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Homemade Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce is easy to make at home and goes well with so many dishes, from eggrolls to dumplings to Asian salads!
Growing up, I was one of a handful of kids in my area (East County Portland; shout out David Douglas School District peeps!) who were first-generation Asian-Americans. I feel very fortunate in that my friends and I had childhoods that were tied so closely to our parents’ cultures while we were also forging our own mixed culture traditions.
I remember celebrating the Lunar New Year with friends, and it was always such a beautiful, colorful, joyful celebration filled with AMAZING food. Oh, the food!
Lunar New Year this year begins Monday, February 8, and it’s the Year of the Monkey. To celebrate, I’ve put together a super simple spread. You know we’re ALL about simple, fast, easy, and DELICIOUS here, right?
One of the food threads that I have found that binds many Asian cultures is Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce. My mom always has a bottle of it to serve with Filipino Lumpia, and there always seems to be some sweet chili dipping sauce (or a similar sauce) on the side of most Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese dishes.
While bottled is fine, it’s just as easy to make your own. This way, you can serve it at your Lunar New Year celebration AND you can give some as gifts!
My recipe makes enough for a bottle to keep, plus four mini mason jars. I actually gave these as gifts at a recent girls’ brunch. I was able to whip up the chili sauce the morning of the brunch, so you know it really doesn’t take that long to make.
Homemade Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
It starts with peppers, and let me tell you the best part about this recipe: you can pretty much use ANY pepper you would like. Really!
If you want it to be spicier, feel free to use some hot chilis or add some jalapenos.
I prefer it to be very, very mild, because it is a sweet chili sauce after all. So I used a one-pound bag of sweet bell peppers.
I love how the subtle differences between red, orange, and yellow bell peppers blend together in this delicious dipping sauce.
Basically, you spend about 5 minutes roughly chopping up the peppers, onions, garlic, and grating ginger, then blending them together in a food processor.
In about 30 minutes from start to finish, you get this vibrant, bright, colorful, slightly tangy, sweet chili dipping sauce that goes perfectly with the Pagoda Express Chicken Egg Rolls, the Pagoda Pork Mini Egg Rolls (my son’s favorite!), and Pagoda Express Pork Potstickers shown here.
Now, you know I am normally a fan of making most food from scratch whenever possible, but I’ve learned that the best Asian dishes require lots of prep & cooking time. My Lumpia (Filipino Egg Rolls)? They’re an all-afternoon affair, one which, as a busy mom like many of you, I rarely have time for.
So I was very happy to have Pagoda egg rolls and potstickers in my freezer, ready to heat up and serve. They contain 100% white chicken meat, have no MSG, and no artificial colors. And, my son LOVES the mini chicken egg rolls, which come in a pack of 34 and are truly the perfect size when serving a large group.
If you’re wondering where to find Pagoda, simply check your local Walmart and you’ll find it in the frozen food aisle with other party foods. You can also save $.50 off 2 Pagoda products with this special offer!
- 1 pound peppers of your choice I used sweet bell peppers
- 1/2 cup peeled and quartered onions
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Add peppers, onions, and garlic to a food processor and pulse until well blended. If you have a smaller food processor you may want to do this in two separate sections so as not to overcrowd the container.
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and then add the pepper, onion, and garlic mixture. Stir, and cook for about one minute.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to a low rolling boil, stirring continuously.
- Lower heat to low-medium, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Be sure to stir the ingredients every few minutes during this time.
- Sauce will be done when you have a consistency similar to the photo shown here.
2. This recipe makes approximately 3 cups, depending on how thick you decide to make the sauce. I usually get enough to fill a 12-ounce glass bottle, plus four mini mason jars.
3. The sauce should be slightly thick (thanks to the arrowroot powder), but not so thick that it's challenging to dip an egg roll into. It also should not be too runny or liquid, like water. Be sure to simmer it until it gets slightly thickened; you can also add more arrowroot powder or cornstarch in 1/4 teaspoon amounts at a time until you get the desired consistency.
Hope you all have a fabulous (and delicious) Lunar New Year!
I’d love to know: how do you celebrate the Lunar New Year? Are there any fun local celebrations that you like to attend in your hometown?