Chili paste is an essential ingredient for many different cuisines around the world. Here is a list of different chili pastes you may want to look for.
Chili paste is essentially a paste made from chili peppers. It is a highly versatile ingredient, used to add flavor, pungency and character to many cuisines. The type of paste varies from culture to culture based on cooking traditions, but also on the peppers available to that region.
It comes in many different forms, from thick, processed pastes that stick to a spoon to thin, watery pastes that pour from the jar, to chili pastes with more of a sauce like consistency to pulpy pastes with lots of texture.
Some are nothing but ground chili peppers, while others have added ingredients. Regardless of the texture, it is an ideal way to build flavor into many different foods.
Here is a list of chili pastes from around the world you may want to seek out for your cooking adventures. This is not an exhaustive list, but a representative list of different types. Feel free to comment to include other types of chili pastes. There are many!
List of Chili Pastes from Around the World
Aji Amarillo Paste. Aji Amarillo Paste is widely used in Peruvian cooking. You can buy Aji Amarillo Paste commercially, but here is a recipe to make it at home with fresh Aji Amarillo chili peppers.
Ajika. Ajika, aka adjika, is a spicy Georgian dip made with hot red peppers, garlic, herbs, spices and walnuts. More of a dip or spread, like ajvar, it is very much like a chili paste.
Ajvar. Ajvar, pronounced “Eye Var”, is a sauce or condiment made primarily with red peppers and oil, though an extremely popular variation includes eggplant (called Malidzano), which I’ve chosen to make here. You’ll find it common in the cuisine of the Balkans. In Serbia, Ajvar is called “Vegetable Caviar”. It's definitely more of a condiment, but very much like a chili paste.
Ancho Paste. Huge in Mexican cuisine, ancho paste is made by rehydrating dried ancho peppers and grinding them into a chili paste. It is used in many different Mexican recipes. The same can be done with other dried Mexican peppers, such as the pasilla, guajillo, chile de arbol and more, and are often mixed together for different flavors.
Biber Salçası. Biber Salçası is a Turkish chili paste made from red chili peppers or sweet long peppers and salt. It is a thick, deep red chili paste used to flavor many dishes.
Calabrian Chili Paste. A spicy chili paste from the famous Italian region, Calabrian chili paste is made by crushing Calabrian peperoncino (dried peppers) with extra virgin olive oil. It is used to flavor many Italian dishes.
Curry Paste. Curry is wonderfully spicy and filled with so many satisfying flavors. It’s a spicy food lover’s dream dish. Curry pastes are usually made with a number of different ingredients and seasonings, but at its core is chili peppers. It is essential to many Thai and Indian dishes. Try my Red Curry Paste Recipe.
Doubanjiang. Doubanjiang, aka Toban Djan, is a Chinese chili bean paste made from fermented soybeans, broad beans, and hot chilies. You may also see it be called spicy bean paste or broad bean chili sauce. Learn more about it.
Gochujang. Gochujang is a Korean fermented red chili paste made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder, and salt. It is thick and pungent in flavor, adding a zingy depth to your dishes. It is both spicy and sweet.
Harissa. Harissa is a highly popular chili paste used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. The recipe varies by the region, so you will find variation after variation of harissa, depending on the local ingredients.
La Jiao Jiang. La Jiao Jiang is a Chinese chili paste made from a mix of hot peppers, vinegar and salt.
Massaman Curry Paste. Massaman curry paste is a mix of Indian and Thai flavors with a mild level of spice, essential for Massaman curry, though quite versatile.
Miso. Japanese Miso is worth mentioning as a flavor builder, even though it is not made with chili peppers. Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that is widely used in Japan’s traditional and modern dishes. Miso specifically brings out the umami flavor in foods and offers several health benefits improving immunity and overall blood flow of the body.
Nam Prik Pao. Nam Prik Pao is a Thai chili paste with a smoky flavor made with a combination of chili peppers and other ingredients, with varying levels of heat depending on the peppers used.
Panang Curry Paste (Prik Gaeng Panang). Panang curry is a red curry recipe from Thailand and popular in Southeast Asian cuisine. The curry paste is unique and essential for the dish’s characteristic flavor, made from dried chilies instead of fresh, resulting in a milder, smokier curry.
Peri Peri. Peri Peri sauce is a traditional African sauce made from spicy African Bird’s Eye chili peppers. It is also known as piri piri, or pili pili. It’s perfect for any spicy food lover. It is often very thick and made without cooking, so I am including in the chili paste list.
Piros Arany. Piros Arany is a Hungarian chili paste made from paprika and salt. It is usually sold in tubes, Red Gold being the most well known brand.
Sambal Oelek. While Sriracha is distinctly Thai, Sambal Oelek is Indonesian, and it is essentially a raw chili paste that is ground. It uses very few ingredients, traditionally red chili peppers, vinegar and salt. It can be used as a base to make sambals and other sauces, and works best when used more as a condiment or flavoring ingredient than as a direct sauce or hot sauce.
Shatta. Shatta is a chili paste from Egypt. While there are many variations from cook to cook, it usually consists of peppers, tomatoes, garlic, nuts, herbs and seasonings.
Sofrito. Sofrito is a sauce used as a base for building flavor into numerous dishes ranging from soups to stews to pots of rice. It is common in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Latin American and Caribbean cuisines, where it goes by different names, such as “sofregit”, “estrugido” or “refogado”.
Sriracha. Sriracha is more of a sauce, but is very much like a paste in consistency. Famous “Sriracha” sauce is named after the town of “Sri Racha” in Thailand where it originated, but this is not what we consume here in the United States. The stuff you get from the store is produced in California with red jalapeno peppers and has deviated quite a bit from the original Thai recipe.
Thai Chili Paste. There are different types and recipes for Thai chili paste, essentially made from fresh or dried Thai chili peppers, ground with oil and other possible ingredients, like garlic, shallot, fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar and more.
Zhug. Zhug is made from oil and herbs with lots of chili peppers and hugely flavorful seasonings. It originated in Yemen, though it is widely popular in Middle Eastern Cooking. There are other variations on this recipe, such as “brown zhug”, which includes tomatoes, as well as “red zhug”, which includes hot red chili peppers. Zhug also goes by the name of “Shug”, “Shoug”, “Schug”, “Skhug”.
HOW TO MAKE CHILI PASTE
From Fresh Peppers:
- If you're starting with fresh chili peppers, add your peppers and other vegetables (like garlic or onion, if using) to a food processor and process until finely chopped. You now have a basic chili paste and can use it from here. You can freeze it to keep it longer.
- If you'd like to cook your chili paste, add it to a pot with a bit of olive oil and any other seasonings you'd like to use. Heat to low and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more olive oil if needed. Do not burn the mixture.
From Dried Peppers:
- If you're starting with dried chili peppers, remove the seeds and stems, then soak the dried pods in hot water until they are softened.
- Process them in a food processor with a bit of water or other liquid until a paste forms. You can also include other ingredients, fresh or dried, and other seasonings.
Here are some common questions I receive about chili pastes.
What is the difference between chili paste and chili sauce?
A chili paste is much thicker in consistency and usually includes more chili peppers as the primary ingredient. A chili sauce has a thinner consistency and often includes other ingredients. Chili sauces can be used as an ingredient in cooking or as a finishing sauce, where chili paste is only used in cooking, not finishing.
Does chili paste need to be refrigerated?
Chili paste should be refrigerated to keep it longer. Even if the chili paste has a low pH, it runs the risk of spoiling if kept outside of the refrigerator. It is best if kept in a closed container in the fridge. It is best frozen for long term storage.
- If you're ever in a bind and have run out of chili paste, here is a list of chili paste substitutes, which include hot sauce, tomato paste and other suggestions.
- How to make chili paste from fresh peppers. Good to know.
- How to Make Chili Crisp - Spicy Chili Oil with Crispy Bits
- Try this Habanero Chili Paste recipe made with fresh habanero peppers. This will help you spice things up!
Got any more for the list? Let me know and I'll work on adding them.
Buy Chili Paste at Amazon (many different types)(affiliate link, my friends!)