Homemade Sambal Oelek

A simple chili paste that’s versatile in the kitchen…

For all the bold flavor in a jar of sambal oelek, there are actually few ingredients here. Just a little salt, a touch of vinegar, and chilies. Lots and lots of chilies. This simplicity makes making your own homemade sambal oelek very easy! And it’s very versatile in the kitchen, working just as well as the base for a sauce or dip or as a fiery heat source for soups or stews. It calls for red chilies, but that, of course, can mean a lot of things on the pepper scale.

For those that want fire in its purest, use Thai chilies. It’s a big, bold heat, so be prepared. For those that love spice, but prefer a little less fire in their homemade sambal oelek, opt for red serrano or Fresno chilies. Serrano peppers are typically twice the heat of jalapeños, while Fresno chilies share a very similar heat profile to them.

Of course, sambal oelek has a very popular chili sauce cousin: Sriracha. Ready to make your own chili garlic sauce? Take a look at our homemade sriracha recipe. Or for a milder (and smokier) option, our ancho chili sauce is quite delicious!

homemade sambal oelek

Homemade Sambal Oelek

A simple, yet versatile chili paste
4.67 from 6 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Condiment, Paste
Cuisine Asian
Servings 20 servings
Calories 9 kcal


  • 1 pound red chilies red Fresno, red serrano, or Thai, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water


  • Place the chilies into a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of water, and pulse chop them into a coarse paste.
  • Add the chilies to a saucepan, then heat on medium for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the vinegar and salt and stir to combine.
  • Continue heating for 10 minutes while stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat and allow the sambal oelek to cool to room temperature. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight for best flavor.


For a medium heat paste, use Fresno peppers or serrano (double+ the heat of Fresno). For an extra fiery paste, use Thai chilies.
Use gloves when handling any chili, especially Thai peppers.


Calories: 9kcalCarbohydrates: 1gSodium: 118mgPotassium: 73mgSugar: 1gVitamin A: 215IUVitamin C: 32.6mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.2mg


Keyword Fresno pepper, Serrano Pepper, Thai Pepper
Did you make this?Mention @PepperScale or tag #PepperScale so we can see what you made!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 17, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on January 18, 2016.