Sweet chilli sauce

Delicious as a salad dressing but also great with grilled and barbecued meat and fish, Asian dishes and cheese

I am absolutely addicted to this sweet chilli sauce and I wish I could say I’d written the recipe myself but it’s actually by Diana Henry, one of my favourite recipe writers and whose cook books I use more than anyone else’s. I came across this recipe a few years ago and it has become a staple in our family. I keep a Kilner jar of it in the fridge all the time. It goes brilliantly with so many different things: grilled and barbecued meat and fish, cheese (it’s phenomenal with cheese on toast), as an accompaniment to numerous Asian dishes, as a salad dressing, even spooned onto jacket potatoes with a dollop of Greek yoghurt…the list goes on!

The big bunch of coriander that goes into this recipe is a brilliant flavour addition and it is the main reason this sauce doesn’t look like the orangey red gloopy shop-bought version because the chopped green herbs give it a much darker appearance.

There are just a few small things I do slightly differently from the original recipe:

  • The original is quite runny so I add some cornflour at the end for a thicker sauce.
  • I deseed all the chillis as I found the original recipe a bit too hot with half the chillis left unseeded but this is obviously down to personal preference.
  • I omit the large piece of root ginger in the original recipe and replace it with 2 sticks of lemongrass.
  • Finally, I love the inclusion of coriander – I think it makes this recipe – so where Diana Henry’s ingredients list states ‘a large bunch of coriander, stalks removed’, I use a 100g bunch and include the stalks.
  • 6 large, fresh red chillis, deseeded, flesh chopped roughly
  • 2 sticks of lemongrass, finely chopped, hard root and tough outer leaves removed first
  • grated zest of 3 limes and juice of 2
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 100g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 300g caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
  • 120ml white wine vinegar
  • 50ml Thai fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  1. Put the chilli, lemongrass, lime juice and zest, garlic and coriander leaves into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
  2. Put the sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan with 6 tbsp water and place on a medium low heat until the sugar completely dissolves. 
  3. Increase the heat and boil until the syrup becomes a caramel colour. 
  4. Tip the chopped chilli mixture, vinegar and fish sauce into the caramel, standing back as the fumes can be strong, and simmer for two minutes.
  5. Mix 1 tbsp cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water. Take the pan off the heat, add the cornflour and stir well. Return the pan to the heat and simmer for a further minute to thicken.  
  6. Cool then refrigerate. Keeps for a couple of months.
Ingredients prepped ready to go into the food processor
Finely chopped but still with a bit of substance
Slowly dissolving the sugar
The heat is increased and the syrup is boiled until it becomes a caramel colour.
Add the chilli mixture and stand back as the fumes may be strong
Stir then simmer for a couple of minutes
Add the slaked cornflour then return to the heat for another minute
Transfer to a large jar, cool then refrigerate – keeps for a couple of months

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