Vietnamese chili sauce

Vietnamese chili sauce/paste

Chili sauce is a common condiment in Vietnamese cuisine. It is used as a spice in various dishes including fried sausage, roasted dried squids, pho, grilled minced pork, fried potato chips, etc…

In Vietnamese, chili sauce is called tương ớt. Tương is a generic word for paste or sauce depending on thickness of the condiment texture, ớt means chili pepper. However, there are actually several styles of chili sauce, or tương ớt.


Traditional chili sauce is popularly sold in the market from famous brands to family-owned manufacturers. It is made of fresh chilli peppers (often the cayenne pepper cultivar in Vietnam), some tomatoes, some garlic and a little vinegar (probably for preserving purposes). The taste of this traditional tương ớt is sweeter and less pungent than a US chili sauce brand Siriracha. This sauce is used in many dishes that call for a hot sauce.

ingredients for traditional chili sauce
Ingredients for traditional chili sauce


  • 500 g (1.1 lbs) fresh chili pepper, often cayenne pepper, soaked in briny water for 15 mins then drained
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 1 garlic bulb, thinly sliced
  • 100 g (3½ oz) sugar
  • 20 g (¾- oz) salt
  • 50 ml vinegar


  1. Submerge fresh chili pepper, garlic slices, and tomato wedges submerged in water in a pot, and bring it to a boil. Boil for 2 mins and drain.
  2. Blend the mixture in a blender. Do not blend for too long, or puree it. Pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any lumps.
  3. Heat the sauce in a pan on low heat. Add sugar, salt and vinegar, then stir well until the ingredients are dissolved and the sauce thickens.
Vietnamese traditional chili sauce
Vietnamese traditional chili sauce

Huế-style chili sauce (Tương ớt Huế)

This version of chili sauce is originated from Huế, an old capital of Vietnam in Central Region. Compared to the traditional chili sauce, Huế chili sauce has some extra ingredients: fish sauce and cooking oil. This chili sauce is used in Huế cuisine dishes, and probably the standard chili sauce in Bún bò Huế, a spicy noodle dish.


  • 1 kg (2 lbs + 3 oz) fresh chili, stem removed, soaked in briny water if necessary, rinsed and drained
  • 200 g (7 oz) garlic, peeled, crushed then minced
  • 100 ml fish sauce
  • 500 g (1 lb + 1½ oz) sugar
  • 20 g (¾- oz) salt
  • 100 ml cooking oil
  • glass jar


  1. Ground the chili peppers coarsely as the final chili sauce/paste should be a little flaky.
  2. In a saucepan on medium heat, heat the cooking oil and sautée half the minced garlic. Add the chili paste and stir well.
    Add fish sauce, and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Cook until the solution is reduced to a slimy texture, then turn off the heat.
  3. In another saucepan, heat some oil and sautée the remaining minced garlic, then turn off the heat.
  4. Wait until all your pastes are cooled off. In a glass jar, add the chili paste and the oily garlic paste. Mix well.
Hue chili sauce
Hue chili sauce

Sa Tế Sauce

Sa tế sauce is inspired from Teochew shacha sauce, however the two are not the same as the latter has no dried shrimp or fish. The Vietnamese sa tế is often used as marinade in grill dishes. It can also be added to other condiment to add the spicy taste, for example soy cheese.


300 g (10½ oz) bird’s eye chilis
200 g (7 oz) tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped
1 garlic bulb, peeled, thinly sliced
4 dried Asian shallot bulbs, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roasted sesame
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 g (3½ oz) sugar
cooking oil


  1. Soak the bird’s eye chilis in briny water for about 15 mins then drain. Blanch the chilis for 2-3 mins then soak in water to retain the red color. Finely chopped the chilis.
  2. Blend the finely-chopped chilis and tomatoes with 100 ml water.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil and sautée the garlic and shallots. Add the tomato-chili paste together with sugar and salt. Stir well and cook for about 30 mins until the paste thickens.
  4. Finally, add the roasted sesame, and mix well and let the paste cool off before stuffing into a glass jar.
Sa tế sauce
Sa tế sauce

Hội An Style Chili Sauce (Tương Ớt Hội An)

Originated from Hội An, this chili sauce is rather hot as it normally includes chili seeds. The recipe calls for a mixture of cow-horn cayenne pepper and bird’s eye chili pepper. Other ingredients are garlics (optinally with Asian shallots), fish sauce, annatto oil, brown sugar, cooking oil.


  • 200 g (7 oz) cow-horn cayenne pepper
  • 100 g (3½ oz) bird’s eye chili pepper
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, about 100 g (3½ oz).
  • 100 g (3½ oz) garlic, peeled, ground or minced
  • 4-5 purple Asian shallots, thinly sliced
  • 100 g (3½ oz) brown sugar
  • 100 ml fish sauce
  • 90 ml cooking oil, usually peanut oil in Vietnam
  • 10 ml annatto oil for coloring
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water


  1. Use gloves and maybe goggles to protect yourself.
  2. Rinse the chilis, use a knife to cut the cow-horn chili lengthwise.
  3. Bring a pot of water with some salt to a boul and add all the chilis to blanch for about 3 mins and take an ice bath afterwards. Chop the chilis into small pieces
  4. Peel the tomatoes and chop them into small pieces.
  5. Blend the tomatoes and chilis in a fruit blender and set aside for later use.
  6. In a saucepan, add some oil and sautee the garlic and shallots, then scoop them out and set aside for later use.
  7. Add the tomato-chili mixture into the saucepan. Add brown sugar, fish sauce, salt, and annatto oil, then stir well. Cook on low heat for 45-50 mins until the sauce gets dehydrated and thickens. Now add the sauteed garlic back, and stir for 1-2 mins.
  8. Turn off the heat, and add some roasted white sesame seeds if available.
hoi an chili sauce
Hoi An chili sauce
hoi an chili sauce with roasted sesame seeds
Hoi An chili sauce with roasted sesame seeds


This green chili pepper sauce has a unique pungent smell and taste. It is originated from Nha Trang, a coastal city in Central Vietnam, and is often used as a dipping sauce for seafood boil or grill.

green birds eye chili
green birds eye chili


  • 50 g (1¾ oz) green bird’s eye chilis, rinsed then drained
  • 25 g condensed milk
  • 25 g sugar
  • 15 g salt
  • 1 lime, seeds removed, cut into 4 wedges
  • 10 fresh lime leaves, rinsed then drained, sliced into thin threads


Add chiffonaded lime leaves, green chilis, sugar, salt, lime wedges, and condensed milk into a blender. Puree the mixture.

Vietnamese green chilli sauce
Vietnamese green chilli sauce


There are still several types of hot sauce in Vietnam.

  • Preserved apricot sauce or Tương xí muội: a mixture of dried and salted apricots with minced ginger, chili and garlic (with some salt and sugar).
  • Đà Nẵng sweet chili sauce: As its name suggests, it is sweeter. You can make this sauce with chilis, tomatoes, garlic and shallots, and sugar.
  • Mường Khương chili sauce: This is the most complicated chili sauce which is originated in mountainous Northwestern Vietnam. It consists of bird’s eye chilis and a lot of local spicy or aromatic ingredients like tsaoko cardamon, cinnamon barks, dill seeds, etc. It is probably the hottest chili sauce in Vietnam.

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