Chili Paste Vs. Chili Sauce – How Do They Compare?

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By many, chili paste and chili sauce are considered the same product. There are many variations of each from all over the world, so you will often see the same product described as both paste and sauce depending on the source. And it’s not a surprise: Many chili sauces have essentially the same appearance, flavor, and function as chili pastes. That said, there are differences between the two. Let’s compare.

Table of Contents

How does chili paste differ from chili sauce?

Let’s start with texture. Like tomato paste versus tomato sauce, most chili pastes typically has a thicker texture when you compare them to chili sauces. The textural difference is because chili paste usually contains less moisture. A chili sauce may have extra liquid in the form of water or vinegar.

Compare chili pastes like Thai nam prik pao, Japanese yuzu kosho, and Korean gochujang to a Vietnamese-American chili sauce like sriracha. None of the paste examples are as thin and runny as the sauce (even a hot sauce known for its thickness like sriracha.) Both gochujang and nam prik pao have components like fermented soybean and shrimp paste, but none of those ingredients contain much moisture.

Flavor is another key difference between chili pastes and chili sauces. The extra liquid in a chili sauce means its flavors have been diluted to a greater extent when compared to a paste. In other words, pastes often have more of the pepper flavor (and heat) than sauces.

That said, chili sauces usually have complex flavor profiles with strong flavors like garlic or fruit being paired with the chili pepper. With chili pastes, the chili pepper is typically the star of the show. Chili pastes can have multiple ingredients as well, but the pepper is the focal point. So chili sauces can often have more depth to their overall flavor, but their overall spiciness will still be diluted compared to pastes.

Can you use chili paste in place of chili sauce? And vice versa?

You can use some chili pastes as substitutes for some chili sauces. To replace a sauce with a paste, you need only to find a paste with a similar flavor profile and make it into a sauce by adding water (or another liquid to add moisture.)

Similarly, chili sauces can be reduced through heat to a thicker consistency to make them better substitutes for chili pastes. Note that the cooking process may affect the flavor profile, so this may not be suitable for all sauces.

Vinegar is a feature of many chili sauces, but you won’t find it in many chili pastes. Opt for a chili sauce that is light on the vinegar to ensure that the flavor profile is closer to that of a paste. Another way to make your chili sauce into a better paste substitute is to add a dry ingredient like paprika or cayenne for some additional spiciness.

–> Learn More: What’s A Good Chili Paste Substitute?

When should you use chili paste ? And when should you use chili sauce?

Use a chili paste when you want to add flavor to a dish while adding as little moisture as possible. A chili paste can be used to coat ingredients in a preparation without making them wetter. Use a sauce when you want the extra moisture or when you intend to cook the dish for long enough to reduce the sauce to a more paste-like consistency.

  1. Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce
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    02/18/2024 02:25 pm GMT
  2. Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chili Paste), 16 Ounce Jar
    $12.99 ($0.81 / Ounce)
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    02/18/2024 02:34 pm GMT

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 9, 2023 to include new content.
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