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8 Best Substitutes For Chili Sauce

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Chili sauce is a versatile ingredient because it goes well with many recipes. However, there can be various reasons why you’ll have to use an alternative. So it’s nice to know a good substitute for chili sauce.

Chili sauce in a bowl on a wooden table.

Choosing an alternative for chili sauce can be easy, and some of the great substitutes may already be in your kitchen. However, you may have to make some adjustments if you’re in the mood to add more zest and spice to your favorite recipes.

So keep reading to discover some of the best chili sauce substitutes and which types of recipes they work in the best.

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Why Use a Chili Sauce Substitute Instead of the Real Thing

Whether you’ve run out of chili sauce or simply looking to add more flavors to a dish, trying out different chili sauce substitutes is a great chance to get creative in the kitchen.

You may also have to accommodate different spice level preferences because, let’s be honest, not everyone can handle spicy food well.

Conversely, you may also want to level up the spice for some of your dishes.

Chili peppers and a bowl of chili sauce on a wooden cutting board.

I also find that adjusting the overall flavor of a recipe is a good reason to replace chili sauce with a different ingredient. Whenever I want a dish to be sweeter or more tangy, I already know a few options that will work better than the regular chili sauce.

Experimenting with the recipes you already know by heart is also an opportunity to try out chili sauce substitutes. It gives you a chance to get creative in the kitchen, and you’ll also enjoy the satisfaction of perfecting a recipe according to your family’s preferred taste.

Best Substitutes for Chili Sauce You Can Find in Your Kitchen

Before you go running to the store for a store-bought chili sauce substitute, take a quick look in your fridge or kitchen cabinets. The spices and condiments that can be used as easy substitutes to replace chili sauce may already be in there.

Regular Hot Sauce

If your family loves a spicy dish from time to time, there’s a good chance that you already have a bottle of hot sauce in the kitchen.

A wooden table displays a bottle of hot sauce as a substitute for chili sauce.

Regular hot sauce has a thinner consistency but can be more spicy than your usual chili sauce. Its flavor is also a bit more vinegary, so using this instead of chili sauce may require some adjustments. Balance its tangy taste by adding sugar or syrup.

When using a certain brand of hot sauce for the first time, check the label to determine its spice level.

Hot sauce works wonderfully in soups and salads. You can also add a few shakes of hot sauce in marinades and frying batter for fish and poultry.

Fresh Chili Peppers

You likely have a few fresh peppers stored in the fridge, and they can also be a good substitute for chili sauce.

Red chili peppers, a substitute for chili sauce, displayed in a bowl on a wooden table.

It’s best only to use peppers you’re familiar with so you can better estimate how many peppers to use for a recipe.

Chopped fresh peppers are terrific for stews, soups, and braising liquids. For bolder flavor and spice, you can also puree them.

Using fresh peppers in place of chili sauce may also be a healthier substitute because you’re getting the best essence of capsaicin and its healthy benefits.

Chili Powder or Chili Flakes

Since these are dry ingredients, chili flakes or powder can be used in similar recipes and dishes. However, the flavor and spice level will differ based on the chili type used for either powder or crushed flakes.

Chili flakes and chili powder, a substitute for chili sauce, displayed on a wooden tray.

Most products in stores simply labeled as “chili powder” and “red pepper flakes” are typically made with Cayenne pepper.

When replacing chili sauce to reduce the spiciness of a dish, look for milder variants like jalapeño peppers and banana peppers. 

For a flavorful heat that truly packs a punch, the options can range from Korean red chili pepper flakes (a.k.a. gochugaru) to habanero chili pepper and the infamous Carolina reaper.

Ketchup and Cayenne

You can also make a homemade substitute if a recipe calls for chili sauce.

Regular bottled ketchup provides a good blend of sweetness and acidity. It also has a nice thick consistency, making it a good substitute for chili sauce. To add the missing spicy flavor from regular ketchup, you can mix in a few dashes of Cayenne pepper powder. 

Substitute for chili sauce containing ketchup and cayenne.

I love using this combination to dip fried foods in. You can also mix it in mayonnaise and use it as a sauce for sandwiches or a creamy salad dressing.

Some recommend mixing “equal parts” of ketchup and Cayenne powder, although this ratio could make this blend too spicy for your taste.

After several attempts, I found that using 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper powder for every 1/2 cup of ketchup is a good starting point. Then you can make some adjustments, such as adding a few dashes of hot sauce or more Cayenne powder to make it spicier.

Best Chili Sauce Substitutes You Can Buy in Stores

Ready-made chili sauce substitutes can be great options if you want to tweak the taste of a dish with premade condiments. It will save you time, and you’ll most likely love the recipe changes you’ll make.

Sriracha Sauce

This is a personal favorite of mine, and if you love Asian cuisine, I’m sure you’ll love this one, too!

Sriracha sauce in a bowl next to a spoon.

While sriracha is a popular Thai sauce, it’s also famously used as a condiment or dipping sauce in other Asian dishes. It’s also excellent in marinades for grilled meats, or add it to mayonnaise for a spicy dip.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

Pasta sauces with a bit of spicy kick are delicious. So if you want to replace chili sauce with an ingredient that will remind you of the classic Italian flavor, you can buy pre-blended spicy tomato sauce.

For a fun snack with a spicy twist, you can also try this replacement for chili sauce in this Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe.

Aside from Italian dishes, it also goes well in soups, stews, and braising beef or poultry.


You may not be familiar with this staple Korean chili paste, but you’ll be glad to know more about this ingredient.

Gochujang in a bowl on a wooden table.

Gochujang is made from fermented Korean chili peppers. It packs a lot of heat but is balanced with salty and sweet flavors. It gets even better when mixed with chopped onion, ginger, and minced garlic cloves before adding it to stews and soups.

If you prefer a paste-like spicy condiment, gochujang is the way to go. It’s much thicker than common chili sauce. It may not be best to use alone because of its bold flavor and consistency. 

So I recommend using it as a cooking base like in this quick and easy recipe for Ground Beef and Broccoli. Busy moms out there will appreciate this recipe you can complete in 30 minutes! 

Spicy Ketchup

While you can DIY this with the blend of regular ketchup and Cayenne powder (as listed above), there are actually many amazing store-bought options for spicy ketchup.

The advantage of buying pre-made spicy ketchup is you can skip the trial and error and easily find a great-tasting alternative to chili sauce.

There is also plenty of sugar-free spicy ketchup that you can purchase. It’s excellent when used as a dipping sauce for healthy snacks like these Air Fryer Keto Brussel Sprouts and Keto Parmesan Zucchini Chips recipes.

Best Tips When Using Chili Sauce Alternatives

Out of the chili sauce substitutes listed here, I would only recommend using a 1:1 ratio when replacing chili sauce with store-bought spicy ketchup, spicy tomato sauce, and homemade ketchup + cayenne mix.

Alternatives like chili powder, sriracha sauce, and gochujang can have a much different heat level than the usual chili sauce you incorporate in your dishes. These substitutes are best added gradually.

For regular hot sauce, start with a few drops. Then keep tasting until you reach the level of spiciness that suits your family’s preference.

Some alternatives can also increase the acidity or sweetness of a recipe. Apart from gauging the suitable spice level for your taste, observe if you must add some sugar, vinegar, or syrup to balance the dish’s flavor.


Is chili paste the same as chili sauce?

No. Chili paste is often thicker and has a more concentrated spice and pepper flavor.

Can I substitute chili paste for chili sauce?

Yes, but you may have to use less chili paste to replace chili sauce. Start with half the amount of chili sauce. So if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of chili sauce, add 1/2 tablespoon of chili paste then adjust and season to taste.

Is Cayenne pepper spicier than jalapeño pepper?

Yes, it’s way spicier. Jalapeño only scores 2,500 to 8,000 units in the Scoville while Cayenne pepper is ranked with 25,000 to 50,000 units.

Build the Perfect Recipe With Your Choice of Substitute for Chili Sauce

Finding the best substitute for chili sauce doesn’t have to be a rigid experience, thanks to its versatility in terms of flavor and cuisines it works best with.

Bowl of Mexican dish chili con carne on a wooden board.

This also gives you so much room to experiment and introduce more delicious dishes and flavors to your family. 

Chili sauce alternatives available in your kitchen will allow you to adjust the spice level of a recipe. Try some store-bought alternatives to refine recipes to suit your taste, and enjoy the variety of dishes you create.

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