Indonesian Chili Sauce (Sambal Oelek)

Traditional Indonesian food is highly flavored, balanced, and not super spicy. Like the added texture crispy fried shallots and spicy coconut with peanuts to a dish, sambal is always on the table to allow the diner to add their desired level of heat to their food. There are endless variations of sambal based on region, chili peppers used, and vegetables like garlic and tomato added to match a particular dish. Sambal oelek is the mother sambal from which the others build from.

Indonesian sambal oelek

Sambal Oelek- Indonesian Chili Sauce

This hot chili sauce is served during most meals. Much like Vietnamese Nuoc Cham or salt and pepper in the west, sambal oelek is always on the dining table so each diner can season their soup, meat, and fish dishes to suit their desired degree of spiciness.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Condiment, Sauce
Cuisine: Indonesia, Southeast Asian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Food processor or mortar and pestle


  • ½ lb Fresh Thai red chilis, stems removed and chopped (Sub: red Fresno, red serrano, or cayenne peppers)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 2 clove Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Shrimp paste (Sub: 1 tbsp Asian fish sauce)
  • ½ tsp Sugar
  • ¾ cup Ripe tomato, chopped into small cubes (optional)


  • Pound or process chilis, shrimp paste, vinegar, and sugar to form a coarse paste. Add tomato cubes, if using, and crush slightly to blend flavors. Adjust salt to taste.


  • For an even spicier sauce, replace the tomato with 1 tbsp lime juice.
  • To make a milder sambal, remove seeds from chilis.


Calories: 138kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 1274mg | Potassium: 1061mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 3605IU | Vitamin C: 567mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 3mg

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