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The 5 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

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Have you ever tried Sambal Oelek? If not, you’re missing out.

This delicious condiment is made from ground chili peppers, and it’s a staple in Indonesian cuisine.

While it can be used as a dip or added to soup, Sambal Oelek is most commonly used as a cooking ingredient.

Because it is so spicy, a little goes a long way.

So, if you’re looking to spice up your next meal, be sure to give Sambal Oelek a try.

Not sure how to cook with it? Here are some ideas:

  • Add it to stir-fries for an extra kick of flavor.
  • Mix it with mayonnaise or sour cream to create a flavorful dipping sauce.
  • Spread it on sandwiches or wraps for a spicy twist on lunchtime favorites.
  • Use it as a marinade for grilled meats or vegetables.

However, if you can’t find Sambal Oelek at your local grocery store, don’t worry.

There are plenty of substitutes that will work just as well in a pinch.

In this article, we’ll share five of the best substitutes for Sambal Oelek.

So, whether you’re out of this chili paste or you’re looking for something a little less spicy, we’ve got you covered.

What is Sambal Oelek?

Sambal oelek is a popular chili paste from Indonesia that is made from ground chilies, salt, and vinegar; it is essentially a chili paste.

It has a coarse texture and a fiery flavor that goes well with many dishes.

It’s made by grinding up fresh chilies, adding salt and vinegar, and then pureeing the mixture into a smooth paste.

Some recipes also call for other ingredients like ginger, garlic, or lemongrass, but the basic ingredients are always chili peppers, salt, and vinegar.

The paste can be used as-is or thinned out with water to create a sauce.

Sambal oelek can be used in many different dishes, both as a condiment and as an ingredient.

It’s commonly used as a dipping sauce or added to soups or stews.

It can also be used as a marinade for meats or fish or added to stir-fries or noodles dishes.

Basically, if you want to add some heat and flavor to a dish, sambal oelek is a good option.

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.


In conclusion, there are many different substitutes that can be used in place of sambal oelek.

Some of the most popular substitutes include Tapatio sauce, harissa, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and gochujang.

Each of these substitutes will alter the flavor of the dish slightly, but they will all provide a similar level of heat and spice.

So, if you’re in a pinch and can’t find sambal oelek at your local store, don’t worry.

These substitutes will do the trick.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek

Recipe by Andrew Gray Course: Substitutes


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  • 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.

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