A close up of Sambal Oelek in a dish
What Is Sambal Oelek And How Do I Use It?
Sambal oelek is a fiery Indonesian chili paste with just three ingredients: red chilies, salt, and vinegar. It's a staple in its home country, like ketchup or mustard in America.
Originally made with andaliman peppers, the recipe changed after red chilies were introduced to Indonesia in the 1500s. Its popularity rests on its versatility and punchy heat.
With a soft tang from vinegar and no sugar or garlic, sambal oelek offers a straightforward chili flavor. It’s perfect as a condiment, in cooking, or as a base for other sambals.
Use it to spice up fried rice, stir-fries, or as a marinade for meat. It's also a key ingredient in Southeast Asian classics like nasi goreng and Vietnamese nuoc nam sauce.
While similar to sriracha and gochujang, sambal oelek stands out with its undiluted chili flavor. It's a must-try for spice lovers looking for pure heat without added sweetness.