Substitute for Chili Garlic Sauce: We Tested 19+ Options

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Chili garlic sauce, with its fiery kick and aromatic garlic undertones, is a staple in many kitchens. However, what happens when you’re in the midst of preparing a meal, only to find your chili garlic sauce jar empty? Fear not!

In this guide, we’ll explore some fantastic alternatives that can stand in for chili garlic sauce, ensuring your dishes maintain that perfect balance of heat and flavor.

What are the Best Substitutes for Chili Garlic Sauce?

There are several good substitutes for chili garlic sauce including sriracha, sambal oelek, harissa sauce, garlic paste, Louisiana-style hot sauce, Mexican-style hot sauce, chili crisp, Chiu Chow chili oil, fresh peppers, spices like chili flakes and garlic powder, Thai sweet chili paste, or even a homemade chili garlic paste.

These alternatives can provide a similar spicy and flavorful kick to your dishes.

Here’s a comparison table for Sriracha Sauce, Sambal Oelek, and Gochujang, which are commonly used as substitutes for chili garlic sauce:

CharacteristicSriracha SauceSambal OelekGochujang
Flavor ProfileSweet, tangy, and garlicky with moderate heatPure chili pepper flavor with minimal additional ingredientsSweet, savory, and spicy with fermented undertones
Heat LevelModerate, typically milder than chili garlic sauceCan be quite spicy, but heat level variesModerate to high, with a complex and deep spiciness
TextureSmooth and pourableCoarse and chunky, made from crushed chili peppersThick and paste-like, with a smooth consistency
IngredientsChili peppers, garlic, sugar, salt, vinegarCrushed red chili peppers, vinegar, saltFermented soybeans, glutinous rice, chili peppers, and salt
UsageVersatile, used as a sauce, dip, or condimentTypically used in cooking, marinades, and as a base for saucesUsed in marinades, sauces, and as a base for soups and stews
Culinary OriginThaiIndonesianKorean
Common DishesStir-fries, noodles, marinades, dipping saucesIndonesian and Southeast Asian dishesKorean barbecue, stews, and dipping sauces
Garlic ContentContains garlic, but the flavor is not dominantMay or may not contain garlic, depending on the brandGarlic is usually not a primary flavor, but it can be present
SweetnessModerately sweetGenerally not sweetCan have a slight sweetness, but it’s not a defining characteristic
FermentationTypically not fermentedTypically not fermentedFermented, contributing to a unique depth of flavor

Let’s deep dive – 

Asian Sauces As Substitutes for Chili Garlic Sauce

When it comes to finding substitutes for chili garlic sauce in Asian cuisine, there are several flavorful alternatives that can add a similar kick to your dishes.

These Asian sauces can be used in various recipes as substitutes for chili garlic sauce, providing unique flavors to your dishes.

Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce is a popular choice as a substitute for chili garlic sauce. Made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, sriracha offers a balanced heat and a hint of sweetness, making it a versatile condiment for enhancing the flavor of Asian dishes.

Sambal Oelek

Sambal oelek, a fiery Indonesian chili paste, is another excellent alternative to chili garlic sauce.

It consists of crushed red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt, providing a bold and tangy flavor with a fiery kick. Its thick texture makes it ideal for adding depth to stir-fries and marinades.


Gochujang, a Korean fermented chili paste, can also serve as a substitute for chili garlic sauce.

With a complex flavor profile of spicy, sweet, and umami notes, gochujang can elevate the taste of various dishes, such as stews, barbecue marinades, and dipping sauces.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce, a staple in Chinese cuisine, offers a savory and sweet flavor that can replace chili garlic sauce in certain recipes.

Combining soybean paste, garlic, vinegar, and sweeteners, hoisin sauce adds depth to stir-fries, glazes, and as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.

Sweet Chili Sauce

Sweet chili sauce, with its blend of sweet and tangy flavors, can be an alternative to chili garlic sauce.

Made from chili peppers, sugar, garlic, and vinegar, it brings a delightful balance of heat and sweetness to dishes, such as dipping sauces, marinades, and glazes.

Non-asian Substitutes for Chili Garlic Sauce

While chili garlic sauce is a popular condiment in Asian cuisine, you might be surprised to know that there are non-Asian alternatives that can deliver a similarly fiery kick to your dishes.

Whether you’re looking to spice up your Mexican tacos or add some heat to your Italian pasta, these non-Asian substitutes are worth exploring.

Let’s dive into some of the best options!


Harissa is a North African chili paste that offers a complex and smoky flavor. Made from roasted red peppers, chili peppers, garlic, and spices, it packs a punch in terms of heat.

It can be used in a variety of dishes, such as stews, roasted vegetables, or even as a spread on sandwiches. The versatility of harissa makes it a great substitute for chili garlic sauce.

Peri-peri Sauce

Originating from Portugal and popularized by Nando’s, peri-peri sauce is known for its tangy and spicy flavor.

Made from African bird’s eye chili peppers, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, and vinegar, it offers a unique blend of heat and citrusy notes.

Peri-peri sauce is commonly used as a marinade for grilled meats or drizzled over roasted vegetables to add some zing to your meals.

Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco sauce is a classic hot sauce that needs no introduction. Made from aged red peppers, vinegar, and salt, it has a sharp and tangy flavor with a moderate heat level.

While it may not have the same garlicky taste as chili garlic sauce, Tabasco sauce can still add a kick to your dishes. It’s great for spicing up soups, cocktails, or even sprinkling on your favorite snacks.

Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata sauce is an Italian tomato-based sauce that is traditionally spicy. It is made with garlic, tomatoes, chili flakes, and herbs, offering a vibrant and fiery flavor profile.

While it may not have the same consistency as chili garlic sauce, Arrabbiata sauce can be used as a substitute in pasta dishes, pizzas, or as a dipping sauce for breadsticks.

Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo sauce is a spicy sauce typically used for buffalo wings. It is made from a combination of hot sauce, butter, vinegar, and spices.

While it may not have the same garlic flavor, Buffalo sauce can add a fiery kick to your dishes.

Try it as a dipping sauce for chicken tenders, drizzled over roasted cauliflower, or even as a glaze for grilled meats.

10 Non spicy substitutes for chili garlic sauce

If you’re looking for non-spicy substitutes for chili garlic sauce that still offer a flavorful kick without the heat, here are five alternatives to consider:

Garlic Sauce or Paste:

Opt for a simple garlic sauce or paste to maintain the aromatic quality of traditional chili garlic sauce without the spiciness.

You can either buy pre-made garlic sauce or make your own by blending fresh garlic cloves with a bit of oil and a touch of vinegar.

Garlic-infused Olive Oil:

Create a milder alternative by infusing olive oil with garlic. Heat olive oil in a pan, add minced garlic, and let it simmer until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Strain out the garlic pieces, leaving behind a subtly flavored garlic oil that can be drizzled over dishes.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

For a non-spicy yet flavorful substitute, consider roasted red pepper sauce. It provides a sweet and smoky profile, adding depth to your dishes.

You can find this sauce in stores or make it at home by blending roasted red peppers with garlic, olive oil, and a splash of vinegar.

Lemon Garlic Sauce:

Combine the zesty freshness of lemon with garlic for a bright and tangy alternative. Create a simple lemon garlic sauce by mixing lemon juice, minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and olive oil. Adjust the ratios to achieve the desired flavor balance.

Ginger Soy Glaze:

Combine the rich umami flavors of soy sauce with the warmth of ginger for a non-spicy alternative.

Create a glaze by mixing soy sauce, minced ginger, and a touch of honey or brown sugar. This versatile sauce works well in stir-fries, marinades, or as a dipping sauce.

Balsamic Garlic Reduction:

Craft a luxurious balsamic garlic reduction for a sweet and tangy alternative. Simmer balsamic vinegar with minced garlic until it thickens into a syrupy consistency.

This reduction adds a sophisticated touch to salads, roasted vegetables, or grilled meats.

Creamy Parmesan Garlic Sauce:

Indulge in a luscious and creamy option by making a Parmesan garlic sauce. Blend together cream, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt.

This velvety sauce is perfect for pasta dishes, drizzling over vegetables, or as a decadent dipping sauce.

Cilantro Lime Sauce:

Infuse freshness into your dishes with a cilantro lime sauce. Blend together fresh cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and a bit of olive oil.

This vibrant sauce adds a burst of citrusy and herby flavors, making it an excellent accompaniment for grilled proteins or as a salad dressing.

Mushroom and Thyme Gravy:

For a savory and earthy substitute, consider a mushroom and thyme gravy. Sauté mushrooms and garlic, add vegetable or chicken broth, and simmer until it thickens.

The combination of mushrooms, thyme, and garlic creates a robust sauce that pairs well with roasted meats or mashed potatoes.

These non-spicy substitutes provide a range of flavors that can complement your dishes without overwhelming them with heat.

Depending on your preference and the specific recipe, you can experiment with these alternatives to discover new and delicious combinations.

Can you substitute sweet chili sauce for chili garlic sauce?

Yes, you can substitute sweet chili sauce for chili garlic sauce in many recipes, but it’s important to note that there will be some flavor differences.

Sweet chili sauce tends to have a sweet and tangy profile with a mild chili kick, while chili garlic sauce has a more pronounced garlic flavor and is typically spicier.

If you decide to use sweet chili sauce as a substitute, consider the following tips:

Adjust Sweetness and Tanginess:

Sweet chili sauce is sweeter than chili garlic sauce. If your recipe calls for the heat and garlic flavor of chili garlic sauce, be mindful of the increased sweetness.

You may need to balance it with additional savory or umami elements, such as soy sauce, to maintain a well-rounded flavor.

Add Extra Garlic:

Since sweet chili sauce lacks the strong garlic kick of chili garlic sauce, you can add minced or roasted garlic to your dish to enhance the garlic flavor. This helps bridge the gap between the two sauces.

Consider Adding Heat:

If spice is a crucial element in your recipe, sweet chili sauce may fall short. You can add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or another hot sauce to introduce some heat without compromising the overall sweetness.

Experiment in Small Batches:

When substituting sweet chili sauce, it’s a good idea to experiment in small batches first. This allows you to taste and adjust the flavors gradually until you achieve the desired balance.

Be Mindful of Texture:

Sweet chili sauce tends to be smoother and less chunky than chili garlic sauce. If the texture is a crucial element in your recipe, you may need to make adjustments or combine sweet chili sauce with other ingredients to achieve a similar consistency.

While the flavor profiles are different, sweet chili sauce can work well in various dishes, such as stir-fries, glazes, and dipping sauces.

It’s a versatile condiment that adds a delightful sweetness and tanginess to your recipes, so don’t hesitate to give it a try as a substitute for chili garlic sauce with the necessary adjustments.

How to Choose the Best Substitutes for Chili Garlic Sauce?

Choosing the best substitutes for chili garlic sauce depends on several factors, including the flavor profile you’re aiming for, dietary preferences, and the specific recipe you’re working on.

Here are some considerations to help you make the right choice:

Identify the Flavor Profile:

Determine the primary flavors of your dish. If you’re looking for a garlic-forward option, consider garlic sauce, garlic-infused oil, or roasted garlic.

If sweetness is a key component, alternatives like hoisin sauce or balsamic reduction may be suitable.

Consider Spice Level:

Understand the spice tolerance of your audience. Some substitutes, like Sriracha or hot sauce, might provide a similar garlic flavor but with added heat.

If you’re avoiding spiciness altogether, opt for non-spicy alternatives such as garlic-infused olive oil or lemon garlic sauce.

Texture Matters:

Pay attention to the texture of the chili garlic sauce in your recipe. If it’s a thick and saucy consistency you’re after, options like hoisin sauce or a Parmesan garlic cream sauce might be suitable. For a thinner texture, consider a lemon garlic vinaigrette or a balsamic reduction.

Consider the Dish:

Different dishes have different flavor profiles. For Asian-inspired cuisines, substitutes like hoisin sauce, soy glaze, or ginger soy sauce can work well.

For Mediterranean dishes, consider garlic-infused olive oil, balsamic reduction, or a lemon garlic sauce.

Think About Versatility:

Choose a substitute that aligns with the versatility of your original recipe. Some alternatives, like garlic-infused oil or lemon garlic sauce, can be used in a variety of dishes, while others may be more specialized.

Check Dietary Preferences:

Be mindful of dietary restrictions or preferences. For example, if you’re looking for a vegan substitute, options like garlic-infused olive oil, lemon garlic sauce, or balsamic reduction might be preferable.

Experiment and Taste:

The best way to find the perfect substitute is through experimentation. Start with a small batch and taste as you go.

Adjust the quantities of ingredients based on your preferences and the requirements of your recipe.

Consider Homemade Options:

If you have the time, consider making your own substitutes. Homemade options like garlic-infused oils, vinaigrettes, or reductions allow you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor to your liking.

Remember that the best substitute is the one that complements the overall taste and style of your dish.

By considering these factors and tasting as you go, you can confidently choose a substitute that enhances your recipe without compromising on flavor.

What to Consider While Using Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes In Recipes

When incorporating substitutes for chili garlic sauce into your recipes, thoughtful consideration of various factors is essential to ensure that the dish’s overall flavor and consistency align with your expectations.

One crucial aspect to contemplate is the flavor profile, taking into account the desired level of spiciness and the intensity of garlic.

Different substitutes may offer varying degrees of heat and garlic flavor, so selecting one that suits your preferences is key.

Consistency plays a pivotal role in maintaining the intended texture of the dish.

Consider whether the original recipe leans towards a thicker or thinner consistency and choose a substitute that aligns with this characteristic.

Adjustments may be necessary to accommodate substitutes with different textures, ensuring the dish retains its intended mouthfeel.

Evaluate the sweet and tangy elements in the original recipe, as some substitutes may introduce additional flavors.

Balancing sweetness and tanginess is crucial for achieving the desired taste. Carefully consider the heat level of the substitute and its compatibility with the original dish.

Adjust the quantity accordingly to achieve the intended spiciness without overpowering the overall flavor.

Taking note of the culinary origin of the dish is another important consideration.

Different substitutes may better complement specific cuisines, enhancing the authenticity of the flavors.

Experimentation is encouraged when incorporating substitutes. Start with small quantities and taste as you go, gradually adjusting flavors to achieve the desired outcome without overwhelming the dish.

Maintaining a balance between salty, sweet, spicy, and savory elements is crucial for a harmonious flavor profile.

Be prepared to adjust other seasonings in the recipe, such as salt, pepper, or additional herbs and spices, depending on the chosen substitute.

Lastly, consider your personal preferences and those of your intended audience. Substitutes provide an opportunity for customization, allowing you to tailor the dish to suit individual tastes.

In conclusion, by carefully considering factors such as flavor profile, consistency, sweetness, tanginess, and personal preferences, you can successfully use substitutes for chili garlic sauce in your recipes while ensuring the dish remains flavorful and satisfying. 

Can I use regular garlic paste as a replacement for the garlic flavor in chili garlic sauce?

While regular garlic paste can provide a garlic flavor, it may lack the complexity and spiciness of chili garlic sauce. Consider adding additional spices or crushed red pepper flakes to mimic the heat found in chili garlic sauce.

Are there any store-bought alternatives that closely mimic the taste of chili garlic sauce?

Yes, there are several store-bought alternatives that closely mimic the taste of chili garlic sauce. Look for condiments like Sriracha sauce, Sambal Oelek, or Gochujang, which are readily available in most grocery stores and offer similar flavor profiles.

Can I use barbecue sauce instead of chili garlic sauce in certain recipes?

While barbecue sauce can add a sweet and tangy flavor to dishes, it may not replicate the garlic and spiciness of chili garlic sauce.

It can work in certain recipes, particularly those with a smoky flavor profile, but the results may differ from the intended taste of chili garlic sauce. Adjust other seasonings accordingly.

Can I use chili powder as a replacement for chili garlic sauce in recipes?

While chili powder can provide a degree of spiciness, it lacks the garlic and saucy consistency found in chili garlic sauce.

To use chili powder as a substitute, you may need to create a mixture by combining it with garlic paste, vinegar, and a touch of sugar or honey to mimic the complexity of flavors in chili garlic sauce. Adjust proportions based on taste preferences.

Can I use miso paste as a substitute for the umami depth found in chili garlic sauce?

Miso paste can add a rich umami depth to dishes, but it doesn’t replicate the specific flavor profile of chili garlic sauce.

To use miso paste as a substitute for the umami component, consider combining it with garlic paste, soy sauce, and a hint of sweetness.

This mixture can contribute a savory depth similar to chili garlic sauce, though the taste will be distinct. Adjust quantities based on the desired flavor intensity.


Running out of chili garlic sauce doesn’t mean compromising on flavor. With these versatile substitutes, you can continue to infuse your dishes with the perfect blend of heat and aromatic garlic goodness. Whether you choose a store-bought alternative or get creative in your own kitchen, rest assured that your culinary creations will continue to sizzle with sensational flavors.

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