The Best Sweet Chili Sauce EVAH!

(For an updated version - with better pictures! - please check this post.)

So you're probably going: why on EARTH would I want to slave over my own chilisauce, when there are so many nice brands out there, that are even cheap? Well, I for one do, simply because this is the best one I've ever had. The taste may not be as the commercial kind, here you can taste every single ingredient - maybe I'm not able to taste the galangal from the ginger, but I know it's there! And there's just something weirdly satisfying about reading a recipe that says "2 tablespoons of chilisauce", then taking that little, dark, sweet-spicy smelling, sticky jar of your own homemade sauce out of the fridge, instead of a large bottle. I'm weird like that, but I do like that feeling...

Sweet Chili Sauce
Makes three small jars (250 ml each)

You need:
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 large red chilies, stems removed
3 thumbs of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb of galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
8 lime leaves
3 lemon-grass stems;
remove the two outside leaves, discard the top third of the stem and finely slice the remainder
1 cup fresh coriander leaves

Ginger vs. galangal - yes, there is a difference, but if you can't get galangal, just use ginger.

Put in a food processor and purée to a coarse paste.

Then put
1½ cups caster sugar
together with 4 tablespoons water in a saucepn, place on a moderate heat, stirring well intil the sugar dissolves. When it has, remove the spoon and turn up the heat to full. Boil for 5-8 minutes, do not stir, but of course, don't let the caramel burn either. (I never actually need to turn the heat to full - it seems to boil away nicely on a medium heat with me...)

Stir in the paste, bring the sauce back to the boil and add:

100 ml cider vinegar
50 ml Asian fish sauce
50 ml tamari

Return to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour in jars, and leave to cool before eating.

The recipe is not actually made to be a keeper, but I've had mine around in jars for about a year or so, no problemos at all - I don't really do anything special to keep them, other than sterilizing the jars (ok, basically pouring boiling water over them before I fill them!) and keep them in the fridge. Also, if you want it to be HOT you could probably leave some of the chili seeds in - this really isn't hot at all, but I just am not that big on hot-hot stuff...

I stole the recipe from Peter Gordon's: The Sugar Club Cookbook, a, in my opinion, really nice book. Very pacific rim, and okay, I am a bit biased: I used to work at The Sugar Club's sister restaurant, Bali Sugar -when The Sugar Club moved to Soho, the owners opened yet another restaurant, Bali Sugar, at the original place in Notting Hill, so all the pictures in this book is from the restaurant I used to work at. Ah, memories!

In the cookbook, the chilisauce is served with grilled scallops, watercress and creme fraiche - that's a great combo, and a signature Peter Gordon dish! I'd also use the chilisauce with homemeade fries aka potato wedges - small saucer with creme fraiche, small saucer with chilisauce, and then you dip your potato wedge into each one alternately. I had this in Australia and though I at first thought the combination sorta weird, it really worked!


Niki said…
Ah yes, wedges with sour cream and chili sauce are really popular down here; especially in pubs with beer. But it's always sweet chili sauce, usually from a bottle of cheap commercial stuff, which I don't like so much.
Dry crackers with cream cheese and sweet chili sauce are another regular party-food stand-by here. Have a look:
santos. said…
first homemade dulce de leche now chili sauce--you're well on your way in becoming the Condiment Queen of Copenhagen!
Stephanie said…
Ooooh...I have to show this to Matt. He'll love it!
And there's something incredibly satisfying about making your own sauces and dips and so on. I applaud, and promptly grab the recipe to make for my sweetie.

Andrea said…
Let me introduce myself first.
I come from a country where home-made sauces and jams are a part of every good girl's bringing up.

This chilli jam is superb! It's nice to know what we are eating when we make it ourselves, rather than buying the shop versions.
All packed with sweet goodness!

I will definitely try this one.
debbie koenig said…
Wow, that sauce looks fabulous! And I totally agree with you about the satisfaction of making your own--I get that same kick every time I reach for my homemade pesto or bbq sauce. I'll have to give this a try.
SantaBarbarian said…
ooohhhh....yummy! I will have to try. Thanks for sharing!
Anonymous said…
Oh wow! This looks infinitely more flavourful than the commercial brands. Now you just compelled me to try out some homemade fish balls!
Anonymous said…
Zarah, this sounds *outrageously* delicious! Yet another one of your recipes that's going straight to my "Must Make ASAP" list...thanks!

Anonymous said…
Hi Zarah - I haven't tried making yet, but I know this must be the best sweet chilli sauce EVAH!
Zarah Maria said…
I'm glad you all like the sound of it - it truly is delish!

"Condiment Queen of Copenhagen" - I like the sound of that!;-)
Sam said…
I recently bought some chili sauce, cos I didn't know which recipe to trust. Now I know. I am going to soon writing a post that refers to it and I will surely be linking to you as an alternative.
Ih yes - can't wait to try this out.
Zarah Maria said…
Hi Sam! Good to see you around! Can't wait to read about (and make!) your chilisauce - I have about a ton of different little jars stuck in the fridge with all sorts of stuff, but I'm sure noone will notice if there are two different chilisauces in there...Must - make - more - chilisauce!:-)
Barbara Fisher said…
That looks utterly divine, Zarah.

I'd leave chili seeds in it, but well, I like the fire.

I have a jar of homemade Chinese chile oil on my countertop that has kept forever.

The sauce most likely will never go "bad" in the fridge, in part, because you have salt and sugar in it, which are preservatives, and the garlic, chiles and ginger all have antibiotic properties. So, I wouldn't worry over it much.
Anonymous said…
I love sweet chili sauce. This looks fabulous.
Anonymous said…
I made this sauce a couple of years ago in the UK and couldn't for the life of me find the recipe again here in NZ. Thanks for reminding me where it was from - Peter Gordon (the NZ legend!!)
Can I just add that it must be the sugar and the vinegar that make it such a great keeper - you really can keep it for almost EVAH !!!!
Anonymous said…
4 tablespoons of water to 1 1/2 cup of caster sugar? is that correct?
Anonymous said…
wow- really good and with no nasty preservatives.... thank you soo much my family love it... by the way it,s really good for Coelaics who usually find it difficult to buy "bought" sauces because of the gluten..
Janie (chef) Sydney Australia
Anonymous said…
Just made some with items to hand, so used about 20 small birdseye chillies, whole, (I like hot) ordinary vinegar, left out the galangal and substituted lemon for lime leaves.

It still turned out spectacular, both in taste and heat!.

Thanks for putting the recipe up, it puts those store-bought sweet chilli sauces to shame.
Zarah Maria said…
Wow - this is fast becoming my most searched for recipe! I'm glad you're all so happy with it. I just wanted to add that yes, indeed, 4 tablespoons water to 1½ cup caster sugar - the sugar dissolves and melts, so you don't need anymore water, and theres plenty of fluids in the vinegar and tamari. Now, have to make a new batch myself - maybe with some new pictures, ahem...:-)
Rach said…
has *anyone* *ever* made this with green chillies? We have an abundance of them in our garden and I'm keen to give it a go.

And yes I found you when I googled!
Marie said…
I've come across your blog through a google search. My dh grew some chillis this summer and is after a chilli sauce recipe. I've printed it out so that he can make it. Thank you.
Alanna Kellogg said…
I'm here from Google search too, nice to come upon a much-trusted resource, Zarah Maria! I do believe this will go on the 'must can' list for later in the summer ...
Anonymous said…
I don't think I have as much willpower and patience to make such a sauce. But I give you great praise for executing it perfectly. I rarely use the chili sauce for eggrolls (which is one of the most traditional ways to serve it). I use it as an everyday condiment especially as an alternative to ketchup. But I'd like to see if I can actually use it as part of a marinade for poultry and fish...hmmm. Hmm..I have a recipe calling for spicy mango chutney which I don't have on me, maybe this chili sauce could work instead. Again great work and great blog.
Anonymous said…
What a recipe! I echo the other readers comments.
Anonymous said…
You like your sauce sweeeet!! :)
I used only a couple of tablespoons of sugar and it was really good for me (although my wife said she would have liked it a bit sweeter). Hmmm... maybe the ladies like their sauce sweeter than the guys?
Anonymous said…
Great recipe! More expensive than buying it, but sooo much better. I did get a bit of a fright when boiling the sugar - all of a sudden it boiled hard (all the water had evaporated) but no worries - once the other liquids were added it was ok again.
Anonymous said…
I also came to the recipe via Google - I am starting to sell stuff at Farmers' Markets, and I think this will be a winner! WIll look at more of your recipes, and the idea with Creme Fraiche etc sounds delicious! SUsanne
Anonymous said…
i have been on a real kick lately to make many of the store bought equivalents of the foods i enjoy to reduce my processed crap intake! and this looks like a winner for sweet chili sauce.

i am just wondering when you mention 4x large red chilis are those mostly sweet tasting (not capsiums)? i usually find the larger the chili pepper the less hot (as in spice) and more sweet it seems to taste to me.

i wish i could see what your version of a large hot chili pepper is.

i cook almost exclusively thai food and i use the small bird chilis regularly... i wonder how many of those i should substitute in place of the larger red chilis mentioned?

to make 3 x 250ml jars of sauce i will start with maybe 30 of the smaller red bird chilis so i will get the kick of about 10 chilis per jar and let you know my results.
Zarah Maria said…
So a bit of update on this recipe - or rather, I wanted to point those of you coming here to a post with new photos here - the sauce really deserves some prettier pictures to accompany it, it's worth it!:)

And my size chilies are about 10 cm. (3 inches?) long, 1 cm. in diameter-ish. Like these. I believe they're called cayenne. Around here, they're everywhere :)
Anonymous said…
Hello Zarah. Thank you kindly for this recipe, I have personally tried 13 various recipes in the past year. And this is by far the best I have come across. This is high praise from a Journyman graduated Chef. Been proffesionally cooking now 13years. And as I said at the top Thank you kindly. I am so glad that I stumbled across this recipe. So will my close friends on my next dinner party.
Anonymous said…
Mmmm. Another use for chilli sauce - thin it with a little lime or lemon juice and use it for dipping spring rolls or rice paper rolls in - yum!
Anonymous said…
Best sweet chili sauce I had in my life! It was sooo good, I made a pizza inspired by this sauce
Sheila said…
I have made this every year now for the past three years, I usually make it at the end of summer/beginning of fall when the peppers are growing nicely in my garden. It seems the Thai market has the other fresh ingredients I need about that same time as well. I have adjusted the hotness to our liking, but use it pretty much as written.

I can it in jelly jars; using a water bath method and holding the jars at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes. It keeps fine sitting on the shelf then. I get requests for it all the time from friends with whom I have shared this product.

Wonderful. Just wanted to let you know that it can be water bathed and held out of the fridge with no problem. Of course it does not usually last more than a year...OH yes, I usually make 4 to 8 times the amount listed in this recipe.

THANKS for a fun and delicious recipe!!
Sanook said…
We are a little behind times I see, but never mind. My husband just found and used your recipe. We are in South Africa and grow some of the ingredients ourselves, lemon grass, ginger, galangal, so it wasn't too hard to find the other ingredients. No other comments mention the smell? Why? I couldn't believe how much it smells just like Thailand, absolutely wonderful. Can't wait for it to cool so we can eat it.
Anu said…
A wonderful recipe, I just spent my Sunday here in Finland making a four portion amount of sweet chili sauce. I have grown chili for two years, and now the crop has been so enormous, something had to be done. I missed many of the incredients, e.g. lime leaves, fresh coriander (used dried seeds instead), even tamarin had to be replaced by ordinary soy sauce. For health reasons I replaced half of the sugar with brown sugars. Never the less, the result is hot and lovely, the family ate fried potatoes and meat with sweet chili sauce for dinner! Thanks for the guiding text!
Juliet said…
I found out the hard way that using dried lemongrass is not recommended, even though I soaked it for a bit in boiling water. Maybe a super-duper blender could've handled it, but mine sure didn't, and I ended up picking out the biggest bits by hand :(
Otherwise, a very good recipe, thank you!
Unknown said…
Ah, wonderful recipe. Thanks for sharing!

I cooked it this weekend - using red thai-chilies as that's what I had at home. I substituted 15 red thai chilies for the amount in the recipe.

And of course no fish sauce, since I'm a vegetarian.

Delicious with roasted tofu and potato wedges (should have had some sour cream as well - that would have been great)
Anonymous said…
Thanks Zara for that phantastic recipie. I'm about to make my second batch - as presents - for this year. I'll never buy Chili sauce again, unless there is no chilis available - hahahaha
Sheila said…
Have been making this for about three or four summers now. are many of my friends. When I make it I at least times the recipe by six, and usually have a dinner party with friends over. Some folks don't even wait for it to cool to eat it. I like it on rice, dumplings, pork, chicken, potatoes, I make just about any excuse to use it. :) (I have one friend who eats it with chips like a salsa.)

Also, I can mine in a water bath and it keeps for more than a year on the shelf with my other canned produce, fruits, soups, sauces, etc. :) It makes the winter a little warmer and everyone a little happier. All my friends expect a little jar in their Christmas stocking. :)

I do have some difficulty finding the ingredients...there is ONE little thai store on the south side of Columbus where I can get the lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass all fresh (speaking of which it is past time for a visit there).

THANK YOU for sharing this recipe!!!!
Unknown said…
I love this recipe and have passed it on to so many friends, who also love it. I now have to make 4 x lots each time as each of my children want some.......Mum always obliges. I do not use so much sugar in mine and always leave in the chilli seeds, I like it hot! Thank-you so much for sharing, I love the flavours and the smell that lingers in the house when cooking it. Neighbours are always asking what I have been cooking as the smells obviously permeate outside, some of the lucky ones end up with a small you can see the need to make more than one lot. Thank-you again for a great recipe, I will love it for EVAH!

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