Substitution for sweet chili sauce

If you visit an Asian restaurant, you may often find sweet chili sauce as a dipping option, offering a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy flavor to the food. Many people, including myself, enjoy eating spring rolls, chicken wings, and in stir-fries with sweet chili sauce because it can enhance the flavor of the food and make it more delicious. However, there may be times when you need to find a substitute for sweet chili sauce instead of rushing to the store to buy some.

Today, we’ll introduce you to various types of sauces that can replace 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 just needs a combination of a few handfuls of basic ingredients 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: Chili peppers are one of the main ingredients of the sauce that provide it 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.

A lot of people love the balance between sweetness, tanginess, and spiciness which is suitable for a wide range of dishes. It can enhance the flavors of many food 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, which can also be used as a replacement for sweet chili sauce. One of the most well-known brands of Sriracha sauce is Huy Fong Foods. However, it’s much spicier and lacks 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 as 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 in Western countries, is also one of the most popular dipping sauces. It is a tomato-based sauce with a sweet and tangy flavor. It can serve as a great substitute for sweet chili 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.

4. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a tasty and savory sauce often used in Asian cooking. Although it doesn’t taste exactly like sweet chili sauce, it can be a good substitute in certain meals.

  • 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 another liquid.

5. Thai Sweet Chili Paste

Thai sweet chili paste, also called Nam Prik Pao, is a tasty sauce used in Thai cooking. Although it has a different texture and taste from sweet chili sauce, it can serve as a good alternative in some recipes.

  • This paste has a smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor. Use it sparingly as a marinade or 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.

6. Hoi An Chili Sauce

Hoi An Chili Sauce, also known as Hoi An Stir-Fried Chili Sauce, originates from the historic Hoi An Ancient Town in Quang Nam Province, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Just like Hoi An’s fascinating past, Hoi An Chili Sauce also have a distinctive flavor profile. This chili sauce brings delightful spiciness along with the different flavors and textures of fried garlic and roasted sesame. It is well balanced between sweetness and sourness, allowing the essence of red chilies to shine through.

These substitutes have different flavor profiles that can enhance your dishes when sweet chili sauce is not available. Try them with different foods to see which ones suit your favorite recipes better!

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