Sambal is one thing that can make my meal from ordinary to superb. I love sambal as much as the next Indonesian. A bit of sambal can make boring sliced cucumber into tasty friend for my rice. A spoonful of sambal in my meatball soup can make it even more satisfying. Indonesian meal without sambal is just ‘eh..’

There are a lot variety of sambal. The same ingredients of all sambal is chili pepper. Yep! the whole point of sambal is to add spiciness to your dish.

Some of you maybe heard of sambal oelek. Well, oelek (or ulek) is the way you crush your ingredient with mortar and pestle. Altough not all sambal need to be ‘oelek’. Some of them are sliced sambal.

‘Oelek’ believed to be the tastiest way to make sambal. But if you think it’s too tiring, or if you don’t have mortar and pestle, you can use hand blender or food processor instead.

Since there are a lot of types of sambal, I put a list of the most popular one, with recipe of each. If you are spicy lover like I am, try some of these tasty stuff.

Sambal Terasi (Chili Condiment with Shrimp Paste)

Sambal terasi probably the most popular sambal. There are bottled sambal terasi that you can buy. Just open the lid and put a little bit to eat with fried tofu and tempeh. My favorite is homemade sambal terasi ABC.

Sambal terasi is my personal favorite.

To make sambal terasi, these are ingredients you need:

  • 15 pcs cayenne pepper (you can reduce the amount to make it less spicy)
  • 5 pcs chili pepper
  • 5 cloves of shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp terasi (shrimp paste)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • cooking oil

On a pan, bring your cooking oil to heat up. Fried the pepper, shallot, garlic, and terasi until the garlic become somewhat translucent and your kitchen smell amazing. Strain. With hand blender, blend all ingredient together plus two table spoon of cooking oil.

The leftover can be kept in jar and put in refrigerator.

Sambal terasi goes well with anything fried, raw veggies, and boiled veggies. My personal favorite is to eat sambal terasi with traditional fried chicken or with cooked eggplant.

Sambal Bawang (Garlic and Chili Condiment)

This type of sambal is super spicy. If you want to eat until sweat coming down your face, it’s the right choice. Spicy food lover should definitely tried it. Challenge yourself! Hehe..

Sambal bawang became more and more popular here Indonesia. There’s a wave of spicy food trend that put anything super spicy famous. It follows the new variety of cayenne pepper that have super high spiciness level. It is known as ‘devil pepper’ here. I suggest, for you that not use to eating spicy, do not use this type of cayenne pepper.

the ‘devil’ chili pepper. photo source:


To make sambal bawang, the ingredients are:

  • 10 pcs ‘devil’ cayenne pepper of normal cayenne pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 clove shallot
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil

Saute the cayenne pepper, garlic, and shallot until fragrant. Blend together all ingredients (the cooking oil too).

Sambal bawang goes well will fried chicken or fried duck (basically anything fried) plus rice and some cucumber and lettuce to reduce the hotness when you feel like you’d die.

Sambal bawang is basically daredevil sambal. Use with cautions. hehe..


My husband doesn’t like spicy food as much as I do. So when we eat sambal bawang with chicken, he usually dip the chicken in the oil only and already feel the heat. He gives the spiciest stuff for me.

My personal favorite to pair with sambal bawang is batter coated fried broccoli.

Sambal Lado Ijo (Green Chili Pepper Condiment)

Lado Ijo is literally mean “green chili pepper”. It’s a condiment usually used in Padang cuisine. If you come here and eat in Padang restaurant, they will give you this condiment for free. Because, what is Padang food without this sambal?

Green chili pepper is the same variety with the red ones but picked before it’s ripen. And since this sambal is made using green chili pepper and green tomato, it has a hint of bitterness and not so spicy as sambal bawang.


Green chili pepper condiment

Ingredients for green chili pepper condiment or sambel lado ijo are:

  • 8 green chili pepper
  • 5 green cayenne pepper
  • 1 green tomato
  • 2 shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • cooking oil
  • salt and sugar to taste

First, boil pepper, tomato, shallot, and garlic until wilted. Strain. Next, ‘oelek’ (crushed) the ingredient roughly. Then in a pan, stir fry it and add salt and sugar to taste.

My personal favorite pair for sambal lado ijo is boiled cassava leaf with some fried chicken.

Sambal Matah (Balinese Sliced Sambal)

Sambal Matah is unique. It’s one of the sliced sambal and what’s make it even more unique is the use of lemongrass in it. The taste is rather strong in this one since all the ingredients are raw (matah means raw in Balinese).

If you ever been in Bali and you eat local food, chances are you already meet this sambal. It usually served with other Balinese iconic dishes such as Bebek Betutu (balinese grilled duck) or Sate Lilit (fish satay in lemongrass stick).

Do you dare to make this as your salad dressing?


What you’ll need to make this delicious sambal are:

  • 10 pcs red bird chili pepper
  • 5 pcs shallot
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass (only use the inside white part that is more tender)
  • 1 tbsp of lime juice
  • 3 tbsp of cooking oil

Slice thinly the chili pepper, shallot, and lemongrass. Mix it in a small bowl (do not use plastic bowl). Heat up the oil and pour it into the bowl. Lastly, squeeze the lime on top of it. Give it a nice mix, and you have a bowl of sambal matah.


Sambal Kecap (Sweet Soy Sauce Sambal)

Ah.. this one is you who rather not die of hotness of your meal.

Indonesian parent train their kids into eating spicy food with Sambal Kecap. We Indonesian didn’t born with the ability to withstand chili pepper in every meal. It takes years of training. Hehehe..

Sambal Kecap is in the same group as Sambal Matah in a sense that it is sliced sambal. Super simple to make and taste really good. It is perfect with grilled fish or fried tofu!

Image source:

The key ingredient, of course, the sweet soy sauce and chili pepper. It goes from there, but a lot of home cook have their own liking in what other ingredients should they add in their Sambal Kecap. Following, is my personal favorite.

  • 10 pcs green bird chili pepper, slice
  • 5 pcs shallot, slice
  • half of tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 5 tbsp of sweet soy sauce

Mix all of those ingredients. How simple is that?

It’s a dipping sauce. So you can dip your yummy fish in it and have a burst of flavor without too much heat. Alternatively, take one or two slice of that chili pepper to get the heat. That’s why this sambal is loved by many families, kids can have some too.

Pssstt, Sambal Kecap also comes in a bottle nowadays.


So that’s Indonesian Kitchen Diary’s version of most popular sambal in Indonesia. Go ahead make some, or come here to have some.