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Best Sambal Ever!

by Kelly
Best sambal (chili paste) ever, with the perfect balance of spiciness and sweetness!

Growing up in Malaysia, I’ve eaten countless different types of sambal, from popular restaurants to store-bought ones, but I’m happy to say, this recipe is one of the best sambals I’ve ever tasted with a perfect balance of spiciness and sweetness, and you can easily make it at home!

Sambal, the fiery chili paste condiment that adds a punch to countless dishes, is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. Its rich and complex flavors make it a favorite among spice enthusiasts.

At the heart of this exceptional sambal is a carefully curated selection of ingredients. Dried chilies and large red chilies provide the base, delivering that signature heat. The aromatic combination of red onion, lemongrass, and ginger adds depth, while garlic cloves and candlenuts contribute to the robustness of the paste. A touch of belacan, a shrimp paste commonly used in Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, ties it all together.

What sets this recipe apart is the combination of sambal liquid. A tablespoon of tomato puree introduces a subtle tanginess, while tamarind juice brings a delightful sour note. The dance of flavors continues with the addition of light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, and salt, creating a harmonious balance that complements the heat of the chilies.

The dried chilies are soaked in hot water before blending everything into a smooth paste. The paste is then brought to life in a pan with sizzling cooking oil, creating a symphony of aromas that will awaken your senses. As the paste turns a tantalizing brown, the sambal liquid is introduced, infusing the mixture with layers of complexity.

For those who crave a darker hue, a tablespoon of brown sugar can be added to the mix after incorporating the sambal liquid. This small addition not only enhances the visual appeal but also contributes a subtle sweetness that plays well with the spiciness of the sambal.

This sambal recipe is a celebration of Southeast Asian flavors, and can be eaten with almost anything or used as a cooking ingredient to elevate your dishes. So let’s get to it!

Watch How To Make It

Best Sambal Ever!

This is one of the best sambals (or chili paste) ever, with a perfect balance of spiciness and sweetness, and you can easily make it at home!
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Chili paste, sauce, spicy
Servings: 800 ml


  • 10 dried chilies
  • 10 large red chilies
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 lemongrass
  • 1 thumb ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 candlenuts
  • 1 tsp belacan

Sambal Liquid

  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 3 tbsp light soy
  • 6 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp water


  • 1 tbsp brown sugar


  • Soak the dried chilis in hot water for 10 minutes then drain. Blend all the ingredients, (except the sambal liquid) in a chopper until it becomes a smooth paste.
  • Make the sambal liquid and set it aside.
  • Heat cooking oil in a pan over medium heat and pour in the paste. Fry it for 10 minutes until the paste turns brown. Then, add the sambal liquid and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
    Pro Tip: If you’d like your sambal to look dark red, add 1 tbsp of brown sugar into the mix after the sambal liquid.
  • Continue cooking until the sambal reduces in liquid. Adjust the sambal with sugar to your preference. Scrape the bottom of the pan to avoid burning and transfer it to a jar.

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