Known as nam chim kai in Thai, sweet chili sauce is remarkably easy to DIY at home. While glass bottled versions from Thailand are widely available in Southeast Asian and Chinese markets in the US, I like being able to control the amount of sweetness and heat in a sauce I use almost every day. Plus, you can find all the ingredients at your local market, and there are no additives or preservatives.
You can use it in dips for appetizers like summer rolls and fried tofu, glazes for chicken or fish, and even salad dressings and desserts. I love using it plain as a dip for raw vegetables or dumplings, a fiery alternative to hummus and soy sauce, respectively. The sweetness is easy to control by varying the amount of sugar, and the heat by choosing the type of chilies you use. Red jalapeños or Fresnos are my favorite because they give a medium heat closest to store-bought versions of sweet chili sauce. If you use spicier chilies like serranos or Thai spurs, you will need to double or triple the number of chilies to produce the same volume and color (and take out the seeds unless you prefer a flaming hot sauce!) You can also experiment with other fresh chilies that you come across. If you’d like to kick up the umami flavor, add a couple drops of fish sauce to your batch. Feel free to double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe.