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Gourmet Hacks: 5 BEST Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek has a certain kick that turns any meal from meh to amazing.

Finding a substitute can feel like you’re trying to solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded.

Not everyone has a jar of this spicy goodness on hand at all times.

We’ve all been there, halfway through cooking, realizing we’re out of an ingredient.

It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got your back with some top-notch alternatives.

You might wonder, can anything really replace that unique blend of chili and vinegar?

Yes, and we’re here to show you how. Everything from your pantry essentials to some unexpected surprises makes the list.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

If you can’t find sambal oelek (or don’t have time to make it from scratch), don’t worry.

Here are five great substitutes:

1 – Sriracha

Sriracha sauce is a type of chili sauce that originates from Thailand.

It is made from a paste of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.

Sriracha has a slightly sweet and tangy taste, with a moderate level of heat.

The sauce is thick and smooth in texture, with a bright red color.

Sriracha sauce can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek, another type of chili sauce.

Sriracha is generally sweeter and less spicy than sambal oelek.

To substitute Sriracha for sambal oelek, start by using half the amount of Sriracha that you would use for sambal oelek.

You can always add more Sriracha if you want more heat.

When substituting Sriracha for sambal oelek in recipes, keep in mind that the flavor of the dish will be altered.

2 – Tapatio Sauce

Tapatio sauce is a Mexican condiment that is made from chili peppers, vinegar, water, garlic, and salt.

It is typically used as a dipping sauce or as a finishing sauce for dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, and burritos.

Tapatio sauce is also a common ingredient in many spicy dishes.

Tapatio sauce has a sharp and salty taste with a moderate level of heat.

The sauce is thick and chunky with a coarse texture.

Tapatio sauce can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek.

To substitute Tapatio sauce for sambal oelek, simply use an equal amount of the sauce in place of the sambal oelek.

The flavor of the dish will be slightly different, but the overall spiciness will be similar.

3 – Harissa

Harissa is a North African chili paste that’s gaining popularity in the US as a flavorful and versatile ingredient.

Harissa is typically made with a blend of hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin and caraway.

The result is a thick, slightly oily paste with a complex flavor that can range from mildly spicy to fiery hot.

Harissa can be used in many ways, including as a condiment, marinade, or ingredient in cooked dishes.

It’s also a great substitute for sambal oelek, another chili paste that’s often used in Asian cooking.

When substituting harissa for sambal oelek, start with less than you would use of the latter, as harissa is generally more potent.

4 – Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a popular chili sauce that is often used as a condiment or added to recipes to give them a spicy kick.

The sauce is made from a blend of cayenne peppers, vinegar, and spices and has a distinctively sharp and tangy flavor.

It is also relatively thin in consistency, which makes it easy to add to other dishes.

Interestingly, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek, which is a similar chili-based sauce.

Both sauces have a similar fiery taste, but sambal oelek is typically thinner in consistency and has a brighter flavor due to the addition of lime juice.

To substitute Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for sambal oelek in a recipe, simply add an equal amount of the sauce to your dish.

You may need to experiment with the proportions slightly to suit your own taste, but in general, these two sauces can be used interchangeably.

5 – Gochujang

Have you ever had gochujang? It’s a Korean chili paste that has a unique flavor – kind of like a cross between Sriracha and miso paste.

It’s also really versatile.

You can use it as a condiment, in marinades, or even as a dipping sauce.

The taste is definitely spicy, but there’s also a deep, savory flavor that comes from the fermented soybeans.

The texture is thick and slightly sticky, similar to tomato paste.

And because it’s fermented, it also has a slightly sour tang.

If you’re looking for a gochujang substitute, your best bet is sambal oelek.

It has a similar consistency and flavor profile, although it’s not quite as pungent.

Still, it’s a good option if you can’t find gochujang at your local grocery store.

Simply swap out equal amounts of sambal oelek for gochujang in any recipe.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

Looking to add a kick to your dish but don't have sambal oelek on hand? Don't worry! We've compiled a list of the 5 best substitutes that will bring a similar flavor profile to your recipes calling for sambal oelek.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitutes
Servings 1 Serving


  • Sriracha
  • Tapatio Sauce
  • Harissa
  • Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • Gochujang


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Keyword Substitutes for Sambal Oelek
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