Sweet, savory, spicy, tangy, and sticky, all at the same time, this Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (Nam Chim Kai) is a versatile Asian sauce that gets ready in 10 minutes and can be stored for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Make this Asian staple using my easy recipe (gluten-free, can be easily made vegan).
Here are some more homemade sauces that you may like – Cilantro Chimichurri, Homemade Pizza Sauce, Bechamel Sauce, Homemade Thai Peanut Sauce, Creamy Garlic Parmesan Sauce, and Chinese Schezwan Sauce.
About This Recipe
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (Asian Sweet Chili Sauce, Nam Chim Kai) is a traditional Asian condiment that is sweet, savory, spicy, and sticky, all at the same time. It is a very versatile gluten-free sauce that is extensively used in Asian cuisine, especially Thai and Vietnamese.
It is easily available at the grocery stores and supermarkets these days but making it at home makes a lot of sense because,
- Homemade is free of additives, artificial colors, and preservatives
- Much Cheaper.
- Quick and Easy to make.
- Use basic ingredients which are available easily.
- Taste much better than the store-bought stuff.
- Adaptable. You can control the quantity you want to make and also the spice level. The thickness of the sauce can be controlled too. You can keep it thick for dipping and thin for stir-frying.
- Can be easily doubled or tripled. It can be made in a big batch and refrigerated.
- Comes together in 10 minutes and can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. It’s great for canning too.
I also have a version of this sauce with pineapple. Do check out Pineapple Chili Sauce.
Sugar – Traditionally, granulated white sugar is used to make this sauce. You can replace white sugar with honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, or brown rice syrup if you wish to. Since these options are liquid, you will have to add a little extra cornstarch.
Make the sauce sugar-free by replacing sugar with stevia. 4 to 5 drops of stevia should be good enough to sweeten the sauce.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce. If you have a corn allergy, then replace cornstarch with potato starch or tapioca flour.
Garlic – Garlic adds a lot of flavor to this sauce.
Red Pepper Flakes – Pepper flakes (red chili flakes) are added for that much-needed heat and spicy taste. You can increase or decrease the amount according to your taste.
Rice Vinegar – To add a little tanginess, add rice vinegar. If rice vinegar is not available, use regular white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. You can replace some or all of the vinegar with lime juice as well.
Fish Sauce – Fish sauce adds a nice umami kick to the sauce. Feel free to skip it for a vegan version. You can also replace it with soy sauce for the umami taste.
Sambal Oelek – Sambal Oelek is a chili paste made using a variety of chilies and some added ingredients like vinegar, shrimp paste, etc. It gives great depth to the sauce, but it is definitely not an essential ingredient. You can also replace it with red chili paste or Sriracha sauce.
The store-bought sauce mostly has xanthan gum added to it. It is a plant-based ingredient that has no side effects and it stabilizes the sauce (prevents it from splitting). You can add a teaspoon of it once the homemade sweet chili sauce is cooked.
How To Make Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Stir together 1 and ½ tablespoon cornstarch with ¼ cup water to make a slurry. Set aside.
Add ½ cup granulated white sugar, 2 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 cup water, ¼ cup rice vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2 teaspoon sambal oelek, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce to a saucepan and stir to combine.
Heat on medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir frequently while cooking.
Add the corn starch slurry and mix well.
Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring continuously.
Remove the pan from heat and let the sauce cool down. Transfer to a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Stir nicely and warm it in a microwave or a pan over the stovetop to room temperature before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
To make it vegan, skip adding fish sauce and replace sambal oelek with red chili paste.
Yes, you can either finely chop fresh red chilies or make their paste to use in the sauce. Fresh red chilies can be very hot, you can remove the seeds and then use the chilies to decrease the amount of heat. Some of the fresh chilies that can be used to make this sauce are Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies, Cayenne, Finger Hot peppers, and Red Jalapenos. Adjust the amount of these chilies according to their spice levels. Approx 2 tablespoon of chili paste should be good in the below-mentioned recipe.
You can also use dry red chilies to make this sauce. Just soak the dry red chilies in some water to rehydrate them. Make a coarse paste and then use it in place of red pepper flakes.
Always wear gloves while handling chilies to prevent burn.
I practically use it almost always to dip anything I am munching at.
In Thailand, this sauce is served with steamed rice and grilled chicken or pork. You roll the meat in rice, dip it in the sauce, and gobble.
I always serve it with my homemade Vietnamese summer rolls and scallion pancakes.
A cheesy sandwich goes on the next level after dipping into this sauce.
You can use it as a marinade for tofu, chicken, shrimps, fish like salmon or tilapia, or beef before grilling them.
I also like to mix some of it with Greek yogurt, cream cheese, or sour cream and churn up a quick dip for crackers and veggies.
Use it as a stir fry sauce for noodles and rice or veggies, chicken, and shrimp.
Apply a little chili sauce on wraps to give a nice after kick.
Toss mushrooms, carrots, and bell peppers in this Thai sweet chilli sauce and bake until done for delicious vegetarian sides.
If not refrigerated properly or the container is not clean, this sweet chilli sauce can go bad quickly. Make sure to use a clean glass jar to store the sauce and keep it in the refrigerator at all times. This way, the sauce can be kept for up to a month.
You can also freeze it for about 2 to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. Once you thaw the sauce, it will become semi-solid, but if you heat it up gently in a microwave or in a pan over the stovetop, it will return to the normal texture.
This sauce is great for canning too. I am not an expert in canning but I have seen people using the canned sauce all around the year.
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Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Recipe
- 1 and ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 and ¼ cups water (divided)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (add less for less spicy sauce)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (or regular white vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or red chili paste or Sriracha)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (skip or replace with soy sauce for vegan)
- Stir together cornstarch with ¼ cup water to make a slurry. Set aside.
- Add white sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 cup water, rice vinegar, salt, ketchup, sambal oelek, and fish sauce to a saucepan and stir to combine.
- Heat on medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir frequently while cooking.
- Add the cornstarch slurry and mix well.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring continuously.
- Remove the pan from heat and let the sauce cool down. Transfer in a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Stir nicely and warm it in a microwave or a pan over the stovetop to room temperature before serving.