Tương Ớt Tỏi – Vietnamese Chili-Garlic Sauce




Many of you are probably familiar with the ubiquitous green-lidded bottle of chili-garlic sauce that is sold at most Asian grocery stores. With its trademark rooster image stamped on the front, it’s a common sight in many Vietnamese (and non-Vietnamese) homes. Our family always had a jar of this sitting in our refrigerator door, right next to the ketchup and mustard bottles.

Combined with lime, sugar and fish sauce, it made for an easy nước chắm (Vietnanese dipping sauce) or a quick topping to stir-fried noodles and soups whenever fresh chilies were out. Up until recently, I had not considered making my own. The stuff in the bottle was not quite as good as fresh chilis but it was convenient and handy to have around.

I came across a method for a raw version and a cooked version online and it seemed easy enough. Also, I had purchased a 3lb crate of fresh cayenne at the farmer’s market. Three pounds of cayenne . Well, it was a moment of weakness. They called to me with their red siren song. And so here I am, chopping up more chilies than any Sri Lankan mama!

Just kidding. Anyway, with that ample supply, I decided to make both versions. It was actually pretty easy and quick to put together. Most of the work was cutting up the chilis and peeling the garlic. From there, adding the rest of the ingredients into the food processor took little time.

I’m very pleased with the results. They of course, have a fresh taste that is far better than the store-bought jar. Both sauces have a heady aroma and a heck of a kick to them. I thought that the cooked version would be slightly tamer but I find the chili flavor to be even sharper and the garlic a bit more pronounced in that one. The raw chili sauce, however, has an earthy quality and less of a sweet edge than the cooked sauce (it had less sugar added).

I’m sure this is something I’ll be able to do from now on. So, adieu, little rooster!





adapted from Chuck of SundayNitedinner 

INGREDIENTS: (raw version)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. red, hot chilis (cayenne, thai, serrano, jalapeño, etc), roughly chopped with stems removed & discarded
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbl. sugar
  • 6 Tbl. white vinegar


  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended but still coarse in texture.
  • Taste the sauce and add salt/sugar if needed.
  • Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate.
  • Makes approx. 2 cups.

INGREDIENTS: (cooked version)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. red, hot chilis (cayenne, thai, serrano, jalapeño, etc), roughly chopped with stems removed & discarded
  • 15 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbl. sugar
  • 6 Tbl. white vinegar


  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended but still coarse in texture.
  • Transfer the mixture to a sauce pan on med. heat and bring to a rolling boil. Then, adjust the heat to low and simmer for approximately 5 minutes – or until the sauce loses its raw smell. Taste the sauce and add salt/sugar if needed.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  • Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate.
  • Makes approx. 2 cups.

Bon appétit!


15 Responses to “Tương Ớt Tỏi – Vietnamese Chili-Garlic Sauce”

  1. Jen Says:

    I love this sauce. My father has this stuff coursing through his veins instead of blood 🙂 I never even thought about a recipe for it! Thanks for posting (and making) it. Looks fantastic – and now I am getting hungry for something spicy. I love salty or spicy in the morning over sweet anyday.

  2. Natalie Says:

    I’ve been looking for a reliable recipe for this sauce for a long time! Thank you for posting (and testing) it. I love this sauce so much that one summer I decided to grow a dozen cayenne pepper plants on my balcony JUST so I can make this spicy sauce. How crazy is that?

  3. Cindy Says:

    Ahhh they look so fresh!
    No more need to buy those bottles in the grocery store!

  4. Dane Says:

    is it edible or is it absurdly spicy? Anyway, I love garlic and spices, must be a delicious sauce. 🙂

  5. k b Says:

    what’s the difference in flavour between the cooked and uncooked versions? I’d imagine the cooked one is slightly mellower, but I’m curious on your opinion. Which one do you prefer?

  6. holybasil Says:

    Your father sounds like an awesome person! I also prefer salty & spicy over sweet, especially for breakfast. I would much rather have a bowl of Phở with lots of hot chilies than bread and jam even though I love bread and jam.
    I think it’s great that you grew your own cayenne – on a balcony, no less! I hope I can do the same next year.
    Thanks. These last me quite some time, for sure.
    It’s definitely edible. How spicy might also depend on the type of chilis used and also individual taste. For me, it’s indeed spicy, but not so much that it burned my taste buds or anything. I put 1 tsp. in my chicken noodle soup and it was great.
    Fuaad alattas,
    I’m glad you like this sauce, it’s fantastic.
    I actually thought the raw one was more mellow somehow. I tasted several times to be sure and I still think that is the case (for me anyway). I guess I prefer the cooked one because its higher sugar content is a better balance in my opinon.

  7. tavo Says:

    Our eight-year-old son is a hot sauce fanatic. One of the godmums dropped by with a pound or so of red jalapeños yesterday and I made him a batch of the uncooked sauce. He ate four big spoonfuls, had a glass of milk and went out to play. EndorphinBoy strikes again.

  8. holybasil Says:

    Wow – I can’t believe your 8 yr-old ate four big spoonfuls of this! Amazing. Well, I”m glad he liked it. Red jalapeños are really great if you can score them. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Hillary Says:

    Chili sauce with garlic?! Very very interesting. Looks awesome.

  10. mycookinghut Says:

    This reminds me of my aunty’s version of chili-garlic sauce (malaysian version)!

  11. Cathy Says:

    I have been thinking about making a raw chilli sauce and came across this ! Great stuff 🙂 Can you please tell me how long is it’s shelf life? Do you actually need to cook preserves for them to last or to just add the vinegar enough ?

  12. holybasil Says:

    Mycookinghut –
    What do you call the Malaysian version?

    Cathly –
    I have to look into the shelf life of this sauce…I’m not certain, but I don’t think the cooking process preserves them significantly more. I’ve had this sauce for a month now, and it’s still fine… I”ll try to find more solid info, though. Thanks for asking that!

  13. Chuck Says:

    I’m glad you like the raw version. The recipe Andrea created was based on my parents’ recipe, which uses habanero peppers. We like it hot in our family!

    Shelf life? I’ve had jars of homemade chili garlic sauce for 6+ months without any issues. I don’t know if the FDA would agree, but as long as there’s enough vinegar, the chili sauce lasts a long time in the fridge.

  14. dubdoc Says:

    I imagine with the vinegar and the salt you should be good for months and months. If canned properly probably a year. I’m not sure who’d keep it around that long if they are interested in it enough to make their own. Never lasts me that long.

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