Chances are, if you have a jar of chili garlic sauce in your fridge, you’re a pretty cool person. Chili garlic sauce is delicious, and if you put it in your ramen, you certainly know what you’re doing.

This popular sauce is made by mixing together coarsely ground red chiles, strong garlic, tangy vinegar, a hint of salt, some sugar to balance things out, and just a little bit of cornstarch to thicken it up. It’s commonly used to make stir-fries and shrimp dishes, but a lot of people like to use it as a condiment for pizza and ramen as well.

What are you supposed to do when you peer into the fridge after making your ramen and realize that you’re fresh out of chili garlic sauce, though?

Chili Garlic Sauce in Clear Bowl
Photo Credit initrilestari from Shutterstock
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We’ve compiled our favorite chili garlic sauce substitutes into a list below. Some of these options are going to be a bit spicier (or sweeter) than chili garlic sauce, so just keep that in mind as you read on!

SubstituteFlavor Profile
Chili Garlic PasteVery similar in taste, but it differs in texture. This condiment is thick and spicy, and also tends to be chunkier than chili garlic sauce.
Sriracha SauceSweet, spicy, and tangy in flavor — you can’t go wrong with Sriracha sauce (if you can get your hands on some).
Asian Chili SauceDelicious in ramen, and similar in flavor to chili garlic sauce. It does have quite the kick to it, however.
Sambal Oelek Chili PasteSambal Oelek chili paste is made with similar ingredients, but doesn’t have any extra sugar added to it. Great for adding some heat to any dish.
Taberu RayuPerfect for ramen or rice dishes — it’s not too spicy, but it sure is flavorful!
Harissa PasteA thick, red, flavorful chili paste with a heck of a kick to it.
Black Bean SauceA Chinese sauce made from chili, water, soybean oil, and salt. It’s spicy and does not contain saturated fat or cholesterol.
Hot SauceAny hot sauce will do if you don’t have any other options available. It’ll usually be quite spicy, though, and lack the consistency of chili garlic sauce.

Why Would You Want To Substitute Chili Garlic Sauce?

There are a number of reasons why someone might want to substitute chili garlic sauce. For example, let’s say you’re making ramen or a stir-fry, and you realize that you’re out of the good stuff. You may not feel like driving to the store, in which case a substitute could work wonders in a pinch.

If you feel like chili garlic sauce is too spicy for you, you might want to substitute it for a less-spicy alternative — like Taberu Rayu, for example. You may just find that you like it even better than chili garlic sauce.

You might also just feel like you want to try something new, in which case, Sriracha sauce might become your new favorite condiment. You never know! That’s the beauty of cooking and experimenting with different ingredients.

The Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes And When To Use Them

The substitutes listed below are all slightly different in terms of flavor and spice level. We’ll let you know just how spicy each option is so that you don’t take a bite out of something that’s way too spicy for you. We know how unpleasant that can be!

Chili garlic sauce is very strong in flavor, but most of its flavor comes from the chilies used to make it. As long as the sauce you’re using as a substitute contains chilies, you should be golden.

As always, we’d recommend trying out different ingredients and figuring out what you like best. Again, there’s a good chance that Sriracha will become your new favorite condiment, but we can’t say that for sure. You’ll just have to try it out for yourself!

Chili Garlic Paste

By far, the best substitute for chili garlic sauce is chili garlic paste. This type of spicy condiment brings together chili peppers, garlic, distilled vinegar, salt, and some extra flavors. What sets chili garlic paste apart is its thicker texture. It also tends to be chunkier and contain more visible pieces.

Don’t let that deter you, though — it works incredibly well in recipes like stir-fries, dressings, salads, and meat marinades. Like chili garlic sauce, it’s also pretty spicy, so be prepared for your dish to have that extra kick!

Sriracha Sauce

There’s a reason why Sriracha sauce is so popular. It’s sweet, spicy, tangy, and garlicky all at the same time! It’s made from red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and just a touch of salt. Drizzle some Sriracha sauce over your ramen, and you’ll probably start wondering why you haven’t been using it for all this time.

The only problem here is that Sriracha is a bit hard to come by these days. This is because there’s been a shortage, recently, of the main type of chili pepper used to make Sriracha. While you won’t find it in most grocery stores, you should be able to order a bottle or two online. Get it while you still can!

Asian Chili Sauce

When you’re in a bind, you can always just use regular chili sauce instead of chili garlic sauce. The Asian variant of chili sauce is usually made using ingredients like blended chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and a few other spices. This sauce brings a tangy, sweet vibe with a good spicy kick, so be prepared!

We’d recommend using Asian chili sauce in stir-fries, soups, or noodles, but you can also use it as a condiment for things like sandwiches and burgers. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it!

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

Sambal Oelek brings a distinct taste compared to chili garlic sauce, mainly because it doesn’t have added sugar or extra seasonings. Unlike chili garlic sauce, it isn’t simmered to let the flavors meld, and it doesn’t become thick. They’re still fairly similar in terms of flavor, though.

Adding some Sambal Oelek chili paste to your stir-fries, veggies, meats, pizza, or burgers could certainly be a great way to spice things up a bit. It’s generally a good idea to start with a small amount of Sambal Oelek chili paste, and then tweak it to match your preference for heat and flavor. It’s quite hot and spicy!

Taberu Rayu

This is a Japanese variant of chili oil that’s commonly used in rice and ramen dishes. It will certainly work well when you’re out of chili garlic paste, so you shouldn’t hesitate to use it as a substitute if you happen to have some in your kitchen.

Unlike chili garlic sauce, Taberu Rayu isn’t very spicy. This makes it a great option for those who aren’t so good with hot and spicy dishes. If you’re hosting a ramen night at your house, you can always leave some Taberu Rayu out for your friends who prefer milder flavors. Not everyone wants to feel like their mouth is on fire while eating, after all!

Harissa Paste

Harissa paste is hot, thick, flavorful, and tangy. In other words, it’s the perfect substitute for chili garlic sauce! This paste is made with red bell peppers as well, which adds some extra sweetness.

We’d recommend adding a little oil to your harissa paste if you’d like it to have a more sauce-like consistency. It’s more flavorful than it is spicy, but it still has quite the kick to it.

Black Bean Sauce

This Chinese sauce is often called doubanjiang. It’s usually made with soybean oil, water, chili, and salt. Black bean sauce has a fermented taste and a deep, earthy flavor that’s spot-on for Sichuan cuisine and other recipes that require some spiciness.

There’s no cholesterol or saturated fat in it, either, so it’s a great option for people who are watching their diets. In terms of flavor, it’s quite savory, spicy, and salty. You really can’t go wrong with this one!

Hot Sauce

There are few ingredients more reliable than hot sauce. When it comes to chili garlic sauce substitutes, any hot sauce will do (though, we’d personally recommend using Franks Hot Sauce — especially on eggs).

The great thing about hot sauce is most people already have some on hand. Just dig around in your fridge for a bit and you’re bound to find some! The only downside is that hot sauce doesn’t have the same consistency as chili garlic sauce, so you’ll need to use something else to thicken up your soup, ramen, or stir-fry.

Final Thoughts

Chili garlic sauce is scrumptious, so it can be kind of a bummer when you discover that you’re out of it. Any of the substitutes suggested in this guide would work well, though, especially depending on what you’re making.

Keep in mind that some of these substitution options are going to be spicier than others. You don’t want to accidentally burn the poor mouths of your dinner guests. Be careful, stay creative, and enjoy!

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