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Sambal Oelek Recipe

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You find this spicy and authentic sambal oelek great to have on hand!

Sambal oelek is one of the easiest chili sauces to make and it goes perfectly with almost any spicy cuisine. My wife Caroline and I just got back from six weeks in Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur and gobbled down tuns of this delicious condiment. It is available in bottle at shops but the fresh flavour you’ll get when you make this sambal oelek recipe is far better.

finished sambal oelek recipe in a wooden serving bowl.

Spicy and delicious! You’re going to love this one.

About this sambal oelek recipe…

While travelling through Malaysia and Bali, Indonesia, we were served sambal oelek with pretty much every meal. It might be Malaysian and Indonsian in origin but we were also served something just like this at the restaurants and food stalls in Vietnam when we were there in April. In Vietnam it was called sate but really, it was about the same thing.

What to serve this sambal oelek with…

So whether you’re eating a homemade Vietnamese beef pho or you are trying some of the Malay recipes on my blog such as chicken with sambal matah, the delicious Fried fish recipe Ikan Bakar or the infamous fried noodle dish, mee goreng, you are going to want to have some of this simple but amazing sambal oelek to serve on the side.

Recipes like the chicken with sambal matah are actually served in a chunky sambal but spooning a bit of this sambal oelek over the top is a must our opinion.

You could also stir this sambal oelek into a curry such as kari ayam, chicken kapitan or devil chicken curry for a little more heat.


Really, you can add this to whatever you like when you want a spicy hit.

What exactly is sambal oelek?

It is a simple hot sauce that you can make simply with chilies, salt and vinegar. There are, of course variations. In my version, I also add a clove of garlic and some lime juice.

At the end of the day, you want to end up with a chili sauce that is mainly chilies with sour and savoury tones to it.

There really isn’t much to a good sambal oelek but it does pack a punch and is a perfect addition to many foods, not just those from Malaysia and Indonesia.

For your information, the word ‘sambal’ is a Malay word for a sauce that includes chilies. There are many sambal recipe out there and I will be featuring them on the blog soon. The word oelek is the Malay word for pestle and mortar. So a sambal oelek is a chili sauce that you make in a pestle and mortar though I usually cheat when making sambals and use a food processor. 

Which chilies for sambal oelek?

That is really up to you but those that we tried out in the Far East were usually made with red bird’s eye chilies.

That’s what I used in my recipe. If you like the flavour of chilies but not so much the heat, try milder red chilies such as spur chillies.

The sambal oelek won’t be as spicy but it will still look the part and be delicious. 

How long can you store sambal oelek?

Your homemade sambal oelek will keep in the fridge for at least a week. Cover it tightly and take it out when needed.

You can also freeze sambal oelek which is something I do often with this and other chili sauces that have a limited fridge time.

It will freeze well for up to 3 months. Just take it out and defrost and you can have sambal oelek whenever you want without having to use the shop-bought stuff.

Can you freeze this sambal?

Yes. Go for it. It will freeze well for up to 6 months. My sambal oelek never gets to the freezing stage though. I must make a batch each and every week.

How to make sambal oelek?

You can prepare this sambal oelek  in a pestle and mortar or food processor. By pounding the chillies, you get more depth to your sambal but let’s face it… this sambal oelek is spicy and doesn’t need much depth.

I like to place the chilies, vinegar, lime jucie, salt and garlic in a food processor and blend until I have a smooth but still rather chunky sauce.

You could blend yours for a longer or shorter time depending on your preference.

How to get the best results when making sambal oelek…

This is of course my version. The recipe is how I like it.

It is important for you to taste it after blending. You might want to add more salt. You might even want to add a little sugar to sweeten it a tad but sugar isn.

After preparing your sambal oelek for the first time, you might decide to use different chilies. You can adjust the ingredients in this sambal oelek recipe and make it your own.

Ingredients for sambal oelek

There might not be many ingredients but sambal oelek is a simple sauce you simply need to try.

Grind it all in a food processor or pestle and mortar.

Grind the chilies until you are happy with the sauce consistency.

Homemade sambal oelek

Serve immediately or store for later in the fridge or freezer.

Indonesian chicken with sambal matah

Here is my chicken with sambal matah served with sambal oelek.

Here are a few more recipes you might like to try sambal oelek with…

Nasi goreng – Malay fried rice
Babi kecap – Sweet and sour Indonesian pork belly
Ayam masak merah – Red fried chicken curry
Seafood laksa 
Spicy clams 0r sambal lala
Chicken pho

You might also like to try some of these Malaysian favourites. They too can be served with sambal oelek!

Kari Ayam – There are many delicious curries from Malaysia. This chicken curry is one of my favourites.
Chicken with sambal matah – Looking for a delicious chicken snack? This is one you’ve got to try.
Ikan Bakar – Fried fish in sambal wrapped in a banana leaf.
Egg Floss Prawns: Amazing!
Chicken Devil Curry – One of the most famous Malaysian chicken curries.
Nasi Goreng
Chicken Kapitan
Mee Goreng
Blackened Grilled Fish
Chicken Rendang
Beef Rendang

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore share a lot of popular recipes but put their own touch on them. Head on over to my Indonesian recipes section for even more deliciousness!

Yield: 10

Sambal Oelek Recipe

finished sambal oelek recipe in a wooden serving bowl.

Sambal oelek is a spicy chili sauce that is used a lot in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as well as many other places in South East Asia. It's really easy to make and is the perfect spicy condiment for many South East Asian dishes.


  • 225g (1/2 lb.) red bird’s eye chillies or similar
  • 1 tbsp white rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice or more rice wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt or to taste


Place all of the ingredients in a pestle and mortar or food processor and grind to a paste. If using a food processor or blender you might need to add a drop of water or vinegar to make blending easier. If the paste is looking watery, just strain it out. Pour the thick paste into a clean jar that has a tight fitting lid and bring it out whenever you want a good spicy kick.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 3Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 349mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

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