Calabrian Chili Paste Substitute – Spice It Up With These Alternatives

Can’t find Calabrian chili paste for your recipe? Don’t stress! You can mimic that savory spicy flavor with a few easy substitutes you likely have on hand.

Calabrian paste combines heat and tang from ripened chili peppers, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Capture that profile with:

  • Harissa – Smoky, garlicky North African chili paste. Swap 1:1.
  • Sambal oelek – Chili-garlic paste from Indonesia. Same heat, use same amount.
  • Sriracha – Garlicky, tangy Thai chili sauce. Replace measure for measure.
  • Chopped chilies – Use more volume of jalapeños, serranos etc. Add garlic and oil.
  • Chili flakes – Use 3-4X amount. Rehydrate in oil first.

These alternatives mimic the general flavor and heat. Adjust amounts based on spice level. With the right sub, your Calabrian-less dish will still deliver big flavor!

What Is Calabrian Chili Paste?

First, let’s look at what gives Calabrian chili paste its distinctive spicy-savory profile. This condiment hails from Italy’s hot and sunny Calabria region, where spicy foods thrive.

It’s made primarily from Calabrian chilies – a variety of small, red, ultra-piquant chilies. These ripened peppers get blended into a thick, spreadable paste along with:

  • Garlic
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Minced carrots
  • Olive oil

So Calabrian chili paste delivers a nice balance of heat, tanginess, and savoriness. The result is an extremely versatile condiment that livens up tons of recipes.

Why Substitute for Calabrian Chili Paste?

Calabrian chili paste might not always be easy to find depending on where you live. So what are some good flavor stand-ins? Here are reasons you may need a substitute:

  • You run out of the paste before re-stocking
  • Your regular grocery store doesn’t carry it
  • You need a quick swap for a recipe
  • You want to tone down or amp up the heat level

Luckily, a few easy-to-find alternatives mimic the general Calabrian paste profile quite well.

Harissa Chili Paste

Topping the list of stand-ins is the North African chili paste harissa. It offers the closest match for:

  • Flavor – Savory, garlicky, moderately spicy
  • Texture – Thick, spreadable paste
  • Heat level – Medium to hot

Harissa combines smoked chilies with garlic, olive oil, caraway, coriander, cumin, and mint. Use it measure-for-measure in place of Calabrian paste.

Some easy recipe swaps include:

  • Stir into tomato sauce, pizza dough, mashed potatoes
  • Slather on sandwiches instead of mayo
  • Use as a rub or marinade for meat and tofu

You can find harissa with other international foods or in the ethnic section of large grocers. Add it to your pantry pronto!

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

Another excellent stand-in is the Indonesian chili paste sambal oelek. It’s made simply from ground chilies, vinegar, salt and sometimes garlic or shallots.

Key attributes that match Calabrian paste well:

  • Red color – From ripened chilies
  • Smooth texture – Thick and spreadable
  • Spicy heat – Often a similar Scoville rating

Use sambal oelek in place of Calabrian paste at a 1:1 ratio. It shines in recipes like:

  • Stir fries – Mix intosauce ingredients
  • Dressings and marinades – Swap for all or some of the chili paste
  • Chili or stews – Add complexity and heat

With a short ingredient list, sambal oelek lets the chili flavors shine. Look for it near other Asian sauces and pastes at the market.

Sriracha Chili Sauce

The wildly popular rooster sauce Sriracha also makes a solid Calabrian paste substitute. This Thai condiment contains chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.

Sriracha is similar in these ways:

  • Tangy and sweet – From vinegar and sugar
  • Garlic notes – Contains freshly minced garlic
  • Thick consistency – Smooth and spreadable
  • Moderately spicy – Usually not radically hot

Substitute Sriracha in a 1:1 ratio for Calabrian paste. Shake bottles before using, as separation can occur. Sriracha’s sweetness may alter flavor slightly.

Fresh Chopped Chili Peppers

When paste isn’t available, turn to raw chopped chili peppers. Pick a variety with equal or greater heat intensity. Some good options:

  • Jalapeños – Hotter than Calabrians with similar green color
  • Serranos – Very pungent; often substituted for Calabrians
  • Red Thai chilies – Small, very spicy red peppers

Use more chopped chilies than you would paste to account for moisture content. Consider adding garlic, oil or vinegar to approximate the flavor profile of Calabrian paste.

Chili Flakes or Powder

Dried and crushed chili peppers offer a quick substitute for Calabrian paste. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Flakes – Use about triple the amount of paste. Rehydrate in oil or water first.
  • Powder – Use about quadruple the amount of paste. Mix into a paste with oil and garlic first.
  • Heat level – Pick spicy varieties comparable to Calabrians, like cayenne, arbol, or pequin.

These options work great in a pinch, but rehydrating dried peppers first yields better texture and flavor. Dried spices also lose potency over time.

Milder Roasted Peppers

If you want less heat than Calabrian paste, use mild roasted peppers like:

  • Poblano
  • Anaheim
  • Banana peppers
  • Mini sweet peppers

Roast peppers until charred then blend into a paste with garlic and oil. Add chili flakes or cayenne if you want some heat. Use more volume than you would Calabrian paste to compensate for moisture.

Recipes To Try Calabrian Substitutes

Now that you know the best paste stand-ins, here are some tasty recipes to try them with:

Harissa Shakshuka

Add harissa to the poaching sauce for eggs in this savory Turkish breakfast dish.

Sambal Oelek Beef Stir Fry

Stir sambal oelek into the sauce ingredients like soy, oyster sauce, and rice vinegar.

Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

Toss fried wings in a spicy Sriracha glaze with honey, garlic, and lime.

Jalapeño Corn Guacamole

Mix finely diced grilled jalapeños into chunky avocado guacamole.

Chili Flake Focaccia

Sprinkle hot chili flakes and garlic over olive oil coated focaccia before baking.

Poblano Mashed Potatoes

Blend fire-roasted poblano peppers into creamy mashed potatoes.

Discover Your Perfect Calabrian Substitute

Can’t find Calabrian chili paste? No worries – you’ve got options! Harissa, sambal oelek, and other pepper stand-ins let you recreate its savory heat.

Hopefully now you feel equipped to spice up recipes with or without Calabrian paste. Test out different substitutes until you find your favorites.

Just remember to adjust amounts based on the heat level and moisture content of your swap. Your food may end up even more flavorful than the original recipe!

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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