I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different peri-peri substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding peri-peri sauce is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for peri-peri sauce are a homemade version and peri-peri seasoning. Harissa and Mexican-style hot sauce are great options too. You can also consider chipotle sauce, sriracha, chili garlic sauce, or sambal oelek.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a spicy mayo sauce to try out 11 different peri-peri sauce substitutes.
Peri-peri sauce is a South African condiment made from African Birds Eye’s chili peppers (piri-piri).
It’s bright and spicy, with a prominent garlicky note that’ll keep you coming back for more. I was looking for a replacement with a similar complex flavor and heat.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Homemade peri-peri sauce||replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Peri-peri seasoning||use half the amount called for||10/10|
|Harissa||replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Mexican-style hot sauce + lemon||replace with half the amount + a splash of lemon juice||9/10|
|Cajun pepper hot sauce||replace with half the amount||7/10|
|Sriracha sauce||replace with half the amount||7/10|
|Chipotle paste||replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Common uses for peri-peri sauce and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for peri-peri sauce and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For marinades and grilling – homemade peri-peri sauce, peri-peri seasoning (dry rub), harissa, Cajun pepper hot sauce
- As a condiment – homemade peri-peri sauce, harissa, Mexican-style hot sauce, sriracha
- For stir-fries, sauces, and vinaigrettes – homemade peri-peri sauce, peri-peri seasoning, harissa
Homemade Peri-peri sauce
Whipping up a homemade peri-peri sauce is a surefire way to give your dish an authentic flavor.
My go-to recipe is from Simply Delicious Food, because most of the ingredients are basic pantry staples.
African chilies are the traditional choice for peppers. But you can also use Thai chilies, Serrano peppers, or Fresno peppers, which are all easier to find.
It’ll take a bit more effort and time, but the best part about making your own sauce is you can control the heat and flavor intensity to suit your taste buds perfectly.
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with homemade peri-peri sauce.
Peri-peri seasoning is a convenient and tasty alternative to peri-peri sauce.
You can buy a bottle of pre-made peri-peri seasoning blend in most major grocery stores.
Some feature authentic piri-piri chilies, while others blend more common spices to mimic the seasoning’s flavors.
You can also craft your own mix. Check out Sprinkles and Sprouts for the recipe, it’s much quicker than making a sauce!
You can use the seasoning powder as is or mix it with oil to create the perfect marinade for your meats.
How to substitute: use half the amount of seasoning powder than sauce because the heat will be stronger.
Say hello to harissa, otherwise known as peri-peri’s cousin – because both are traditionally made from piri-piri chilies.
Opting for harissa means you’ll get a similar heat level to peri peri sauce, but with an added smoky twist thanks to earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds.
These spices will add a whole new dimension to your dish and take it in a different, just as delicious, flavor direction.
Harissa is a paste, so it’s best mixed with other ingredients. It won’t work as a dipping sauce on it’s own (it was perfect once I mixed it into my mayo though!).
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with harissa.
Mexican-style hot sauce + lemon
Mexican-style hot sauces like Cholula and Tapatio share some common ground with peri-peri sauce when it comes to flavor.
They have a similar tangy taste to peri-peri sauce with garlic undertones, but what differentiates them is that they aren’t as bright and creamy.
A trick I picked up from Reddit to fix this is to add a splash of lemon juice.
It may sound simple, but this gives the hot sauce a fresher taste and brings it closer to the peri-peri experience.
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce in your recipe to taste with Mexican-style hot sauce and a splash of lemon juice.
Cajun pepper hot sauce
A Cajun pepper hot sauce like Frank’s or Tabasco works as a peri-peri sauce substitute in a pinch.
They’re more one-dimensional in terms of flavor, with chili and vinegar being the main focus.
But you can easily improve this sub by mixing in things like ground black pepper, lemon juice, onion and garlic powder, and maybe even a bay leaf.
It takes a little experimenting, but I’ve had tasty results using this combo for marinating chicken!
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce in your recipe to taste with your choice of cajun pepper hot sauce, mixing in extra ingredients if needed.
Another smokey option is chipotle paste.
The flavors of peri peri and chipotle are pretty different. But chipotle has the same vibrancy and complexity, so your dish will be just as exciting.
Like harissa, it comes in paste form so it works best as an ingredient rather than a condiment.
Here’s a delicious recipe for a chipotle sauce that me and all my friends love.
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with chipotle sauce.
Sriracha sauce is here to show you it’s more than just a pretty squeeze bottle.
It doesn’t have the same depth as peri-peri, but sriracha still packs a delicious punch. It’s spicy, garlicky, and a little bit sweet.
And despite its Asian roots, sriracha is just as versatile as peri-peri sauce. You can slather it on pretty much anything or you can use it as a base for marinades.
Sriracha’s popularity means it’s available anywhere – you might even have a bottle in your cupboard!
How to substitute: replace peri-peri sauce to taste with sriracha.
Other substitute options
These extra substitute options aren’t great at replicating the exact flavors of peri-peri sauce, but they will give your dishes a fiery boost:
- Chili garlic sauce – chili garlic sauce is a good option for those who love garlic. Its spicy, and also has a chunkier consistency that can add texture to your dish.
- Sambal oelek – it’s not a perfect substitute, but it has a similar tangy brightness that’ll instantly perk up your dish. You can also mix it with garlic and earthy spices like cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne to compensate for the missing flavors of peri-peri sauce.
- Spicy ketchup – this is an easy option with a sweet-but-spicy note, but it won’t provide your dish with anywhere neat the same depth of flavor as peri peri sauce would.
- Cayenne pepper – another easy replacement for peri-peri sauce that you might already have in your cupboards.
Substitute to avoid – chili flakes or powder
Crushed red pepper flakes are a pantry staple and will quickly up the spice level of your dish. But that’s all they can do.
Chili flakes won’t add any extra flavor notes so your dish will fall flat if you use these as a direct replacement for peri peri. If you do need to use them, you’ll have to add in a few more extra ingredients like lemon juice, garlic, and paprika.
Read next: substitutes for aji amarillo paste
Best Peri-peri Sauce Substitutes
- 1 tbsp homemade peri-peri sauce
- ½ tbsp peri-peri seasoning
- 1 tbsp Mexican-style hot sauce + a splash of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp cajun pepper hot sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
- 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen peri-peri sauce substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.