Chili Pepper Madness

September 28, 2016

Sambal Oelek Recipe

Homemade Sambal Oelek Recipe Homemade Sambal Oelek Recipe

A recipe for homemade Sambal Oelek, the classic chili paste used for cooking, made with a variety of ground chili peppers, vinegar and salt. It is ideal for seasoning noodle dishes and enhancing the flavors of sauces.

We know you all love sriracha - Homemade Sriracha, anyone? - but have you cooked with Sambal Oelek? Perhaps it is time to begin. You can purchase Sambal Oelek from the grocer and carry it home, but once you realize how simple it is to make on your own, you'll never want the store bought version again. Fresh is always best, and you can't get much fresher than this.

What is Sambal Oelek?

While Sriracha is distinctly Thai, Sambal Oelek is Indonesian, and it is essentially a raw chili paste that is ground. It uses very few ingredients, traditionally red chili peppers, vinegar and salt. It can be used as a base to make sambals and other sauces, and works best when used more as a condiment or flavoring ingredient than as a direct sauce or hot sauce.

Homemade Sambal Oelek Recipe

There are variations, of course. A tour of the web will find other ingredients added to Sambal Oelek, such as garlic, lime juice, different vinegars and more, though at some point, with such additions, the paste stops being Sambal Oelek and becomes something else. That's OK! This is what Sambal Oelek is for, to be used as a base, a springboard to new and interesting flavors. I've also seen recipes with the paste cooked down a bit. I suppose this would mellow it out, but traditionally the paste is simply ground with a mortar and pestal, though you can use a food processor to achieve the same effect, of course.

Let's talk chili peppers. Thai peppers would be optimal for this recipe, but you truly have many, many other options.

Red Chili Peppers for Sambal Oelek - Recipe

If you can't find Thai peppers, or if they are too hot for you, try cayenne peppers, red serranos, or red jalapeno peppers. Of course there are many other options, but these particular peppers work the best in order of descending heat levels. 

In truth, Sambal Oelek works great as a simple way to preserve your peppers. The salt and vinegar will let you keep them a long time. Pop it into the fridge and pull it out to swirl into any sort of soup or stew, anything in a crock pot or slow cooker. Swirl it up into a bowl of hot noodles with some soy sauce and fish sauce and you have a super simple lunch. Quick and easy! I used it just last night by adding a couple tablespoons to a traditional pesto, then tossed it with noodles. Topped it with some seared salmon and BOOM! Quick, easy dinner with just the right touch of spice.

Time to make the Sambel Oelek! Let me know how YOU use it.

Learn more about How to Make Chili Paste.

Homemade Sambal Oelek Recipe

Sambal Oelek Recipe


  • 1 pound red chili peppers - Thai is traditional, but red jalapenos, serranos and cayenne peppers are good substitutes
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Cooking Directions

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or other grinder. A Molcajete is a great option here.
  2. Grind until a course paste forms.
  3. Add to a jar and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: You can also simmer this sauce over low heat about 10 minutes before jarring to mellow the flavors, but raw, uncooked is traditional.

Sambal Oelek Recipe

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  • Comment Link DaveR October 08, 2017 posted by DaveR

    Three or four tablespoons of Sambal Oelek mixed into 1-1/2 pounds of 80/20 ground beef makes delicious burgers. I also enjoy adding a teaspoon or so to my breakfast omelette. The store-bought Sambal has become a staple in our household. Now I look forward to making it fresh.

  • Comment Link Judi March 12, 2017 posted by Judi

    I use it on/in everything. Tonight I stirred some into baby Brussels sprouts with balsamic sauce. Can't live without it♡

  • Comment Link Renee October 08, 2016 posted by Renee

    Can I proceed this in a water bath? Or will that change the flavor too much?

    REPLY: Renee, I believe you should be able to. It might slightly cook the mixture, but some people cook theirs anyway. I think you'd be OK. Check the ph. -- Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  • Comment Link Florentina October 02, 2016 posted by Florentina

    Wow, although I love spicy food, I fear this is too hot for me :P maybe used in small, very small quantities :P

  • Comment Link Yo Sumartojo October 01, 2016 posted by Yo Sumartojo

    Re: Sambal Oelek

    The word "oelek" (this is an old spelling for "ulek" which in Javanese means "crushing" in a mortar and pestle. Sambal means "hot sauce".

    I add a little bit of palm sugar to the "Sambal ulek". Another popular "Sambal" is "Sambal terasi" consisting of chili pepper, salt and shrimp paste ("terasi"). Almost all Javanese know this traditional Sambal.

    I am experimenting to make "Sambal" for my friends with different ingredients (Habanero, chili, jalapeño peppers, etc. with cranberry, peach, mango, palm sugar, Kaffir lime leaf, fish sauce, etc.)

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Mike Hultquist of Chili Pepper Madness

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Hi, Everyone! It is nice to meet you. Welcome to Chili Pepper Madness, the food blog run by Mike and Patty Hultquist, a couple of spicy food lovers. Chili Pepper Madness is a special tribute to all things chili peppers, including chili pepper recipes... LEARN MORE ABOUT US


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