While I’m not much of a spicy food fan, I do love flavours that pack a punch..once in every while.  Whether you eat them or not, it is certainly very hard to resist the vibrantly beautiful fresh red chillies in the vegetable market these days! So armed with a small bunch of these beauties, I set out to make a couple of jars of our favourite Sambal Oelek chilli sauce.

Sambal Oelek chilli sauce vegan glutenfree healthySambal Oelek is a popular Indonesian chilli sauce/paste. It’s also a staple in Malaysian and Thai cuisine. This sauce is ready in minutes and barely takes any effort. The results are way better than any bottled sauce you may have tried.

It’s spicy, yet very fresh and bright. Its got a touch of sugar to balance the heat,  lemongrass and vinegar to give it that characteristic zing. I did deseed most of the chillies, but you can keep them intact if you prefer a more fiery version.

Sambal Oelek chilli sauce vegan glutenfree healthy

The ingredients here are pretty straightforward. If you don’t have lemongrass, add a squeeze of lemon juice and some zest too. Purists, please forgive me! But when we want to make food from scratch, sometimes we need to make do with what’s available immediately. The process is as simple as blending all ingredients in the food processor, till chunky or use a mortar pestle. Then cooking on the stovetop for about 10 minutes and that’s it!

Sambal Oelek chilli sauce vegan glutenfree healthy

How Can I Use This Sauce

I love how versatile this sauce is. You can use it as a dipping sauce, for serving alongside your meal as a chutney. A couple of spoonfuls add pizzazz to fried rice, noodles, soups, stir-fry veggies. Kick up your mayonnaise and yogurt dips a notch by mixing in some Sambal Oelek!

Add a punch to a simple side dish like my Spicy Millet Stuffed Tomatoes by stirring in some of this feisty sauce.

You can even use this for marinating chicken, fish, paneer or tofu as I did in the picture below. Here I marinated firm tofu ( for about 10 minutes) with a mixture made with  Sambal Oelek, soy sauce, salt, pepper and sesame oil. Then pan fry it on a cast-iron skillet to get that crispy crust. Make extra marinade to drizzle atop the noodles and done!

Sambal Oelek chilli sauce vegan glutenfree healthy

I hope you get to try this wonderful fingerlickin’ good Sambal Oelek.

I’d love to hear from you! Please tag me on Instagram @tashasartisanfoods, using the hashtag #tashasartisanfoods. You can also FOLLOW ME on INSTAGRAMPINTEREST for more fabulous recipes!

Sambal Oelek

Easy to make, this delicious, fiery chilli sauce - Sambal Oelek packs a mega punch of flavour. Use it as a dipping sauce or a marinade, this will surely become a staple in your fridge!
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Natasha Minocha


  • 200 gms Red Chillies, sliced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 1.5 inch Fresh ginger, sliced
  • 2 Lemongrass stalks, only the white part, sliced
  • 4 tbsp Rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • Salt per taste


  • Combine the red chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and vinegar in a food processor. Blend until you get the consistency you like. I kept it slightly chunky. You can even use a mortar & pestle for this step.
  • Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan, add sugar and salt and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water while its getting cooked.
  • Taste and adjust for seasonings per your taste. Let the sauce cool completely before transferring into a jar. Store in the refrigerator. This should be good for a week.

Sambal Oelek chilli sauce vegan glutenfree healthy