This homemade chili garlic sauce recipe packs all the same fiery flavor of the spicy condiment found at Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.
If you’ve tried making Asian recipes at home and just haven’t been able to get the same taste, this may be what’s lacking. A dollop of chili garlic sauce adds the slow-burn heat and umami so often missing from take-out fake-out recipes.
Why Make Chili Garlic Sauce at Home
Vary the Taste
Making your chili garlic sauce allows you to adjust the flavoring, adding sweetness to offset the heat (for a Sriracha flavor) or additional vinegar to bring out another dimension (for Sambal Oelek).
No Artificial Preservatives
Unlike the commercial stuff, this recipe doesn’t rely on sodium benzoate, a preservative that some people avoid due to its possible connection with hyperactivity in children and which, in combination with vitamin c (which chili peppers contain) produces the known carcinogen benzene.
Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make.
Chili Pepper Safety Tips
Protect Your Skin
Wear gloves. Peppers, even dried ones reconstituted in water, contain oils that can burn sensitive skin. These oils don’t wash off easily, which means once they’re on your hands, it’s only a matter of time before you rub your eye or nose and wind up in tears.
So, wear a pair of powder-free nitrile gloves or, if you don’t have any, slather your hands with butter before you begin working. The butter will act as a barrier between your skin and the peppers’ oils, which will come off your hands when you wash them.
Protect Your Eyes and Mouth, Too
Consider eye protection. This isn’t just about the occasional pepper squirting directly at your eye, which is a definite risk when you’re working with a pound of them. It’s also to protect you from the danger of forgetting that you’re working with hot peppers and rubbing your eye — you’ll poke your glasses instead.
Breathe through your mouth. I learned this the hard way: when you’re standing over your food processor whirring a pound of chili peppers, there are going to be fumes. Lots of fumes. Taking a deep breath through your nose at that point might clear your sinuses momentarily, as it did mine.
Then it will produce an incredible burning pain that will lead to congestion like you’ve never known before. Protect yourself by breathing through your mouth!
Use Milk to Banish the Burn
If you’ve ignored all of the tips above and wind up with burning hands, whole milk will ease the pain. MythBusters put a variety of treatments for pepper burns to the test and found that whole milk works best, whether applied to the skin or guzzled down after eating something spicy.
Hopefully, these tips haven’t scared you off because this recipe is simple to make and incredibly delicious whether you use dried peppers or fresh ones. (I’ve included instructions for both.)
Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce Uses
When using your homemade chili garlic sauce, your imagination is the limit.
- Dollop it on scrambled eggs or toss steamed vegetables with it to give them a good spicy kick.
- Swap it for hot sauce in your favorite recipes
- Brush it on top of meatloaf or hamburgers.
- Add it to stir-fries or soups.
- Baste meatballs with it before baking.
- It’s also great in my Shrimp Pad Thai recipe!
Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce
- Food processor
- 15 dried whole chili peppers OR 1½ cups fresh Thai chilies
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar optional
- 1/2-1 teaspoon fish sauce optional (to taste)
- Add stemless peppers, garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar to the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped, adding additional vinegar as needed to reach desired consistency.
- Add salt, sugar, and fish sauce (if using). Pulse a few times until well-combined.
- Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.