Chili Paste

Chili paste is remarkably similar in appearance to ketchup, but filled with heat and great pepper aroma.

Chili paste is made with a variety of dried peppers that are ground and mixed with liquid. It is used as a table condiment or as an addition to numerous ethnic dishes as well as soups and stews. Many recipes, such as enchiladas, can also be livened up with chili paste.

Most chili pastes add heat as well as flavor. A few are more sweet than hot. Although chili pastes are often called sauces, they are thicker in consistency and smooth-textured.


Chili pastes are produced in many regions. The most recognized brands will be from Asia, , and the

Sambal – Malaysian in origin and means “chile paste.” Sambal oelek is made from fresh chiles and usually contains no additives other than the seeds. Sambal badjak includes onions. Sriracha paste is a preferred condiment.

Harissa – A North African paste that is excellent as a rub for meats and poultry. Also used for dipping with added oil and water.

Ancho – This is the dried pod of the poblano pepper and is ’s version of chili paste when ground and mixed with water. Milder than other varieties. 

Nham Prik Pao – a Thai standard made of roasted peppers. Other ingredients may be added including fish sauce and sugars.

Green pastes and other roasted versions are available. Some of these are produced in the and may be stocked at larger grocery chains. For the best selections, visit Asian, Indian, or Mexican markets.

Buying Tips

Always purchase chili pastes from reputable merchants with steady turnover.

Storage Tips

Most pastes will be good for several months when refrigerated. Keep tightly covered. Add a top layer of oil as a preservative.

Usage Tips

When trying a new product, taste first to determine heat level before adding to recipes.

• Making chile paste is fairly simple. Experiment with additional ingredients, including garlic, onion, lime juice, or ginger.

Do not limit use to ethnic dishes. Add to barbecue sauce or a pot of chili, top hot dogs and hamburgers