What can I use instead of Asian chili paste? The best substitutes for Asian chili paste are Thai curry paste and Sriracha sauce. Try harissa, Schug, ancho paste, and Jamaican jerk seasoning. Chili oil, Tabasco sauce, red chili, chili flakes, and tomato paste are practical replacements.
Asian chili paste, or Indonesian Sambal Oelek, Thai Nam Prik Pao, and Korean Gochujang, is a versatile ingredient, adding heat and depth to cooked dishes. Based on chilies, oil, and salt, chili paste also includes garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame seeds, soybeans, and black beans. Here are the 11 best substitutes for Asian chili paste.
The Best Asian Chili Paste Substitutes
Thai Curry Paste
The best substitute for Asian chili paste is Thai curry paste.
Known as Nam Prik Kaeng, curry paste is similar to chili paste but is more highly spiced and seasoned.
Thai curry paste comes in three forms. Red chili paste is made with red chili and tomato sauce, while green curry paste uses green chilies, lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and shallots. Thai yellow curry paste includes chili, turmeric, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, and cumin.
Because Thai curry paste uses fresh chilies, curry paste is not ideal as a substitute for fermented chili paste, especially those used in Korea.
Depending on your flavor profile, choose red, green, or yellow curry paste as a substitute for chili paste. Use curry paste to add zest to soups, stews, stir-fries, noodles, and seafood.
Replace chili paste with equal amounts of curry paste.
Sriracha is a Thai chili sauce that makes a handy substitute for Asian chili paste.
This multipurpose hot sauce contains red chilies, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar, adding a sweet tanginess to any dish.
Sriracha sauce can replace chili paste in most Asian dishes as it is a good flavor match, although it does have a more vinegar-forward taste.
Add it to marinades, stir-fries, stews, soups, sauces, and noodles instead of chili paste.
Use equal amounts of sriracha as a substitute but be aware that it has a runnier consistency than most chili paste.
Replace Asian chili paste with harissa, a North African chili paste.
Harissa adds heat and spice to Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian, and Israeli cuisine.
The chili paste contains crushed Baklouti red peppers, combined with coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds, as well as olive oil and lemon juice.
Harissa’s flavor is intense, with a unique smokiness and earthiness.
Replace chili paste with harissa if you’re happy for your dish to have heat and a complex flavor.
Harissa paste is delicious with chicken, fish, lamb, rice, and couscous. Unlike chili paste, it can be served as a condiment, not only as an ingredient.
Use harissa paste instead of chili paste in a 1:1 ratio.
Schug, zhug, or sahwiq is a delicious substitute for Asian chili paste.
Schug is a hot Yemeni chili paste made from fresh green or red chilies. This herbaceous paste includes parsley, cilantro, black cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, garlic, and olive oil.
Schug is traditionally eaten with fenugreek stew, falafel, and shwarma but is common to Middle Eastern cuisine.
Use Schug instead of chili paste when you want a bright, fresh flavor and robust heat. Add it to marinades, grilled meat, and chicken dishes.
Substitute Schug for chili paste in equal proportions.
Mexican ancho paste is another excellent Asian chili paste alternative.
To make ancho paste, purée dried poblano peppers with a bit of water. This spicy paste is commonly used in Mexican cuisine to add sweet, smokey flavors to sauces like mole and chili.
Ancho paste’s flavor and heat levels differ from Asian chili paste, but you can use it as a substitute when you want warmth and depth in a dish. It’s ideal with pork, chicken, and shrimp, as well as in soups.
You may want to use more ancho paste than chili paste because it doesn’t have the same sharp burn.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
This famous Caribbean seasoning is a tasty alternative to Asian chili paste.
Made with fiery scotch bonnet chilies, Jamaican jerk spice also contains allspice, thyme, ginger, sugar, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and scallions.
Jamaican jerk comes as a dry rub for grilling meat or chicken or an oil-based paste used as a rub or marinade. However, jerk cooking is a method beyond the spice, involving drum grills, jerk ovens, and pimento wood.
Use Jamaican jerk instead of chili sauce to add punch to marinades, grilled meat, and seafood.
Experiment with how much jerk seasoning you need instead of chili paste, as the consistency and flavor differ.
Chinese-style chili oil is a practical alternative to Asian chili paste.
Used in the cuisine of Sichuan, Hunan, and Shaanxi in China, chili oil may be a simple chili-infused oil or may contain additional seasonings, such as ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and peppercorns.
Chili oil can replace chili paste if you want a kick of heat in your dish and some generic Asian flavor.
However, oil has a very different consistency to paste, so you won’t have the same textural element that coarse chili paste provides.
Use only one part chili oil to two parts chili paste to avoid making your dish too oily.
Use Tabasco sauce, a pantry staple, as a substitute for Asian chili paste.
Tabasco sauce is a famous American hot sauce made from red tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. Used as a condiment and cooking ingredient, Tabasco sauce adds fire to any dish.
However, Tabasco differs from Asian chili paste in its strident vinegariness. Mix a few drops of Tabasco into one teaspoon of Japanese miso paste to balance the flavors and enhance the savory umami taste.
Use Tabasco sauce (or the miso mix) instead of chili paste in stir-fries, soups, stews, curries, casseroles, and savory sauces. Add it to a marinade for grilled meat or chicken.
Five drops of Tabasco will give you the heat of a teaspoon of chili paste but won’t add to the texture or nuances of flavor.
When you don’t have any Asian chile paste, use fresh red chilies as an alternative.
Red chilies are the main ingredient of Asian chile paste, so mince the chilies finely (including seeds if you want heat). Add garlic and other Asian seasonings to mimic Asian chili paste more closely.
Use minced red chili as a substitute in stir-fries, salad dressing, soups, and sauces.
One red chili is the equivalent of a teaspoon of chili paste.
Red Pepper Flakes
Dig in your spice cupboard to find red pepper flakes, a handy substitute for chili paste.
Red pepper flakes are bits of dried cayenne peppers. Because they include the peppers’ seeds, red pepper flakes are particularly hot and peppery.
Use a dash of red pepper flakes if you just need heat in a dish. However, you can upgrade the spice to taste like chili paste if you process it with soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and other seasonings.
Use the red pepper paste as chili paste in noodle dishes, rice bowls, stir-fries, and soups. Replace chili paste 1:1.
A final alternative to Asian chili paste is tomato paste with added chili.
The advantage of tomato paste is that it provides the same red color and texture as Asian chili paste.
However, tomato paste can have an intense, almost metallic flavor and no burn, so it needs additions to be a successful substitute.
Add a tablespoon of spices to one-quarter cup of tomato paste. Seasonings can include chili powder, cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, onion, garlic and ginger powder, and some sesame oil.
This spicy tomato paste can replace chili paste in sauces, stews, curries, and marinades. However, it will be stronger than chili paste, so use half as much tomato-chili mix as you would chili paste.