Asian · Sides · vegetarian

Sambal- a Spicy Garlic kick

What do you do when you’re given a bunch of different chili peppers and don’t know how to use or keep them? Make a Sambal! This is a commonly found asian hot sauce used to accompany all sort of meat, seafoot and veggie dishes. The best part of a Sambal is that it’s easy it is to make, and only requires a few ingredients.


For our Sambal we used lemongrass, garlic, fresh young ginger, palm sugar, white vinegar, and a variety of chili peppers including: red Jalapeno, Fresno, and red Thai peppers. All of these ingredients were found at Specialty Produce, so be sure to check them out if you’re in San Diego!

Traditionally a Sambal would be made using a mortar and pestle to slowly crush everything together. As most of us don’t have time for that, or keep a mortar and pestle around, a food processor will do the job just fine. Make sure you wear gloves if you’re at all thinking of using your hands for the rest of the day. The capsaicin in the peppers can stay on your hand even after you wash them, and it’s no fun when that gets on your face or in your eyes! To prepare the chilis, we cut the stems off, then used a paring knife to cut out most of the seeds. This is where the majority of the heat comes from, so only add as much as you want to make it extra spicy or mild. We went with a medium heat, and got rid of most of the seeds. After seeding, just rough chop the rest of the pepper and throw in in the food processor along with peeled garlic, rough chopped ginger, and prepared lemongrass (see Tofu Stirfry over Quinoa for how to prepare the lemongrass). Pulse everything together until combined, then slowly add the vinegar and continue processing until smooth.


After the mixture is combined, pour it into a saucepot and bring to a boil. Then add the palm sugar and stir to disolve. Lastly, add the zest of a lime and salt to taste and remove the Sambal from the heat allowing to cool. Then refrigerate overnight, so the flavors will come together and develop further.

The Sambal will keep for a few weeks stored in a sealed container in your fridge. It pairs well with so many dishes, so be sure to experiment and find some new combinations!



  • 1 lb red chili
  • 6 oz garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, peeled
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only
  • 6 Fluid oz vinegar
  • 4 oz palm sugar
  • zest of 1 lime
  • salt to taste

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