Sambal oelek chili paste is so easy to make at home that you'll wonder why you ever bought it in a jar! It only takes 10 minutes to make a big jar of this much loved Indonesian chili paste. Plus, once you know how to make it, you can easily customize it to suit your tastes.
What Is Sambal Oelek?
Sambal Oelek (pronounced zam-bahl U-lek) is a spicy Indonesian chili paste made from three simple ingredients - chili peppers, rice wine vinegar and salt.
Sambal means sauce, and oelek is the bamboo mortar that is traditionally used to grind the the chili peppers. However, in this recipe we are going to use a food processor (or blender) to simplify things.
The result will be an authentic, fresh chili paste that's far better than anything you could ever buy at Walmart.
- Chili Peppers: For those that can take the heat, Thai chili peppers are the optimal choice. These are hot,hot,hot... so feel free to substitute any chili pepper that you prefer. Red serranos and fresno chilis will dial the heat back a little.
- Rice Wine Vinegar: Rice wine vinegar is milder and sweeter than white vinegar, so it's the perfect vinegar for an authentic sambal oelek recipe. However, if you don't have any on hand, it's fine to substitute white vinegar.
- Salt: Regular table salt is the right choice here.
- Cut the stems off your chili peppers, but leave the seed in. Chop them into piece and put them in your food processor or blender.
- Pulse until the peppers are ground to a fine paste, scraping the sides down periodically.
- Add the salt and vinegar and pulse again until everything is well combined.
- That's it!! You have just made an authentic sambal oelek chili paste!! See below for ideas on how to use it in your everyday cooking.
How Can I Use Sambal Oelek?
- Swirl it into soups for a spicy kick. It's particularly good in my sweet potato lentil soup.
- Add it to dips for an explosion of flavor. Try adding it to hummus or ful madame.
- Ready to kick your vegan bolognese up a notch? Try adding sambal oelek to this recipe from Happy Kitchen.
- Spice up your breakfast by adding some chili paste to this tofu scramble by Vegan Family Kitchen.
- Do you have another great way you like to use sambal oelek? Let me know in the comments below!
Did You Make This Recipe?
Frequently Asked Questions:
Sambal oelek is a thicker, chunkier paste than sriracha sauce. Sriracha sauce is made using garlic and sugar, which means that it has a somewhat more subdued flavor.
Absolutely! The variations are endless, but you can add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, tamarind paste or sugar. You can also add fresh herbs like cilantro.
You can keep it in the fridge for several months. The vinegar and salt keep it naturally fresh for a long time.
Sure, I suggest freezing it in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop the cubes out and transfer them to an airtight container. That way, you have small portions ready to be added to dishes at a moment's notice!
Sambal Oelek Chili Paste
- 225 grams (½ pound) chili peppers *Thai chili peppers are preferred, but not required.
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- ½ tbsp salt
- Cut the stems of the chili peppers and chop into ½ inch pieces
- Transfer the chili peppers to a food processor or blender and pulse until a smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides occasionally.
- Add the vinegar and salt and blend until well combined.
- Transfer the chili paste to a jar or airtight container and store in the fridge.