What Is Sambal?


What Is Sambal? What can it be used for? CAUTION this article is HOT! If you like spicy foods, you might want to check this out! You can purchase it at your local grocery store, or it is relatively easy to make as well. It is a hot sauce that is quite versatile. Traditionally it is a chili paste used in cooking. Some recipes instruct you to cook it, to help break it down. However, the original sambal is simply ground paste using a mortar and pestle.

Sambal originated as a Southeast Asian condiment. There are many varieties of this hot sauce, but the most common type in the United States is Sambal Oelek.

The Main Ingredients Are:

Chile Peppers

There are also variations of this hot sauce that may contain ingredients such as:

Lime juice
Oil or Vinegar

There are many varieties, but most common is Sambal Oelek in the US. There are also Sambal Balacan which contains shrimp paste, Sambal Ikan Bilis that contains dried anchovies and Sambal Kemiri which contains candlenuts. They are all made of the same base, but with a different flair to them.

A sambal is any sauce or paste that is made from various peppers. It is an Indonesian word, referring to a condiment made with chili peppers. Essentially it is a raw ground chili paste. Any chili sauce or paste would be called a sambal.


Sambal is HOT. It adds a spice to any dish or side. The main ingredient are peppers, which add a bold fiery flavor to any dish.


This hot sauce has many uses for adding a little spice to life. It is great for seasoning noodles or enhancing flavored sauces. Typically, the ingredients are placed in a food processor to turn them into a paste. They are then used as a springboard to enhance the flavor of other dishes.

It is usually served with rice, noodles, soups, meat or anything else you want to add a little kick to!  

What Types of Peppers Can You Use?

You can use any kind of pepper, but typically the hotter the better. Thai peppers are the most sought after for this hot sauce. You can also try red serrano’s, red jalapeno peppers, or cayenne peppers.

How to Make at Home

It is very easy to make sambal. Add peppers, salt and vinegar and any additional ingredients desired into a food processor and pulse until it becomes the texture of a course paste. You can either add to a dish and serve, or place in a jar in the fridge for later use.

There are many different ways to make this hot sauce as well as many different uses for it. It is a simple paste to add a little heat to any dish you desire.

What is your favorite way to incorporate this hot sauce? Have you ever made it at home?

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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