6 Best Chili Paste Substitutes to use in your Recipes


Chili paste is an important ingredient in many recipes; marinades, sauces, rubs, dressings, sauces, curries, and many more.

However, this ingredient can be hard to find or to make yourself.

Ordinary chili paste generally contains fresh chili peppers, salt, sugar, vinegar or lemon, and sometimes spices and oil.

Best Chili Paste Substitutes

The best substitute for Chili Paste are – Hot Sauce, Sriracha, Harissa, Piri Piri Sauce, Spicy Tomato Paste, and Sambal Oelek. They are discussed in detail here –

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a good alternative to chili paste, though you should be using one with minimal additional ingredients and one on the thicker side.

Hot sauce is easy to find and affordable too.

That way, you’ll have a textural result similar to if you would use chili paste. There are several options available. Avoid using thin sauces like tabasco.


This is a good option to add spice to your recipes without looking too far or burning a hole in your pocket. Use a thicker hot sauce for better results.


This is a premade sauce made using salt, vinegar, garlic, and red peppers, and sugar.This sauce originates from Thailand but is taking the world by a flavorful storm.

Sriracha is a good alternative since it’s on the thicker side when it comes to chili sauces. It can add heat and color. It can be thickened by adding paprika to it.

The sauce is easy to find in Asian ingredient stores and supermarkets.


Sriracha is a good alternative to chili paste; it has a red color and a garlic flavor in its undertones. It is thicker than most sauces and has an adequate level of heat.


Harissa is a premade paste made with red chilies and a lot of other spices. This is the best alternative to use in recipes involving spices like curries, stews, and marinades.

This Tunisian paste works very well in Mediterranean and south-east Asian cuisine.

Harissa is usually found in glass jars in supermarkets. It can be used in place of chili paste in any recipe, but keep in mind that it brings a plethora of complex spiciness to anything it is added to.


Harissa is a good alternative for dishes based on spice and complex flavors. It is a good replacement in Mediterranean and south-east Asian cuisines.

Piri Piri Sauce

Piri Piri chili peppers or African Bird’s eye chilis are a good alternative since their increasing popularity allows it to be available in many forms, from sauces, dry spice mixes, flakes to spicy blended mayos.

Piri Piri is very hot; it must be used with caution.

It works well in virtually any dish, though flakes and powders may not provide much vibrance to recipes in terms of visual appeal.

Try to use it in sauce form to achieve similarity in texture.


Piri Piri, an increasingly popular African chili is a good substitute; its versatility due to its availability in many forms makes it a good substitute.

Spicy Tomato Paste

This is an easy do-it-yourself alternative to using store-bought chili paste or using fresh peppers, which may be hard to come across.

It can provide both flavor and texture to your recipes when chili paste is missing.

All you’ll need to do is to make a paste of tomatoes, any kind of chili powder(cayenne, paprika, chili flakes will work well too).

This blended mixture can then be adjusted and customized to the desired heat level by adding extra chili powder to it—season to taste.


This is a good method to use when you are in a pinch. It requires minimal ingredients and is very easy to make. It can also be customized.

Sambal Oelek

This is a premade Indonesian sauce or pastes with a variety of vibrant secondary ingredients.

These ingredients include shrimp paste, salt, sugar, shallots, and many more.

This is an ingredient that packs a lot of complexity, hosting several secondary components.

Sambal oelek works particularly well in Asian and dishes since it covers every flavor of a typical savory Asian recipe’s palette.


This paste includes several ingredients and works very well in Asian recipes because of its complexity.


Can you make chili paste from chili powder?

You can make a substitute by adding chili powder to tomato paste or ketchup even. This will achieve a similar texture but may not be able to reach a similar flavor.

Can you use Sriracha in place of chili paste?

Yes. Sriracha is a fine alternative. It must be used carefully since it is pre-seasoned, and therefore you must season your recipes accordingly. It is a better alternative since it is thicker than most sauces and can be made hotter and thicker by adding some paprika to the sauce.

What is the difference between chili paste and chili sauce?

Chili sauce contains loads of salt, sugars, vinegar, and several other preservatives and flavoring agents. This means that it is heavily seasoned and is pre-processed. Chili paste, on the other hand, is made with fresh chili peppers and minimal seasoning. It also involves very little processing.

How do you make chili paste from scratch?

You can make your chili paste by blending in a jar of fresh chili peppers(red or green), salt, and a little bit of water. You may also add additional secondary ingredients like spices, herbs, vinegar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, sugar, and many more, according to your preference.

Bottom Line

Chili paste may not always be easily available to you. But several similar ingredients can easily serve its purpose.

This list discusses several, any of which can work excellently in your recipes.

Pick your favorite and add it to any recipe to add a spicy heat. Hopefully, your chili paste needs can be satisfied by any of these great substitutes.

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About Barbara Foster

Barbara is a traveler who has traveled to more than 25 countries. She loves the variety of food she gets to experience on her trips and maintains detailed journals of her travels which she plans to publish as a book someday. She loves to bake. Her favorite cuisines are Italian, French, and Mexican.