9 Best Sambal Oelek Substitutes – How to Use It

by Simon
Sambal Oelek Substitutes

Sambal Oelek is a cooking spice from Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. It is made from ground chilies, adding salt and vinegar. When you don’t have it, you definitely should to have Sambal Oelek Substitutes so that the dish remains delicious and tasty.

Sambal Oelek is widely used in various dishes to add a spicy and savory taste to dishes. Usually Sambal Oelek is added to fried rice or white rice which is served with fried anchovies.

You don’t need to worry when you don’t have Sambal Oelek because there are many best Sambal Oelek substitutes that you can add to your dish.

We will share with you 9 best Sambal Oelek substitutes, also share about how to use them and the ratio when adding them to cooking. If you are wondering “What can I use instead of sambal oelek?” then you can give many answers as we explain here.

So, before we explain in detail the best sambal oelek substitutes. Here is a general list of various types of chili sauce that can be used as a substitute.

  • Sriracha,
  • Harissa,
  • Red Pepper Flakes,
  • Cayenne Pepper,
  • Tabasco Sauce,
  • Red Curry Paste,
  • Chili Garlic Sauce,
  • Gochujang,
  • Homemade Chili Paste.

Before we detail the best substitutes for sambal oelek, let’s look at the definition of sambal oelek and what it tastes like.

What is Sambal Oelek and What does Sambal Oelek Taste Like?

Sambal oelek is a typical Indonesian cooking spice and is quite widely used in various Asian recipes. This typical chili sauce is made from ground chilies, garlic, vinegar and sugar.

These ingredients are also mixed with other ingredients depending on the taste of the maker. However, the texture is smooth, and the data ranges between rough and crunchy. Although the taste of sambal oelek is spicy, it has a delicious taste and this is what makes it popular and widely used in cooking.

The sharp spicy note in sambal oelek makes it a perfect addition to many dishes. For those of you who like spicy flavors, you really need to consider adding sambal oelek. The aroma is smoky with a dark red color.

The level of heat of sambal oelek can vary according to the chilies used and the number of chilies. So what does sambal oelek taste like? It tastes like sweet mixed with sour and savory thanks to the addition of vinegar and sugar in it.

There is a plus point to this chili sauce in the form of depth of taste due to the addition of garlic and shallots in the sambal oelek. In short, if someone asks “what does sambal oelek taste like?”, then you should know that the taste of sambal oelek is sweet, mixed with sour, savory and spicy, which is pungent and balanced with a smoky smell and this combination is enough to make you drool when you smell it.

Uses of Sambal Oelek

What is the use of sambal oelek? According to its ingredients, sambal oelek is made from ground red chili sauce, and is a spice that is often used to give dishes a spicy taste, as well as adding flavor to stir-fried dishes, soups, noodles and curries.

If you’ve never made soup or noodles with sambal oelek, you should try it and see what your cooking tastes like. This not only makes it spicy, but makes your dish taste rich and delicious on the tongue.

Sambal oelek is sometimes also used as a seasoning for marinating meat and fish in making sauce. Another benefit of sambal oelek is as an addition to sweet and spicy dishes, for example as a mixture in caramelized onions as a burger topping, there are also those who use sambal oelek as a sweet coating on grilled fruit after mixing it with pure honey.

There are also other uses for sambal oelek, for seafood lovers, sambal oelek is mixed with lime and drizzled over seafood such as oysters, shrimp and others.

In many dishes, sambal oelek is an important addition to Southeast Asian culinary delights such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and others.

Where to Buy Sambal Oelek?

Are you confused about where to buy sambal oelek? There are several different places that provide it. Food stores are one of the providers of this typical Indonesian chili sauce. It is also available in international grocery stores.

There are also traditional retailers who provide it, but usually these retailers are difficult to find because they don’t have special stores. An easy way to get sambal oelek is to buy it online.

If you don’t have sambal oelek, is there the best sambal oelek substitutes that can provide a taste and level of spiciness that is similar or at least similar to original sambal oelek? Yes, of course there are, below we will share several replacements that might be suitable for you.

Best Sambal Oelek Substitutes

1. Sriracha

One of the best sambal oelek substitutes is Sriracha, this is somewhat more similar to sambal oelek, it is made from red chilies, vinegar, sugar, garlic and salt. Why is Sriracha good for replacing sambal oelek? It turns out it’s both spicy, sweet and sour, but it’s thicker than sambal oelek.

The next time you make a recipe that calls for sambal oelek, then use sriracha in a 1:1 ratio.

2. Harissa

If you want something spicier to replace the sambal oelek, then don’t worry, there are spicier options. You can use harissa.

Harissa is a chili seasoning originating from North Africa which is made from chilies, garlic, coriander, cumin and caraway.

Harissa’s flavor is bolder, spicier, and smoky, and it makes a great substitute for sambal oelek in any recipe that calls for grilled meat or grilled vegetables.

When using Harissa you can use a 1:1 ratio to sambal oelek.

3. Red Pepper Flakes as Sambal Oelek Substitutes

If you don’t have sambal oelek, try looking in your kitchen shelf, if there are red chili flakes, you can use them as a substitute for sambal oelek. Red chili flakes have a spicy flavor in soup recipes, or used as a marinade or as a seasoning for stews.

To replace sambal oelek, you can use double the amount of red chili flakes as a substitute for sambal oelek.

4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper is a spicy spice that can add a hot taste to dishes, salsa, or other dishes that have a spicy taste.

Its has a spicier taste than sambal oelek. So, add half the amount of sambal oelek used. If you use one spoon of sambal oelek in cooking, then for Cayenne Pepper just use 1/2 spoon. But you can modify the amount if it doesn’t suit your taste.

5. Tabasco Sauce, a great sambal oelek alternative

Tabasco sauce is a spicy sauce which is one of the best sambal oelek substitutes. The spicy taste comes from the addition of tabasco pepper, salt and vinegar. This chili sauce is slightly liquidier than sambal oelek but has the same level of spiciness.

When adding Tabasco sauce to cooking to replace sambal oelek, you can add half the amount of Tabasco sauce as sambal oelek.

6. Red Curry Paste

This red curry paste is a Thai condiment made from garlic, red chilies, ginger and lemongrass. It has a texture similar to sambal oelek, and its taste is more complex, like a cooking spice.

The spicy and savory taste makes red curry pasta the best substitute for sambal oelek. The taste ratio can be 1:1.

7. Chili Garlic Sauce as sambal oelek substitutes

Chili garlic sauce is a mixture of several spices such as vinegar, garlic, chili peppers, sugar and salt. The taste and texture are similar to sambal oelek. So, it is easy to use as a substitute in various recipes that require you to use sambal oelek.

Its use in cooking is in a 1:1 ratio

8. Homemade Chili Paste

Next, the best sambal oelek substitutes that is recommended is homemade chili paste. You can make this pasta yourself from your home.

The way to make homemade chili paste is to combine ingredients such as garlic, vinegar, fresh chilies, salt, in a blender and then puree it into a paste.

The comparison ratio is 1:1

9. Gochujang

What is Gochujang? The Gochujang is a Korean paste made from fermented soybeans, rice and chilies. The texture is chewy, sticky, with a sweet and savory taste.

To substitute Gochujang for sambal oelek, use half the amount of Gochujang for sambal oelek, add a little sugar to make it more similar in taste.

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5 Best Gluten-free Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

For those who cannot eat foods that contain gluten, there is an alternative to sambal oelek which is gluten-free. Whatever it is, let’s check the following.

1. Sriracha

This is a Thai hot sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. The taste is slightly sweet but can balance out the high spiciness.

The ratio with samba oelek is 1:1

2. Chili Garlic Sauce

Then a gluten-free substitute for sambal oelek is Chili Garlic Sauce, made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, it is very similar to sriracha in terms of taste profile.

However, there is a difference between Chili Garlic Sauce and Sriracha where Chili Garlic Sauce is spicier because of the addition of chili powder. The ratio is 1:2, one portion of Chili Garlic Sauce and 2 portions of sambal oelek.

3. Harissa Paste

This is a North African spice that is also popular as a gluten-free substitute for sambal oelek. Celiac sufferers don’t need to worry because there are no ingredients that are dangerous for them.

Harissa Paste is made from cumin, chili peppers, garlic and olive oil. The ratio for replacing sambal oelek is 1:1 (1 portion of Harissa Paste for 1 portion of sambal oelek).

Apart from using Harissa Paste in cooking seasonings, you can use it as an ingredient in marinades, sauces and sauces that require additional spices.

Other best substitutes for sambal oelek that are gluten-free are:

– Gochujang Paste, ratio 1:2 (1 portion of Gochujang for 2 portions of sambal oelek)

– Chipotle Tabasco Sauce, the ratio is 1:1

Remember, this chili sauce is sometimes made using different chili peppers, so when adding it to your cooking you should try a little at a time until you find the right level of taste.

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