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The 8 Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek

Have you ever heard of sambal oelek?

This spicy condiment is made from chili peppers, garlic, and vinegar.

It’s a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, and it can really bring the heat to any meal.

If you don’t have access to sambal oelek or just want something with a different flavor profile, there are plenty of substitutes that can be used instead.

From hot sauces to fresh chilies, here are eight of the best substitutes for sambal oelek.

What is Sambal Oelek?

Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is a type of Indonesian chili sauce made from red chilies, vinegar, and salt.

It is an essential condiment in Southeast Asian cuisine, used to bring some heat and flavor to meals.

The main ingredient of Sambal Oelek is the red chilies which are ground into a paste, then mixed with other ingredients such as garlic or shallots for added flavor.

The vinegar helps balance out the spiciness of the chili peppers while also preserving the freshness.

Lastly, salt rounds up all the flavors and gives it more depth.

Sambal Oelek has a robust yet vibrant taste that can instantly lift any dish to its full potential – whether it’s on top of rice or noodles, poured over grilled meats or vegetables; even stirred into soups and curries!

Its spicy kick adds a unique twist to otherwise bland dishes without overpowering them.

It’s quite versatile too – you can adjust its consistency by adding more water if you want it thinner or less water if you prefer something thicker like a paste-like texture.

You can also add different herbs and spices according to your preference for a more complex flavor.

Sambal Oelek is a great way to add some heat and flavor to your cooking and it’s easy to make at home!

All you need is some red chilies, vinegar, and salt, and you’re good to go!

The 8 Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek

If you can’t find sambal oelek, don’t worry!

Here are eight great substitutes to use in its place:

1 – Sriracha

Sriracha is a popular hot sauce made from chili peppers, garlic, sugar, and vinegar.

It has a tangy flavor with just the right amount of heat that makes it perfect for adding to dishes or using as a condiment.

The bright red color and creamy texture make it an attractive addition to any meal.

Sriracha can be used as an alternative to sambal oelek in recipes that call for some heat.

It has similar levels of spiciness but also adds more sweetness than sambal oelek does.

Try adding Sriracha to stir-fries, soups, marinades, sauces, or even eggs! Its versatile nature allows you to experiment with different flavors and find the perfect balance for your taste buds.

2 – Tapatio Sauce

Tapatio sauce is a popular condiment made with chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and spices.

The flavor is spicy yet balanced, with a hint of sweetness that makes it great for adding heat to any dish.

It’s commonly used as a dip or marinade for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes.

If you’re out of sambal oelek and need something to replace its unique flavor profile, Tapatio sauce can make an excellent substitute.

The two sauces have similar levels of spiciness but differ in their texture; Tapatio has a thinner consistency than sambal oelek.

For those who want to add some extra zip to their meals without overwhelming the palate, Tapatio sauce may be just what they need!

3 – Harissa

Harissa is a spicy chili paste that originated in North Africa and has become popular around the world.

It’s made with a blend of chilies, garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin, coriander, caraway seeds, and mint.

The flavor is intense and smoky with subtle sweetness from the added spices.

Harissa can be used as a condiment or to add heat to dishes like stews or couscous.

It can also be mixed into mayonnaise for sandwiches or used as an alternative to sambal oelek for spicing up stir-fries.

For those looking for an extra kick of heat without sacrificing flavor complexity, harissa is definitely worth trying out!

4 – Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a classic hot sauce made from cayenne peppers, vinegar, and spices.

It has a bright red color with a medium-level heat that can be used to add flavor to any dish.

The mild spiciness of the sauce pairs well with other ingredients like garlic or Worcestershire sauce, making it great for marinades or sauces.

When substituting Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for sambal oelek, it can be used as an alternative for adding spice and flavor to dishes such as stir-fries, curries, and soups.

It also works well in dips or dressings when combined with mayonnaise or sour cream.

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce offers an easy way to bring some zest into your cooking without having to worry about finding sambal oelek!

5 – Gochujang


Gochujang is a Korean condiment made from red chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt.

It has a thick texture with a sweet-spicy-salty flavor profile that adds depth to any dish.

The heat level of gochujang can vary depending on the brand you choose, so be sure to taste it before adding it to your recipes.

It pairs well with fish and meat dishes as well as soups and stews.

Gochujang can be used in place of sambal oelek for an added kick of flavor.

Try using gochujang in marinades or sauces for stir-fries or even as a dip for vegetables or chips!

6 – Garlic + chili sauce

Garlic and chili sauce is a delicious combination of two common pantry ingredients.

This simple condiment can be made in minutes with just garlic, chilies, salt, sugar, and vinegar.

The result is a savory-sweet blend that packs a punch of flavor without being too spicy.

It’s great for adding to stir-fries or as a marinade for meats and seafood.

If you’re out of sambal oelek, garlic and chili sauce can make an excellent substitute due to its similar flavor profile.

The difference between the two sauces lies in their texture – while sambal oelek is more paste-like, garlic and chili sauce has a thinner consistency.

Regardless, both are sure to bring your dishes to life!

7 – Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are a great alternative to sambal oelek, as they can provide a similar level of heat and flavor.

Red pepper flakes are made from dried red chili peppers that have been crushed into small pieces.

They have a deep red color and an intense spicy flavor that adds depth to dishes.

They can be used in place of sambal oelek in stir-fries, soups, marinades, sauces, and more.

Red pepper flakes also work well sprinkled on pizza or added to hummus for extra kick.

For those looking for more heat than what red pepper flakes offer alone, try adding some garlic powder or cayenne pepper for an extra punch of flavor.

8 – Chili paste

Chili paste is a condiment made from chilies, garlic, and other spices that adds intense heat and flavor to any dish.

It has a thick texture and can range in spice level depending on the type of chili used.

The most common types include Korean gochujang, Thai nam prik pao, Chinese doubanjiang, and Indonesian sambal oelek.

Chili paste can be added to soups, sauces, marinades or stir-fries for an extra kick of flavor.

When substituting chili paste for sambal oelek in recipes, it’s important to consider the additional ingredients as they may alter the taste profile significantly.

For instance, gochujang contains sugar which may result in a sweeter end product than expected.

Nevertheless, chili paste is an excellent way to add depth of flavor with minimal effort!


Sambal Oelek is an essential condiment in Southeast Asian cuisine, used to bring some heat and flavor to meals.

This chili paste has a robust yet vibrant taste that can instantly lift any dish to its full potential.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find in some places.

Fortunately, there are several substitutes that can be used in place of sambal oelek, including sriracha, tapatio sauce, harissa, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, gochujang, garlic + chili sauce, red pepper flakes, and chili paste.

With these options, you can still bring the heat and flavor to your meals without having to worry about finding sambal oelek!

Sambal Oelek

The 8 Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek

If you don't have access to sambal oelek, you can still get that spicy, flavorful kick in your dishes. In this article, I'm offering up 8 of the best substitutes for sambal oelek that you can find in your local grocery store. I'll provide a description for each one, as well as tips for how to use them in place of sambal oelek in a variety of dishes. No matter your taste preference or cooking style, I'm sure you'll find something that works for you here.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitutes
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 341 kcal


  • Sriracha
  • Tapatio Sauce
  • Harissa
  • Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • Gochujang
  • Garlic + chili sauce
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Chili paste


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
CEO at Happy Muncher | | Website | + posts

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.