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Substitution for sweet chili sauce

Sweet chili sauce is a tasty sauce loved for its sweet, tangy and spicy kick. I and many people enjoy it on spring rolls, chicken wings, and in stir-fries because it makes food more delicious and flavorful. However, sometimes, you might need to find a substitution for sweet chili sauce instead of rushing to the store to buy some.

In this article, we’ll look at different things you can use instead of sweet chili sauce. These replacements work well and add exciting flavors to your dishes.

Ingredients in Sweet Chili Sauce

What’s in Sweet Chili Sauce?

The recipe for sweet chili sauce relies on a handful of basic ingredients that come together to create its distinctive flavor profile. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll typically find in a bottle of sweet chili sauce:

Substitution for sweet chili sauce
  • Sugar: The primary component responsible for the sauce’s sweetness is sugar. This sweetness is what makes sweet chili sauce so appealing in various dishes.
  • Chili Peppers: As the name suggests, chili peppers are a key ingredient that provides the sauce with its signature spiciness. They add that kick of heat that balances the sweetness.
  • Vinegar: To provide a tangy and slightly sour element, vinegar is commonly added. It not only contributes to the sauce’s flavor but also helps with preservation.
  • Garlic: Garlic adds a delightful depth of flavor and aroma to sweet chili sauce. It brings a savory note that complements the sweet and spicy elements.
  • Salt: To enhance and balance the flavors, a pinch of salt is often included. Salt plays a crucial role in making the sauce well-rounded in taste.

What Does Sweet Chili Sauce Taste Like?

Sweet chili sauce boasts a unique flavor profile. It’s essentially a delightful blend of three primary taste sensations:

  1. Sweetness: The sauce is sweet, but it’s not overpowering. The sweetness is well-balanced with every fried dish.
  2. Spiciness: What sets sweet chili sauce apart is its gentle heat. The chili peppers contribute a mild to moderate level of spiciness, giving it a pleasant kick without being overwhelmingly hot.
  3. Tanginess: Beyond the sweetness and spiciness, sweet chili sauce also possesses a subtle tanginess. This tangy quality derives from vinegar, which contributes a hint of tartness that enhances the overall flavor complexity.

The balance between sweetness, tanginess and spiciness is what makes sweet chili sauce a beloved condiment in a wide range of dishes. It allows to enhance the flavors of everything from appetizers like spring rolls to main courses like stir-fries, lemongrass fried tofu, and chicken wings.

Authentic Vietnamese Spring Roll Recipe
Sweet Chili Sauce as a dipping sauce of Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Substitutes for Sweet Chili Sauce

1. Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce

When sweet chili sauce is unavailable or you’re looking for a unique alternative, consider making your own at home. Here’s a simple recipe that you can try:


  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of ketchup
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 red chili peppers, finely chopped (adjust for desired spiciness)
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water (for thickening)


  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, ketchup and rice vinegar. Bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, add minced garlic and chopped chili peppers. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
  3. Slowly add the cornstarch-water mixture to the sauce, stirring constantly until it thickens to your desired consistency.
  4. Remove from heat, let it cool, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Advantages of Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce:

  • You have control over the ingredients and can adjust the sweetness and spiciness to your preference.
  • It’s free from additives and preservatives, making it a healthier option.
  • Making it at home is cost-effective.

2. Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce is a common sauce with a tangy and spicy flavor. It can serve as an excellent substitute for sweet chili sauce in many dishes. However, it’s much more spicy and lack of sweetness, so here’s how to substitute it for Sweet Chili Sauce:

  • Mix sriracha with a bit of honey or sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.
  • Use it in stir-fries, as a dipping sauce, or a drizzle for various dishes like chicken, seafood, or sushi.
  • Keep in mind that sriracha can be spicier than sweet chili sauce, so adjust the amount according to your heat tolerance.

3. Ketchup

Ketchup, a common condiment found in most households, can serve as a great substitute for sweet chili sauce. It is a tomato-based sauce with sweet and tangy flavor profile and is one of the most popular sipping sauce. While ketchup doesn’t have the same spiciness as sweet chili sauce, its natural sweetness can be an asset. To create a substitute:

  • Mix ketchup with a bit of fresh chili flakes, to add the desired level of heat.
  • Adjust the taste with sugar, vinegar and siracha sauce.

4. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a rich and savory condiment commonly used in Asian cuisine. While it doesn’t mimic the exact taste of sweet chili sauce, it can provide a satisfying alternative in specific dishes:

  • Hoisin sauce has a sweet and salty flavor with a hint of umami. It works well as a glaze for grilled meats, in stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce.
  • Combine hoisin sauce with a touch of chili flakes or sriracha to add some spiciness to your dish.
  • Keep in mind that hoisin sauce is thicker and denser than sweet chili sauce, so you may need to adjust the consistency with a bit of water or other liquid.

5. Thai Sweet Chili Paste

Thai sweet chili paste, also known as Nam Prik Pao, is a flavorful condiment used in Thai cuisine. While it has a different texture and flavor from sweet chili sauce, it can be a worthy substitute in certain dishes:

  • This paste has a smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor. Use it sparingly as a marinade or a drizzle over grilled meats, vegetables, or noodle dishes.
  • Thai sweet chili paste is thicker and less liquid than sweet chili sauce, so consider diluting it with a bit of water or vinegar to achieve the desired consistency.

These substitutes offer diverse flavor profiles that can enhance your dishes when sweet chili sauce is not available. Experiment with them to discover exciting new tastes for your favorite recipes.