Chilli Jam – The French Alternative

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According to Jackie French, the Incas used chilli sauce to torture their captives, but that was before they realised how good it tasted!

Jackie used bell or lantern peppers (Capsicum chinense) to make chilli jam, a spicy paste often used in Thai recipes, salads, on crackers or with cheese. You can use any kind of chilli for this recipe. However, if you don’t want really hot chilli jam, substitute red capsicum for some of the chilli.


1 cup bland oil, such as peanut or safflower
1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh chillies, deseeded and tops removed (or red capsicum)
3 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons tamarind paste (or dried tamarind, soaked until it softens)
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce


Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chilli (or capsicum) and cook until soft.Add the palm sugar, tamarind paste and the fish sauce. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat.Scrape the mixture into a blender, and blend until the lumps disappear and the consistency is jam-like.Pour the chilli jam into sterilised jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Jackie’s safety tip:

If you’d rather not find out why the Incas used chilli sauce to torture their captives, wear rubber gloves when making chilli jam, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or nostrils!

Further information

Palm sugar is used in Thai recipes as a natural sweetener. It is harvested from sap that drips from the cut flower buds of the sugar palm.  Palm sugar and tamarind paste are available from most major supermarket chains.