A simple chili paste that’s versatile in the kitchen.
For all the bold flavor in a jar of sambal oelek, there’s actually few ingredients there. Just a little salt, a touch of vinegar, and chilies. Lots and lots of chilies. This simplicity makes sambal oelek 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 at 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, 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.
Homemade Sambal Oelek
- 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.