Chinese hot sauce

There are many types of Chinese hot sauce, coming in a range of pastes, oils and heat levels. Popular Chinese hot sauces include Lao Gan Ma and Sichuan chili oil. With both sauces being versatile oils, they can be poured over dishes to add a kick or even used as a dipping sauce to give any food some extra flavor.

Chinese cuisine has become a phenomenon across the globe. It has takeaways and restaurants found in most towns and popular dishes stocked across grocery stores. With more and more people eating this cuisine, it means their hot sauces are becoming a popular accompaniment.

History of Chinese Hot Sauce

Hot sauce dates to 7000 BC, during the time of the Aztecs in Mexico. The first version of hot sauce was created just out of chili peppers and water. The Aztecs used it to add flavor to their foods and for medicinal purposes.

Since then, the popularity of hot sauce has increased and it’s now a favorite worldwide. The iconic Lao Gan Ma chili oil rose to success in the 1990s, helping to put China on the map for hot sauces.

Tao Huabi created the Lao Gan Ma hot sauce. She was born in 1947 and was the eighth youngest child, born into a poor family in the village of Guizhou. Later in life, when her husband died, she moved to Guiyang and opened a restaurant where she would sell noodles and her delicious homemade sauce. In 1996, after word soon spread about her delicious hot sauce, Huabi opened a factory to produce her hot sauce in bulk.

The rise of this hot sauce now means she produces 1.3 million jars of her Lao Gan Ma hot sauce a day, putting her just under Heinz [1]. Her sauce is now sold all over the world.

Popular Types of Chinese Hot Sauce

Lao Gan Ma

Known as the best Chinese chili sauce, Lao Gan Ma is made from a blend of chilis, soybean oil, soybean, peanut, salt, sugar, water and pepper powder. The sauce focuses more on flavor, rather than heat, ensuring that it’s still able add a kick to your food without disrupting the flavor [2].

You can use it as a stir-fry sauce or mixed with rice to make it more flavorsome. Popular soups to mix Lao Gan Ma into include noodle soup and beef short rib soup. If you’re feeling adventurous then you could even create a spicy Lao Gan Ma Crawfish recipe.

Sichuan Chili Oil

Sichuan chili oil is both spicy and aromatic thanks to ingredients such as cinnamon and anise added alongside the chili peppers. It gets its name from the Sichuan peppercorns that are also a key ingredient in this hot sauce. Popular ways to eat it include drizzling it onto stir-fries or noodles or adding a small amount to stews and broths [3].

Popular brands of this Chinese hot sauce include Lee Kum Kee, Chuan Lao Hui and MasterChow. You can purchase this type of chili oil from your local grocery store.

Chili Garlic Sauce

Even though this hot sauce has been created with chili peppers, it’s not as hot as you may think. The flavorsome garlic makes sure the heat from the chili peppers isn’t too overpowering, allowing you to fully enjoy your meal. Chili garlic sauce is tangy and fragrant, created from a mixture of chili peppers, garlic, rice vinegar and salt.

The sauce is commonly served alongside dim sum dishes as a dipping sauce. You can also pan-fry it with noodles or cook it with dumplings. Popular brands include Huy Fong and Union Foods [4].

Health Benefits and Nutritional Value

Being packed full of chili peppers means that Chinese hot sauce can be good for your health. Along with minimum calories, it can also help your immune system, increase your metabolism, reduce the risk of diabetes and even help prevent heart disease.

Chili peppers have a large amount of vitamins A and C. These vitamins are vital for keeping your immune system in check. Also with antibacterial properties, Chinese hot sauce can help prevent infections, especially in your digestive system.

Capsaicin is found in chili peppers and it’s this that helps to improve your metabolism. It’s capsaicin that gives chili peppers their heat and if you eat enough of this it’ll help to reduce your appetite because your body won’t want you eating any more heat.

Studies have shown that chili peppers can even help to reduce your risk for diabetes. These peppers reduce the amount of insulin you need to digest your food and may even reduce your blood pressure.

Chili peppers can even help your heart’s health. Thanks to their ability to lower blood pressure, this can help your heart pump blood easily through your body. Chili peppers will also lower cholesterol, so with that and lower blood pressure, the risk of a stroke or heart attack is reduced [5].

Cooking with Chinese Hot Sauce

Chinese hot sauce is best cooked with stir-fries or in soups and stews. It’ll add a tangy kick, and depending on how much you put in will also add some heat. It can also be served as a dipping sauce for many Chinese dishes, or you can drizzle it over any meat such as chicken or beef.   

You can also create your own Chinese hot sauce. A chili garlic sauce is easy to create, and you can tailor it to be as spicy or garlicky as you please. For the standard sauce, you will need:

  • 225g red jalapeno peppers
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch

You should start by mixing the peppers, garlic, salt, sugar, vinegar and water in a blender to create a juice. Add to a pan along with the cornstarch, stir and then bring to a boil. You should then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. You can store it in the fridge for up to a month [6]. 

Chinese hot sauce usually comes in the form of an oil and makes a great dipping or stir-fry sauce. Popular types of sauce include Lao Gan Ma, Sichuan and chili garlic sauce. The flavorsome sauces have become more and more popular over time thanks to the likes of Lao Gan Ma becoming a global sensation. Now, you can purchase Chinese hot sauces in most supermarkets, or if you’re feeling creative, you can even try making one yourself.


[1] Sullivan, H. “‘China’s Hottest Woman’: The Driving Force Behind Crunchy Chilli Sensation Lao Gan Ma.The Guardian, 2022.

[2] Lao Gan Ma USA. “Our Story.” Lao Gan Ma USA.

[3] Happy Eating House. “Sichuan Chili Oil.” Happy Eating House.

[4] Pisqueya. “6 Possible Health Benefits of Hot Sauce.” Pisqueya.

[5] Zhu, M. “Homemade Chili Garlic Sauce (Huy Fong Brand Copycat).” Omnivore’s Cookbook, 2020.

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