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5 Of The Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek You Need To Try

Maria Foster
Last Updated on
by Maria Foster

When you’re looking for the perfect condiment to accompany your meal, it really depends on what sort of dish you are making.

If you are making a dish that will taste better with a bit of a kick, then you definitely need to try Sambal Oelek!

5 of the Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek You Need To Try

Sambal Oelek is a staple condiment in Indonesian food, but it isn’t always easy to find it! You can get it from a lot of grocery stores, but it is not as well known as some other condiments, so there may come a time when you need it, but you can’t get it. 

But don’t worry! We are here to help! We have put together a list of 5 of the best substitutes for Sambal Oelek that you need to try. Some of these substitutes include Harissa, Sriracha, and Gochujang! 

5 Best Substitutes For Sambal Oelek

Below you will find 5 of the best substitutes for Sambal Oelek. Each of these substitutes is as close as you are going to get to the real thing, and they will add the same sort of kick that Sambal Oelek does to the dish. 

Read on to find out a bit more about each of these substitutes. 

SubstituteProteinSubstitute RatioCalories
Gochujang4g1:1220 kcals
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce2.5g1:125 kcals
Harissa0.9g1 tablespoon46 kcals
Tapatio Sauce0g1:10 kcals
Sriracha0g½ tablespoon1 kcals

What Does Sambal Oelek Taste Like?

Sambal Oelek is a kind of Indonesian condiment that is a kind of chili paste. Along with chilis, of course, the other main ingredients in this condiment are ground chilies, salt, and vinegar. 

Sambal Oelek is known for its coarse texture and extremely spicy kick – so it is perfect for anyone who loves a lot of heat in their dishes! It is used in a plethora of dishes, sometimes as a condiment, and other times as an ingredient. 

Most commonly, it is used as a dipping sauce, but you will also find it being used as a key ingredient for spicy soups and stews.

There are lots of different ways you can use Sambal Oelek in your cooking, and it’s a great ingredient to keep in your kitchen. 

Nutritional Value of Sambal Oelek

0 kcals0g0g0g0g

Sambal Oelek Substitutes

1. Gochujang

Gochujang is a type of Korean chili paste that is known for its very unique flavor. Lots of people consider Gochujang to taste like a cross between miso paste and Sriracha. 

It is incredibly versatile and it is perfect for anyone who really wants their dishes to have a spicy kick! While Gochujang is very spicy, the flavor is also quite deep and savory, which makes it a bit more unique. 

Gochujang is also fermented, so you can expect a bit of a sour tang to it. It has a similar consistency and texture to tomato paste. This substitute works interchangeably as well, so if you ever need a Gochujang, Sambal Oelek is perfect! 

You can use Gochujang in sauces and marinades, but it works incredibly well as an ingredient in many other dishes. 

2. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is another popular kind of chili hot sauce and it is most often used as a condiment, especially when you need something spicy. It is made using cayenne peppers, vinegar, and spices, and it has a very tangy flavor. 

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is actually quite thin in consistency, and this makes it a lot easier to add to your dishes. Its thin consistency means that it’s easier to mix and blend in with other ingredients. 

When using Frank’s Red Hot Sauce as a substitute for Sambal Oelek, you can add the same amount as you would the real thing. Keep in mind however that you may need to experiment with the amount you use because everyone’s tastes are different! 

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a great substitute for Sambal Oelek and it’s easily one of the best you can use. 

3. Harissa

Harissa is another kind of chili paste that comes from North Africa. It has been getting a lot more popular in the U.S. recently, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find in grocery stores. 

Typically, Harissa is made using ingredients such as hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin or caraway.

It is quite thick and a little oily in consistency, but it has an incredibly complex flavor that can range from mild all the way to very spicy. 

Harissa is also incredibly versatile. It is typically used as a condiment, but you can also use it as a marinade and you can use it as an ingredient in many different recipes too. It is quite a popular substitute choice and it emulates the taste of the real thing incredibly well. 

If you do decide to use Harissa as a substitute for Sambal Oelek, make sure to always start with less. You may need to perform some taste tests as you go as Harissa is a lot more potent! 

4. Tapatio Sauce

Tapatio sauce is a type of Mexican hot sauce that is made using ingredients such as chili peppers, vinegar, water, garlic, and salt.

It is usually used as a dipping sauce or condiment for dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, and burritos, but it is incredibly versatile and you can use it in any recipe. 

Tapatio sauce is a great ingredient to use in any spicy dishes, and will really add a fantastic kick to your recipes.

It is sharp and even a bit salty, and it’s a bit milder in heat than Sambal Oelek, which is perfect for anyone who loves spice but wants something a little less intense. 

When using Tapatio sauce as a substitute for Sambal Oelek, it is important to know that the flavor will be slightly different, but it will still taste delicious. Even though it is a bit milder in taste, the overall spiciness should still be quite similar. 

To get the taste as close as possible to the real thing, you should use an equal amount of Tapatio sauce as you would Sambal Oelek.

5. Sriracha

Sriracha is an incredibly well known and popular type of hot sauce that originates from Thailand. It is a type of chili hot sauce and it packs a serious punch! 

It is made using similar ingredients as the other substitutes on this list, so you will find chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt in the recipe. It is both sweet and tangy in taste and it will really elevate any dish that you include it in. 

Sriracha is a fantastic choice to use in the place of Sambal Oelek. Sriracha is a bit sweeter than Sambal Oelek however, so just keep that in mind when you are using it! It is also important to note that Sriracha isn’t as spicy as Sambal Oelek. 

If you want more heat in your dish when using Sriracha, then you can add more if you need to! The flavor of the dish will be altered when you use Sriracha in the place of Sambal Oelek but it will still taste amazing! 

Shrimp And Pimiento Cheese Grits

This dish is absolutely incredible, especially if you want something cheesy and refreshing. You can buy store-bought grits for this recipe if you don’t have time to make them yourself!

Warm Kimchi Grain Bowl

If you love Kimchi, then you are going to absolutely love this grain bowl! It is jam-packed with flavor and it is so incredibly comforting! 

Chicken Curry Laksa

This creamy, noodle soup is perfect for colder nights when you just need an extra bit of comfort. It’s also super easy to make as well! 


There are lots of great substitutes out there for Sambal Oelek, but the five we have listed here are easily the best! While some of them are a bit different in flavor and even in spice levels, they are as close as you are going to get to the real thing. 

In some cases, these substitutes actually work better than Sambal Oelek, especially if you prefer your spice levels on the milder side. Next time you are making a recipe that calls for Sambal Oelek, give these substitutes a try!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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