What’s A Good Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute?

Chili Garlic Sauce is a spicy sauce common in Asian cuisine that delivers a spicy kick to the meal. It’s a thick, chunky sauce comprising chilis, garlic, vinegar, sugar, oil, and salt. While its flavor and texture combination is distinct, several chili garlic sauce substitute options exist when in a bind.  

Making your own chili garlic sauce is pretty straightforward. And, with the preservatives of the store-bought variety, it becomes a healthier alternative to many other sauces. Chilis are a source of energy, while garlic is good for lower blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels.

But what do you do when you need a replacement for chili garlic sauce? This article will take a closer look at some of the best options available.

What is Chili Garlic Sauce?

Chili garlic sauce is a spicy condiment whose primary ingredients are chili and garlic. It’s usually thick, chunky, and vibrant red color. And it’s typically used as a dipping sauce, sauce topping, or can be added to certain foods while cooking.

This versatile and spicy sauce originated in Vietnam and is most prevalent in Asian food. Traditional chili garlic sauce is made with red, hot Thai chilies. But many variations of the sauce exist across the globe, with serrano, jalapeño, and cayenne chilies being popular alternatives.

Some even make this fiery sauce by pickling the combined ingredients instead of cooking and reducing. Either way, when incorporating chili garlic sauce into your meal, you’ll enjoy a sweet, spicy accompaniment with loads of umami.

Substitutes for Chili Garlic Sauce

Several ideal substitutions offer a similar flavor profile to this beloved sauce. Some provide more or less heat than chili garlic sauce. And our below list provides the perfect replacement for almost every situation.

1. Harissa Sauce

Harissa sauce is likely the closest match for a chili garlic sauce alternative. This sauce is typically made with a specific type of red chili that originates in North Africa. These particular chilis are incredibly hot. Therefore, harissa sauce can often be hotter than chili garlic sauce.

Other harissa sauce ingredients include vinegar, garlic, and spices. It’s not as sweet as chili garlic sauce and delivers more of a garlicky, peppery taste. Its texture is also more paste-like when compared to chili garlic sauce.

2. Chili Garlic Paste

Chili garlic paste is made from crushed garlic cloves and chilis and can be made at home with a pestle and mortar. It has a thicker texture and flavor than chili garlic sauce. And it can be used in various dishes to add depth of flavor.

The flavor of chili garlic paste is far more intense than that of chili garlic sauce, so a little goes a long way. Because there’s no sugar in the paste, it doesn’t deliver the same sweetness as chili garlic sauce. 

Chili garlic paste is ideal for marinades and dips. It also makes an excellent base for soups and stews.

3. Sriracha

Sriracha is a hot sauce made from similar ingredients to chili garlic sauce, making it an ideal substitute. The sauce is traditionally made using jalapeño peppers, garlic, vinegar, and salt. Therefore, it offers a similar hot and tangy flavor to chili garlic sauce. 

This spicy sauce often packs more heat than traditional chili garlic sauce, incorporating additional spices such as cayenne pepper and chili pepper flakes. 

4. Chili Peppers and Sesame Oil

Chili garlic sauce can be substituted by combining chili peppers and sesame oil. Depending on the type of chili pepper used, this mixture can be just as spicy and flavorful. It’s also super easy to make. It’s just a matter of crushing the peppers in a bit of oil and adding salt or spices to taste.

The best part about this alternative is that you can adjust the heat to your liking based on the chili pepper you select. Bear in mind, though, that sesame oil adds a slightly nutty flavor to this condiment.

5. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a fantastic alternative to chili garlic sauce. It can be found in most stores and adds plenty of flavor and heat to the dish. Hot sauce usually contains chili peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices.

If you’re unsure what kind of hot sauce would be best for your recipe, start with something labeled “medium” or “mild”. This way, you can add more sauce to increase the heat to your liking.


Searching for an ideal chili garlic sauce substitute is about finding what works best for you and your taste buds. Ultimately, the purpose and heat of the replacement will be the deciding factor. Fortunately, our above list offers the most ideal options for various situations.