Using just raw red chili peppers, salt, and rice vinegar, Sambal Oelek is spicy, versatile, and super easy to make; AND it goes well on just about everything. This chili paste is a popular condiment all across Indonesia, and for good reason. Use it to spice up your eggs, soups, noodles, grilled meats, whatever! It’s also a great marinade.Jump to Recipe
“You know you want me, I’ll make you sweat baby”-sambal oelek
What is Sambal Oelek?
Sambal Oelek, or Ulek, is a popular Indonesian condiment that packs a fiery punch. It’s a versatile chili paste made from grinding fresh red chili peppers, salt, and vinegar tougher in a mortar and pestle.
Oelek, is the dutch word for mortar and pestle, but it’s very common today to simply pulse everything together in a food processor. Sambal Processor…?
Unlike other sambals that may contain additional ingredients, Sambal Oelek focuses solely on the fiery heat of the chilies themselves. Its flavor is bold and intense, with a sharp, peppery kick that tantalizes the taste buds.
It is a staple in Indonesian and Southeast Asian cuisines, celebrated for its simplicity, and versatility. It has the ability to elevate any dish with its pure, unadulterated heat. Just a dollop of Sambal Oelek and you’ll see.
Other Types of Sambal
Sambal, is a beloved condiment served alongside every meal in Indonesia. With hundreds of different variations, sambal is a testament to the vast and diverse landscape of the archipelago. Each region, each household, all add their own unique touch to the culinary staple.
Indonesia is made up of over 17 thousand islands, and every region boasts its own distinct flavors. All influenced by factors such as local produce, cultural influences, and personal preferences.
Whether it’s the lemongrass forward Sambal Matah in Bali, the fiery complexity of Sambal Terasi in Java, or the fruity heat of Sambal Mangga in Sumatra, sambal embodies the vibrant spirit of Indonesian cuisine.
Here’s a fun map of all the different regions of Indonesia and some of its corresponding sambals. Click here.
Sambal Oelek Recipe
Sambal Oelek Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Sambal Oelek recipe.
- Red Chillies: For this sambal oelek recipe we use a combination of Thai red chili’s and chili fresnos. The Thai chili’s can be pretty intense though, so if you’re looking for a milder experience, just go with chili Fresno’s or red jalapeños.
- Rice Vinegar: You could use white vinegar or white wine vinegar, but we prefer rice vinegar for this sambal oelek recipe.
- Seasoning: Salt, ground coriander and white pepper.
- Sunflower oil: This will help preserve your sambal oelek. La Tourangelle is good stuff.
How to make Sambal Oelek
Step 1: Stem & Deseed Chillies
Depending on how brave you are, or how hot you like it, deseed and stem around half of the chili peppers. This is were most of the chili’s heat comes from, so the more you remove the less heat your sambal will have.
And remember, don’t rub your eyes or use the restroom right after chopping hot peppers. Totally not speaking from experience here…
Step 2: Combine Ingredients
Transfer all the ingredients into a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Grind or pulse until everything is combined, but still has a little texture. You don’t want it to be super smooth like sriracha, it should be slightly chunky.
Step 3: Transfer & Cover
Transfer the chili paste to a serving ramakin to use right away. If not using immediately, transfer to an air tight container and cover with a thin layer of sunflower oil. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
How to Store Sambal Oelek
This Sambal Oelek recipe uses fresh raw chili and will taste the best within the first day or two. However, if covered with a little sunflower seed oil, stored in an air tight container, and placed in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to a week.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this sambal oelek. The freshness of the peppers is key to this sambal. And it’s so simple to make, it would take far longer to thaw a frozen sambal than it would to make a fresh batch.
How to use Sambal Oelek
Since its only requires a few ingredients and hardly any time to make, sambal oelek is a great condiment for just about any dish. It is super versatile and very common to see on most Indonesian dinner tables. It’s the Texas Pete of sambals.
With the base being spicy red chilies, sambal oelek certainly makes any dish pop with some heat. And the acid in the vinegar helps to balance any sweeter dish.
Dollop some on your morning eggs or toast. Spoon some into a rice bowl or noodle dish. Top your chicken breasts, fish fillets, or steaks. Flavor blast a basic soup or grilled veggie. The possibilities are endless.
Sambal Udang: a SPICY Southeast Asian Sensation (Prawn Sambal): Let the sambal really shine in this fiery shrimp recipe.
One of our favorite dishes to use Sambal oelek on is, Soto Betawi, a beef and coconut soup. Slow cooked tender beef brisket swims in a silky smooth coconut broth along with potatoes and Indonesian herbs and spices. Topped with some sambal oelek, it’s a real treat. Check out the recipe here.
You can also use sambal oelek as a marinade!
More Sauce Recipes
Dig this recipe and want some more saucy options? We got you covered! Check out some more of our favorite sauce recipes that will be sure to add that extra pop to whatever you’re cooking up.
Try our Fire Roasted Red Chimichurri sauce. I drink this sh*t through a straw! It’s so damn tasty and it pairs perfectly with everything from steak to cauliflower.
Technically this is a salsa, but you could pour this stuff on alot of things, call it a sauce, and nobody would complain. Check out our Mango Habanero Salsa with Roasted Tomatillos. It brings the heat and cools ya down, so you can keep going back for more.
This tangy, spicy, smoky Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce packs a punch. It’s a South Carolina staple tweaked to smack your taste buds around and leave them wanting more.
Sambal Oelek FAQ’s
Is sambal oelek more spicy than sriracha?
Yes, especially if you use a lot of Thai red chili’s.
Is sambal oelek spicy?
Is sambal oelek the same as Korean chili paste?
No. Sambal oelek and Korean chili paste (gochujang) differ in their ingredients, flavors, and culinary usage. Sambal oelek is made from fresh red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt, while gochujang is a fermented chili paste made primarily with Korean chili powder, fermented soybeans, and glutinous rice.
How do you make sambal less spicy?
Try using red jalapeño’s or chili Fresnos instead of Thai red chili’s.