9 Best Sambal Oelek Substitutes – How to Use & Ratio

Sambal oelek is a Southeast Asian condiment that’s made from crushed chili peppers, vinegar, and salt.

This chili paste is a delicious addition to many Asian dishes and adds a spicy kick to any recipe. 

However, if you don’t have sambal oelek on hand or can’t handle the spice, there are plenty of alternatives that you can use in its place.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the 9 best sambal oelek substitutes and how to use them.

In short, " What can I use instead of sambal oelek?"

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

What is sambal oelek and what does sambal oelek taste like?

Sambal oelek is an Indonesian condiment that is popular in Asian cooking. It is made of ground red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar and sugar.

The mixture varies in texture, depending on the ingredients used, but it can range from a smooth paste to a coarse, crunchy blend.

The intense heat of Sambal Oelek makes it a great addition to any dish for those who like spicy food. It has a deep red color with a smoky aroma and flavor.

The heat of sambal oelek comes from the chili peppers used in its creation and can range from gentle to hot, depending on the specific variety.

It has a unique combination of sweet and sour flavors thanks to the sugar and vinegar combination that is added to round off the spiciness of the chili peppers. 

Sambal oelek also adds depth of flavor to dishes as well as some complexity due to its garlic and onion notes.

In short, sambal oelek has an intense heat with sweet and sour undertones balanced out by smoky aromas that will give your dishes an extra kick!

Uses of sambal oelek

Sambal oelek is a spicy condiment made from ground red chilies. It is often used as a condiment or to add savor and heat to dishes, such as stir-fries, curries, soups and noodles. 

It can also be used to create sauces for dipping or marinades for meat and fish.

Sambal oelek can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. For example, it can be blended into caramelized onions for a savory topping on burgers or blended with honey for a sweet glaze for grilled fruit.

In addition to its uses in cooking, sambal oelek is sometimes mixed with lime juice and poured over fresh seafood like shrimp or oysters. 

Sambal oelek is an essential ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines and can be found at most Asian grocery stores.

Where to buy sambal oelek?

If you are looking for where to buy sambal oelek, there are a few different places you can go. Many specialty food stores carry it, as do some international grocery stores

You can also order online from many retailers that provide a variety of diverse flavors and types of sambal oelek.

Best sambal oelek substitutes

1. Sriracha – a good sambal oelek substitute

sriracha is good sambal oelek substitute

Sriracha is a close cousin of sambal oelek, made from red chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It has a slightly thicker texture and a touch of sweetness.

Ratio or measurement: Use sriracha in any recipe that calls for sambal oelek in a 1:1 ratio.

2. Harissa 

If you prefer something with a bit more heat, try Harissa. This North African condiment is made from chili peppers, garlic, cumin, coriander, and caraway.

It has a bold, smoky flavor that pairs well with grilled meats and roasted vegetables.

Ratio or measurement: use a 1:1 ratio.

3. Try Red Pepper Flakes in place of sambal oelek 

red pepper flakes are nice sambal oelek replacement

For a simple substitute, reach for your spice rack and grab a jar of red pepper flakesThese dried chili flakes are perfect for adding a spicy kick to soups, stews, and marinades. 

Ratio or measurement: Use double the amount of red pepper flakes as sambal oelek.

4. Cayenne Pepper 

Cayenne pepper is a sizzling spice that can add heat to chili, salsa, and any dish that requires a touch of spice.

It is much hotter than sambal oelek, so start with half the amount and modify as needed.

Ratio or measurement: use a 2:1 ratio.

5. Tabasco Sauce – a great sambal oelek alternative

Tabasco sauce is a hot sauce created with tabasco pepper, vinegar, and salt. It is a bit thinner than sambal oelek but adds a similar level of heat.

Ratio or measurement: Use half the amount of Tabasco sauce as sambal oelek.

6. Red Curry Paste 

red curry paste is good substitute for sambal oelek

Red curry paste is a Thai seasoning paste made from red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. It has a similar texture to sambal oelek and adds a more complex flavor to dishes.

Ratio or measurement: Use in a 1:1 ratio.

7. Use Chili Garlic Sauce instead of sambal oelek 

Chili garlic sauce is a blend of red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. It has a similar texture and flavor to sambal oelek, making it an easy substitute.

Ratio or measurement: Use in a 1:1 ratio.

8. Gochujang

gochujang is nice alternate for sambal oelek

Gochujang is a Korean paste that’s made with fermented soybeans, chili peppers, and rice. It’s thick, sticky, and has a sweet and savory flavor.

Ratio or measurement: Use half as much gochujang as you would sambal oelek in your recipe, and add a bit of sugar to counterbalance the flavors.

9. Homemade Chili Paste – a tasty sambal oelek replacement

If you have extra time and ingredients, you can make your own chili paste at home.

Mix fresh chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a food processor until it’s a smooth paste.

Ratio or measurement: Use the same amount of homemade chili paste as you would sambal oelek in your recipe.

Tips on How to Choose the Most Suitable Substitution Option for sambal oelek

When choosing a suitable substitution option for sambal oelek, consider the following tips:

1. Hot Chili Paste or Sauce: Sambal oelek is a spicy chili paste, so one of the closest substitutes is another hot chili paste or sauce. Look for options like sriracha sauce, chili garlic sauce, or red pepper paste.

 These substitutes will provide a similar level of spiciness and add a fiery kick to your dishes.

2. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: If you don’t have any chili paste or sauce on hand, crushed red pepper flakes can be a good substitute.

They offer heat and a bit of smokiness to your dishes. Adjust the quantity according to your preferred level of spiciness.

3. Fresh Chilies: If you prefer a fresh ingredient substitute, you can use fresh chilies instead of sambal oelek.

Choose chili varieties that match the desired heat level, such as Thai chilies, serrano peppers, or jalapenos. Finely chop or blend the chilies to use in your recipe.

4. Cayenne Pepper Powder: Cayenne pepper powder is a versatile spice that can be used as a substitute for sambal oelek.

It provides a good amount of heat and adds a warm, peppery flavor to your dishes. Start with a small amount and modify it to taste.

5. Harissa Paste: Harissa is a North African chili paste that can serve as a substitute for sambal oelek.

It offers a unique blend of spicy, smoky, and slightly sweet flavors. Use it in smaller quantities and adjust it according to your desired spice level.

6. Paprika: While paprika doesn’t have the same level of heat as sambal oelek, it can be used to add a mild chili flavor and a vibrant red color to your dishes.

It works well in recipes where spiciness is not the main focus.

7. Experiment and Adjust: The level of spiciness and flavor intensity can vary between sambal oelek and its substitutes.

It’s best to start with a smaller quantity and gradually add more, tasting as you go, until you achieve the desired heat and flavor profile.

Always consider the specific recipe requirements and the overall flavor balance you’re aiming for when selecting a substitution option for sambal oelek.

Keep in mind that while substitutes can provide similar heat and flavor, they may have slight variations. Adjust the quantity and taste along the way to ensure the final result aligns with your preferences.

Non Spicy substitute for sambal oelek 

1. Chili Paste

This thick and savory condiment is made from a blend of chilies, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. It can be used as an alternative to sambal oelek with a ratio of 1:1.

To use this paste, you can add it to curries or soups as a heat enhancer or stir it into marinades for added flavor.

2. Gochujang

This Korean chili paste is made with fermented soybeans, glutinous rice powder, and sweeteners like honey or sugar. It has a little sweet and spicy flavor that complements other dishes perfectly.

As a substitute for sambal oelek, the ratio should be 2 tablespoons of gochujang per 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek. 

You can use it in soups or stews, marinades, sauces, dips and more for added flavor and heat.

3. Harissa

This North African condiment is made from chili peppers, olive oil and spices, including cumin, coriander and caraway seeds. It has a smoky taste that adds depth to dishes.

To substitute sambal oelek with harissa, use a ratio of 1 teaspoon of harissa per one tablespoon of sambal oelek. 

This paste can be used to season couscous dishes as well as in marinades for grilled meats or vegetables like eggplant and squash.

4. Chimichurri Sauce

This Argentinian sauce is usually made up of parsley, olive oil, oregano, garlic, and red wine vinegar, which gives it its tangy flavor profile.

It can be used as an alternative to sambal oelek in the same ratio (1:1). 

Chimichurri sauce goes great over grilled meats or fish, as well as roasted potatoes or steamed vegetables like broccoli and carrots for added flavor without too much spice.

5. Cayenne Pepper

 Although not technically a substitute but more so an enhancer, cayenne pepper can help add some heat to your favorite dishes without having to buy any additional ingredients if you already have some on hand!

The recommended ratio is 3/4 teaspoons per 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek; however, this will depend on your desired level of spiciness, so make sure you adjust accordingly! 

You can sprinkle some cayenne into stir-fries or sprinkle it onto roasted vegetables before popping them into the oven for an extra kick!

5 best gluten-free substitutes for sambal oelek

1. Sriracha

Sriracha is a popular Thai-style hot sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It has a slightly sweet flavor that is balanced out by its spiciness and tangy kick.

The best ratio to use when substituting Sambal Oelek with Sriracha is 1:1. 

When used as a substitute for Sambal Oelek, it can be used in place of the condiment in marinades, sauces or dressings to add a spicy kick.

2. Chili Garlic Sauce

This sauce is produced with chili peppers, vinegar and garlic, making it quite similar to sriracha in terms of ingredients and flavor profile.

The key difference between the two is that Chili Garlic Sauce has a much more intense level of heat than sriracha does due to the addition of ground chilies rather than paste-like chilies found in sriracha.

The best ratio to use when substituting Sambal Oelek with Chili Garlic Sauce is 1:2 (one part. 

Chili Garlic Sauce for every two parts Sambal Oelek). It can be added directly to dishes as a condiment or used to enhance other flavors like marinades and sauces to add a nice zing of heat.

3. Harissa Paste

Harissa paste is an incredibly popular North African condiment made from chili peppers, garlic, cumin and olive oil, among other spices.

Its flavor profile combines smokiness from the roasted chilies along with earthy and spicy notes that lend themselves well as an alternative for sambal oelek in many recipes.

The best ratio to use when substituting Sambal Oelek with Harissa Paste is 1:1 – one tablespoon of Harissa paste can replace one tablespoon of sambal oelek in any recipe calling for it as an ingredient. 

Harissa paste can be used in dressings, marinades or sauces where an extra punch of spice may be desired.

4. Gochujang Paste

Gochujang paste is another popular Asian condiment that’s made from fermented soybeans, which provide its signature savory depth combined with red chili pepper flakes for added spice level, making it an excellent substitute for sambal oelek.

The best ratio to use when substituting Sambal Oelek with Gochujang Paste is 1:2 (one part Gochujang Paste for every two parts Sambal Oelek). 

It can be added directly into stir-fry dishes or incorporated into marinades and sauces where extra heat and umami complexity may be desired.

5. Chipotle Tabasco Sauce

Chipotle tabasco sauce provides an additional layer of complexity beyond simple heat due to its inclusion of smoky chipotle peppers, which provide both spiciness and distinctive smokiness without being overly potent overall, making it an ideal gluten-free substitute for sambal oelek .

The best ratio to use when substituting Sambal Oelek with Chipotle Tabasco sauce is 1:1 (one tablespoon of Chipotle Tabasco sauce for every one tablespoon of sambal oelek).

However, this ratio can vary depending on individual taste preferences, so always start conservatively before adjusting according if needed!

As this type of hot sauce can have varying levels of spiciness depending on brand choice so, always err on the side of caution when adding it directly into dishes like stir-fries or even marinades/dressings etc.,

Conclusion on sambal oelek substitute

Sambal oelek is a delicious and spicy condiment that adds savor and heat to many dishes. 

However, if you don’t have it or can’t handle the spice, there are plenty of alternatives that you can use in its place. 

From sriracha to homemade chili paste, each alternative has its own unusual flavor profile and heat level. 

Use these substitutes in your favorite recipes, and let us know which one you liked the best!

FAQs on sambal oelek substitute

Q1. What is similar to sambal oelek? 

Sambal oelek is a type of hot sauce made from ground red chilies, vinegar, sugar and salt.

Other similar condiments include Sriracha sauce, chili garlic paste and harissa paste. All four sauces have varying spiciness levels depending on the types of peppers used to make them.

Additionally, each one has its own unique flavor profile that can be used in various dishes as desired.

Q2. Can I use chili paste instead of sambal oelek?

Yes, you can use chili paste instead of sambal oelek as a substitute for adding a bit of heat to a dish. Chili paste typically contains other ingredients, such as garlic, onion, and oil, which can also add flavor to the dish.

However, it should be noted that the heat levels in chili paste vary greatly from brand to brand. Additionally, if you are using chili paste instead of sambal oelek, you may want to adjust your seasoning accordingly.

For example, if you’re replacing 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek with 1 tablespoon of chili paste, the heat level in your dish will be much higher than if you only used 1 teaspoon of sambal oelek. So make sure to taste as you go and adjust accordingly!

Q3. Is sambal oelek similar to sriracha?

Sambal Oelek and Sriracha are both popular chili-based sauces that originated in Southeast Asia. While they are both condiments and have a similar spiciness level, there are some key differences.

Sambal Oelek is made with red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt, while Sriracha also contains garlic, sugar, and other seasonings.

As a result, Sambal Oelek has a slightly more intense flavor than Sriracha which is slightly sweeter due to the added sugar. The texture of Sambal Oelek is slightly thicker than that of Sriracha as well.

Both sauces are commonly used as accompaniments for dishes such as noodles, soups, salads or even fried foods. However, Sambal Oelek should be used sparingly because it is much spicier than Sriracha and can quickly overwhelm the dish.

Q4. Is sambal oelek the same as sweet chili sauce?

No, sambal oelek and sweet chili sauce are not the same. Sambal oelek is a hot Indonesian condiment made from ground red chilis, while sweet chili sauce is a Thai condiment made from a mix of ingredients, including red chili peppers, garlic, sugar and vinegar.

Sambal oelek has a more concentrated flavor with less sweetness than sweet chili sauce. It also has more heat since it’s made with only red chilis, whereas sweet chili sauce contains several types of chilies resulting in an overall milder spiciness.

Sweet chili sauce also contains several other ingredients that add additional flavors, such as garlic, sugar and vinegar, which give it its delicate sweetness.

Q5. Can i substitute sambal oelek for sriracha?

Yes, you can substitute sambal oelek for sriracha in many recipes. Sambal oelek is a chili paste made from ground chili peppers, and it has a more intense and earthy flavor than sriracha.

The heat level of sambal oelek can vary depending on the variety and amount of chili peppers used to make it, but they are typically spicier than Sriracha.

When substituting sambal oelek for sriracha in your recipes, you should start out by using less as the heat level may be higher.

Additionally, depending on the recipe, you may require to adjust other ingredients, such as lime juice or fish sauce, to create an overall balance of flavors.

Q6. Can you substitute chili garlic sauce for sambal oelek?

Yes, chili garlic sauce can be substituted for sambal oelek in many dishes.

Both are spicy condiments that can use to add savor and heat to a variety of recipes. Sambal oelek is a traditional Southeast Asian condiment made from red chilies, vinegar, and salt.

It has a medium-high heat level with a slightly smoky taste. Chili garlic sauce is a Chinese condiment made from chili peppers, garlic, and oil.

It has a similar heat level to sambal oelek but with more of an acidic kick from the vinegar and some sweetness from the garlic.

Depending on your recipe, you may need to adjust the amount of each ingredient when exchanging one for the other; however, both can be used as an excellent substitute when you don’t have access to sambal oelek.

Q7. Can i substitute gochujang for sambal oelek?

Yes, you can substitute gochujang for sambal oelek in many recipes. Gochujang is a Korean condiment made from chili peppers, fermented soybeans and rice. It has a savory, sweet, and spicy flavor that adds complexity to the dish.

However, since it has a higher sugar content than sambal oelek, it’s best to use less of the gochujang so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in the dish.

Additionally, gochujang is usually thicker than sambal oelek, so if you find that your dish needs more liquid or thinner consistency, you may need to add more water or oil.

Q8. Can I substitute sambal oelek for Calabrian chili paste?

Yes, you can substitute sambal oelek for Calabrian chili paste. Sambal oelek is a type of chili condiment that typically contains hot chilis, vinegar and salt as its main ingredients.

It is a popular condiment in Southeast Asian cuisine, often served as a dipping sauce or used to add flavor to different dishes.

Calabrian chili paste is made with the same main ingredients, but it uses a specific variety of hot chilis native to Calabria in Southern Italy known as ‘Calabrese’, which are typically spicier than other types of chili peppers.

While sambal oelek may not provide the same level of heat as Calabrian chili paste, it still offers plenty of flavor and spice that make it an adequate substitute for many recipes.

Q9. Can I substitute Harissa for sambal oelek?

Yes, you can substitute Harissa for sambal oelek. Harissa is a

North African hot chili pepper paste made from a blend of chili peppers, olive oil, garlic and spices like cumin, coriander and caraway. It contains more spices than sambal oelek, which usually has just chili peppers, vinegar, salt and sugar.

The flavor of harissa is more complex with the addition of smoky spices like smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, whereas sambal oelek is generally a bit sweeter and has a sharper chile flavor. Depending on your dish, either could work well.

Leave a Comment