Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

The Spruce / Qi Ai

Prep: 8 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 3/4 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
103 Calories
0g Fat
24g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 103
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 739mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 21g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 55mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Thai sweet chili sauce is known as nam chim kai in Thailand. It is sold in bottles and available in Asian food markets, but it's also easy to make at home. It only takes a few minutes to put together, and you can find everything you need in your pantry or at your local supermarket. There are no added preservatives or fatty ingredients in this homemade version, so it is also healthier. And since you control the ingredients, you also control the amount of sweetness and heat.

Thai sweet chili sauce makes a superb condiment for many Thai dishes and is excellent with chicken and fish. It is also wonderful as a marinade for grilling or as a dip for finger foods. Try it with grilled fish, classic Thai fish cakes, Thai crab cakes, chicken wings, vegetarian egg rolls, and Thai spring rolls.

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"This sauce is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spicy, and outshines the store-bought version. I used 3/4 tablespoon chili flakes and it was ideal for spice lovers without burning the palate. Very straightforward and the ingredients are standard in a pantry for anyone who cooks Asian cuisine regularly." —Diana Rattray

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (or white vinegar)

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sherry (or cooking sherry)

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon dried crushed chile pepper (red pepper flakes)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cool water

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for making Thai sweet chili sauce

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  2. Add the vinegar, sugar, water, fish sauce, sherry, garlic, and pepper flakes to a saucepan or pot.

    Add the vinegar, sugar, water, fish sauce, sherry, garlic, and pepper flakes to a saucepan

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  3. Bring to a rolling boil.

    sauce cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  4. Reduce the heat to medium and let boil for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half. (Note that the vinegar will be quite pungent as it burns off; rice vinegar is less strong than regular white vinegar.)

    sauce cooking in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  5. While the mixture is boiling, dissolve the cornstarch into the cool water in a small bowl.

    cornstarch and water in a bowl

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  6. Reduce the heat to low and add the cornstarch-water mixture. Stir to incorporate and continue stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and taste-test.

    cornstarch added to the sauce mixture in the saucepan

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

  7. Pour sauce into a small bowl or jar and serve as a condiment, dip, or marinade.

    Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

Tip

When you are taste-testing, you should taste sweet first, followed by sour, then spicy and salty notes. If the sauce isn't sweet enough, add a little more sugar. If it's not spicy enough, add more crushed chile.

Recipe Variations

If you don't have every ingredient on hand, there are a few substitutions you can make:

  • Try using white vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar.
  • Port, Madeira, and Marsala wines, as well as apple, pineapple, and orange juices all make good sherry substitutions.
  • You can also use arrowroot instead of cornstarch.

How to Store

  • Homemade Thai chili sauce should be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container where it will last up to a month.
  • It can also be frozen for two to three months; it will congeal and needs to be gently warmed before using.

Is Sweet Chili Sauce the Same as Sriracha?

Sweet chili sauce, also known as Thai chili sauce, is made using dried chili flakes and is primarily a sweet condiment that also has sour and spicy notes. Sriracha is a spicy, bright red chili sauce made with peppers, vinegar, garlic, and a few other ingredients. The sauces have different flavor profiles and shouldn't be used interchangeably in recipes unless you prefer the flavor difference.

What is a Vegan Substitute for Fish Sauce?

There are many vegan fish sauces on the market. Most are made with liquid aminos, soy sauce, and shiitake mushrooms.

If you can't find a vegan fish sauce, coconut aminios may be used to replace it. Coconut aminios are gluten and soy free and are rich in umami flavor.