Chili garlic sauce is a popular condiment in Asian cuisine, and it is popular for its spicy kick and bold garlic flavor. Besides, it adds a delightful zing to various dishes, from stir-fries to dipping sauces. However, what do you do when you're out of chili garlic sauce or looking for a milder alternative? In this post, I will explore the best substitutes that can still deliver the same spicy and garlicky flavors!
- 1. Sriracha sauce
- 2. Homemade chili garlic sauce
- 3. Harissa sauce or paste
- 4. Red pepper flakes and olive oil
- 5. Sweet chili sauce
- 6. Sambal oelek chili paste
- 7. Black bean sauce
- 8. Spicy tomato sauce
- 9. Cayenne pepper and garlic powder
- 10. Red jalapeño peppers and garlic
- Chili garlic sauce substitute: final thoughts
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1. Sriracha sauce
Sriracha sauce, often referred to simply as Sriracha, is a popular spicy condiment and hot sauce. It combines heat, sweetness, and tanginess, making it a versatile and flavorful addition to various dishes.
This sauce is made from a base of red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. The key ingredient, however, is the red chili pepper, which gives Sriracha its distinctive spicy and bold flavor.
Sriracha sauce has gained popularity worldwide. It is known for its bright red color and is often sold in distinctive plastic squeeze bottles with a rooster logo, particularly the most famous brand, Huy Fong Sriracha.
Sriracha is perhaps one of the closest alternatives to chili garlic sauce. It offers a similar spice level and garlic flavor. Drizzle it over your favorite Asian dishes!
2. Homemade chili garlic sauce
Homemade chili garlic sauce is relatively easy to make, and you can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste preferences regarding spice level and flavor. All you need are fresh chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and a blender. Blend them together for a sauce that's tailor-made to your preferred spice level and garlic intensity. You can add sugar, salt, or vinegar to achieve the desired balance of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors. If you prefer a tangier sauce, you can also add a squeeze of lime juice.
Once the sauce is made, transfer it to a clean, airtight container or a sterilized jar. Store it in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.
While creating your own chili garlic sauce at home is a fantastic option, keep in mind that the spiciness of the sauce will develop over time. Therefore, if you find it too mild initially, give it some time to mature in the refrigerator. Homemade chili garlic sauce can be used as a condiment, a dipping sauce, or as an ingredient in various recipes to add heat and flavor to your dishes.
3. Harissa sauce or paste
Harissa, a North African hot chili pepper paste, can be an excellent substitute for chili garlic sauce. It has a unique flavor profile but is spicier than other alternatives. It adds depth to your dishes.
The primary ingredients in harissa sauce typically include chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, salt, and spices. (which can consist of cumin, coriander, caraway, and sometimes mint or other aromatic spices.) Additional ingredients may be added, such as lemon juice, tomatoes, or herbs, for added flavor complexity.
The level of spiciness in harissa can vary from mild to extremely hot, depending on the type and quantity of chili peppers used. Harissa is widely available in jars or tubes in grocery stores. Harissa sauce is incredibly versatile, and you can use harissa as a condiment, marinade, or ingredient in various dishes. For example, mix it into stews, stir it into rice, or use it as a marinade for meats before grilling.
4. Red pepper flakes and olive oil
For a simple and quick solution, mixing red pepper flakes with olive oil creates a chili-infused oil as a chili garlic sauce substitute. This mixture's taste and heat level will depend on several factors, including the type of red pepper flakes used, the oil, and any additional seasonings you add. The texture of this chili-infused oil will be smooth, which can affect how it is used in recipes. You can also sauté minced garlic in the oil before adding the red pepper flakes to create a more aromatic and flavorful infusion.
Mixing red pepper flakes and olive oil creates a spicy chili oil, but it won't be exactly the same as a prepared chili sauce like harissa. The flavor will be influenced by the type of flakes and any additional seasonings you use.
5. Sweet chili sauce
If you're looking for a milder option with a sweet flavor, consider using sweet chili sauce. While it lacks the strong garlic flavor, it can provide a delightful balance of sweet and spicy to your dishes. Sweet chili sauce, also known as Thai sweet chili sauce, is a popular condiment and dipping sauce. It is popular for its sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy flavor profile.
As the name suggests, sweet chili sauce is primarily sweet. It contains sugar or a sweetener like honey or agave nectar, which gives it a pleasant sweetness that balances the heat from chili peppers. Sweet chili sauce often has a tangy or slightly sour undertone, which comes from the addition of vinegar or lime juice. While sweet chili sauce is not as intensely spicy as some other chili sauces, it has a mild to moderate heat level.
Many recipes for sweet chili sauce include minced garlic and ginger, which add depth of flavor and a subtle aromatic quality. Sweet chili sauce's exact flavor and heat level can vary from brand to brand, and homemade recipes can be customized to suit individual needs. Some versions may lean more towards sweetness with minimal heat, while others may have a spicier kick. Overall, sweet chili sauce is a well-balanced condiment that combines sweet, tangy, and spicy elements to create a versatile and delicious flavor profile.
6. Sambal oelek chili paste
Sambal oelek chili paste is a popular and versatile Indonesian chili paste made from crushed or ground red chili peppers. It is popular for its bold and spicy flavor and is used in various Southeast Asian cuisines.
Some of the key characteristics of sambal oelek include its intense spiciness. The heat level can vary depending on the type of chili peppers used and whether or not the seeds are included. It is generally spicier than sriracha sauce but milder than other chili pastes like harissa. Sambal oelek has a coarse and chunky texture due to the use of crushed chili peppers. It is not as smooth as some other chili sauces. While sambal oelek is primarily known for its heat, it also has a distinctive chili pepper flavor with hints of fruitiness and sometimes a slight smokiness.
Sambal oelek typically comes in jars or bottles and can be stored at room temperature. It has a long shelf life due to its high acidity and spiciness. Overall, Sambal oelek is a great addition to stir-fry and salad dressing. It offers a similar heat level to chili garlic sauce.
7. Black bean sauce
For a unique twist, try black bean sauce. While it doesn't match the flavor profile exactly, it can add a rich and savory element to your Asian-inspired dishes. Black bean sauce, also known as black bean paste or fermented black bean sauce, is a popular condiment and ingredient in Chinese cuisine. It is made from fermented black soybeans, known for their savory and umami-rich flavor.
The primary ingredient in black bean sauce is fermented black soybeans (often called "douchi" in Chinese). These soybeans are cooked, salted, and naturally fermented, resulting in a deep, complex, and slightly salty flavor. Other ingredients commonly found in black bean sauce can include garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, and various seasonings to enhance the overall taste.
The key characteristics of black bean sauce include its special texture and umami flavors. Black bean sauce has a thick and somewhat gritty texture due to the crushed and fermented soybeans. It's not a smooth sauce like soy sauce or ketchup. Black bean sauce has a distinctive umami flavor with a hint of saltiness. It is often described as earthy, savory, and slightly sweet, with a fermented depth of flavor. The salty, savory, and slightly sweet notes make it a versatile ingredient in Chinese cooking.
Black bean sauce is used in various Chinese dishes, especially in stir-fry. It pairs well with meats, seafood, tofu, and vegetables. You can also use it as a dipping sauce or a condiment to add rich flavor to dishes. You can store black bean sauce in jars or bottles at room temperature. Homemade black bean sauce will normally last two weeks in the refrigerator.
Overall, it has a long shelf life due to its fermentation and salt content. It's important to note that there are different variations of black bean sauce, including spicy black bean sauce and garlic black bean sauce.
8. Spicy tomato sauce
Spicy tomato sauce is made primarily from tomatoes and seasoned with spicy ingredients, giving it a hot and zesty flavor. It can work as a substitute, especially in recipes with a desired thicker consistency. Spicy tomato sauce is a versatile condiment for various dishes and cuisines. While some people prefer a milder sauce, while others enjoy the intense heat of a very spicy sauce, you can customize the heat level of spicy tomato sauce by adding more spicy ingredients. In addition to spiciness, you can season spicy tomato sauce with garlic, onions, herbs (such as basil, oregano, or thyme), and sometimes spices like cumin or paprika.
Overall, spicy tomato sauce is a flavorful and fiery condiment that can add a spicy kick to a wide range of dishes.
9. Cayenne pepper and garlic powder
Cayenne pepper and garlic powder are common culinary ingredients that add flavor and spice to different dishes. Mixing cayenne pepper with garlic powder can create a quick DIY chili garlic flavor. You can adjust the ratio to achieve the desired heat and garlic intensity.
Cayenne pepper is popular for its spicy and hot flavor. It has a relatively intense heat level, measured on the Scoville Heat Scale. On the other hand, garlic powder has a pungent and savory flavor that is similar to fresh garlic but milder. It lacks the sharpness of raw garlic, though, and has a more subdued garlic taste.
Both cayenne pepper and garlic powder are pantry staples that can enhance the flavor of your dishes. Be cautious with cayenne pepper if you are sensitive to spicy foods, as it can be hot.
10. Red jalapeño peppers and garlic
If you have fresh red jalapeño peppers and garlic on hand, blend them into a paste. It won't be identical to chili garlic sauce, but it will provide a fresh and spicy alternative.
Whether you're out of chili garlic sauce or looking to experiment with different flavors, this substitute has a lot to offer! Red jalapeño peppers have a slightly sweeter and fruitier flavor than green jalapeños. They retain some of the spiciness for which jalapeños are known but may be slightly milder due to the ripening process. The heat level varies from mild to moderately hot, depending on the specific pepper and its seeds. Combining red jalapeño peppers and garlic paste can create a flavorful and spicy base for various dishes.
Chili garlic sauce substitute: final thoughts
I hope you enjoyed this post. The alternatives I've explored in this blog offer unique and flavorful options to suit various dishes. Next time, if you are in a pinch or want to try something new, reach for one of these chili garlic sauce substitute. Keep in mind to adjust the quantities and ingredients to achieve the desired level of heat and garlic flavor. Enjoy experimenting!