Sambal Oelek Recipe

A simple hot sauce that is simple to make, but infinitely useful.

A spoonful of sambal oelek next to some red chiles.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why This Recipe Works

  • Seeding half (or more or less) of the jalapeños allows you to control the heat level.
  • Vinegar and salt both flavor and preserve the sauce.

Some activity flared up on my homemade Sriracha post, so it was at the top of my mind when I was at the grocery and saw a bin of red jalapeños, awakening a desire to make another hot sauce with these sometimes hard-to-find chiles. Taking the opposite approach of Sriracha—which took weeks of testing and recipe variations—I went with a red hot chile sauce in one of its purest forms, sambal oelek.

This sauce originates from Indonesia, where the sauce ("sambal") is made from crushing fresh red hot chiles into a paste using a mortar and pestle (an "ulek"). In essence, it's nothing more, or nothing less, often serving as a foundation to build other sauces. Sure, it's simple, but it's also incredibly awesome and infinitely useful. In America, though, the versions we get off the shelf are heavily salted and mixed with vinegar for preservation, creating the flavor profile most of us are familiar with.

For my own recipe, I wanted something in between the one-ingredient version and what I'm most used to. To get this, I puréed a pound of red jalapeños—half of them seeded—in a food processor, along with a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar and a tablespoon of salt.

The result was a sambal oelek decidedly brighter and fruitier tasting than what comes in the jar. It had a faint tanginess and just enough salt to give it a good flavor for use on its own. While I've been content to leave the Sriracha making to Huy Fong ever since trying to make it at home, I think the few minutes of work to make a fresh sambal oelek is well worth it.

April 2013

Recipe Details

Sambal Oelek Recipe

Active 5 mins
Total 5 mins
Serves 12 servings
Makes 1 1/2 cups

A simple hot sauce that is simple to make, but infinitely useful.


  • 1 pound hot red chiles, such as red jalapeños, fresnos, or red serranos

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Place chiles, vinegar, and salt in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until chiles are finely chopped and form a paste, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as necessary, Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

    Chiles and sauce pureeing in a food processor.

Special Equipment

Food processor

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
13 Calories
0g Fat
3g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 13
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 533mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 17mg 85%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 115mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)