How to make: Homemade sweet chili sauce

Dipping sauces are very much a part of the Asian culinary tradition. I’ve mentioned a few in an old post — yes, with recipes — and I am adding another. Sweet chili sauce. We have tried at least half a dozen brands of sweet chili sauce, both local and imported, and the only one we like is Pantai, a Thai brand. The sweetness is just right, it is syrupy rather than thick and lumpy, and it comes in at least two varieties, one for meat and another for seafood. The other brands we’ve tried are either bland or contain a lot of starch, or both. And the starch is just so wrong because it makes the sauce lumpy.

The problem is that Pantai sweet chili sauce is not always available in the groceries in our neighborhood. And driving down to the city for a bottle of sweet chili sauce is too impractical and expensive. And even in the groceries in the city, supply is, at best, hit and miss. So I learned to make sweet chili sauce from scratch. No artificial color, no artificial flavorings, no extenders and thickeners, no preservatives. And that makes it even better than Pantai.

Recipe: Sweet chili sauce


  • 7 bird’s eye chilies (see notes after the recipe for an explanation about the amount)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • a thumb-sized knob of ginger
  • 1 c. of white sugar
  • 2 tsps. of salt
  • 1 tbsp. of rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest


  1. Homemade sweet chili sauce
  2. Peel the garlic and the ginger. Cut of the tops of the chilies and discard. Chop the ginger, garlic and chilies.
  3. Place the sugar in a thick-bottomed pot. Add the chopped garlic, chilies and ginger, and the salt.
  4. Homemade sweet chili sauce
  5. Pour in the rice wine vinegar or lemon juice and add the lemon zest. The vinegar or lemon juice and the salt will create the contrast to prevent the sauce from tasting irritatingly sweet. The lemon zest will give the sauce a pleasant aroma.
  6. Homemade sweet chili sauce
  7. Pour in a cup of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  8. Set over medium heat, bring to the boil then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes.
  9. Homemade sweet chili sauce
  10. The sweet chili sauce will appear watery after 10 to 12 minutes of cooking. DO NOT be tempted to cook it much longer. The sauce will turn syrupy as it cools. If you cook it until it is thick, by the time it cools, it will harden and not pourable at all.
  11. Homemade sweet chili sauce
  12. Cool the sweet chili sauce and enjoy.
  13. If you’re wondering what the tiny black specks in the sauce is, that’s vanilla. You don’t have to add any. It’s just that we throw in vanilla beans into our jars of white sugar so all the white sugar in the house have those little black specks.
  14. To store, pour the sauce into a jar (you can transfer it into a bottle but you will need to use a funnel). Cover and keep in the fridge.
  15. Don’t ask me how long it will keep in the fridge — that will vary on the temperature of your fridge and how you use the sauce. If foreign objects get inside the jar every time you take some the sauce (as when you use greasy spoons), the freshness will be affected. The vinegar or lemon juice in it should act as natural preservative but nothing lasts forever.
  16. Don’t ask me if it will stay good without refrigeration because that is something I have not, and will not, try (ants here can wiggle their way into tightly covered jars and bottles).

Quick Notes

Vary the amount of the chilies to modify the intensity of the heat of the sauce. Roughly, 2 to 3 chilies will yield a mildly hot sauce; 6 to 7 chilies will give you a very hot sauce.

To make sweet and sour sauce, follow the same recipe but increase the amount of vinegar to 1/4 cup and reduce the amount of water to 3/4 cup.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): about 1 cup


  1. Jill says

    your one cup of sugar vs homemade starchy vs preservative laden store bought chili sauce. let the battle of the chili sauce commence.

  2. says

    Hi Connie,

    Another thank you for this recipe. We Bicolanos usually have something spicy with our meals, whether its the veggies or the dip. I remember saying that your sweet and spicy bihon was going to be a success, and it was, even with the kids loved it. I expect it will happen again with this homemade sweet chili sauce. Am just wondering how often I would have to do this once they have a taste.

    Less expensive, less preservatives, and you can adjust the intensity of the spiciness…knowing my family, I might have to use more chilies. Thanks again, will do this over the weekend.

  3. Jo from Brazil says

    Great recipe. I made it yesterday and everybody loved it today. I put a bit too much of ginger because of the “thumb” measure – I put a whole thumb – but it was OK anyway

  4. Emily says

    Thanks very much for this. I have always loved sweet chilli sauce but have recently been paying more attention to labels and don’t buy it anymore because of all the other rubbish in it. I can finally eat it again! And this recipe was great, thanks!!

  5. Tareq Zeyad says

    Hi Connie,

    I will try to make it today … it seems great recipe , …. actually I love sweet chili sauce with Fish and shrimps also. :)

    Thank you

  6. marilyn oliman says

    thank you connie , even simple dish makes more appetizing using your sweet chile garlic sauce recipe, amazing.. more power ..

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