Red chilli paste is a spicy condiment used as the base for chillies in many hot dishes. It is made by crushing dried red chilli peppers, occasionally adding other ingredients, to make a thick paste. The type of red chilli peppers used in the paste and the inclusion of any additional ingredients will determine the heat level of the paste. Choose a substitute based on your tolerance of chilli pepper heat.
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Red pepper flakes
For every 15 ml (1 tbsp) of red chilli paste required in your recipe, use 5 ml (1 tsp) of red pepper flakes instead. Add the flakes early in the cooking process to hydrate the dried flakes and bring out their flavour.
Cayenne pepper ground into a fine powder has a spicier kick to it than red pepper flakes or red chilli paste. When replacing the red chilli paste in recipes, use 2 ml (1/2 tsp) of ground cayenne pepper instead of 15 ml (1 tbsp) of red chilli paste. This replacement should only be used when the chilli pepper heat is desired from the chilli paste and the bulk of the paste is not as important. Taste the dish after adding ground cayenne pepper before adding any more, if desired.
Opt for a red hot sauce instead of a green version. The red hot sauces are made from red chilli peppers and will be a closer, but thinner, alternative to red chilli paste. Start by using one-third as much hot sauce as red chilli paste and increase the amount according to your palate.
Harissa is a North African condiment made from red chilli peppers and other spices. It is closely related to red chilli paste and can be substituted for red chilli paste in a recipe, but the results will be spicier. Decrease the amount to half of the red chilli paste required if you want to reduce the spiciness of the dish.
Soak dried red chilli peppers of your choice in water until they turn pliable. Puree these soaked peppers and their soaking liquid to create a thick paste. Making your own homemade chilli paste gives you the freedom to customise it. Choose milder dried chillies to reduce the heat in the chilli paste and in your dish. Milder dried red chilli peppers include New Mexico, pasilla negro and cascabel chillies. These dried red chilli peppers rank at the lower end of the Scoville heat scale, which is used to measure the spiciness of peppers. Super-hot dried red peppers include African bird's eye, piri-piri, tepin and piquin.
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