Chili Garlic Paste

Chili Garlic Paste - back to basics

Chili Garlic paste is a basic element for any kitchen. Every corner of the earth uses this combination some time or the other, and for various culinary uses.

In Indian cuisine, (for those who use garlic in cooking, for there are many who do not), this basic paste is a must have, make ahead, store in the refrigerator kind of treasure. There are many uses to it – a a flavor enhancer in a curry, to use to make a chutney/spread/dips/sauces, for various marination, and as a rub for vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. It works wonders when you have this ready and do quick rub on meat, cheese or vegetables before a summer grill, or reach out for that little container and add some of it to the curry sauce you are making.

I know that the shelves of the grocery stores are well stacked with innumerable varieties of the Chili Garlic pastes and sauces and I myself use the Sriracha sauce ever so often – more for that extra zing while cooking than as a condiment. But homemade pastes are always different and after all they are homemade where you have control over what you use and how much. The homemade chili garlic paste is used in recipes, will have  a different flavor than freshly made garlic paste. The flavors and the intensity of the two ingredients blend and infuse while it sits, and the seemingly pungent flavors  of the raw ingredients transforms into fragrant and aromatic when cooked with.

How much you make, and also how much of it you use, is entirely up to you and you decide the proportion of the garlic to the chili or how spicy you want it to be. When I make the paste, I use the mortar and the pestle and do not use any water and the paste lasts for over a month in the refrigerator.

If you are using dry chili powder, it is easier to make the paste without water. The whole red dry chili pepper usually requires soaking. Do drain out as much water as possible after soaking and softening of the chili peppers. If you want the paste to be less spicy, use Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, which is easily available in Indian groceries. This particular kind of chili powder has beautiful color but less heat and imparts a wonderful red hue to the dish where it is used. Or simply use Paprika or smoked Paprika for a different flavor.

Chili Garlic Paste

Chili Garlic Paste

Ingredients: (makes about 1/2 cup)

  1. 3 tablespoon red chili powder (Kashmiri Chili Powder or Paprika as substitutes) or 10 whole red dry chili pepper
  2. 1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves (about one whole large garlic head)


If you are using red whole chili pepper, soak them in few tablespoons of hot water for about 20 minutes. If you want the paste to be less spicy, remove the seeds of the chili pepper. Once softened, remove  the chili pepper from the water and drain on paper towel. Remove stems if any and if you have not already removed the seeds.

If you are using store bought red chili powder, you are ready to start.

In a mortar & a pestle or in a food processor, combine peeled garlic cloves and chili peppers/or chili powder. Pound or process until you get a coarse mix. Do not use any water. Using no water ensures that this paste will store for a longer time.  The consistency will be like a sticky coarse paste.

Store in a dry covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 weeks.

Chili Garlic Paste

Other “Homemade” Essentials:

The Essential Spices in the Indian Kitchen

Garam Masala and making it at home

Clarifying Butter – Ghee

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