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When a recipe calls for 'chili sauce,' what do you use?

  • j

Just a question out of curiousity.

Whenever I see a recipe that calls for 'chili sauce,' I get a little annoyed because of the ambiguity. There are so many different brands and variations of things of varying flavor/potency/consistency ect.. that could all be technically consider a chili sauce.

What do you consider 'chili suace,' when called for in a recipe?

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  1. The only recipe I've used calling for chili sauce is meatballs with grape jelly and chili saice, in which case I buy Heinz Chili Sauce, next to the ketchup, http://www.amazon.com/Heinz-Chili-Sau...

    Tomato puree (tomato paste, water), distilled white vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, corn syrup, dehydrated onions, spice, garlic powder, natural flavoring.

    3 Replies
      1. re: arktos

        Sure is similar based on ingredients. Here's Heinz Ketchup:


        I've only bought the chili sauce twice, to make this recipe, and it definitely has more bite than ketchup does, sort of like cocktail sauce.

      2. Must admit I have never used a recipe that asked for "chili sauce." Where do you tend to use it?

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          In my experience, a cup of Heinz Chili Sauce is a mandatory ingredient of meatloaf. Both my family and my Wife's have made their meatloaf that way for well over 60 years.

        2. What's the context? What kind of recipe, era, ethnicity? If it's in an American cookbook or magazine, especially from a decade or more in the past, then it probably means the Heinz (or similar brand) Chili sauce, ie. a spiced ketchup. But in another context it may mean Sriracha, or one of the Chinese chili garlic sauces. And depending on the quantity, any thing that adds heat to your taste would work.

          2 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            I think that's bang on. Retro = Heinz, modern = hot pepper sauce (Tabasco and its epigoni).

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              I also add general ethnicity as well. From the midwest/general America = Heinz, Southeast Asian/Pan-Pacific = Sriracha, Chinese or Korean = chili oil.

              If I feel like they are asking for Mae Ploy, I try to work around it. I'm not a fan of it.

          2. Where I am that would invariably mean Tabasco. Anything else would be more specifically described.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              In the USA, Tabasco would be generically called a 'hot sauce'.

              Outside the USA, 'chilli' is also commonly used, isn't it?

              1. re: paulj

                I agree paulj, though on occasion I've seen Mexican recipes that call for hot sauce and that may mean something generally sold as "taco" sauce.

                1. re: paulj

                  I have usually found Tabasco referred to as "Pepper Sauce".

                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    Ok, this might be a Southerner/Yankee thing, but in the South, Tabasco sauce is called Tabasco sauce or hot sauce. Pepper sauce is small hot peppers and vinegar packed in bottles. The spicy vinegar is then sprinkled over hot vegetables, such as turnip greens or collards. Never would the two be considered the same around here.

              2. Chili sauce used to be a much more common ingredient than it is nowadays; get an American cookbook from the 1940s and '50s and it pops up frequently. I remember it as being much more complex in flavor when it was made with sugar, but then of course my taste buds were fifty years or more younger! The only thing I make using it is a bread stuffing for baked salmon, passed along to me by the first Mrs. O, an Army brat who had it from a colonel's wife next door. It's just dry bread cubes, a little fine-chopped celery and onion, Heinz chili sauce and a bit of salt; the fish provides sufficient extra moisture. It's weirdly good. I have mixed a little pickle relish and ketchup as a substitute, which works.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Will Owen

                  I use the Heinz-type chili sauce to make a pink shrimp cocktail sauce, which is also a salad dressing. Whisk a little mayo with a little sugar until smooth, stir in prepared (jarred)horseradish and the chili sauce. Should be dark salmon pink in color. I never have measured any of the ingredients. Fro some reason, if you don't whisk the mayo first, it's a struggle to get it to blend with the chili sauce.

                2. It would depend on the origin of the recipe.

                  If it was basically an American recipe, I'd use "Heinz Chili Sauce" or a compatriot.

                  If it was an Asian recipe, I'd be using Huy Fong's "Chili Garlic Sauce" (the "rooster" brand), which I ALWAYS have in my pantry.

                  For Thai - if the recipe asks for "Sweet Chili Sauce", there's NO substitute. And it's available everywhere these days.

                  1. I use Homemade Brand Chili Sauce. It comes in a round glass jar, and is available at most grocery stores.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: critter101

                      So do I- if I can't find it I use another brand (Heinz, maybe?)- there is no substitute for that particular kind of chili sauce, add some horseradish and lemon and it's cocktail sauce for shrimp. That's the absolute base for cocktail sauce

                      1. re: critter101

                        Thats the one I use too, I thought it was "homestyle" brand.
                        Much better.

                      2. I found this thread when I was trying to figure out what "chili sauce" meant in this recipe for Henry Bain Sauce: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/101449...

                        Helpful discussion. Heinz it is.

                        1. The red can that says "Chilli Sauce" on it. Found in southern grocery stores in the chilli section.

                          (I am not trying to be mean, just mildly amusing)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                            I think you're referring to chili dog sauce, which comes in a can and would be found in the chili section of any grocery store, Southern or otherwise. Chili sauce comes in a bottle and is found near the ketchup and cocktail sauce. I'm a Southerner and do believe we know the difference between chili for hot dogs and chili sauce, the condiment. ;)

                          2. Most recipes - particularly the "golden oldies" do mean "Heinz Chili Sauce" when they just say "chili sauce".

                            However, these days I've found some recipes use the term "chili sauce" to mean "cocktail sauce", as in the ketchup & horseradish type served with seafood cocktails. I think it really depends on the particular recipe as to how you define what to use.

                            1. If it's an Asian recipe of some sort, which is usually the case, then I use "chilli" sauce, i.e. the bright red thick, spicy condiment. I usually use an Indonesian extra "pedas ("hot") sauce but sometimes I'll use Siracha or sambal oelek. It depends on the other ingredients in the recipe.

                              I don't think I've ever made a recipe calling for "chili" sauce, but if I did, I would probably use that Heinz Chili Sauce I've seen at the market. Never tried the stuff though.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: boogiebaby

                                Yup. I default to sambal oelik, usually homemade. It has only water, vinegar, salt, and chillies as ingredients, so is suitable for just about everything.

                                Speaking of which, I need to make some. I'm nearly out...

                                1. The ketchuppy cocktail sauce stuff

                                  1. I wouldn't use Tabasco sauce for a recipe calling for 1 cup of chili sauce. OUCH!

                                    1. I have a jar of Chili Garlic Sauce produced by Union Foods in Clifton, NJ. This is a major US brand that is sold widely in Asian markets.

                                      1. It depends on the recipe, but this is a good brand of red chile sauce: http://www.mexgrocer.com/1293.html

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          How does this differ from their (las palmas) enchilada sauce?

                                        2. ketchup. I think its a UK thing. I tried it last year and basically tastes like ketchup

                                          1. many recipes are written by those who know everything.

                                            sooooo, I use what it says, a more expensive ketchup, like the pic below:

                                            14 Replies
                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                Most recipes are usually written in a way so that the person cooking will use the actual ingredients they say to use. I know it's hard to believe, but true.

                                                As I said above in a previous post...if a recipe calls for Chili Sauce, I would typically use Chili Sauce.

                                                Are there really this many people who don't know what bottled chili sauce is? It's a simple, common ingredient.

                                                All this confusion is akin to wanting a hot dog with chili and picking up a jar of Heinz Chili Sauce for the topping. People just can't be that ignorant...can they?

                                                Do these same people consider themselves "chowhounds"? I don't mean that everyone should know everything...but if you've ever purchased ketchup, you've seen chili sauce on the shelf. It isn't some secret ingredient that only the privileged know about.

                                                1. re: JayL

                                                  condiment preferences vary from place to place. Here in New York one would be hard pressed to find mustard on a hamburger, even if requested.
                                                  I know of no one in my circle of friends and family that would have a clue what chili sauce is. and when a bottle of Heinz chili sauce was discovered in my fridge by my own sister (NOT a Chowhound!), who was looking for ketchup that doesn't exist in my home, she was worried that if she gave it to the kids they would burn their mouths. and the reason for even having the small bottle of chili sauce? I used it as an ingredient to make a 'cocktail sauce' for chilled grilled shrimp. she used the rest for her kids and that was the end of the chili sauce.

                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                    It's not that they are ignorant, but that their shopping horizons go beyond the ketchup shelf. The OP is aware of many brands that might, in some context or other, go by that name or description.

                                                    I don't think I've ever bought Heinz Chili Sauce. Sure, I've seen it with the ketchup, and probably have had in dishes served to me. I would also assume that a recipe written for (middle) American audiences a couple decades ago would use it.

                                                    But there are other condiments that go by that name. I have a jar of Lian How Brand Chili Sauce in the fridge, and a Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce in the pantry. Plus a (Thai) Sweet Chilli Sauce, and a half dozen 'hot' sauces.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      Me too. I have a few jars of asian chili sauces.

                                                      I just bought a jar of ketchup for the first time in about 10 years. I just don't use it that often. So, I don't spend a lot of time examining the contents of the ketchup shelf.

                                                      I've never heard of Heinz Chili Sauce. Maybe it's a regional thing.

                                                      1. re: 512window

                                                        In another thread I was talking about Flying Jacob, a popular Swedish dish. Heinz Chili Sauce is a key flavoring ingredient (mix it with cream and pour it over chicken and bananas).
                                                        The description (translated) is:
                                                        "Heinz Chili Sauce is a ketchup with a distinct sting of chili. Over the world, it has become perhaps our most beloved product - a cult product synonymous with the brand, Heinz. Just in Sweden, we eat most Chili Sauce in the world, per capita."

                                                        1. re: 512window

                                                          I also think it's a generational thing. If you look upthread, other posters keep referring to Retro recipes that called for this ingredient. When these recipes were popular, the typical cook didn't know about Sriracha/Sambal Oelek etc.

                                                          The slightly spicier Heinz Chili Sauce was pretty close to the limits of their daring for many.

                                                      2. re: JayL

                                                        Considering I have 3 kinds of "chili sauce" at my house, none of which are found in the ketchup section of the typical US mega-grocery store, it isn't as simple as JayL would like to think it is.

                                                        I am assuming this mysterious Heinz product is essentially spicy ketchup?

                                                        1. re: mels

                                                          except it isn't spicy. at all. it's seems like its just ketchup with a little more onion in it. that's all.

                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                            I just looked up the ingredients of Heinz Chili sauce and you are spot on: oniony ketchup!

                                                            Ingredients: Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste, Water), Distilled White Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Corn Syrup, Dehydrated Onion, Spice, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavoring.

                                                          2. re: mels

                                                            I have multiple types of "chili" sauces as well.

                                                            I do attempt to use common sense when reading recipes. If making cocktail sauce, I don't automatically wonder if I should be using chili garlic from the Asian market.

                                                            If there are confusing recipes out there that leave one wondering, I haven't run across them.

                                                          3. re: JayL

                                                            "Are there really this many people who don't know what bottled chili sauce is? It's a simple, common ingredient."

                                                            I've lived in Asia for the last decade. Before that, in Canada, I regularly shopped the Asian aisle for many of my favourite foods. I've come across a LOT of different condiments called Chili Sauce that aren't a bit alike.

                                                            1. re: LMAshton

                                                              Same for Latino markets. African markets. Same for everywhere. Personally, I wouldn't rule out using whatever chili sauce you like, so I see no reason to stick with one culture or the other. Asian chili sauce or a Mexican chili sauce can do wonders in a meatloaf.

                                                              Lomo Saltado, the well-known Peruvian dish, has soy sauce as its 'secret ingredient.' It was introduced by Chinese immigrants, though the dish doesn't taste particularly Asian.

                                                              I think the OP asked a great question.

                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                "Same for Latino markets. African markets. Same for everywhere."

                                                                Which is incredibly... unsurprising to me. :)

                                                        2. As it happens, homemade. In late summer after cooking up and canning all of our tomato sauce for the year, DW makes up a batch of chili sauce and cans that in small jelly jars. She particularly likes it on hot dogs and burgers. I like it on things like meatloaf. And yes, it's kind of sweet and spicy like the old Heinz Chili Sauce.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: junescook

                                                            i like homemade, too, and consider chili sauce vital when eating pasty. in a pinch, the store variety will do, but the best store variety is bennetts. the list of ingredients is odd, but more closely resembles homemade as it includes tomatoes (using paste), peppers and onions. not at all hot.

                                                          2. "...with a spicy ketchup sauce made with Sriracha! .."

                                                            it's stuff like this that starts to make it confusing to those that might use ketchup as a cooking ingredient and not just a condiment:


                                                            1. I have always shied away from recipes that are not explicit when it comes to chili sauce. Many answers below are valid but I do not agree. Chili Sauce should have the same meaning no matter what or where the recipe originates. The best description here is "Spiced Ketchup". I detest Heinz because it contains too much High Fructose Corn Syrup, I use Hunts as it is made with sugar. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce is made up mostly of Corn Syrup and should be used in place of Spiced Ketchup, I use Cross & Blackwell Seafood Cocktail Sauce and it works just fine.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Remag

                                                                "Chili Sauce should have the same meaning no matter what or where the recipe originates."

                                                                A chili sauce that originates in China will probably not taste the same as one that originates in Peru. Though a chaufa dish might bridge the gap. I recommend experimenting.

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  The Peruvian one would be called 'aji' or some variant on that. And east Asian might be 'chilli'. And Remang's preferred sauce doesn't even have 'chili' in the name. :)

                                                              2. Chili sauce for me is a concoction of ripe homegrown chiles of a very incendiary variety. I grow 'ghost pepper' (bhut jolokia) chiles in a small garden along with some milder varieties. Using an immersion blender and a wide-mouth glass jar with a lid, a combination of the chile pods, a little salt and cider vinegar a sauce is produced.

                                                                This concoction is used as a source of appropriate heat for Texas-style chili. I stay away from any condiment called chili sauce made with tomatoes or chili powder containing salt and Mediterranean oregano.