If you’re trying to decide between sriracha vs chili garlic sauce, it helps if you understand the composition of each one. You may know that both are spicy condiments designed to boost flavor, but how do they differ from each other? And how are they alike?
Sriracha vs Chili Garlic Sauce
Sriracha is a spicy condiment—sort of like ketchup with a spicy-sour kick to it. Chili garlic sauce has a more paste-like consistency and a chunkier texture, with a pronounced garlic flavor. Both have their uses, but sriracha is more versatile than chili garlic sauce and can even be used as a substitute in a pinch.
What is Sriracha?
Sriracha is a savory sauce with a kick of spice. Enthusiasts tend to put it on everything from burgers to omelets to french fries. It has a fairly intense heat level, with just enough sweetness to balance things out.
The base recipe for sriracha includes chili peppers, vinegar, salt, garlic, and sugar. The sweetness comes from the sugar, while the vinegar gives it a hint of acidity. This is the sauce to choose when you want to add a moderate amount of heat to your dish.
What is Chili Garlic Sauce?
This is another savory condiment that bears certain similarities to sriracha. However, the composition is slightly different.
To make chili garlic sauce, chefs usually blend chili peppers with vinegar, salt, and a generous helping of garlic. As evidenced by the name, it has a pronounced garlic flavor while still retaining a zing from the hot peppers.
This combination gives it a bit more balance than the sriracha, which is more of a basic hot sauce. The heat is also more subtle, making it a good choice for diners with less adventurous palates.
Although chili garlic sauce may not be as spicy, it’s also not as versatile as sriracha. The large quantity of garlic in the recipe means that it might not be suitable for some dishes.
Sriracha vs Chili Garlic Sauce: The Breakdown
As we mentioned, the garlic lends a bit more complexity to chili garlic sauce. Sriracha is mostly spicy, with a hint of sweetness from the sugar and acid from the vinegar. You can use either one to add flavor to a dish, but sriracha tends to pack more heat.
The garlic dilutes the heat from the peppers, so chili garlic sauce is more well-rounded in terms of flavor. In fact, we would consider it to be a more flavorful sauce overall, though sriracha definitely has its good points.
Chili garlic sauce has a thicker and chunkier consistency than sriracha, which has a smooth texture. Sriracha has a slightly thinner consistency than ketchup, along with a uniform red color.
In general, sriracha is considered a condiment. You can dip french fries in it, use it to smother your roast beef sandwich, or shake a few drops over your smoked chicken wings. If you’re one of those people who love sriracha, the sky is the limit.
By contrast, chili garlic sauce is used more as an ingredient than a condiment. It adds depth and complexity to sauces, but you won’t see many people using it to top their hot dog.
Here’s an interesting point: the sugar in sriracha is fermented, which adds to the sour notes provided by the vinegar. Chili garlic sauce is not fermented in the same way, so the sourness may be less pronounced.
That’s not to say that sriracha tastes overly sour—just that you’re bound to notice more of a vinegary flavor. Most proponents of sriracha enjoy this quality, especially if they’re trying to add zing to naturally bland foods like potatoes and rice.
Which is less expensive: chili garlic sauce or sriracha? In fact, there’s not much difference between the two.
At the time of this writing, big-box stores such as Walmart were selling 9-ounce bottles of premium sriracha for about $18. An 8-ounce jar of hihg-quality chili garlic sauce was going for roughly the same price.
Since there’s no appreciable difference in price, our advice would be to keep a supply of both on hand. Of course, if you enjoy one but not the other, feel free to only stock the type of sauce that you prefer.
One caveat: Since sriracha is more of a condiment than an ingredient, you may end up going through more of it. That means it will end up costing more in the long run, although it’s worth pointing out that you’ll also be getting more product for your money.
Because sriracha is increasingly popular, it’s available just about everywhere. Even some gas stations and convenience stores might stock it, depending on the region.
Chili garlic sauce isn’t all that difficult to find, but it’s not as ubiquitous as sriracha. If you’re forced to substitute one for the other due to availability issues, you’ll probably wind up using sriracha.
How To Make Your Own Sriracha
- 1 pound red jalapeno peppers, stems removed
- 1/2 pound red serrano peppers, stems removed
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 cloves raw garlic
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1. Add peppers, water, garlic, brown sugar, and salt to a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the ingredients, then blend until smooth.
2. Transfer the mixture to a large glass jar and cover with plastic wrap. Place the jar in a cool, dark place. Let the mixture ferment for 3 to 5 days, stirring and scraping down the sides of the jar once per day.
3. Once the sauce has bubbled and fermented for a few days, return it to the blender or food processor. Add the vinegar and blend until smooth.
4. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan. Be sure to push as much of the pulp as possible through the sieve. Discard any pulp, skin, or seeds that are left behind.
5. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce reduces to your desired consistency.
6. Let the sauce cool to room temperature (it will thicken a bit more as it sits). Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator.
How To Make Your Own Chili Garlic Sauce
- 1 pound Fresno chili peppers (or a variety of hot chili peppers of your choice)
- 16 cloves raw minced garlic
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until the mixture is mostly smooth.
2. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Let simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened.
3. Let the mixture cool slightly and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Transfer the sauce to an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator.
The Bottom Line
We like to keep a supply of sriracha and chili garlic sauce on hand. They each have distinctive qualities that make them invaluable in the kitchen.
While chili garlic sauce is a useful ingredient in stir-fries and makes a nice dipping sauce, sriracha is more versatile. If you enjoy spicy food, you can’t go wrong with either one.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!