Sambal Oelek

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Sambals are multipurpose condiments that are popular throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, with a multitude of variations. This basic, hot sambal, which has been called the mother of all Indonesian sambals, is also spelled olek or ulek. Since oelek means “hot peppers,” we’ll go with that spelling. This sambal goes well with meats and poultry as well as being a perfect condiment just to add heat to your meal. It can also be used as a base for creating other sambals or as a substitute for fresh chile peppers in recipes.



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, tangy, tart

Type of DishCondiments


  • 1 cup dried red chiles, such as piquins or cayennes, stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, preferably fresh
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably peanut


  1. Place the chiles in a bowl, cover with hot water, and allow them to steep for 15 minutes to soften. Remove the chiles, drain, and discard the water.

  2. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Thin the sambal with more lime juice if desired.

  3. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.


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