Sambal Oelek

What is sambal oelek 

Sambal oelek is an Indonesian condiment made from chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. It’s name comes from the Indonesian word for pepper⁠—sambal⁠—and the name for a mortar and pestle in which peppers are sometimes ground. 

Sambal oelek, sometimes just called sambal, is thicker and chunkier than most American hot sauces. It usually contains bits of pepper and whole pepper seeds. The flavor is bright and tart from the vinegar, with a good amount of spice. A little goes a long way! 

How to use sambal oelek

Sambal is an all-purpose condiment. It can be used as part of a marinade, added during the cooking process, or spooned on as a finishing touch. 

The spice level will vary depending on when in the cooking process it’s added. The earlier it’s introduced, the more mellow the spice will be, and the more sambal you can use. If you’re incorporating it into a marinade, you’ll be safe with a few heaping tablespoons. If you’re using it as a topping, start with a scant teaspoon. 

Sambal can be used in beef, fish, chicken, and vegetable dishes. At Blue Apron, we especially love it in stir-frys. 

Recipes with sambal oelek 

Sambal oelek is used to flavor the turkey and the dipping sauce in these Sesame-Sambal Turkey Lettuce Cups.

This spicy chicken & rice recipe uses sambal to create a sweet and spicy glaze for tender chicken and vegetables. 

Try a wholesome take on fried rice that substitutes protein-rich quinoa for rice. Adding sambal oelek to the pan with the chicken adds depth and spice to this healthy dinner. 

Top seared chicken with a sauce made from sambal and coconut milk. The creamy coconut milk will help tone down the heat of the spicy sauce. 

These chicken tacos are inspired by Asian-flavors. They’re full of crunchy slaw, and topped off with a spicy crema spiked with sambal oelek. 

Here, spicy sambal and creamy mayo come together to give rich, Asian-style flavor to the plant-based Beyond Burger.

Find more recipes featuring sambal in our cookbook.