From sweetening fiery Asian cuisine to firing up delicious desserts, sweet chili sauce has found growing use in the kithen. It’s typically easy to find at your local grocer (look in the international section), but if you need a quick substitute, you do have some options. Though, none (except making it yourself) will deliver quite the same amazing sweet heat an an authentic sweet chili sauce would.
Note: If you’re looking for an alternative to tomato-based chili sauce, take a look an your alternatives here. This post focuses only on sweet chili sauce.
Your best bet for a quick need: A hot sauce and honey mix
If you like spicy food at all, you likely have a bottle of hot sauce sitting around. Pair a teaspoon of hot sauce with a tablespoon of honey (then adjust to your liking) to get a quick and dirty sweet chili sauce alternative. Opt for a hot sauce with a minimal amount of vinegar here. Sriracha sauce with its tomato, garlic, and sugar base is much better in this use case than the vinegar-heavy likes of Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce. Typically you want a thicker, tomato-based hot sauce (like Sriracha), not something thin that’s meant for dashing on meals.
A second option: Plum sauce with hot sauce or crushed red pepper
Plum sauce will provide plenty of sweetness to pair with the added fire. You can approach it similarly to the honey solution. A tablespoon of plum sauce to a teaspoon of hot sauce (or a half teaspoon of crushed red pepper) to start, and adjust from there. The same hot sauce rules apply – opt for Sriracha or another hot sauce that’s not predominantly vinegar-based.
If you have the time (and the main chili ingredient): Make it from scratch
Sweet chili sauce is not hard to whip up in the kitchen if you have the ingredients at hand. Take a look at our recipe for sweet Thai chili sauce which relies on sambal oelek chili paste as the heat source. Obviously, this solution is only possible if you’re stocking the chili paste in your pantry, but if you happen to have it, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to make sweet chili sauce from scratch. From there, you can sweeten it even more with maple syrup to create a version that’s perfect for ice cream.