New This Month

Six Spicy Sauces From Around the Globe to Add Heat to Your Cooking

Keep these international condiments in the kitchen for when recipes require a kick.

Associate Digital Food Editor
gochujang
Photography by: Janelle Jones

From Sriracha on eggs to Tabasco with red beans and rice, there are so many ways to use chile-based sauces and condiments. We're certainly not alone in our love of hot, spicy sauces: Countries all around the globe have their own versions—and not just for finishing a cooked dish. They're used for adding a kick to marinades, sauces, stews, and lots more. From the western coast of South America to eastern Europe to the far east of Asia, chile-based sauces and pastes are part of culinary culture. Here are seven spicy classics to add to your pantry.

 

Related: What Can I Do with What I Have? An Ingredient-Based Approach to Cooking Every Home Chef Should Adopt

 

Sambal Oelek (Indonesia)

Sambal oelek is made with just three ingredients—crushed raw red chiles, a little vinegar, and salt. That's it! This traditional condiment is used throughout Southeast Asia to add heat and flavor to grilled meats and fish, noodle dishes, curries, and vegetable stir-fries. Compared to other chile-based products such as Sriracha, sambal oelek is thicker and chunkier. You'll find that it's widely available, so look for sambal oelek in grocery stores and Asian markets. 

 

Harissa (North Africa)

A hot chile pepper paste made from roasted red peppers, dried chile peppers plus aromatics such as garlic, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, and garlic. The ingredients are blended together with with olive oil to form a thick paste. Harissa is traditionally served with bread, couscous-based dishes, and meaty stews. Harissa can also be used as a rub on chicken wings, stirred into mayonnaise for a fiery finish, or spread onto puff pastry and topped with other bright, fragrant ingredients for a lively appetizer.

 

Gochujang (Korea)

This Korean staple is a fermented hot pepper paste that adds heat, a vibrant red color, and a touch of sweetness to many dishes. Its texture is similar to tomato paste but it has a much more complex, earthy flavor. Traditionally, gochujang is added to Korean-based dishes like Sweet and Sour Korean meatballs, Korean beef roast, or mixed into Kimchi Fried Rice. Gochujang is also delicious as a marinade or stirred into a Bolognese sauce for intense heat.

 

Piri-Piri (Portugal)

Made with fresh red bell peppers, red fresno chile peppers, chopped onions, paprika, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and garlic, piri-piri sauce has chunky consistency and fiery flavor. Piri-piri is best known as the vital ingredient in Portugal's most famous chicken dish, frango piri piri, which is butterflied chicken that gets marinated in the sauce, then roasted or grilled. In addition to chicken, try slathering piri piri on shrimp or ribs, too.

 

Nam Prik Pao (Thailand)

The Thai chile jam known as nam prik pao is made with ground chiles, garlic, shrimp paste, sugar, fish sauce, and shallots. The seafood-based ingredients give nam prik pao an intense umami flavor. Traditionally, nam prik pao is used in stir-fries, chicken soup, or served simply as a dipping sauce.

 

Aji Amarillo (Peru)

The pungent yellow chile pepper, aji amarillo, has an intense heat but a unique fruity flavor. It is made into a paste that is popular for mixing into sauces and soups but the chile, which is native to South America, is also sold fresh, canned, and dried.