10 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek: If You Can’t Find It, Use These!

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If you’re anything like me, you love sambal oelek. That spicy, delicious chili paste just makes everything taste better.

But sometimes, you just can’t find it when you need it. never fear!

There are plenty of substitutes for sambal oelek that will give your dish the same flavor profile.

Here are some of the best substitutes for sambal oelek that I’ve found.

So, let’s dive right into it. 

10 Best Substitutes for Sambal Oelek 

1. Gochujang 

Gochujang is a fermented chili paste that offers the same heat as sambal oelek, and it works well in most Asian recipes that you can think of.

It is more intense and flavorful, so you might want to experiment with the flavors before going all in. 

How to Substitute? 

You can start with half the measure of gochujang to replace sambal oelek and then add more as you see fit later.

Here is how you can easily make your own gochujang recipe from scratch – 

2. Sriracha 

Easily available at most stores, you can add this chili sauce to spice up your stir-fries or other recipes when you need some heat instead of sambal oelek.

It also brings an element of sweetness and a strong hint of garlic.

How to Substitute? 

You can use a small measure of sriracha sauce and then add more as you prefer depending on the flavor balance you like. 

For a yummy sriracha chicken recipe, check out this YouTube recipe video – 

3. Harissa 

Harissa is another chili paste that you can use to replace sambal oelek in most recipes.

It is popularly used in Middle Eastern cuisine but should work just as well in Asian recipes.

But remember that it contains elements like cumin or caraway seeds which can add different flavors to the recipe.

How to Substitute? 

You might want to play around with the measure of Harissa to replace sambal oelek since the flavors you are looking for might need tweaking. 

For an easy chicken harissa sauce recipe that you can try at home, here is a tutorial – 

4. Thai Chili Paste 

Another great way to add heat and flavor to your recipe instead of sambal oelek is Thai chili paste which works brilliantly in most Asian recipes.

It has a tangier and more umami-rich flavor that is especially great for soups and stir-fry.

How to Substitute? 

You can use more or less the same measure of Thai chili paste as sambal oelek but keep in mind that ingredients like shrimp and garlic can sometimes be overwhelming. 

To make your own Thai chili paste from scratch check out this YouTube tutorial – 

5. Tabasco Sauce 

Much like Sriracha sauce, tabasco sauce is an easy find at stores and is a good alternative to sambal oelek.

It leans more towards the vinegar-like flavors, unlike sambal oelek, and is best used in small measures as a way to add a bit of kick to your dish.

How to Substitute? 

Tabasco sauce is best used in small measures in your recipe and you can add more as you see fit after a taste test. 

Check out this yummy tabasco sauce chicken recipe that you can try at home – 

6. Chili Flakes 

If you are out of sambal oelek and are looking for a quick-fix solution, any kind of chili flakes would do the job just as well.

Red pepper flakes or Cayan pepper flakes can do the job of adding some spice to any recipe that you like. 

How to Substitute? 

Depending on how spicy you want your dish to be, you can play around with the measure of chili flakes to substitute sambal oelek. 

7. Chili Garlic Sauce 

Chili garlic sauce has similar notes of flavor as sambal oelek and it can work well in most Asian recipes like stir-fry and meat dishes.

It shares most key ingredients of sambal oelek but has additional elements like garlic and sugar.

How to Substitute? 

You can use more or less the same measure of chili garlic sauce to replace sambal oelek in your recipes and you should be good to go. 

Here is how you can make your own chili garlic sauce from scratch at home – 

8. Chili Bean Paste 

Chili bean paste is another quick-fix solution to add some spice and heat to your recipe when you have run out of sambal oelek to work with.

It is saltier in flavor but has similar levels of spice so if you can add it confidently in the same measure.

How to Substitute? 

You can add the same measure of chili bean paste instead of sambal oelek in your recipe but you might want to adjust the salt levels.

9. Bomba Calabrese

If you can get your hands on this Italian condiment, it can work as a wonderful replacement for sambal oelek, especially in sandwiches, egg dishes, and dips.

They are quite different in terms of flavor, but it is the perfect thing to add spice to your dish.

How to Substitute? 

You might want to play around with the ratio of Bomba Calabrese to substitute sambal oelek in your recipes and find the balance of flavor you prefer. 

If you would like to make some Bomba Calabrese from scratch and keep it in stock, check out this YouTube tutorial – 

10. Jalapenos

Jalapeno peppers are also a great way to add spice to your recipe instead of sambal oelek.

It might not bring out the salty and tangy flavors of the sambal oelek, but it will add some kick to your stir-fry and sandwiches.

How to Substitute? 

Depending on how spicy you like your dish, you can add as many jalapenos as you see fit for the recipe. 

Bottom Line 

I hope this article helped guide you about some great substitutes for sambal oelek.

If you have any experience using other substitutes, please share them in the comments.

And if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and family.

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About Karen Wilson

Karen is a foodie to the core. She loves any variety of food - spicy or junk! Her slender body and height are deceiving, as she enjoys eating hearty meals that would leave most people gasping for air. She has an appetite for life, and wants everyone around her to share in it too.

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