Sambal Oelek (aka Sambal Ulek). A delicious spicy chili sauce made with chilies, onion, shallots, garlic, tomatoes and oil. Ready in 20 minutes!
What is Sambal Oelek?
Sambal Oelek is a flavorful hot chili garlic sauce that comes from Indonesia. It's often used in South-East Asian as one of their iconic spicy condiments. Furthermore, the main ingredient is red chili peppers and green chilies. Other ingredients include tomatoes, shallots, onion, garlic, oil, and other seasoning ingredients. Sambal oelek is used in noodle dishes like Mee Goreng, Mee Bodoh, or curries, stir fries, nasi goreng or as a condiment to any dish you want to make spicy. It is sometimes used to marinate meat in Southeast Asia. The natural color comes from the red chilies and tomatoes.
What does Sambal Oelek taste like?
Sambal oelek is a spicy chili paste that chunky in texture, thanks to the hot red chile peppers, green chile peppers, tomatoes, onions and shallots. The flavor of the ground fresh chili paste is elevated with chicken powder, sugar, salt and garlic. My sambal oelek recipe is different from Sriracha sauce as it's not smooth and it's more thick.
You will need the following ingredients for the best sambal oelek. Please scroll down to Recipe Card below for full measurements.
- Neutral oil: any flavorless oil like avocado oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil or canola oil with a high smoke point. I would avoid using olive oil or coconut oil due to its heavier scent.
- Red chilies: for mild use whole red chilies (serrano peppers, cayenne peppers, or red jalapenos) that have been de-seeded. For extra spicy use bird's eye chilies.
- Green chilies: for mild use jalapeño peppers that have been de-seeded. For extra spicy use bird's eye chilies
- Tomatoes of any kind (I used cherry tomatoes for a sweeter flavour)
- Garlic cloves
- Salt: or soy sauce
- Chicken powder
- Lime juice
How to make Sambal Oelek
First in a hot wok or large pan on high heat, add 2 tablespoon vegetable oil, followed by your red and green chilis, onion, shallots, tomatoes and garlic cloves. Char them until the edges are browned.
Blend Aromatics into a Paste
Remove and transfer aromatics to a blender, food processor or stone mortar and pestle. Then blend on high or ground chili peppers and other ingredients until finely grounded.
Next pour the ingredients back into the pan (I recommend turning on the stove fan on high or cooking this outdoors on a portable stovetop to prevent inhaling hot chili smoke which can lead to a coughing fest!)
Then bring the paste to a boil and add ½ cup vegetable oil, sugar, salt, lime juice and chicken powder. Stir to mix.
Next allow this to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes uncovered. Taste and season with more sugar, salt or chicken powder if needed.
Cool & Transfer to a Resealable Jar
Lastly allow the hot sauce to cool and transfer to a mason jar. Serve & enjoy!
Store sambal sauce in fridge in an airtight container to last for at least a week. In addition, you can freeze chilled sambal oelek in a ziplock bag or plastic container and it will last up 5-6 months.
- When grinding or cooking the paste, avoid inhaling the paste. Otherwise, it's very spicy and can cause you to cough uncontrollably. Furthermore, I would recommend turning the stove fan on high or cooking the paste outside.
- Allow the aromatics to char and get browned on the edges. This creates more flavor.
- Do not skip on the chicken powder! This creates a deep umami flavor.
Can I use dried chilies?
I would not recommend it as a substitute unless you rehydrate them with water. For best results, fresh whole chilies are recommended.
Other recipes you may like!
Quick & Easy Sambal Oelek (Indonesia Chili Paste)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil or any neutral oil
- 70 grams red chili peppers For mild version: use red chili peppers like serrano's, fresno, cayenne, or tobasco. For extra spicy: use bird's eye chillies
- 70 grams green chili peppers For mild version, use jalapeno peppers. For extra spicy: use bird's eye chillies
- 260 grams tomatoes I used cherry tomatoes for a sweeter flavour
- 2 shallots halved
- 1 small yellow onion sliced
- 1 bulb garlic peeled
- In a hot wok or deep pan on high heat, add 2 tablespoon vegetable oil, followed by your red and green chilis, onion, shallots, tomatoes and garlic cloves. Char them until the edges are browned.
- Remove and transfer to a blender, food processor or mortar and pestle. Blend on high or ground with pestle until finely grounded.
- Pour the ingredients back into the pan. Tip: I recommend turning on the stove fan on high or cooking this outdoors on a portable stovetop to prevent inhaling hot chili smoke which can lead to a coughing fest!
- Bring the paste to a boil and add ½ cup vegetable oil, sugar, salt, lime juice and chicken powder. Stir to mix. Allow this to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes uncovered. Taste and season with more sugar, salt or chicken powder if needed.
- Allow this to cool and transfer to a mason jar. Serve & enjoy!