What can I substitute for Thai chili paste?  

Thai Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp
Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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"What can I substitue for Thai chili paste in recipes? Are Thai chili paste and Chinese chili paste interchangeable?

The biggest difference between Thai and Chinese chili paste is that Thai chili paste usually includes shrimp paste and or fish sauce and often tamarind, which gives it a sour, tart note. Chinese chili paste is generally made from ground chilis, salt, oil and sometimes garlic. There is definitely a difference in flavor, but if your recipe calls for just a little–say, less than 1/2 teaspoon–of either one, it will probably only affect the outcome in a subtle way.

Spicy Thai Shrimp Soup is an example of a recipe where this substitution would work just fine.

Marge Perry
Mar, 2012

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