple, and bell peppers.

Topping for Seafood: Serve sweet chili sauce as a dipping sauce or drizzle it over fried or grilled seafood such as fish or shrimp.

Snack Accompaniment: Use sweet chili sauce as a condiment for snacks like chicken wings, popcorn, chicken, or vegetable fritters.

Cocktail Sauce: Mix sweet chili sauce with a bit of horseradish to create a unique and spicy cocktail sauce for shrimp or seafood.

A bowl of sweet chili sauce with spices.
sweet chili sauce with spices

💡 Best Sweet Chili Sauce Substitutes

DIY Sweet Chili Sauce

Explore a homemade sweet chili sauce if you’re craving that flawless balance of sweet, salty, and spicy in your cooking. Just combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan, then add minced garlic, chopped red chili peppers, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Simmer the mixture until it thickens, then let it cool before transferring to a jar and storing it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cocktail Sauce + Honey

Cocktail sauce and sweet chili sauce have a similar zesty tang and heat. Choose a spicier sauce or add in extra cayenne powder to reach your desired heat level. You can use it as a direct substitute for sweet chili sauce with just a little bit of honey to increase the sweetness. 

Chili Garlic Sauce + Honey

We absolutely love the chunky, spicy, umami kick of this popular Asian sauce. Chili garlic sauce is great on its own, but it lacks the sweetness that you may be looking for. You can use chili garlic sauce substitutes or just add a dash of honey to it to replace sweet chili sauce.

Sambal + Vinegar

This spicy Indonesian chili paste packs a flavor punch as a sauce on its own. To tweak it as a sweet chili sauce substitute, mix it with white vinegar. Sambal already contains sugar, but if you feel like it still needs some, add honey or your preferred sugar substitute. You could also go with similar alternatives to sambal oelek for an even better and matched taste.

A bottle of opened hot sauce.

Sweet and Sour Sauce + Red Chili Flakes

Sweet and sour sauce is well-known in Asian cuisine. Much like sweet chili sauce, it’s tangy and sweet but is usually orange or red and has no visible chili. Sweet chili sauce, on the other hand, is sweet and sour and has a spicy kick to it due to the chili flakes in it. To substitute, simply add red chili flakes to sweet and sour sauce until you reach your desired level of spiciness. You can also use red chili flakes substitutes if you don’t have any lying around.

Hot Sauce + Honey

The easiest way to substitute a sweet chili sauce is with a hot sauce you already love, plus a sweetener. If you like spicy food, you’ll likely already have a bottle of hot sauce in your cupboard. Just add a bit of your sweetener of choice, like honey, as it’s the best way to thicken sauce without flour or cornstarch. Make sure to stir well to create an easy-peasy sweet chili sauce substitute.

A Healthy Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce

Still looking for a healthier alternative to sweet chili sauce? Then, make your own healthy, sweet chili sauce at home. To create your own sweet chili sauce, blend fresh red bell peppers, dates, and a splash of apple cider vinegar until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and simmer gently over low heat until it thickens. Knowing how to thicken sauce will help you get that right consistency. After, let it cool before storing it.

🧐 FAQs

Is sweet chili sauce the same as sriracha?

No, sweet chili sauce is not the same as sriracha. Sweet chili sauce has a sweet and tangy flavor with a thick consistency, while sriracha has a more spicy and garlicky flavor with a thinner consistency. You can also use sriracha substitutes for a more closer taste.

What are some non-spicy alternatives to sweet chili sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a sweet and savory sauce that’ll be a good pick for something non-spicy. It has a thick consistency and is made from soybeans, garlic, vinegar, and sugar. Another option is oyster sauce, which is made from oysters, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch.

What are the best brands of sweet chili sauce?

Some of the most popular and highly rated brands include Mae Ploy, Thai Kitchen, and Frank’s RedHot. Mae Ploy is a Thai brand known for its authentic flavor and high-quality ingredients. Thai Kitchen is another popular brand that is widely available in grocery stores.

What is Sweet Chili Sauce Made of?

Thai sweet chili sauce is crafted with a delicious blend of red chili peppers for heat, sugar for sweetness, and vinegar for acidity. Typically featuring minced garlic and a pinch of salt, the sauce is simmered to meld flavors and reach a desirable thickness.

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