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12 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes in 2024 [Hot Choices]

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: September 27, 2023

Ever found yourself ready to whip up your favorite dish, only to find that your trusty jar of chili garlic sauce is empty? Fear not, because the world of cooking is filled with equally delicious alternatives that can save your dinner (and your taste buds). Exploring these can also introduce you to new flavors and styles that might even become your new favorite go-to. From sauces that pack a punch like sriracha, to milder additions like garlic paste, there are numerous best chili garlic sauce substitutes just waiting to add that extra zing to your meals.

The journey through these alternatives will not only satisfy your palate but could also potentially open up a whole new culinary world. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just a spice enthusiast, these substitutes are sure to keep your dishes flavorful and exciting. Let’s embark on this flavorful adventure together!

Also Read: Best Kewpie Mayo Substitutes

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12 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes of 2024

Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes of 2024

Venturing into the world of cooking, I’ve come across a dozen brilliant alternatives when the chili garlic sauce ran out. These 12 best chili garlic sauce substitutes have not only saved me during culinary mishaps but have also added an entirely new dimension to my dishes, making them even more flavorsome and delightful.

1. Sriracha As a Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute: Add a Kick to Your Dish

Sriracha - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

One of the most popular alternatives to chili garlic sauce is Sriracha. This vibrant red sauce, originally hailing from the little coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand, is quite the sensation worldwide, and for a good reason. Sriracha is a blend of red chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. This beautiful concoction creates a hot sauce with a sweet and tangy undertone.

Sriracha is a fantastic replacement because it shares a similar heat profile with chili garlic sauce, but it also departs slightly by introducing an additional sweetness. The key here is the interplay of flavors. If your dish can handle, or indeed benefit from, a bit of a sweet undertone, Sriracha is the ideal substitute.

Some of the delicacies you can try with Sriracha include stir-fries, noodles, and burgers. I also find it perfect for adding a twist to traditional dips or salad dressings.

2. Sambal Oelek: A Taste of Indonesia

Sambal Oelek - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Next, let’s take a culinary flight to Indonesia and discover another great substitute for chili garlic sauce – Sambal Oelek. This seasoning is a staple in Dutch and Indonesian cooking and is a simple yet flavorful blend of fiery red chilies, salt, and vinegar. Unlike Sriracha and chili garlic sauce, Sambal Oelek isn’t sweet.

It’s this straightforward punchy flavor, no frills, and no distractions, that makes Sambal Oelek a mouth-watering alternative. It’s a great option if you’re keen on preserving the heat of the chili garlic sauce but want a less complex flavor profile.

Try using Sambal Oelek in dishes where you want the spice to be the star. It works wonders in soups, marinades, and sauces where it imparts a pure, fiery chili flavor. One of my favorite ways to use it is in cooking Southeast Asian recipes, particularly Indonesian dishes such as Nasi Goreng (fried rice).

Getting around different chili garlic sauce substitutes—like Sriracha and Sambal Oelek—allows you to continue enjoying your meals’ spice and flavor, even when you’re out of your customary sauce. Fearlessly explore these substitutes, and you’ll likely find yourself spicing up your kitchen repertoire in surprisingly delightful ways.

3. Louisiana-style Hot Sauce: Go South

Louisiana-style Hot Sauce - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Let’s take a trip down south, shall we? Louisiana-style hot sauce is a fantastic substitute for chili garlic sauce that deserves your attention. So, what exactly is this fiery concoction? This type of hot sauce hails from the Southern United States (as the name gives away!), and is typically made with fewer ingredients than many of the other alternatives. Though simple in composition, it packs a solid punch of heat.

The primary ingredients of Louisiana-style hot sauce are chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. The result is a tangy, spiced sauce perfect for adding some zing to your dishes. While it may lack the garlic flavor you’d find in a traditional chili garlic sauce, the combination of heat and tartness more than compensates.

Louisiana-style hot sauce pairs especially well with hearty dishes, like gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken, and more. It’s also perfect for adding some spice to your sandwiches or mixing them into a marinade. Feel free to experiment and be dazzled by the gritty, raw flavors of this Southern delight!

4. Mexican-Style Hot Sauce: Get Festive

Mexican-style Hot Sauce - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Next on our list of best chili garlic sauce substitutes is one with a little Latin flair – Mexican-style hot sauce. Usually made from chili peppers, vinegar, and a variety of spices, this style of hot sauce tends to be thinner and tangier than its Asian counterparts. But don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s any less flavorful!

When considering Mexican-style hot sauces as a substitute for chili garlic sauce, keep in mind its versatile nature. With varying heat levels and the bonus of tangy flavor, it works great in just about any recipe. Best suited for tacos, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, or even just a bowl of hot and hearty chili, this sauce is a sure-shot crowd-pleaser.

What sets the Mexican-style hot sauce apart is the variety of regional flavors it can offer. From milder tomato-based varieties to fiery habanero sauces, there’s a Mexican-style hot sauce for every palate and dish.

Lastly, what better excuse to host a festive Mexican night and serve your guests your latest culinary creations with a dash of this hot sauce on the side? It’s time to spice things up!

5. Harissa Sauce: Try Something Exotic

Harissa Sauce - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

If you’re feeling a little daring and want to try something off the beaten path, you must check out Harissa sauce. This spicy, aromatic chili paste is a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking and has recently been gaining popularity on a global scale.

Harissa sauce is typically a vibrant red mixture of hot chili peppers (often smoked), garlic, olive oil, and spices like coriander, caraway, or cumin. Some versions also incorporate tomatoes or rose petals for an extra twist. The result is a complex and robust flavor that can be described as smoky, tangy, slightly sweet, and definitely spicy.

Comparing Harissa to chili garlic sauce, they both pack a substantial heat punch. However, Harissa provides a depth of flavor with its uniquely blended seasonings, taking your dish to the next level. It can work its magic in various recipes such as stews, meats, roasted vegetables, or even mixed into hummus or yogurt for a zesty dip.

Remember, Harissa is pretty potent, so you might want to start with a small amount and adjust it according to your taste. It’s all about finding the perfect balance that suits your palate!

6. Garlic Paste: Keeping it Simple

Garlic Paste - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Now, if you’re not one to venture too far from home, or you simply love the pungency of garlic, then substituting chili garlic sauce with clear-cut garlic paste might be just the ticket.

Garlic paste is as simple as it sounds. It’s predominantly just garlic, crushed and ground into a paste. Sometimes it is mixed with a bit of oil or salt to extend its shelf life and to make it a smoother paste.

Although garlic paste lacks the heat of chili, it brings a robust and deep garlic flavor to the table that is hard to resist. In many dishes, the spice can be replaced with other ingredients leaving the garlic to stand alone, or partnered with other unique flavors.

For dishes that can’t miss that chili kick, consider pairing garlic paste with fresh chili or a dash of chili flakes to mimic the dual powerhouse of chili garlic sauce. Regardless, using garlic paste as a substitute is fantastic in sautés, marinades, stir-fries, and even in cream sauces for a touch of velvety garlic goodness.

Despite the lack of complexity in comparison to chili garlic sauce, sometimes less is indeed more. A good chef knows that mastering simplicity can sometimes create the most outstanding results. After all, cooking is an art and often, the canvas we start with dictates the final masterpiece.

Also Read: Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes

7. Chili Crisp: The Rising Star

Chili Crisp - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Isn’t there just something magical about discovering a new sauce that adds a fiery depth to your meals? That’s exactly what chili crisp brings to the table. As a relatively new addition to the Western culinary scene, it’s quickly become a favorite among those who love a bold, spicy kick. Originating from China, chili crisp combines crushed chili peppers, garlic, and mouthwatering seasonings in oil to create a condiment that’s red-hot in both temperature and flavor.

What sets chili crisp apart from chili garlic sauce is its unique texture. The crispy additions elevate a simple dish into a gastronomical delight. Whether it’s a batch of steaming hot dumplings or simple fried eggs, a drizzle of chili crisp surely gives the meal a delightful crispy twist. Have you tried it yet?

9. Spices (Chili flakes, Garlic Powder): Spice It Up

Spices (Chili flakes, Garlic Powder) - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Sometimes, you’d be surprised by how much flavor simple spices can bring to the table. An instantly accessible, and arguably quite fun, substitute for chili garlic sauce is a mix of chili flakes and garlic powder. This versatile combo can be sprinkled on top of a dish with ease and gives you all the control over the heat and intensity of the flavor.

The texture from the chili flakes adds a nice contrast to certain dishes, while the garlic powder is a spacious and immediate way to infuse a punch of garlic goodness into your dishes. This mix isn’t just a runner-up for chili garlic sauce – it might become an essential companion in your culinary journey.

10. Thai Sweet Chili Paste: A Sweet Twist

Thai Sweet Chili Paste - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Let’s swerve away from the typical spicy and garlicky tastes and attempt something a bit more exotic. Say hello to Thai sweet chili paste. The sweetness of this paste, combined with mild chili flavors, creates a balance that is harmoniously unique and tasty.

What’s great is that these flavors tend to offer a less aggressively fiery experience, meaning it’s perfect for those who may not have a high tolerance for spiciness. With its syrupy consistency and bright red color, Thai sweet chili paste not only transforms the taste of your dish but also its visual appeal. So whether it’s an appetizer dipping sauce, stir fry ingredient or a marinade – this paste might just be the sweet, sultry replacement you’re looking for!

10. Chiu Chow Chili Oil: Chinese Cuisine at Its Best

Chiu Chow Chili Oil - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Next on our flavor-laden journey is the Chiu Chow chili oil, a delectable Chinese creation served worldwide. This gem of a sauce hails from Chaozhou, a city in the eastern Guangdong province of China. Like chili garlic sauce, Chiu Chow chili oil also carries a robust flavor of chili and garlic. But it stands apart on its own due to the unique method of preparation.

Chili and garlic are both marinated in soy sauce and then slowly sauteed in oil. The process gives the oil a deep, rich aroma that instantly elevates any dish it’s added to. And, if you’re a fan of noodles, well, a spoonful of Chiu Chow chili oil can turn your noodle dish into a flavor bomb!

11. Fresh Peppers: Get Back to Basics

Fresh Peppers - Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitute

Now, let’s consider an option that’s likely as close as your nearest grocery store – fresh peppers. Pepper, the original source of that familiar heat, can give the dish a natural, unadulterated punch. You’d be surprised how a little bit of fresh pepper can fully transform the flavors of your dish.

Now, I’d advise caution with this one – not all peppers are created equal, and it’s important to know your Scoville heat units (that’s a fancy way of saying “How spicy is this pepper going to be?”). From milder Bell peppers to sizzling Habaneros, there’s a whole range of heat and flavor profiles to experiment with.

So, the next time you find yourself facing an empty chili garlic sauce jar, instead of panicking, remember, you’ve got plenty of flavorful, potent substitutes right at your fingertips. The world of spices is vast and welcoming; all you need to do is reach out and take a pinch!

12. Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce: Do It Yourself

Do it yourself Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce

Many might shy away from the idea of making their own chili garlic sauce. Yet, owing to its simplicity, making an effort to create a homemade version can not only be rewarding but also allows you to tweak the ratios to your preferences.

In its most basic form, the sauce requires only fresh red chilies, cloves of garlic, vinegar, and salt. By adjusting these quantities, you fashion a sauce that is perfectly molded to your palate. Plus, the homemade version has a freshness to it that store-bought sauces can’t quite replicate.

Also Read: Best Pluckers Sauces

Embrace the Sting: Health Benefits of Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

Chili garlic sauce is not just a flavorful accompaniment, it also has substantial health benefits, and the same goes for its substitutes. Each substitute brings its unique set of health advantages.

Benefits of Sriracha

Although Sriracha is known for its heat, it plays a significant role in promoting your well-being. Loaded with capsaicin, a compound that gives peppers their distinct kick, Sriracha aids in digestion and has even been linked to weight loss. It is also high in Vitamin C which is essential for a strong immune system.

Here’s a table of Sriracha’s notable benefits:

Benefits of SrirachaDescription
Aids in DigestionCapsaicin speeds up the digestive tract.
Promotes Weight LossThe heat sensation can help burn calories.
Boosts Immune SystemRich in Vitamin C.

Power of Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek, another chili paste, is teeming with antioxidants in its key ingredients like red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. This vibrant concoction is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and combat foreign pathogens. Also, its generous capsaicin content can give a boost to your metabolism.

Healing Factor of Garlic

Garlic, a common ingredient in most of these substitutes, is a miracle ingredient known for its medicinal properties stemming from the enzyme, allicin. It can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, exhibiting powerful effects on heart health.

And there’s more:

  • Harissa sauce, a North African chili paste, can support heart health due to the presence of olive oil and tomatoes.
  • Mexican-style hot sauces often contain vinegar which helps in the absorption of nutrients.
  • Chili crisp and Chiu Chow chili oil, popular in Chinese cuisine, is loaded with antioxidants from their soybean oil base and multiple spices.

While these substitutes bring heat to your dishes, the health benefits serve as a bonus on your path to a long, healthy lifestyle. Embrace the sting, and let these substitutes take your well-being to newer heights.

All About Balance: Pairing Your Meals with the Right Sauce Substitute

All About Balance: Pairing Your Meals with the Right Sauce Substitute

When it comes to elevating your dishes, selecting the right sauce substitute becomes a crucial strategy. A perfect sauce not only balances the flavors but can add a whole new dimension to your culinary experience. So, how do you determine which substitute to choose?

Understanding the Flavors

Firstly, we need to understand the essence of the sauces we are using. For example, Sriracha has a sweet, tangy twist to its heat, while Sambal Oelek offers a pure, unadulterated chili experience. Knowing these nuances can help you add the optimal sauce to your dish without overpowering other elements.

Spicy and Savory Pairings

Dishes that have a hefty amount of rich, savory ingredients – think stews, grilled meats, or hearty pasta dishes – knit well with sauces that have a bold intensity such as Sriracha or Chiu Chow Chili oil. The robust character of these sauces can augment flavor profiles, adding a depth that amplifies the overall taste of your dish.

Sweet and Mild Pairings

For dishes that are on the sweeter or milder side – seafood, vegetable stir-fries, or light noodle dishes – you might consider opting for a sauce like Thai sweet chili paste. The slight sweetness of these sauces won’t overwhelm the subtle tastes inherent to these foods, but will instead provide a delicate spice that balances the overall flavor.

Experiment and Explore

Don’t be afraid to delve into the realm of different sauce pairings. The possibilities of transforming your meals are boundless when you start to experiment with them. You might want to try adding:

  • Chili Crisp on avocado toast
  • Harissa Sauce in your next batch of hummus
  • Mexican-style Hot Sauce on grilled corn

Figuring Out Your Preference

Remember, there’s no ultimate right or wrong in the world of cooking – it’s all about personal preference. So, go ahead, play it safe or shake things up a bit. Do some trial and error, and you’ll soon hit upon the perfect balance that works for you. With the right chili garlic sauce substitutes, every meal becomes an adventure!

Remember, experimenting with food is all about expanding our taste horizons and enjoying the process. Don’t stress too much on the perfect pairing, instead focus on creating a flavor that brings joy to your palate. After all, the kitchen is the ultimate playground for a curious cook!

Also Read: Best Lee Kum Kee Sauces

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good substitute for chili garlic sauce?

There are several good substitutes for chili garlic sauce including sriracha, sambal oelek, harissa sauce, garlic paste, Louisiana-style hot sauce, Mexican-style hot sauce, chili crisp, Chiu Chow chili oil, fresh peppers, spices like chili flakes and garlic powder, Thai sweet chili paste, or even a homemade chili garlic sauce.

Can I use Sriracha instead of chili garlic sauce?

Yes, Sriracha is a good substitute as it delivers similar spicy and tangy flavors, although it is a bit sweeter compared to the chili garlic sauce.

Is Sambal Oelek similar to chili garlic sauce?

Yes, Sambal Oelek is a great substitute due to its similar texture and heat. Sambal Oelek, however, has whole chili peppers making it chunkier and less vinegary than chili garlic sauce.

Why should I consider homemade chili garlic sauce as an alternative?

A homemade chili garlic sauce grants you control over the level of heat and flavor, allowing you to tailor the sauce to your specific taste preferences.

How does Harissa Sauce compare to chili garlic sauce?

Harissa Sauce, a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, brings a warm, vibrant heat similar to chili garlic sauce, but with smoky, earthy undertones due to spices like coriander and cumin.

What kind of dishes work best with Mexican-style hot sauce as a substitute?

The Mexican-style hot sauce works exceptionally well with any Latin American dish. Its smoky, tangy flavor profile can complement tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more.

How does Thai sweet chili paste differ from chili garlic sauce?

Thai sweet chili paste tends to be sweeter, with the same hint of garlic but less heat. It’s excellent in dishes like stir-fries and grilled chicken where a touch of sweetness elevates the dish.

Can garlic paste be used as a substitute for chili garlic sauce?

Yes, garlic paste can work, especially if paired with some additional spice like chili flakes or hot pepper to make up for the heat you’d get from chili garlic sauce.

How do I use spices like chili flakes and garlic powder as a substitute?

You can mix these spices with a little bit of oil to give them a sauce-like consistency. The mixture can then be used in place of chili garlic sauce, although the heat level may vary.

Is Chiu Chow chili oil suitable for all dishes that call for chili garlic sauce?

Chiu Chow chili oil has a very distinctive flavor that might alter the dish’s original taste. Though not suitable for all recipes demanding chili garlic sauce, it’s a lovely alternative in stir-fries, noodle dishes or as a dipping sauce.


Exploring the world of food and cooking is an adventure that never ends. Each flavor, each ingredient, and each alternative to a well-loved staple such as chili garlic sauce opens up a realm of delicious possibilities. From fiery Sriracha to aromatic garlic paste, through Louisiana-style hot sauce to Chiu Chow chili oil, there is a substitute to fulfill every palate and every dish. Homemade chili garlic sauce, full of personal flavor preferences, may end up being your pick of the day.

Remember, the best part of cooking is experimentation and discovering what works best for you. So, next time you run out of chili garlic sauce, look at it as an opportunity to experiment with a new flavor. Who knows, you just might find your new favorite ingredient among these suggested chili garlic sauce substitutes. And the exploration doesn’t need to stop here. Your culinary journey is as limitless as your imagination. Happy cooking!

Food Lover and Storyteller ????️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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