Sambal assem

How to Make Sambal Assem (Tamarind Sambal)

Welcome to another great sambal recipe! Sambal assem is a sambal paste with lots of tamarind. The tamarind is added either in dried form or as a paste, giving a rich, sweet and sour taste.

To make sambal assem, simply make a sambal paste from chillies, garlic, onion and spices. Add the tamarind at the end and that’s it!

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Step 1: Collect the ingredients

Sambal assem

Sambal assem

Tamarind sambal! Great to boost the flavors of any dish!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Sambal
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 200 g


  • Food processor


  • 8 red chillies (~10cm)
  • 5 bird's eye chillies
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red onion


  • 3 tbsp assem (tamarind paste)
  • 2 tsp lemon grass or 1 stalk
  • 2 salam leaves
  • 3 tbsp palm sugar
  • salt to taste


  • Collect the ingredients
  • Grind the chillies, garlic and onion
  • Fry the sambal assem
  • Serve and conserve sambal assem
Keyword Sambal assem

What to consider when choosing the ingredients

This recipe list is very easy and short. Personally, I have all the listed ingredients on stock in my kitchen. Swap the chillies for more or less spicy ones and play with the amounts if you want. The sambal as listed has a nice spice level for most people I imagine.

Remove the seeds if you’re making sambal the first time, the spiciness of the seeds will be very intense if you are not used to it!

The garlic and onion are very nice to start the complex flavors of the sambal, leave them out or exchange them if you wish. Shallots are commonly used in these type of sambals so try it out some time!

The spices are adding the complex flavors of the sambal and I would not replace them! You could add some more if you wish, like kaffir leaves, lemon grass or your favorite dried spices.

sambal assem ingredients

Let me know what your variation is, let’s continue with the steps I took to complete this sambal!

Step 2: Grind the chillies, garlic and onion

Start by rolling the chillies in between your fingers to break up the seeds on the inside, this will make them come out easy after chopping and washing. Chop the chillies roughly, only once or twice and throw them in a drainer directly.

Wash the chillies in the drainer, be careful not to inhale too much of the spicy air coming from the drainer! Be sure the water flushes out the seeds and continue.

Peel and chop the garlic and onion roughly, your food processor should do the heavy work here. Add the chillies, garlic and onion to your food processor and grind!

grinding ingredients
ground ingredients

If you don’t have a food processor, I’d highly recommend getting one. I use it very often in my kitchen and it’s very essential if you are planning to do some serious cooking. Click here to purchase the one I have!

Step 3: Fry the sambal assem

Now it’s time to fry the sambal assem. Heat up some (sunflower) oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Fry the ground ingredients for a minute or two and add the spices.

frying ground ingredients
adding spices to fried ingredients

Stir well to integrate, add a splash (~100ml) and let it simmer.

fried ingredients and spices
adding water to fried ingredients

This will integrate all the flavors into the sambal, simmer until the water has evaporated and the sambal had a consistency to your liking.

fried sambal assem

That’s it! Very easy to make and super delicious to use for the coming 1 or 2 months (it will spoil soon after). Always check the sambal by tasting and smelling to see if you can still eat it. If not, make more!

Step 4: Serve and conserve sambal assem

Properly clean a seal-able container with boiling water. Let the sambal cool down in the pan and transfer to the cleaned container when it has reached room temperature. The more thorough you are with these steps, the longer the sambal assem will conserve.

Taste and serve in the sizing of your liking. I can recommend serving with fish or rice dishes but don’t be too picky with what to eat with this sambal, try out anything!

Served sambal assem

Enjoy that beautiful color! Have a look at my other sambal recipes if you liked this one:

And some of my recipes that go great with a nice sambal:

I hope you’ve enjoyed another great sambal recipe, let me know if you like it and please leave a rating!

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