Sambal Oelek | Indonesian Chile Paste

Sambal oelek, or Indonesian chile paste, is a spicy condiment made simply as can be with fresh chile peppers, lime juice, and salt. And it’s going to come in inordinately handy.

While you can find sambal oelek in jars, in Indonesia it’s always made fresh to order. You’ll love how much fresher tasting this quick option is. There are dozens of different types of chile paste in Indonesia that include the additions of garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and lime leaves. You can always add some bird or Thai chile peppers to make it spicier.

The Indonesian word oelek means “to grind,” and sambal oelek refers to a chile paste that’s ground in a mortar with a pestle. In its simplest form, this chile paste is made from chiles, salt, and lime juice.–Patricia Tanumihardja

How can I use sambal oelek?

This spicy Indonesian staple is incredibly versatile. You can…

Stir it into fried rice
Dribble it onto noodle dishes
Incorporate it into marinades, soups, and stews
Brush it onto grilled pork and other meats
Drizzle it onto eggs or tofu
Mix it with mayo and slather it on sandwiches (don’t forget burgers)

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • Makes 12 (1-tsp) servings | 1/4 cup


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In a mini food processor or a mortar, combine the chile peppers and salt.

If you want to make this in bulk, simply multiply the ingredients as desired and use a food processor.

Blitz the chiles in the food processor, scraping the sides as needed, or grind the chiles with the pestle using a twisting motion until pulpy.

If your chiles have particularly thick skins, opt for a food processor, which will create a much smoother and more uniform consistency to your sauce.

Taste and, if desired, stir in the lime juice, sugar, and/or salt. Serve immediately or transfer to a jar and stash it in the fridge for up to 1 week.