What Can You Use as Chili Paste Substitute? – Best Spicy Alternatives

Chili Paste Substitutes you can use

I remember the first time I ran out of chili paste while in the middle of preparing my favorite spicy stir-fry. Panic ensued. How could I recreate that distinct fiery kick without my trusty chili paste? That culinary mishap led me on a quest to discover the best spicy alternatives to chili paste.

Over the years, I’ve tried many substitutes, some of which were surprising hits, while others… well, let’s just say they were learning experiences. Let me share with you what I’ve found, so that the next time you find yourself in a chili situation, you’ll be well-prepared.

Are there any substitutes in the supermarket?

The supermarket is always the first that comes into your mind when you are looking for an ingredient replacement. However, when you are in front of several spices from different sources, it could get confusing. You may call it “chili paste” at home, but the terminology that some use may be different for it. Hence, a particular spice that you are not familiar with may be one of the best substitutes.

Several terms for chili paste are sambal oelek, harissa, Nam Jim, Nuoc Cham, and many more depending on the country in which they originated. They may all be chili pastes, but mostly, they have a different flavor than your usual paste.

Therefore, you should consider the paste that suits best the recipe you are planning to cook. Honestly, the supermarket can offer you many options, especially in the international section.

See Also: The Best Canned Chili That You Shouldn’t Miss

Can you make your own alternative?

Red chili paste alternatives

Although the product you need could be within the supermarket near you, can I dare you to be more creative and resourceful? Here are my top recommendations for the best chili paste substitutes:

Read more: 10 Dijon Mustard Substitute You Can Pick Anytime

1. Fresh Red Chilies

It is always fun to challenge yourself with some cooking adventures. Hence, when you run out of chili paste, you might as well make one as a substitute. It would be convenient if you happen to have fresh red chilies in your pantry or in your garden.

If you are interested in making your own chili paste, I recommend a chili recipe that could be a substitute for plenty of recipes like the one shown in this video.

You can always make your own red chili paste substitute. I have mastered mine for quite some time already after my grandma taught me and let me tell you, it tastes even better than the usual chili paste I use. Would you like to try it?

What do you need?

  • Fresh Chili peppers
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Shallots
  • Any kind of oil (I prefer olive)
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper


  • Chop your chili peppers: I prefer my chili pepper to be chopped to the tiniest possible size and if possible, still fresh. If you like, a mixture of other types of peppers likes the red cayenne. Do not forget to chop the garlic and shallots too. The purpose of the garlic is to give the aromatic taste and delicious smell of your chili paste. The shallots, on the other hand, balance the flavor of the mixed ingredients and ensure that you get the correct consistency.
  • Add all the chopped ingredients in a pot and turn on low heat: Pour the oil and let it cool for an average of 20 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally when doing so. It is your choice whether you want to add more oil or not. Some like their paste to be oilier but I prefer to be conservative when using oil. However, having the right amount of oil when cooking keeps your paste from burning.
  • To add more kick and flavor to it, drop in the cumin, salt, and pepper: Continue to cook the paste while stirring for another five minutes. It will let the flavors blend well. Turn off the heat and let your DIY chili paste cool down.
  • After cooling, it is time to place all your paste in a food processor: Process until it reaches the smoothness that you desire. The length of time of processing depends on how smooth you like your paste to be. When you finally get the ideal consistency, you may transfer the processed paste into a container jar and store it in the fridge.

Remember that your DIY homemade chili paste will not have the same shelf life just like the one you bought in the supermarket. Yours will not last that long. Hence, I suggest making the amount that is just enough to last. My homemade chili paste usually lasts a week when stored in the fridge, and I observed that the taste is best within this period.

2. Red pepper flakes

Red pepper flakes

Most homemade recipes have red chilies as the primary ingredient. Yet, your own pantry can be your immediate source of replacement. Once, I ran out of chili paste but had no time to go to the nearest store. All I had was the line of spices on my kitchen rack.

Try to make a sweet and spicy paste by mixing a tablespoon of pepper flakes, a bit of soy sauce, and a dash of sugar. The blend is perfect together with your appetizers.

There are several types of chili paste all over. Hence, there could be countless chili paste substitutes everywhere. Yet nothing could be impossible with a bit of imagination. Sometimes, you will never know what you will discover.

3. Hot Sauce

Pizza for my family is not complete without the hot sauce. Since I make pizza every weekend when everyone is around, I make sure to have hot sauce at any time. However, chili paste is thicker than hot sauce.

Of course, hot sauce is far from being a paste, but because it is peppery hot, I consider it an excellent chili paste substitute.

If you are curious to try the hot sauce alternative, I suggest searching for the kind that has a lesser vinegar level. Chili paste does not have a vinegar taste.

Hot Sauce

4. Tomato Paste

I told you when I am in the mood to do experiments in my kitchen there are no limits. A week ago, I tried to find a chili paste substitute that would have a similar thickness to the real deal. Eyeing my hot sauce, I know that it would never be like it.

Therefore, I mixed some hot sauce with my tomato paste to end up with spicy tomato paste. Hence, I got the same paste thickness and spicy tang. The taste was not the same, but it served the purpose of my recipe as intended.

Next time, I am planning to blend the tomato paste with the chili powder and pepper flakes. What do you think?

5. Harissa

Harissa is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. It can also be used as a condiment, either on its own or mixed with other ingredients like yogurt or hummus.

In addition to its flavor, harissa also has several health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. It is also low in calories and fat, making it a great addition to a healthy diet.

If you cannot find harissa in your local grocery store, it is easy to make at home. All you need is a food processor or blender, and the following ingredients:

Ingredient Quantity
Dried Chili Peppers 6-8
Garlic (cloves) 2
Ground Cumin 1 teaspoon
Ground Coriander 1 teaspoon
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Olive Oil 2 tablespoons
Lemon Juice 1 tablespoon

Simply blend all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender until you have a smooth paste. You can adjust the spiciness of the harissa by using more or less chili peppers, depending on your taste preferences.

6. Cayenne pepper

Cayenne Pepper

One of the key features of cayenne pepper is its intense heat, which can range from 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale. This makes it an excellent substitute for red chili paste in recipes that require more intense heat.

However, it is important to note that cayenne pepper has a different flavor profile than red chili paste, so it may not be the best substitute for recipes that require a more complex flavor.

When using cayenne pepper as a substitute, it is important to keep in mind the differences in texture. Red chili paste is a thick, paste-like substance, while cayenne pepper is a fine powder.

To achieve a similar texture to red chili paste, you can mix cayenne pepper with a small amount of water or oil to create a paste.

7. Sriracha sauce

One of the benefits of using sriracha sauce as a substitute for red chili paste is the added sweetness. The sugar in the sauce helps to balance out the spiciness of the chili peppers, making it more palatable for those who are sensitive to heat. It also adds a unique flavor to dishes, with a slight tanginess from the vinegar and garlic.

It is important to keep in mind that the texture and consistency of the two ingredients may be different. Sriracha sauce is a liquid sauce, while red chili paste is a thick paste. This may affect the overall texture of the dish, so it is important to adjust the recipe accordingly.

Its sauce can be found in most grocery stores, and there are many different brands available. Some brands may be spicier or sweeter than others, so it is important to experiment with different brands to find the one that works best for your tastes.


Are all chili paste substitutes equally spicy?

No, the spiciness of chili paste substitutes can vary significantly. Factors such as the type of chili used, preparation method, and additional ingredients can influence the heat level.

Can green chilies be used as a substitute for red chili paste?

Yes, green chilies can be used as a substitute, but they often have a different flavor profile and might be milder than red chilies. It’s essential to adjust the quantity and recipe accordingly.

How should I store homemade chili paste substitutes?

Homemade chili paste substitutes should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Depending on the ingredients used, they typically last for up to a week. Always check for signs of spoilage before use.

Can I use dried chilies to make a chili paste substitute?

Absolutely! Dried chilies can be rehydrated by soaking them in warm water until they soften. Once rehydrated, they can be blended into a paste with other ingredients to achieve the desired consistency and flavor.

Are there non-spicy alternatives to chili paste for those who can’t handle the heat?

Yes, for those who prefer milder flavors, bell peppers or sweet paprika paste can be used as a substitute. You can also try out oyster sauce, it will give you a non-spicy fuller taste. While they won’t provide the heat of chili paste, they’ll add a rich, peppery flavor to dishes.


The spicy flavor is not that difficult to acquire. With all the available resources found around you, a chili paste substitute is always within your reach.

It is convenient to know that even the groceries sell different variations of chili paste, your stocks in the pantry always have one or more peppery spices, and lucky for you who loves to plant chilies! Fresh chili is still my first option for an alternative.

However, despite how easily you may get the items, using them could be tricky. Always think about the recipe where you intend to use it. I suggest trying blending and mixing your own paste. When it comes to the kitchen, your power is unlimited!

Picture of Mary J. Lynch

Mary J. Lynch

As a mom of two angels, I credit myself in making meals with high concentration yet the balance of nutrition. I pay good care about the health of my family and everyone. Thus, you will find most of my recipes focus on healthy ingredients.
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