Best Chili Paste Substitutes

Like me, if you are also a fan of spicy dishes and cuisines such as Thai cuisine, chili paste is a must-have ingredient. It gives a variety of flavors ranging from hot to sweet, depending on your recipe. Just imagine, you are in the middle of a recipe, and you realized, oh no! You don’t have chili paste anymore! What to substitute?

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The best substitutes for chili paste are crushed red pepper flakes, hot sauce, ketchup with cayenne pepper, Sriracha sauce, spicy tomato sauce, tabasco sauce, homemade chili paste, or curry paste. You can have all these at hand, or you can even make them yourself with slight modifications.

Most of them can be found at a grocery store near you or may even already be present in your cupboards! Just keep reading to find the best substitute for your recipe and how to use it in place of chili paste.

The Best Chili Paste Substitutes

Some of the best spices and other ingredients that can be used as a chili paste substitute are:

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Crushed red pepper flakes are actually dried cayenne peppers that have been crushed. These flakes have a large number of tiny seeds that give a very hot, peppery flavor. This works particularly well when you only need to add spice to a dish and have no consistency concerns. Crushed pepper flakes serve as a staple in most homes, being an excellent and easy option.

This simple substitute packs a punch. The addition of just a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes can intensify a dish. If you want more paste-like consistency, add some crushed red pepper flakes to a regular tomato paste and mix well until combined.

If you do not want to use a tomato paste, mix crushed red pepper flakes with some soy sauce and sugar to make a paste.

Hot Sauce As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Believe it or not, but whenever you run out of chili paste, your most favorite hot sauce can save the day! The significant difference between chili paste and chili sauce is consistency.

A bottle of your most favorite hot sauce is just a simple substitute for chili paste. Even though it does not have the consistency of chili paste, it certainly delivers the intense peppery flavor and spiciness that is pretty close to chili paste makes it an easy replacement ingredient.

Similarly to crushed red chili flakes, hot sauce can serve as a chili paste substitute if you only need to add some spice as the consistency is not similar to chili paste. However, if you have to use hot sauce in your recipe and need a thick consistency, add some other spice to thicken it or maybe a small amount of cornflour to make a paste.

Sriracha is the best hot sauce to use as a substitute for chili paste in your dishes. It gives more or less the same hot flavor, and it is also thicker than the other hot sauces.

Make Your Own Chili Paste!

The best thing you can do ever is to make your own chili paste before relying on a substitute. It asks for only a few ingredients that you might already have at home. I would highly recommend making homemade chili paste if you want to keep things healthier and as per your taste. Moreover, it is not going to take much of your time to make!

Depending on the taste you are going for, the ingredients may differ slightly. Most people use green chilies or Mexican hot chilies, but you can definitely use whatever chilies you wish.

Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need:

  • Chili peppers of choice
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Onion or garlic
  • Oil of choice
  • Shrimp paste/fish sauce/something similar

The process to prepare the pate is pretty simple. Here are the major steps of making chili paste:

  • Add chili peppers depending on your choice and onions in a blender or food processor and blend until finely sliced
  • Shift the mixture to a pan, add some oil and cook on a medium flame for about 15 minutes while stirring
  • Slowly add the spices, sugar, salt, and fish sauce as the mixture cooks
  • Add the cooked mixture to the food processor and blend until a smooth, paste-like mixture is obtained and you’re done.
  • Add it to your dish and enjoy!

Ketchup With Cayenne Pepper As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Ketchup has a much similar texture to chili paste. You can make it a good substitute by adding ground cayenne pepper to it. One or two teaspoons of ground cayenne pepper to a cup of ketchup can make it a fiery replacement for typical chili paste with a closer consistency. You can increase the level of spiciness as per your choice.

This is a fantastic option for the recipes that require cooking, like stews and soups, and can also be used as a dip.

Spicy Tomato Paste As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Tomato paste is another suitable replacement that is nice, thick, and filled with flavor. You may not feel the same taste but will likely have the same as chili paste. I suggest you combine tomato paste with a few dashes of hot sauce or with one or two teaspoons of chili powder/or crushed red pepper flakes.

Mix them, and here you have your spice-filled chili paste. There will be a significant flavor difference as tomatoes have. You may notice the acidic tang of tomatoes that’s pretty different than the typical chili paste. Consider all these options before going this way, as it will definitely change the expected flavor of your dish.

Tabasco Sauce As A Substitute For Chili Paste

If you are looking for another hot sauce instead of Sriracha as a chili paste substitute, go for Tabasco Sauce. It gives a slight difference in taste and texture from chili paste, but it can go well with dishes. Its spicy flavor is much similar to chili paste; its tanginess is a big plus.

This tanginess comes from the distilled vinegar used in Tabasco sauce. So, you can easily use it for soups, dips, noodles, sandwiches, and salads. Tabasco sauce lacks sweetness, unlike chili paste and sriracha sauce. For that, you can add some ketchup or sugar to your Tabasco sauce if you like sweet undertones.

Curry Paste As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Curry paste is an excellent substitute for chili paste, especially for Thai and other Asian cuisines. You can use red curry paste because it has pretty spicy but delicious flavors of ginger and garlic. Its consistency is also much similar to that of chili paste.

Moreover, curry paste can be a great substitute if you want extra spiciness in your dishes. But, use curry paste in moderate and limited amounts if you are not used to extreme heat or spiciness in your dishes.

Harissa Paste As A Substitute For Chili Paste

Harissa is a spicy middle eastern pepper sauce with garlic, chili, spices, lemon and it’s delicious if you can get your hands on it. It is harder to find making it not the best substitute for chili paste – however it’s a fantastic condiment to have in the kitchen for any hot head. If you have an Amazon account, this is my favorite brand at the moment. And it’s a worth a try on it’s own as it’s delicious.


Chili paste is unique and the main ingredient in Asian cuisines as it adds a specific heat and spiciness to dishes. If you are out of chili paste or couldn’t find it at the store, don’t go for a less tasty dish; using any of the above chili paste substitutes can save your dish! Just take the desired consistency and spiciness into consideration before deciding.

The best part is, you can make your own chili paste. This will help you to get the finest flavor of your choice by doing it all yourself. The intensity, the smell, the flavor, everything will just be perfect.

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