I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different sweet chili sauce substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding sweet chili sauce is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best sweet chili sauce substitutes are the homemade version, sriracha, and hot sauce with honey. You can also combine chili pepper flakes, vinegar, and honey if you don’t have hot sauce. Try spicy ketchup, banana pepper mustard, or sweet and spicy BBQ sauce for more unique alternatives.
I made a simple dipping sauce to test all the different sweet chili sauce alternatives I could find.
Sweet chili sauce is a popular Thai condiment also known as nam chim kai. It boasts a sweet, tangy, and spicy flavor combo that’s dangerously addicting!
I was looking for something just as yummy and without too much heat.
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Homemade sweet chili sauce||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Sriracha||replace in a 1:1 ratio for a spicier kick or a 3:4 ratio to tone down the heat||10/10|
|Hot sauce + honey||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Plum sauce + hot sauce||recipe in a 1:1 ratio, may need some vinegar||7/10|
|Chili pepper flakes + honey + vinegar||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Spicy soy sauce||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Spicy ketchup||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Banana pepper mustard||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Sweet and spicy BBQ sauce||recipe in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
Common dishes that use sweet chili sauce and their substitutes
Here are some common use cases for sweet chili sauce and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Stand-alone dipping sauce – homemade sweet chili sauce, sriracha, hot sauce + honey
- For mixing with other condiments (mayo, cream cheese, etc.) – sriracha, spicy ketchup
- Stir-fries and sauces – plum sauce + hot sauce, spicy soy sauce, chili flakes + honey
- Marinades and dressings – homemade sweet chili sauce, sriracha, spicy soy sauce
Homemade sweet chili sauce
Got 10 minutes to spare? Make sweet chili sauce from scratch instead!
It’s not the easiest substitute, but I’ve found that homemade sauce has a fresher, more vibrant flavor then even the bottled stuff. And it’ll last three months in the fridge!
You also have the freedom to customize the heat and sweetness level. I like mine a bit spicier.
There’s loads of recipes to pick from. It’s Not Complicated Recipes uses fresh chilies, while Daring Gourmet’s recipe (my favorite!) features sambal oelek.
Or you can try this sugar-free version from Seeking Good Eats that gets its sweetness from stevia.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade sweet chili sauce.
Sriracha is a no-fuss condiment you can use to replace sweet chili sauce.
This famous sauce is available everywhere, and there’s loads of brands to choose from – but I always come back to the original Huy Fong sriracha!
It’s got sweet and spicy notes like sweet chili sauce, but there’s more focus on the spice.
To mellow out the heat, try mixing it with a creamy condiment like mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. This combo works well as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or for drizzling over poke bowls.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe with sriracha, using a 1:1 ratio for a spicier kick or a 3:4 ratio to tone down the heat.
Hot sauce + honey
Another easy sweet chili sauce substitute you can consider is the mixture of hot sauce and honey.
The hot sauce in this combination brings the heat and umami flavor, while the honey adds that signature sweetness and a slightly syrupy consistency reminiscent of sweet chili sauce.
The key here is to choose a hot sauce with less vinegar (like sriracha) for a more balanced flavor profile.
I’ve also tried using sambal oelek or chili garlic sauce and both turned out delicious!
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of equal parts hot sauce and honey.
Plum sauce + hot sauce
Plum sauce is a Chinese condiment typically used as a dipping sauce for fried dishes.
It shares sweet chili sauce’s sweet-tangy notes and thick consistency, but it lacks the mild heat – although that’s nothing a few drops of hot sauce can’t fix!
And if you’re not a fan of plum sauce, here are some other sweet sauces you can try mixing with hot sauce:
- Sweet and sour sauce – has the same sweet-tangy notes and is easy to get hold of.
- Teriyaki sauce – mix this with a more vinegary hot sauce for best results.
- Hoisin sauce – more salty, so you may want to add a drop of honey along with the hot sauce.
The flavors might not match sweet chili sauce exactly, but you could discover a new favorite!
Psst… I always have some vinegar on hand to add to anything I think it a tad too sweet. I would also add a splash of water if I think the sauce needed thinning out.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of plum sauce and a dash of hot sauce.
Chili pepper flakes + honey + vinegar
If you’re out of hot sauce, a simple mixture of chili flakes, honey, and vinegar can save the day.
The chili pepper flakes only bring heat, so this combination lacks the depth of flavor sweet chili sauce has. But it’ll still satisfy your sweet-spicy cravings.
Don’t have vinegar on hand? Lemon juice also works well with this combo!
Pro tip: start with a small amount of chili pepper flakes and gradually add more to achieve your desired heat level.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of equal parts chili pepper flakes, honey, and vinegar (or lemon juice).
Spicy soy sauce
Soy sauce alone won’t work as a substitute for sweet chili sauce, but with a few additional pantry staples you can create a quick and easy alternative.
Try mixing soy sauce with sugar, chili paste, and seasame oil.
The flavor won’t be the same as sweet chili sauce, but it’ll give you something delicious and equally as addicting to dip your egg rolls in.
One potential downside is your sauce won’t have the same thick consistency as sweet chili sauce. This wouldn’t bother me though!
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the mixture of soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and hot sauce
Spicy ketchup also doesn’t taste like sweet chili sauce, but it’s a convenient way to achieve that sweet-spicy kick you’re looking for (especially for something like fries or breaded chicken).
You can probably find spicy ketchup in your local supermarket, but you can also make your own if you can’t be bothered to go out!
Just mix ketchup with whatever spicy ingredient you have in your cupboard, like chili flakes or a dash of hot sauce.
Pssst… start adding the hot sauce or chili flakes in small quantities and taste as you go.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with spicy ketchup.
Banana pepper mustard
We’re entirely veering away from sweet chili sauce here, but this banana pepper mustard is a great substitute if you’re looking to avoid garlic.
It has the signature tang typical mustard has, but the banana peppers add a sweet twist and a mild heat that’ll make each bite interesting.
Pro tip: banana peppers are really mild, you if you want a decent amount of heat, make sure to have chili flakes on hand.
How to substitute: replace sweet chili sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with banana pepper mustard.
Other substitute options
At it’s most basic, sweet chili sauce is a mildly spicy condiment you can use to jazz up dishes. Thankfully there are loads of those about!
So if you don’t like sweet chili sauce, try out some of these options:
- Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce – this is a complete 180 from sweet chili sauce, but it’s a great option for for dipping sauce that’s only slightly spicy. It’s great with things like meat or chicken.
- Harissa mayo – harissa mayo will be fruity, smokey, and a little but spicy. It’s amazing with sweet chili fries.
- Peri peri sauce – go for a mild version made from bell peppers, rather than an authentic version made with actual piri-piri peppers. This sauce has a complex, but delicious flavor.
- Mango-habanero hot sauce – habaneros are pretty spicy, so this condiment will have more heat than sweet chili sauce. But the mangos do help balance things out.
Read next: the best substitutes for peri peri sauce.
Substitute to avoid – Worcestershire sauce
I saw Worcestershire sauce suggested as a substitute for sweet chili sauce on a few blogs and was skeptical, but still tried it out.
Turns out my scepticism was valid.
Worcestershire sauce is deeply savory, with lots of umami. But it’s got no real sweetness or spice to it! It has nothing in common with sweet chili sauce.
Sweet Chili Sauce Substitutes [And One To Avoid]
- 1 tbsp homemade sweet chili sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1 tbsp hot sauce + honey, adjust heat if needed
- 1 tbsp plum sauce + hot sauce, adjust heat if needed
- 1 tbsp chili pepper flakes + honey + vinegar, adjust heat if needed
- 1 tbsp spicy soy sauce
- 1 tbsp spicy ketchup
- 1 tbsp banana pepper mustard
- 1 tbsp sweet and spicy BBQ sauce
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen sweet chili sauce substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.