Sambal Oelek Chili Paste – What is It and How Do You Make It?

Published Categorized as Ingredients, Journal Tagged

Sambal oelek chili paste is a fiery hot yet delicious paste formed from red chili peppers, garlic, and a few other additions. Although this paste is often bought premade in stores, it can also be easily made at home for out of this world flavor.

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Don’t believe us? Give it a go at home yourself! In this article, we’ve detailed exactly how to make your own sambal oelek paste, as well as address some commonly asked questions related to sambal oelek’s use. So, let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What Is Sambal Oelek Chili Paste?

Sambal oelek is a chili paste that originates from Indonesia. It is made of ground red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and occasionally a variation of other additions. 

Is Sambal Oelek the Same as Chili Paste?

Sambal oelek is technically a chili paste that is made from ground chilis. Know, however, that not all chili pastes are created equal and will taste differently. 

Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili paste, while other chili pastes, such as harissa and gochujang, originate from other places in the world and have a slightly different flavor profile with different ingredients added. 

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

What Is Sambal Oelek Made Of?

Sambal oelek is made from ground red chilis that are beaten into a paste. Garlic and a variety of other delicious ingredients to give it its signature taste. 

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste: What Kind of Pepper Is It?

The kind of peppers used in sambal oelek are red chili peppers.

How Long Does Sambal Oelek Chili Paste Last?

Assuming your homemade sambal oelek has been properly sealed and refrigerated, it should last you about 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

What Do You Use Sambal Oelek For?

What Can I Do With Sambal Paste?

Sambal oelek can be used to accompany a variety of dishes including:

  • Fried Rice
  • Stir Fry
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Burgers
  • Pad Thai
  • Dumplings
  • Egg Rolls

How to Use Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

Sambal oelek chili paste can be used to flavor soups, pasta, Asian dishes, or as a sauce for dipping. Its function is very similar to that of sriracha in that it is very versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways.

How Hot Is Sambal Oelek Chili Paste?

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste Scoville

For reference, sambal oelek is a bit hotter than sriracha, though not very much.

In terms of where it might fall on the Scoville scale, sambal oelek ranks at only 2,000 out of 16,000. For some that are sensitive to heat, sambal oelek may seem to be quite hot. 

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

How to Make Sambal Oelek Chili Paste

Despite its fiery and unique flavor, this Indonesian pepper paste is quite simple and easy to make at home.

Check out the following recipe for sambal oelek to get the flavor you love from this chili paste in only a few minutes!

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste Ingredients

  • 1 pound of red chili peppers
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 2 tbsp of vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  • ¾ tbsp of brown sugar


Sambal Oelek Chili Paste Recipe

  1. Sauté

    Begin by sauteing your red chili peppers over medium heat in the oil until chili peppers become soft.

  2. Add garlic

    Add your garlic to the pan and gently sauté along with the peppers until the garlic becomes fragrant.

  3. Prepare to crush

    Remove your garlic and red peppers and place them into a mortar and pestle bowl.

  4. Pulverize

    Add all of the rest of the listed ingredients to the bowl and pulverize with the pestle until a paste forms. You can also use a food processor to make things easier.

  5. Wait until paste forms

    Once a paste has formed, use it immediately or cover and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Cole & Mason Granite Mortar & Pestle - Gray

Sambal Oelek Versus

Sambal Oelek vs Chili Garlic Sauce

Chili garlic sauce and sambal oelek are very similar in terms of ingredients but both differ in terms of heat.

Chili garlic sauce tends to be more mild than sambal oelek. It is possible that chili garlic sauce will be sweeter too (like the typical Asian sweet chili sauce), but that will depend on the ingredients used. 

Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce, 8 Oz. (Pack of 2)

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste vs Sriracha

The most noticeable difference between sambal oelek and red chili peppers is the flavor.

Sambal oelek may have a slight vinegary taste with red pepper flavor being the star of the show. Sriracha, on the other hand, is a bit milder in terms of heat and flavor profile and may have more potent garlic undertones as well. 


Is sambal oelek like sriracha?

Those that love sriracha will likely be equally in love with sambal oelek as the two function similarly and have similar uses, though sambal oelek is often considered to be a slightly hotter version of sriracha. 

What is the difference between sambal oelek and gochujang?

Gochujang tends to be thicker but sambal oelek tends to be thinner and more watery. For reference sake, gochujang might be compared to tomato paste (in terms of consistency) while sambal oelek can be compared to stewed or diced tomatoes in juice. 

Is sambal oelek same as harissa?

Sambal oelek and harissa may be good swaps for one another but their flavor profile is different. Harissa is an African chili paste that uses earthy spices, like allspice and cumin, that take the flavor profile in a different direction than sambal oelek.

What Is a Substitute For Sambal Chili Paste? What Can I Use in Place of Sambal Oelek?

In place of sambal oelek, you may simply choose to use another form of chili paste. Each has its own distant flavor, but gochujang and harissa are good places to start. Sriracha and red pepper flakes are also good substitutionary options. 

Sambal Oelek Chili Paste: Simple and Scrumptious!

All in all, sambal oelek chili paste is a simple and scrumptious chili paste that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. From pad thai to stir fry and even burgers or pizza, this Indonesian paste is incredibly versatile and may just become your new favorite addition to any savory recipe.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this informative read. Until next time! 

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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