Tomato Sambal / Sambal Tomat (Chili Paste with Tomato)

If you love chili sauces and pastes as much as I do, you’ll probably benefit from learning how to make your own, so you can always have a large stash in the fridge (or to gift to other people, if you’re nice). This tomato sambal is spicy, slightly citrusy and just full of flavour and its great with grilled meat or fish, on cheese- or peanut butter sandwiches, in fried rice, or with fried snacks!


The upside: when you make your own chili paste, you can adjust the spiciness to your own liking (nothing worse than store bought products claiming to be ‘spicy’, but being slightly peppery at most) and add any kind of flavouring you want. Not into very spicy? Use only cayenne chilies and more tomato. Are you into sweeter chili sauces? Add more sugar and ginger. Into bold pungent flavours? Add some more dried shrimp, or fermented black beans.


My recipe below uses hot bird’s eye chilies for a real kick, some cayenne and jalapeño for some milder heat and flavour, plus some ripe tomatoes for some fresh sweetness. I’ve flavoured it with dried fermented shrimp paste (terasi), some lemongrass (sereh) and kaffir lime leaves (jeruk purut), but it’s good even without these flavourings if that’s not your thing.

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Tomato Sambal / Sambal Tomat (Chili Paste with Tomato)

0.0 rating
  • GF
  • DF
Homemade chili paste with tomatoes and spices
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:20 mins
  • Cook Time:35 mins
  • Freezable:Yes

Nutrition per portion

  • 100g chilies (I used 50g rawit/bird’s eye chilies + 50g cayenne and jalapeno mixed, but use whatever)
  • 250g shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 400g tomato
  • Piece of fresh ginger
  • 5g piece of terasi (dried fermented shrimp paste)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10g palm sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 lemongrass stick (sereh)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 5 dried kaffir lime leaves (jeruk purut)
  1. Prep: Wash and chop the chillies, shallot and garlic cloves. Grate the chunk of ginger. Deseed tomatoes and dice, or chop in a food processor.
  2. In a dry pan, toast the piece of dried shrimp paste until fragrant.
  3. Once the shrimp paste has been toasted, add a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the pan and add the chillies, shallot, garlic and ginger. Fry until softened and the shallot is starting to brown.
  4. Remove from pan and add to a pestle and mortar or food processor. Add salt and palm sugar and process into relatively smooth paste.
  5. Heat the remaining oil and return the chili paste to the pan. Bash the lemongrass with a wooden spoon and add to the pan as well together with the tomato, vinegar, and kaffir lime leaves. Stir-fry the sambal until the tomato falls apart and the juice reduces (can take 20 minutes or so).
  6. To store, add to a sterile glass jar(s) just large enough to hold the sambal and leave about a 2cm space at the top. Cover with a thin (0.5cm) layer of sunflower oil. Close jar(s) tightly and place upside down. Allow to cool then refrigerate.
  Note: with this method, the sambal can be kept refrigerated for several weeks, but you will have to have a layer of oil on top at all times (meaning, add some more after several uses). If you want to preserve it for longer I would advise you to either freeze it in smaller jars or to use a proper canning method.

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