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Recommended Substitute for Sriracha

Lisa Price
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by Lisa Price

Sriracha is a beloved condiment that adds a punch to any dish it’s added to, but when you’re out, sriracha sauce substitute, like Sambal Oelek or Frank’s Red Hot, can kick up the heat in a similar way.

Sriracha hails from the small town of Si Racha in Thailand, and while it’s often eaten with Thai food, it’s evolved into a vinegary hot sauce condiment perfect for just about any meal.

When finding a replacement for sriracha, you should consider the level of heat you prefer your food to have, but you’ll also need to consider the availability of the options near you. We took all of this into account as we created this list of the top five sriracha substitutes.

1. Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is the most common Sriracha substitute
Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is going to be the closest substitute you’ll find to sriracha. Its roots aren’t too far off from sriracha from Indonesia, and it packs a similarly hot chili flavor. Sambal Oelek is on this list because of its similar taste, even though its consistency is thicker and less runny—more like a paste.

To use Sambal Oelek, you can add the same amount you would use for sriracha, or maybe err on the side of slightly less since Sambal Oelek is a bit more focused on the chili flavor and lacks a bit of the garlic lift.

Some great ways to use Sambal Oelek would be on top of ramen or pho, as a dipping sauce for chicken or steak, as a thin layer on a spicy sandwich, or even added into a sauce for extra chili heat.

2. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot sauce is a classic hot sauce flavor that serves as the basis for most buffalo sauces.

It earned a spot on this list because of its vinegary nature that we see a bit of in sriracha and because of how adaptable it can be, adding the perfect level of heat to just about any dish.

Frank’s Red Hot is not as chili-forward as sriracha, and it’s much runnier than the Thai condiment, but the heat and vinegar bite are reminiscent enough of sriracha to make it work as a substitute when needed.

When using Frank’s Red Hot instead of sriracha, you could probably use a little bit more than you usually would since it’s on the milder side. You should also keep in mind it will come out of the bottle much faster since it’s thinner, so be careful not to go overboard by accident.

Frank’s Red Hot goes well with many dishes, but anything American is the perfect match. Chicken tenders, burgers, fries, and anything you think would taste better with a twinge of buffalo heat.

However, you can also sneak it into ethnic dishes like ramen or a dip for a taco or quesadilla if you love the bite.

3. Homemade Bang Bang Sauce or Spicy Mayo

Spicy Mayo
Spicy Mayo

For those who like the flavor of sriracha but can’t stand too much heat, a great alternative is a homemade bang bang sauce or a quick spicy mayo.

You’ll get a similar flavor profile and a bit of spice in the mouth without overwhelming heat. Plus, the bit of mayo used adds a creaminess that helps dissipate the heat on the tongue.

To make your sauce, first, get out your mayo and then whatever hot sauce you choose. For bang bang sauce, it should be a sweet chili sauce that you can usually find in the Asian food aisle. It’s a bit spicy, a little vinegary, and a little sweet. Added to the mayo, it becomes an addicting sauce.

For spicy mayo, use whatever hot sauce you have available and mix it in with the mayo until it tastes just right.

The applications are endless here. Bang bang sauce is the perfect sauce to toss your protein in at dinner—it goes great on shrimp, chicken, tofu, or even veggies like broccoli. For spicy mayo, it’s an excellent dip for sushi but can also spruce up a fried chicken sandwich or burger.

4. Harissa

Harissa Sauce

Harissa is a hot chili paste from Tunisia that leans more on its spices than a vinegar or chili flavor, but it can work great as a sriracha substitute in a pinch.

It made its way to our list because a little can go a long way in replicating a similar flavor as sriracha, even though it’s much thicker and less tangy.

You should be conservative with how much harissa you use, as it can be much spicier per teaspoon than sriracha. Start with about half a teaspoon, add it to your dish, and taste test before adding more.

Harissa makes a fantastic rub for meat, can be added to soups and sauces, or even mixed with a bit of yogurt for a spicy and exciting dip for veggies or pita bread.

5. Cayenne Powder

Cayenne Powder
Cayenne Powder

When you’re strapped for time or your grocer is out of most of the above options, you have a dry ingredient in your home that will work in a pinch: Cayenne pepper.

Cayenne pepper is one of the main ingredients in sriracha, so adding the powdered version of this spice to your dishes can bring a similar heat level.

It lacks the liquidity and vinegary taste that sriracha has, but it can be hard to tell the difference with a dash of white vinegar.

Cayenne pepper powder should be used sparingly until you know what level of heat you prefer. You can always add more as you go.

Add some spice to your recipes by sprinkling in cayenne to your next pasta sauce, creamy soup, or spice blend and incorporate layers of complex heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

While there’s no one-size-fits-all substitute, you can find a good alternative based on your level of heat preference and the flavors you’re hoping to create in your dish.

To help you understand which alternative is your best pick, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about sriracha replacements.

Is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce the Same as Sriracha?

No, Frank’s Red Hot is quite different. It’s American-made, while sriracha is from Thailand. It’s a thinner, vinegar-based sauce, while sriracha is a fermented chili and vinegar paste.

Frank’s Red Hot sauce is usually combined with butter to create Buffalo sauce, but sriracha is most typically used on its own as a condiment.

What Is Sriracha’s Main Ingredient?

The main ingredient in sriracha is sun-ripened jalapeno chiles. Combined with garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar, these ingredients are fermented and blended to create this special condiment sauce. It contains no artificial colors or added water.

What Is a Mild Substitute for Sriracha?

A mild substitute for sriracha would be sweet chili sauce, although it has a much sweeter flavor profile than sriracha does. Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot have similar heat levels, but they’re more vinegary.

If you love the flavor of sriracha and have it on hand but can’t take the heat, try adding a bit of mayo, lemon, lime, or pineapple juice to balance the heat and acidity and mellow it out.

What Is a Dry Substitute for Sriracha?

You can achieve a similar heat profile and flavor for any dish by using spicy dry ingredients. To add heat to a dish, try adding some cayenne powder, chili powder, chili flakes, chipotle powder, paprika, and black pepper.

Is Chili Paste the Same Thing as Sriracha?

While some chili pastes are similar to sriracha, they are not the same thing. Chili garlic paste is similar to Sambal Oelek but thicker than sriracha with less vinegar taste.

Then, there are tons of other chili pastes, like Harissa, which is an African version we mentioned in our list above.

While these pastes all use chilis, and many may also use garlic, they typically don’t include the bite from the vinegar or fermentation that sriracha offers.

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About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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