In this post, I am going to show you how to make Indonesian sambal balado with jalapenos.
When I first went to Indonesia back in 2012, I was amazed at the diversity of the food. Indonesian food is some of the tastiest on the planet, in my opinion, and I decided to learn how to cook it.
One of the things that makes Indonesian cuisine so special is chili sauce – or sambal.
Sambal balado is a delicious, vegan, red sambal sauce that you can use to add flavor to any Asian dish.
Heck, I even eat it with eggs, spread it on sandwiches, and a lot of other stuff.
If you’ve been to Indonesia and find yourself craving the red chili sauce you got at a food stall, I’m going to show you how to make sambal sauce at home.
This is a delicious sambal balado recipe.
Why use jalapeno peppers in sambal balado?
Certainly, the people who run the food stalls and restaurants in Indonesia aren’t getting their peppers from California or Mexico! They’re more likely using cabe merah keriting.
The reason for using jalapenos in a sambal sauce when you live outside Asia is simple: availability and flavor.
And you don’t have to feel bad about it. It’s not inauthentic. People all over the world use what’s available and affordable. If jalapenos were cheap in Indonesia, they’d use them too!
Jalapeno peppers are cheap and widely available here in America. The flavor, while not a direct match, is close enough. And one of our favorite Indonesian restaurants in Atlanta, Batavia, makes their sambal balado with jalapenos as well.
You work with what you have!
At anywhere from 99¢ to $1.99 a pound, jalapenos are far more cost-effective than peppers imported from Asia. And they taste great!
Ingredients for sambal balado with jalapenos
Here’s everything you’re going to need to make your sambal balado if you follow the way I do it here.
I’m making enough to bottle in Ball Mason Jars, so I am actually using TEN pounds in my recipe. I’ve halved it because you’ll probably eat this stuff more sensibly than I do:
- 5 pounds (2.25 kg) of red jalapeno peppers
- 3-5 medium garlic cloves (or however you like!)
- 2 tablespoons (28.3 g) of salt or MSG.
- 1 cup (235 ml) of canola oil
- 1 large tomato (optional for those who want to temper the heat in the sauce)
Please read till the end for important recipe notes.
How to make Sambal Balado with Jalapenos
You might be surprised at how many jalapenos you have to use for this recipe. But it’s really not a lot. Remember, you’re going to seed a lot of them and cut off the stems. More importantly, jalapenos are mostly water, so you’re going to cook the mixture down until all of that water is gone.
In the end, you won’t have nearly as much left. You might get 3 pint bottles.
Also, I am also making some for storage. If you’re not, you can half or quarter the recipe.
Step 1: Prepare the jalapenos
This is the part of any recipe that takes the most time – getting your mise en place ready. Mise en place is just a fancy term for getting everything in place. I use a good chef’s knife for this.
Stem the jalapenos. Then, cut them once, lengthwise, and use a small spoon to seed half of them. It’s up to you how many seeds you want to remove.
If you love heat, leave them all in. If not, take away as many of them as you want.
I usually leave about one-third.
And don’t worry about getting all the white pepper pith out. It’s one thing if you’re serving jalapenos in a different dish. Here, you’ll be boiling them down so much that you won’t notice them.
Next, you have a choice. Either chop the jalapenos using a brunoise cut or put them in a food processor and chop them there.
I prefer the food processor myself. But you do you.
Step 2: Garlic in sambal sauce
You can use as little or as much garlic in this Indonesian hot sauce recipe as you like. I love garlic, and sometimes, I use a ton of it in recipes that only call for 2-3 cloves. I often triple the amount of garlic in a recipe.
In this recipe though, I’m using one clove per pound of jalapenos. This satisfies my garlic craving, and it doesn’t overpower the sambal. Again, up to you. You don’t even have to use it if garlic is not your thing.
Dice the garlic or mash and chop it. Either way works and I’ve done both. Mashing and chopping releases more flavor.
Step 3: Cooking sambal balado with jalapenos
Aside from prepping the jalapenos, this is the most time-consuming part. In order to make the best sambal balado with jalapenos, you have to cook all of the water out of it without burning it.
There are two reasons you want to get the water out.
And they are both very important.
- The flavor is more intense
- Your sambal balado will keep longer without refrigeration
To do this, you will need a very large pot or wok.
I use this cast iron wok. It works well.
Add the canola oil to the pot and heat it up. Then, add the chopped jalapenos, garlic, and salt or MSG.
You will have to cook this for as long as it take on medium heat to ensure all the water evaporates. The larger your batch, the longer it will take.
This step is important (see notes at the end).
Step 4: Bottling your sambal balado
I prefer to use Ball Mason jars to store anything I bottle. I use the pint bottles (about 475 ml). But you can use whatever size you like.
If you’re going to give it away as gifts, use a smaller bottle and you’ll have more gifts to give!
If you’re going to store this sauce, the important thing is to use bottles that are specifically made for storage at room temperature. You don’t want to get sick or make anyone else sick!
Disinfecting mason jars and covers
Using soap and water, make sure your bottles and rims are perfectly clean. Then, rinse them.
Next, carefully place everything in a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. To be sure everything disinfects, allow it to slowly boil for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: Bottle your sambal sauce
The final step is bottling the sambal. Fill each bottle to just below the mark where the caps screw on. You don’t want to overfill them, because you don’t want them to explode or pop.
I usually take the handle of a spoon and poke and prod the sauce to make sure all of the air bubbles are out of it.
Then, put the sealing caps in place and screw the rings on tightly. But don’t go nuts here. Just finger tight. Not monkey wrench tight. Air needs to escape during processing. When they’re done, then tighten them up a little more.
Step 6: Boiling the bottles and the special *ping* sound
If you have a canning pot, this step is easy. Place your bottles in the handy rack, turn up the heat, and boil the bottles of Indonesian chili sauce for about 10-15 minutes.
If you don’t have a canner, that’s OK. You can do one of two things:
Use a large soup pot
This is what I do. I place the bottles in the pot and fill it with water so that it covers the bottles by 1 inch or 2-3 centimeters. Bring it to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down a little.
Not enough to stop the boil, but just enough to ensure the water remains at boiling temperature.
You don’t want the bottles knocking against each other. After 10-15 minutes, carefully remove the bottles.
Use your oven
I’ve never done this, but I’ve been told it’s fine. Heat your oven to 100°C/212°F.
Place your bottles on an oven pan and put them in. After 20 minutes, remove them.
If all goes well, within several minutes to a couple of hours, you should start hearing little “ping” sounds. Those are the most beautiful sounds because it means your sealing process worked and your sambal sauce with jalapenos is ready to store!
If all your bottles don’t *ping* don’t worry, you can reprocess them. Or, just refrigerate or freeze the ones that didn’t and use them first.
Expiry date on bottled/canned chili sauce
This is a hard question for me to answer because, frankly, I’m not a canning expert. I’ll defer to the folks over at Healthy Canning, who say:
“…in theory the seal on your home canned goods should be good forever, and as long as your seal is good the contents are safe. [T]he experts say in general to try to use stuff up before a year, and anything that has just gone over the year mark, prioritize using them up. Don’t panic, don’t throw it out, it’s still good, just make sure it migrates to the front of the shelf to be used before new stuff — the same as any sensible person would do with packaged goods from a store.”
Please go to this page on their site to read more good advice from people who have been doing this far longer than I have.
When I open a bottle of my jalapeno sambal balado, I don’t put it in the refrigerator. I think it tastes far better at room temperature. A bottle usually lasts us a little over a week, and we’ve experienced no issues with anything going bad.
That said, if you want to be sure, leave it in the fridge. Take out what you’re going to use 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to use it and you’re all set!
Important notes about this sambal recipe
Here are a few things you will need to know about this sambal sauce.
Why so much oil?
You are free to use as much or as little oil as you want to in this sambal balado recipe. I use a lot because it really helps spread the flavor through the sauce and tempers the heat.
But if you prefer to use half or a quarter of what I did, that’s OK.
Just make sure you use some while frying it.
Keep in mind that normally, you’ll only use one or two spoonfuls of this for a meal. So it’s not a lot of oil per serving really.
Do not use an oil that adds its own flavor, like coconut or sesame. Those will ruin it. Canola works best, in my opinion, but vegetable oil is OK too. The plainer, the better.
Do. Not. Use. Butter.
Get the water out
It’s really important to cook this sambal sauce down until all the water is gone. Completely. You want to get to a point where you’re no longer boiling it, but frying it.
You know the water is gone when the mixture stops emitting steam. While there is water in the mixture, it’s totally fine to let it cook for a couple of minutes without stirring.
But when the water is almost gone, you need to watch and stir constantly so it doesn’t burn.
Your sambal is now ready to serve.
Do you really use MSG?
Yes, I do. MSG has about one-third the sodium as salt, and I like to keep my sodium to a minimum.
But if you’re not convinced of that, and if you don’t mind using salt, then use salt.
Can I use Fresno peppers instead of jalapenos?
The last time I made this recipe, I used Fresno peppers. Why? Because they look exactly like jalapenos and I made a mistake. But you can still use them! It’s just going to be hotter.
And since fresno peppers have a thinner wall than jalapenos, you’ll get less out of them.
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Let us know how you did
I’ve been eating at a particular Indonesian restaurant here in Atlanta for years. The woman who own’s it makes the very best sambal balado I’ve ever had.
For years, I’ve been trying to get my sambal balado recipe as close to hers as possible.
What you see above is the closest approximation I can come up with and I am very happy with the results!
It tastes very much like hers!
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.
That looks delicious!