Chilli peppers are the central ingredient for making chilli paste. The hot and spiciness of chilli peppers depends on its variety. This condiment is usually a mixture of spices, salt, oil, fish sauce or shrimp paste.
Chilli paste is a highly versatile ingredient that adds heat, pungency, and strong pepper flavor to different cuisines, especially in soups, salsas, and pasta.It serves as a flavoring agent, dipping sauce, a sauce base and it is slathered on any food that hot and spicy lovers want.
Back in the 1700s, chilli paste has already been a primary condiment in Korea. The Korean red chilli paste back then was made of red chilli powder, glutinous rice powder and soybean paste. Now, almost all chilli paste you see in the supermarket can serve its purpose in cooking. It also varies culture to culture based on a country’s culture.
Aside from the brand and manufacturer, each chilli paste product differs in taste. The Korean Gochujang, Turkish Biber Salscasi, Tunisian Harissa, and Japanese Yuzukosho are famous chilli paste consumed around the world. Each chilli paste is made from different varieties of chilli peppers. Like, the Ancho chilli paste is made from dried poblano peppers. Some are made from green chilli pepper the ones commonly used in the United States.
Millions of people around the globe love hot and spicy foods. Hence, the demand for chilli or chilli paste is always high. Sometimes, it can be challenging to find them in the grocery stores.
Let us help you find the best chilli paste alternative that will suit your dish.
Table of Contents
Best Substitutes for Chili Paste
1. Homemade fresh chilli paste
With a Do-It-Yourself method, you get to customize your chilli paste by adding your favorite herbs and other ingredients to bring out the flavor you want. If you can get a handful of chilis, you can turn them into a paste! Or perhaps, you have some in your garden!
You’ll just have to finely chopped chilli peppers, garlic, and onions in the food processor. Cook this mixture in a saucepan with heated olive oil.
Cook the chilli mixture at a low temperature and stir it occasionally within 20 minutes. You may want to add more olive oil if you think it’s necessary, and just make sure you won’t burn your cooking. Then, add those seasonings you want for your chilli paste to have and have it reduced for another five minutes for its flavor to develop.
After cooking, have it cooled enough to be processed in the food processor again. Grind it in the food processor until the paste’s texture is smooth.
So, that’s how you simply make chili paste in the comforts of your kitchen. Just keep all the chilli paste in a jar and refrigerate it. Use it anytime you want!
2. Fresh red chillies
Well, that’s the main ingredient of your missing chili paste, right? If your recipe does not require chilli paste as a soup base, you can simply use fresh red chillies to give flavor and spiciness to your dish.
Red chillies are often added in curries, salads, soups or used as a garnish. Take note that red chilis taste milder than any chilis. So, you might need more to level up the heat and spiciness. It’s up to you on how you are going to use fresh chilis for your dish. Either you break it, slice them in rounds, strips, julienne, or minced.
In selecting fresh red chillies in the market, make sure that it is crisp and not wrinkly, and shiny with a deep red color.
3. Thai Chili paste
Thai chilli pastes contain either shrimp paste, fish sauce or tamarind as one of its ingredients.
If you want to substitute your regular chilli paste with Thai chilli paste, you will still be able to get the hot and spiciness you want to have in your dish. However, expect that the taste will be different. Anyway, Thai chilli paste will still work fine.
4. Hot sauce
Hot sauce is also called chilli sauce or pepper sauce. Basically, hot sauce is made of chilli peppers and acid, either vinegar or citrus. Sometimes, water is also added as one of its ingredients. Hot sauce can serve as your alternative for chilli paste, but you have to make sure if it fits in the requirements for your dish.
Though chilli paste and hot sauce can make your food hot and spicy, the consistency of hot sauce may affect the overall presentation of your dish and flavor. Chilli paste is thick in texture while the hot sauce is thin or smooth and fluid. As for the taste, some hot sauce may contain too much vinegar which can probably make your dish sour.
However, if you think that hot sauce will not ruin your dish, then go for it. When buying hot sauce, choose the ones that have a light vinegar content. Sriracha sauce actually contains a minimal amount of vinegar, and that makes an excellent hot sauce to replace your chilli paste.
5. Tomato paste
In cases that you cannot acquire chilli paste, and you are badly in need for it, try to modify your recipe using tomato paste. Tomato paste is made from reduced ripe tomatoes. The cooking process takes several hours to reduce the tomato’s water content then the seeds and skin are excluded before cooking the flesh again to a concentrated thick consistency.
If you don’t mind a dish with an intense tomato flavor, this might solve the problem for your missing chilli paste. Add in some chilli powder and pepper flakes to make it hot and spicy. Or hot sauce if you think it’s worth it. Tomato paste is commonly added in pasta, soups, stews, and braised meats.
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. Not that I will recommend this to you since the taste is never the same at all. However, it served the purpose for my recipe as intended.
Aside from the plain tomato paste, you might be able to find spicy tomato paste.
A tomato paste substitute can be useful when you have no options left. Let this chilli paste alternative serve as your last resort. If recreating a dish is a thing for you, then that’s awesome.
Bear in mind that the spicy tomato paste has a tangy flavor while the chilli paste doesn’t.
6. Dried Chiles
Dried chile peppers come in different varieties with different levels of pungency or Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The reason why they dry or dehydrate chile pepper is to preserve its flavor after the growing season is over.
You have to soak the dried chiles in water for an amount of time to have it rehydrated. Or, you can toast the dried chilis on a dry pan to bring out the flavor before grinding it. The whole dried chiles are used in soups, stews, and sauces.
In fact, you can make the chili paste out of dried chiles. This is what the Malays do; they blend the dried chiles with oil and salt and turn it to a hot paste. The Malays call this the ‘cili boh’.
7. Crushed red pepper flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are crushed dried cayenne peppers. This is an excellent spicy alternative to your chilli paste. The flakes also contain some small seeds which make this condiment very hot and peppery.
If you are going to serve your guests with crushed red pepper flakes, some may not handle this because this chilli paste alternative is extremely hot.
Use this alternative if you’re simply after for its spicy flavor. But if you are looking for a thicker consistency, you’ll need both crushed red pepper flakes and tomato paste together.
8. Ketchup + chili flakes + cayenne powder
Before you jump into your car to purchase chilli paste, check your pantry if you have ketchup, chilli flakes, and cayenne powder. If yes, then you don’t have to rush to the grocery store.
Ketchup imitates the texture of chilli paste. You just simply add a dash of chilli flakes and cayenne powder to do the trick for the hot and spicy thing for your dish. Mix all the ingredients evenly and add some pepper to taste.
Chilli paste works wonders to make your dish hot and spicy.
It can be a little tricky in times you need a chilli paste substitute. Though there are many ways to make food hot and spicy, nothing compares to the flavor of chilli paste it can bring to your dish.
The alternative mentioned above may be easy to acquire, using them could be a bit of a challenge if it will complement your recipe. Blending and creating your own chilli paste is usually the best you can do. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put some creativity into customizing a dish with no chilli paste on hand. You must find the right ingredients that can almost imitate the taste and texture of chilli paste.