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What’s The Best Chili Paste Substitute? 18 Alternatives To Fire Up Your Dishes

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Chili paste is a product made from ground chili peppers. This looks like a thick pulp that is used as a condiment, sauce base, and flavoring agent. 

What's The Best Chili Paste Substitute 18 Alternatives To Fire Up Your Dishes

There are lots of different kinds of chili pastes that are made from various types of chile peppers. The common feature linking them all is their distinct spicy, hot flavor. 

Chili paste is often used in Asian dishes, like curries, marinades, and stir-fries, but you can use it in any recipe that needs a little heat. 

However, if you’ve run out of chili paste, or can’t find it in the store, it can be difficult creating dishes with a similar flavor and spice. The good news is that several substitutes taste just like chili paste! 

If you’re out of chili paste, the best substitutes are crushed pepper flakes, fresh red chili peppers, sambal oelek, harissa, chili garlic sauce, and sriracha. 

In addition to these, we’ve also covered several other chili paste alternatives and their effectiveness in this post. 

Let’s look at these chili paste substitutes in greater detail below! 

Chili Paste Substitutes: Nutritional Value And Cooking Ratio

Crushed Pepper Flakes (1 tsp)5.70.3 g1 g0.2 g0.2 g1:2
Fresh Chili Peppers  (1 pepper)180.2 g4 g2.4 g0.8 gOne pepper per tsp
Sambal Oelek (1 tsp)50 g0 g0 g0 g1:1
Harissa (1 tsp)151.2 g1.3 g0 g0.3 g1:1
Chili Garlic Sauce (1 tsp)3.7 0 g0.8 g0.1 g0.2 g3:1
Sriracha (1 tsp)60.1 g1.2 g1 g0.1 g1:3
Gochujang  (1 tsp)100 g2 g2 g0 g2:1
Hot Curry Paste (1 tsp)121.1 g0.6 g0 g0.2 g1:1
Calabrian Chili Paste (1 tsp)111.1 g0 g0 g0 g1:2
Louisiana Hot Sauce (1 tsp)10 g0 g0 g0 g1:3
Peri Peri Sauce (1 tsp)50 g0 g0 g0 g1:1
Salsa (1 tsp)1.50 g0.4 g0.2 g0.1 g2:1
Spicy Ketchup (1 tsp)8 g0 g1.7 g1.7 g0 g1:3
Tapenade  (1 tsp)151.6 g0.3 g0 g0.1 g1:1
Spicy Hummus (1 tbsp)301.3 g3.5 g0.5 g1 g2:1
Red Curry Paste (1 tsp)50 g1.2 g0.1 g0.2 g1:1
Black Bean Sauce (1 tsp)70.6 g0.3 g0.1 g0.1 g1:1
Creole Mustard (1 tsp)5 g0 g1 g0 g0 g1:1

What Does Chili Paste Taste Like?

Many countries have a particular type of chili paste, which involves grinding local chili peppers into a pulp.

The paste may be sweetened with sugar, seasoned with salt, or treated with herbs and spices to give it additional flavor. 

Thai, Korean, and Tunisian chili paste, for instance, all taste different as they contain various ingredients.

The common feature between these different chili pastes is their spicy flavor, which is the result of the chilies used to make the paste.

Despite their range, typical chili paste is made from ground red chili peppers, which is the product you’ll find in most grocery stores. 

These products don’t contain lots of other ingredients, apart from chilies, water, sugar, and salt. These give chili paste a fresh, bright, and spicy flavor, which helps add heat to different recipes.

The small amount of sugar adds a pleasant sweet touch, which balances out the chili paste’s stronger notes. 

Chili Paste Nutritional Value

Every tablespoon of chili paste contains:

  • 56 calories
  • 0.2 g fat
  • 14 g carbohydrates
  • 9.5 g sugars
  • 0.7 g protein

Chili Paste Substitutes

Here are 18 of the best chili paste substitutes to use in its place.

  1. Crushed pepper flakes
  2. Fresh chili peppers
  3. Sambal oelek
  4. Harissa
  5. Chili garlic sauce
  6. Sriracha
  7. Gochujang
  8. Hot curry paste
  9. Calabrian chili paste
  10. Louisiana hot sauce
  11. Peri-peri sauce
  12. Salsa
  13. Spicy ketchup
  14. Tapenade
  15. Spicy hummus
  16. Red curry paste
  17. Black bean sauce
  18. Creole mustard

Crushed Pepper Flakes

If you’re out of chili paste and need a substitute with comparable heat, consider using crushed pepper flakes.

These are sourced from grinding various chili peppers, which gives the ingredient an impressive heat. 

You can find crushed pepper flakes at most grocery stores, though some may have a different heat level compared to others.

For the most part, however, crushed pepper flakes and chili paste taste similar, though crushed pepper flakes may be slightly spicier. 

Use half a teaspoon of pepper flakes in place of every teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 1:2 ratio. 

Fresh Chili Peppers

You may not have thought about using fresh chili peppers in place of chili paste, but they can work as a substitute! 

As chili paste is made from ground chili peppers, you can use fresh ones to give your dishes similar spicy flavors.

You can slice the peppers and use them to garnish salads or add heat to main dishes, like curries and stews. 

One chili pepper will work in place of every teaspoon of chili paste, but this may vary depending on the type of chilies you use.

Aim to use the same type of fresh chilies that were used to make your paste for the best results. 

If your dish ends up spicier than you’d like, add some vinegar to balance out the flavors. If the recipe calls for it, a sprinkle of sugar can help detract from the chilies’ heat. 

Sambal Oelek

Sambal oelek is a chili paste variety that comes from Indonesia. This is made from salt, vinegar, and ground chili peppers. The paste is often used as a flavoring agent and seasoning in Asian dishes.

Sambal oelek has an intense heat that gives dishes spice and extra flavor, in a similar way to chili paste. It’s a good choice to use in its place, but keep in mind that sambal oelek may be hotter than you expect.

You can substitute sambal oelek for chili paste with a 1:1 ratio, but we’d recommend adding a little at a time and taste testing as you go. This will help prevent your dishes from tasting too spicy. 


​Harissa is a type of chili paste that comes from North Africa. It’s increasing in popularity as more people like its rich and earthy flavors.

Harissa is made with a mix of garlic, olive oil, and chili peppers, which are then spiced with coriander and cumin. These herbs give the product a broader flavor profile, which chili paste lacks.

Due to all the extra ingredients, harissa tastes less sweet compared to chili paste. If you’re using it as a chili paste substitute, it’s best to save it for savory recipes that don’t need underlying sweet flavors. 

Harissa tastes great with grilled lamb, beef, and chicken, but it also tastes mixed with yogurt or mayonnaise as a flavorful dip. 

You can substitute harissa for chili paste in a 1:1 ratio. 

Chili Garlic Sauce

Chili garlic sauce is a decent chili paste substitute as both products taste similar. 

Chili paste is made from salt, garlic, and chilies, while chili garlic sauce is made from garlic, chilies, and vinegar. Vinegar gives the chili garlic sauce more acidity and tones down its spicier elements, so it’s not as hot as chili paste.

Chili garlic sauce tastes great in marinades, curries, and stir-fries, as its vinegar gives the dishes a refreshing feel.

You can mix the sauce with sour cream or mayonnaise to make a hot dip, or drizzle it over pizza for a spicy touch.

As chili garlic sauce tastes less spicy compared to chili paste, you’ll need to use more of it when using it as a substitute. Use a tablespoon of sauce for each teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 3:1 ratio. 


Sriracha is made from vinegar, sugar, garlic, and roasted peppers. These ingredients give the sauce spicy flavors with a gentle sweetness.

Sriracha has a denser consistency compared to chili paste, making it a good choice for dipping sauce and condiments. 

Sriracha is a good chili paste substitute that works well in stir-fries and marinades, but you may need to dilute the sauce to thin it out.

If it remains thick, it can be difficult to spread the sauce’s full flavor throughout your whole dish. 

To use sriracha as a chili paste substitute, swap every tablespoon of chili paste for a teaspoon of sriracha. This looks like a 1:3 ratio. 


Gochujang is a type of chili paste that originated in Korea. The paste is made from salt, chili peppers, fermented soybeans, and glutinous rice, which gives the paste a sticky, thick consistency. 

Gochujang has a savory, sweet, and spicy flavor, so it’s best to use in recipes that involve a few different notes.

It works well in noodles, rice, stews, and soups, but you can also use it as a marinade for grilled vegetables or meat. 

Gochujang tends to be less spicy than chili paste, so if you’re using it as a chili paste substitute, you may want to add spice or chilies to achieve the required spice level. 

Start substituting in a 2:1 ratio, but add a little at a time to prevent your recipe from tasting too spicy.

Hot Curry Paste

There are lots of curry paste varieties that can work in place of chili paste. Hot curry paste is made from several ingredients, like turmeric, coriander, and cumin.

It also contains ground spices, like garam masala and chili powder. These give the curry paste a noticeable spice. 

Hot curry paste is often used in South Asian dishes, as it gives vegetable, chicken, and beef dishes pleasant hot flavors. 

As hot curry paste contains so many ingredients, it has a stronger flavor compared to chili paste. Despite this, their spice level is similar, so they can work well as a chili paste substitute. 

The curry paste will give your dishes additional flavors, so it’s best to save it for recipes that use a lot of ingredients. This will prevent the curry paste from tasting too strongly later on. 

You can substitute hot curry paste for chili paste in a 1:1 ratio.  

Calabrian Chili Paste

Calabrian chili paste comes from Calabria, an Italian region in Southern Italy. It is a good chili paste substitute as the two products have similar flavors.

The difference here is that chili paste is made with dried chilies, but Calabrian paste is made with roasted red peppers. 

The red peppers give the Calabrian paste a mildly sweet flavor and bold red hue. The product has a thinner texture compared to regular chili paste, so it spreads on food easily. 

You’ll only need a tablespoon of Calabrian chili paste for every 2 tablespoons of regular chili paste, which looks like a 1:2 ratio.

However, if you think its taste is too weak for your dishes, you can add more as you go, or add more flavor with other ingredients. Cumin, garlic, and onion are common options. 

Louisiana Hot Sauce

If you want to give your recipes a tangy touch, Louisiana hot sauce is a nice choice!  

Like chill paste, the sauce is made with chilies and salt, but the difference is that the sauce also contains vinegar. This gives the hot sauce a sour, refreshing taste which works well in many recipes. 

It’s a nice chili paste substitute to use in marinades, stews, and soups, but it also works well as a dipping sauce and condiment. 

You won’t need a lot of hot sauce in place of chili paste, but make sure you add it when you first start a recipe. The sauce will have more time to spread its heat through the dish. 

Use a teaspoon of hot sauce for each tablespoon of chili paste, then taste test to see if you need to add more. This looks like a 1:3 ratio. 

Peri Peri Sauce

Peri peri sauce is a well-loved condiment that comes from Mozambique and Portugal. The sauce is made from a mixture of lemon, garlic, and chili peppers.

These give the blend a hot, acidic flavor that works well in vegetables and grilled meat. 

If you need a chili paste substitute to use in grilling recipes, peri-peri sauce works well, as its smoky flavors complement the charred heat from the grill.

Peri peri sauce also helps add heat to stews and soups, but it also works well as a dipping sauce. 

Peri-peri sauce and chili paste have similar spice levels, so you can substitute the sauce for the paste with a 1:1 ratio.


Salsa is generally linked with Mexican dishes, but the product originates from South America. It’s an affordable ingredient that’s easy to find in the grocery store. 

This paste is made with savory ingredients, including vinegar, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chilies. Salsa is normally used as a dipping sauce or condiment, but it can work as a flavor enhancer in cooking. 

Unlike chili paste, which is notably spicy, salsa has a neutral taste. Salsa does have some heat, but its other ingredients help neutralize some of its spice.

This makes it a more versatile ingredient that works well in several recipes, instead of standing out within a dish. 

Chili paste is a lot spicier than salsa, so you’ll have to use a lot of salsa to give your recipes a similar amount of heat. Start with a 2:1 ratio and taste test to check if it’s enough. 

Spicy Ketchup

Spicy ketchup is a popular kitchen staple, thanks to its tasty flavors. The product is made with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and chili peppers, which give the ketchup its spice. 

Spicy ketchup and chili paste have similar spice levels, but the ketchup has a sweet element from the tomatoes and onions. This may vary depending on the ketchup brand that you use. 

If you need a chili paste substitute to use in Asian noodle dishes, curries, or tomato chili recipes, spicy ketchup can work well. 

Use a tablespoon of ketchup for every teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 1:3 ratio. Add the ketchup slowly and keep taste testing to see if you need to add more.  


Tapenade is a paste made from capers, olives, anchovies, and spices. These ingredients give the paste strong savory flavors with an underlying acidity.

Tapenade can be enjoyed as a spread on crackers or crusty bread, or a topping for pasta recipes and fresh salads. 

Tapenade has a similar texture to chili paste and can work well as a marinade for flavoring fish and meat dishes. However, tapenade isn’t as spicy as chili paste.

It’s great for giving recipes savory flavors, but you may need to add another spice to deliver chili paste’s heat level. 

You can substitute tapenade for chili paste in a 1:1 ratio.

Spicy Hummus

Spicy hummus is like regular hummus, except it’s been seasoned with additional herbs and spices.

The product is made from a tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and chickpea blend, which is then spiced with cumin, garlic, and cayenne pepper. 

The cayenne pepper gives the hummus a nice amount of spice, so you can use the ingredient in the same way as chili paste.

Spicy hummus is often used as a dip, but you can add it to noodle dishes, soups, and stews to give them more flavor. 

If you do this, keep in mind that the recipe will take on other flavors from the hummus’ ingredients. Make sure that the hummus is compatible with your recipe’s flavors before using it as a chili paste substitute. 

Spicy hummus isn’t as spicy as chili paste, so you’ll need to use a little more of it when using it to substitute.

Start with two teaspoons of hummus for every teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 2:1 ratio. Taste test along the way to avoid giving your recipe unwanted flavors.

Red Curry Paste

Red curry paste is a chili paste variety that’s made from garlic, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, and red chilies.

The curry paste is a common ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai dishes, as it gives the recipe flavor and heat. 

The red chilies in the curry paste give the ingredient similar chili paste flavors.

The difference here is that the other ingredients, like galangal and lemongrass, give the curry paste sweet, earthy, and refreshing flavors. 

You can use red curry paste as a chili paste substitute, but keep in mind that your dishes will take on these notes as well.

Due to its Asian flavors, red curry paste works well in Asian curries, marinades, and stir-fries. 

You can substitute red curry paste for chili paste in a 1:1 ratio. 

Black Bean Sauce

Black bean sauce is a savory, fragrant, and earthy ingredient that’s made from fermented black soybeans. The sauce is a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes, though it’s used in some other Asian dishes as well. 

Black bean sauce is made with several flavorful ingredients, including shallots, soy sauce, and rice wine. Many brands add chilies to their product, which gives the sauce a distinct kick. 

Black bean sauce’s thick consistency and spice level make it a decent chili paste substitute, but keep in mind that its other ingredients will affect your recipe’s flavor. 

The fermented black beans, for instance, would give your dish an earthy touch. This can taste great in Asian meat and stir fry recipes, but less so in other types of cuisines.

You can substitute black bean sauce for chili sauce in a 1:1 ratio. 

Creole Mustard

Creole mustard is made with a mix of yellow and brown mustard seeds, spices, and vinegar. These ingredients give the mustard a distinct heat, which makes it a decent chili paste substitute.

Its vinegar also lends a pleasant acidity that goes well with certain dishes, like lean meat and salads. 

If you’ve never tried Creole mustard before, be warned, as it’s spicier than you think! It has a comparable consistency and heat level to chili paste, so you can use it to substitute in equal amounts. 

Use a teaspoon of Creole mustard in place of every teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 1:1 ratio. 

Chili paste is an important ingredient in several recipes, particularly Asian dishes that need a little heat. 

Here are some common recipe examples that are made with chili paste! 

Chili Marinade

Chili paste is often used to make marinades, like this recipe. This hot sauce infuses steaks and other meat cuts with tasty spicy flavors. The marinade tastes great, drizzled over steamed vegetables too!  

Olive oil, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce blend to make a savory, earthy mixture, while chili paste and garlic give the marinade a nice heat.

This marinade tastes great with fresh greens on the side, as its crisp texture complements the sauce’s richness. 

Chicken Stir Fry

Asian stir fries are regularly made with chili paste, as it gives the dish a fantastic heat. This chicken stir fry recipe is packed with flavors, thanks to the mix of sweet, spicy, and salty ingredients. 

Bird chilies, bell peppers, and scallions release their sweeter notes as they cook, while fish sauce, garlic, and chili paste give the recipe some spice.

The chicken also soaks up the heat from the ingredients, keeping the meat nice and juicy on the inside!  

Shrimp Stir Fry

Shrimp stir fries are a popular dish, particularly in East Asian cuisine. This recipe involves making a spicy sauce with a mix of Asian sauces, stock, and chili paste. 

Shrimp and a selection of vegetables cook in the sauce, soaking up the spicy, salty, and slightly sweet flavors. The shrimp stays juicy with a pleasant bite, while the vegetables turn tender and soft. 

This stir fry tastes great with steamed rice on the side, as well as grilled green vegetables.  

Butter Chicken

Chili paste goes well with traditional South Asian dishes, like butter chicken. This recipe involves cooking tandoori chicken with spices and a flavorful sauce.

Ginger, garlic, garam masala, and chili paste fill the chicken with distinct flavors, while yogurt, honey, and cream balance out some of the heat.

The result is a succulent chicken meal with hearty, creamy, and buttery notes. It’s certainly a crowd-pleasing dish! 

Thai Shrimp Curry

Many Asian curries are made with chili paste, as its heat goes well with common curry ingredients. 

This Thai shrimp curry recipe involves cooking rice noodles, shrimp, and red onion slices in spiced coconut milk.

Lime juice gives the curry a refreshing zing, while chopped peanuts add a pleasant crunch to every bite. 

The dish takes on a silky quality as the shrimp and noodles soak up the spicy flavors. Top with extra chopped peanuts for a nice touch! 

Chili Chicken Noodles

If you’re after an easy dinner option that is anything but boring, try making chili chicken noodles. This recipe cooks chicken and noodles in a spicy, slightly sweet tomato sauce. 

Fresh herbs and aromatic spices help the noodles taste and smell incredible, while chopped roasted peanuts give the dish a crisp contrast against the soft, tender ingredients. 

Garnished with extra basil and chili flakes, this dish is perfect for weekend dinners! 


Chili paste is a very useful ingredient, but if you’ve run out and need an alternative ingredient, many things will work in its place! 

Crushed pepper flakes and fresh red chilies work best, as they have a similar taste and spice level to chili paste. 

Other ingredients, like curry paste, salsa, and black bean sauce can work well, but they may give your dishes additional flavors that you weren’t expecting. 

If you have enough time, try experimenting with some of the alternatives above and see how they affect your recipe. 

With a little trial and error, you’re sure to find a chili paste substitute that goes well in your recipes! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Substitute Hot Sauce For Chili Paste?

You can use hot sauce as a chili paste substitute, but try to find bottles made with similar ingredients. Louisiana-style hot sauces are best for this, as they primarily contain chili peppers, vinegar, and salt.

Avoid sauces made with extra ingredients, like garlic, soy sauce, or fermented products, as these may overpower your recipe. 

What’s The Difference Between Chili Sauce And Chili Paste?

A chili paste is thicker in texture and contains a large number of ground chili peppers. Chili sauce is runnier and generally contains other ingredients.

Chili sauce is generally used as a condiment or dipping sauce, while chili paste is used to give dishes heat and spice. 

Can You Substitute Red Pepper Flakes For Chili Paste?

Crushed pepper flakes work well as a chili paste substitute, as they are solely made from crushed dried peppers.

Pepper flakes are usually spicier than chili paste, so you’ll only need a small amount as a substitute.

Half a teaspoon of pepper flakes works well in place of one teaspoon of chili paste, which looks like a 1:2 ratio.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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