Sambal Oelek is spicy, versatile, and super easy to make, AND it tastes great on just about anything! Use it to spice up your eggs, soups, noodles, grilled meats, whatever! It’s also a great marinade.
Table of Contents: Sambal Oelek
Make sure to keep scrolling past the recipe card for a deep dive into this sambal ulek recipe. We go over all the ingredients and equipment you’ll need, as well as what to do with leftovers, variations, FAQ’s and how to use.
Sambal Oelek Recipe
What is Sambal Oelek?
I’m a condiment guy, always have been. When I was a kid I always created my own fry sauce at Chif-fil-a with mayo, ketchup, and Tabasco packets. So when I was traveling through Indonesia its no surprise that I feel in love with the deliciously spicy Sambal Oelek. And yes, its totally tasty on waffle fries 😉
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. It’s 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.
“You know you want me, I’ll make you sweat baby”-sambal oelek
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 Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Sambal Oelek recipe. You should be able to find most of these ingredients at your local grocery store. It may be hard to find fresh chili’s if they aren’t in season however.
- 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.
- Spices: Salt, ground coriander and white pepper.
- Sunflower oil: This will help preserve your sambal oelek. La Tourangelle is good stuff.
Sambal Oelek Equiptment
Here’s a list of the tools that you’ll need to make this Sambal Oelek recipe.
- Mortar & Pestle: Grind those peppers up the traditional way in a mortar and pestal.
- Food Processor: Alternatively you could use a food processor to speed things up.
- Jar: Store your sambal in an air tight container.
How to make Sambal Oelek
Follow these step by step instructions to make this spicy chili paste condiment. It is just a matter of mixing everything together, it should take less than 10 minutes.
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 a couple weeks.
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.
You can also use sambal oelek as a marinade!
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.
Let the this sambal really shine in this fiery shrimp recipe: Sambal Udang: a SPICY Southeast Asian Sensation (Prawn Sambal)
Sambal Oelek FAQ’s
Yes, especially if you use a lot of Thai red chili’s.
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.
Try using red jalapeño’s or chili Fresnos instead of Thai red chili’s.
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.