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.
If you're like me, you probably use Sriracha sauce in everything from dips to stir fries, but have you ever tried sambal oelek? You may have seen at the grocery store. Huy Fong foods is the most popular brand. But, there's no need to buy it pre-bottled when you make it yourself with 3 simple ingredient.
Let's get started!
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. It's a particularly popular chili paste in Malaysia where it's used as a condiment and as an ingredient in many dishes.
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.
Reasons You'll Love This Recipe
✅You only need 3 simple ingredients to make the perfect chili paste.
✅Homemade sambal oelek doesn't have preservatives or thickeners like the chili sauce you buy at the grocery store.
✅I think that learning how to make your own chili paste is really satisfying!
✅It's much more cost effective to make your own sambal oelek chili paste than to buy a bottled hot sauce.
Sambal Oelek Vs Sriracha
Sambal oelek chili paste and sriracha sauce are both popular condiments with distinct characteristics. Sambal oelek is a traditional Indonesian chili paste made from fresh red chilies, vinegar, and salt. It has a chunky texture and a vibrant, raw chili flavor with intense heat.
On the other hand, sriracha sauce originated in Thailand and is made from chili peppers, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and salt. It has a smooth consistency, a slightly sweet and garlicky taste, and a moderate level of spiciness. While sambal oelek focuses on pure chili heat, sriracha offers a more balanced flavor profile with added sweetness and garlic notes.
Sambal oelek only requires 3 basic ingredients, which is why it's such a cinch to make fresh.
- 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 my slow cooker lentil Bolognese.
- Spice up your breakfast by adding some chili paste to this tofu scramble by Vegan Family Kitchen.
- Serve it as a spicy side to my popular garlic truffle fries.
- Use it as a spicy sauce for your breakfast omelette.
- Sambal oelek is a great sauce to serve with noodle dishes.
Do you have another great way you like to use sambal oelek? Let me know in the comments below! Your feedback helps other Daily Dish readers.
Did You Make This Recipe?
↔️Substitutes For Sambal Oelek
- Sriracha Sauce: Sriracha is a popular chili sauce that can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek. It has a similar heat level and adds a tangy flavor to dishes.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Crushed red pepper flakes can be used to add heat and spice to your dishes. You can adjust the amount according to your desired level of spiciness. You won't get the tanginess that you get with sambal oelek, but red pepper flakes will give you the heat.
- Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne pepper powder is another option if you're looking for a substitute. It has a similar heat level to sambal oelek and can be used in marinades, sauces, or stir-fries.
- Hot Sauce: Any hot sauce that you enjoy can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek. Tabasco sauce, Louisiana-style hot sauce, or any other variety can add heat and flavor to your dishes.
- Harissa Paste: Harissa is a North African chili paste made from roasted red peppers, spices, and garlic. It has a complex flavor profile and can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek.
- Gochujang: Gochujang is a Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans, red chili peppers, and glutinous rice. It has a thick consistency and a unique sweet and spicy flavor that can work well as a substitute for sambal oelek. Check out gochujang in action with my gochujang noodles.
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 with notes of garlic.
Yes, sambal oelek is generally considered to be hotter and spicier than sriracha sauce. Sambal oelek is made primarily from chili peppers, whereas sriracha sauce has additional ingredients like sugar and vinegar, which mellow out the heat.
Sambal oelek can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for an extended period of time, typically up to 1 year. However, its spiciness and flavor may gradually diminish over time. To maintain its quality, I recommend checking for any signs of spoilage, such as changes in color, texture, or odor, before using it.
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!
Craving More Easy Vegan Recipes?
Sambal Oelek Chili Paste
- ½ pound chili peppers *Thai chili peppers are preferred, but not required.
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- ½ tablespoon 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.