This easy vegan sambal is a delicious and aromatic chili paste made from a blend of red jalapenõs, lemongrass, shallots, and garlic. This sambal is one of my go-to chili pastes for curries, stir-fries, or rice dishes such as Nasi Lemak.
What is Sambal
Sambal is a Malay word, which means chili paste or sauce. It’s typically made from a blend of fresh and dried red chilies, fragrant spices that are then cooked down into a thick red paste. This paste is the soul to many dishes such as laksa, spicy sauce, and can be served as a savory jam for toasts or more common one in Nasi Lemak.
Honestly it’s quite time-consuming to make sambal but if you make a big batch, you’ll have this delicious paste for many meals after. With proper storage, sambal can lasts for a long time, and please see below storage tips if you plan to make some soon.
Everyone has their own sambal recipe and it varies depending on their preferred taste. It can be sweeter, very spicy, or with a touch of sourness from tamarind juice. My sambal recipe varies a lot depending on what’s available at the store but it needs to have a few key ingredients as below.
My go-to Sambal Ingredients
- Fresh red chilies
- Galangal (optional but highly recommended and can be substituted with ginger)
- Curry leaves (omit if you can’t find it but highly recommended)
- Tamarind juice (for a tad of sourness)
- Candle nuts (optional, can be substituted with Macadamia nuts)
- Coconut sugar or sugar
A version of Sambal without onion or garlic
- Fresh red chilies
- Dried red chilies
- Thai lime leaves
- Curry leaves
- Tamarind Juice
- Coconut sugar
- Blend chili paste ingredients with oil, not water – an amazing tip from my friend. This reduces the cooking time to at least half.
- Add enough oil to cook the chili. Chili is fully cooked and ready when oil starts to separate from the mixture and the color turns darker.
- Make a big batch of sambal and refrigerate or freeze unused portions.
- Use ice-cubes tray to freeze your sambal for portion control.
This Sambal recipe is
- Perfect for make-ahead meals
- Versatile – serve it as savory jam on toast or add to stir-fries dishes such as Easy Vegan Sambal Potatoes
- Customizable – see above variations
- the base for Tomato Sambal in Nasi Lemak
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Easy Vegan Sambal (Red Chili paste)
- 1/2 lb [200g] red chili used red jalapeno
- 2 stalks lemongrass white part only
- 1 shallot about 100g
- 1 small bulb garlic about 6-8 cloves
- a few slices of ginger about 8 g
- ¾ cup [168g] oil for blending and cooking *separated to 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Place chili, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, ginger and 1/2 cup of oil in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Heat a non-stick tall pan then add in the remaining oil.
- Slowly pour in the blended mixture into the pan.
- Cook until the oil starts to separate from the chili by stirring continuously, about 20 minutes.
- Add sugar, salt and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. The mixture will turn darker.
- Turn off the heat and let cool before storing it into a jar.