The 5 Best Chili Paste Substitutes That Taste Similar

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Do you add hot sauce to all of your dishes? Maybe you’re one of those people that prefer to be breathing fire from spices when you eat or maybe you’re the kind of person that just likes a subtle kick. No matter which category you fall into, chili paste is a substance that can help you out. 

When we say chili paste, we’re not just talking about your everyday Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce (although, those can work similarly). We’re talking about that condiment chili paste that resembles tomato paste with the added flavor and heat of chili peppers. 

Chili paste can sometimes be hard to find but there are some solutions. You can make your own paste or you can use an alternative chili sauce (like those listed above). There are several great options to use as a substitute for your chili paste. 

So, what are the best chili paste substitutes? The very best option is a homemade chili paste substitute that you can probably make with things you have on hand. We have a lot of great suggestions for you, including red pepper flakes, hot sauce, spicy tomato sauce, and ketchup with cayenne pepper mixed in.

In this guide, we will cover the 5 best chili paste substitutes for you to try out. These substitutes may vary greatly but they can make a great solution when you need something. The great thing about replacing chili paste is you can kind of do your own thing to achieve the end result. 

Keep reading to learn about the 5 best chili paste substitutes. 

The Ultimate Guide to Chili Paste Substitutes

If you’re not very familiar with chili paste, the best way to describe it is to relate to a condiment. Interestingly, there is no real requirement to achieve tomato paste except that it contains chili peppers. 

Chili paste is typically thicker in consistency than, say, hot sauce. It has a pasty consistency, which is where you might be able to compare it to tomato paste. The flavoring of chili paste can vary greatly. In some mixtures, it’s hot and spicy while in others it is sweet and spicy. There are many varieties and ways to make it. 

Maybe you’re wondering why you would need chili paste when you can just use hot sauce. Remember, that we told you the thickness of the mixture is quite different. Hot sauce and chili paste are different in thickness. 

Additionally, hot sauces typically contain significantly more vinegar than your paste and at times that vinegar flavor stands out far more than you want it to. Chili paste takes away from that flavor and gives you just the spicy (or sweet and spicy) flavor you really want. 

We’re not saying you can’t use hot sauce; we just want you to understand the differences. 

Chili paste can often be challenging to find at the grocery store. Your best bet is to look in the international food aisles at your grocery store. You may or may not find it there but that is your best bet. 

However, if you just can’t seem to find it and you need something to use, that’s why we’re here! Let’s talk about the 5 best chili paste substitutes. You just might be surprised at some of the options. 

RankChili Paste SubstituteBest Substitute For
1.DIY chili pasteRed chili paste
2.Red pepper flakesSweet chili paste
3.Hot sauce/SrirachaCalabrian chili paste
4.Ketchup with cayenneHarissa paste
5.Tomato paste with ancho chili powderChipotle paste

1. Make Your Own (DIY Chili Paste)

The very best substitute to chili paste you can possibly use is to make your own version. Making your own chili paste is pretty easy. It’s similar to making salsa. You essentially just need some fresh chili peppers as well as olive oil, garlic, salt, and any other seasonings. 

What you should know here is that you don’t need a ton of seasoning. Let the flavor of the chili peppers mixed with the garlic and onion do its own thing. However, you CAN season it however you wish. You might even try using minimal seasonings and then seasoning the dishes you use it in. 

Here is a quick walkthrough for making homemade chili paste in the simplest way. 

  1. Using a food processor, combine chili peppers, garlic, and onion (all fresh) together until they are finely chopped. You can add any additional vegetables you want here. 
  2. Add a small amount of olive oil to a pot and place the chopped vegetable mixture into the pot with the oil. 
  3. Heat on low, cooking for about 20 minutes at a low simmering level. Stir the mixture frequently while you cook it. 
  4. You may need to add some additional olive oil while the mixture is cooking. Be mindful to keep your heat on low in order to prevent burning the paste. 
  5. Add any additional seasonings of your preference and cook an additional 5 minutes. 
  6. Transfer the mixture to a jar or proper storage container. Allow it to cool slightly. 
  7. Refrigerate or proceed to cooking! 

This process is very easy and will produce a very similar result to any store-bought chili paste you might find. Plus, you can flavor it in your own way. 

If you want to learn how to make authentic Asian chili sauce, I highly recommend you watch this video by Seonkyoung Longest on YouTube.

2. Red Pepper Flakes

Do you keep red pepper flakes in your pantry? Most people that like adding heat to dishes probably have a small container of red pepper flakes in the back of the cabinet.

The red pepper flakes from McCormick’s brand is a great option. 

Red pepper flakes will pack a subtle heat to any meal and you can easily add them to any dish. You can use them in a warm or cold dish as a seasoning or you can even top your dish with them, much like people top their pizzas with them. 

If you need your heat to be in liquid or paste format, you can use red pepper flakes to make a paste as well. 

The best way to turn red pepper flakes into a paste is a slightly sweet paste but it’s very simple. 

Take some soy sauce, sugar, and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and mix them together. You only need a dash of soy sauce and a few pinches of sugar. Stir these together and you get a mixture that has the consistency of a paste with the sweet and spicy flavor of chili paste. 

3. Hot Sauce

Yes, we meant it when we said that hot sauce and chili paste are not the same. They really aren’t but when you need a substitute for chili paste, hot sauce is a good option to turn to. You can use any hot sauce if you’re looking for the heat. 

I recommend this sriracha hot chili sauce from Huy Fong Foods. It is specifically a hot chili sauce that will give you the closest flavor resemblance to most chili paste flavors. This hot sauce is also nice and thick so it will still be similar to a paste. 

You can use any sriracha sauce as a good alternative. You can use any hot sauce but what we have found is that sriracha hot sauce tends to have a thicker consistency than most hot sauces. 

Hot sauce like Sriracha is the best substitute for Calabrian chili paste.

4. Ketchup (mixed with Cayenne Pepper)

Yes, you read that right. Ketchup’s consistency is very similar to that of chili paste. So when you’re in a bind, pull out the ketchup. 

We know ketchup doesn’t have the spice that chili paste does, this is why you will add cayenne pepper to the mix. 

Add about 1-2 teaspoons of ground cayenne pepper per 1 cup of ketchup and you will get a mix that will be quite close to chili paste and should work for your cooking purposes. 

5. Spicy Tomato Paste

If you specifically need the pasty thickness and the spice, turn to making a spicy tomato paste. This is probably best as a last resort but it will work for you if you need it to. 

Use a small can of tomato paste and spice it with chili powder and red pepper flakes.

Spice it to your tastes and you get the heat and the paste in one simple mixture. Your flavor won’t be quite the same because of the tomato flavor, but it will do when you need something in a pinch. 

Related Questions

We hope that you find this guide to substituting chili paste to be a valuable resource. There are many options for taking the lack of chili paste into your own hands. 

We invite you to take a look at the following question and answer section for some additional information that may be useful to you. 

Will Curry Paste Work as a Substitute for Chili Paste?

Curry paste is another great option, although it could also be hard to find in stores. Curry paste often has far more spice so use it in small amounts if you choose to work with it as a substitute. 

What Do You Use Chili Paste for?

There are a lot of uses for chili paste. Here are a few ideas for you. 

  • Spice and thicken soups
  • Spread onto sandwiches
  • Add to meatloaf or even burgers for spice
  • Use as a rub or marinade for meat
  • Make into a dip with sour cream
  • Add to any Asian dish

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