sambal tempe served

How to Make Sambal Tempe

Last Updated on March 26, 2024 by Damian

Welcome to another great sambal recipe! Sambal tempe is made using deep-fried tempe and is one of my absolute favorites. Tempe brings such a nice flavor and texture, definitely try this one out!

To make sambal tempe, simply deep-fry tempe, grind chillies, onion, garlic and the tempe once cooled. Fry the ground ingredients with some spices and that’s it! Really easy and delicious.

What is sambal tempe?

This famous Indonesian sambal, is a spicy and flavorful side dish made primarily from tempe, a type of fermented soybean, generously added to a chili paste known as sambal. This dish is used in many Indonesian households, particularly on the island of Java, where tempe originated.

Tempe itself has a unique, nutty flavor, and a firm texture that holds up well when cooked. It provides a rich source of protein and dietary fiber, making it a popular choice among vegetarians and vegans.

Let’s get started on how to make sambal tempe!

served sambal tempe

Sambal tempe

Sambal tempe! One of my absolute favorite sambals which can be used standalone as a dipping sauce, sandwich spread or used in main courses. Try it out if you love sambals and spicy foods!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Sambal
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 430 g
Calories 5 kcal


  • Food processor


  • 200 g tempe
  • 5 red and/or green chili peppers
  • 5 bird's eye chillies
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves


  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • salt to taste


  • Collect the ingredients
  • Fry the tempe
  • Grind the ingredients
  • Fry sambal tempe
  • Serve and conserve sambal tempe
Keyword Sambal tempe

What to consider when choosing the ingredients

Tempe brings a nutty flavor and firm texture to the dish. It’s a rich source of protein and dietary fiber. Substitute with tofu for a different texture and flavor.

Red and/or green chili peppers add vibrant color and a degree of heat. Substitute with bell peppers for a milder flavor or habanero peppers for more heat.

Bird’s eye chillies are known for their intense heat. Substitute with serrano peppers for less heat or habanero peppers for more.

Red onion brings a sweet and mild flavor that balances the heat. Substitute with shallots or white onions.

Garlic cloves add a pungent and spicy flavor. Substitute with garlic powder or granulated garlic.

Palm sugar for subtle sweetness and salt to enhance other flavors. Substitute palm sugar with brown sugar or regular granulated sugar. Substitute salt with soy sauce or any other salty condiment.


Let’s continue with the next steps!

Step 2: Fry the tempe

The first step in making sambal tempe is to fry the tempe. To do this, cut the tempe into bite-size pieces, similar to the images. Heat up a generous amount of oil in a frying pan on medium heat and fry the tempe.

frying tempe
fried tempe

The oil should almost cover the tempe, check the temperature of the oil by only placing one piece of tempe. If bubbles come off genlty, you are good to go!

Flip once you see brown edges developing on the tempe. When the tempe has gained a colorful and cripsy jacket, set aside and drain on kitchen paper.

tempe fried

Step 3: Grind the ingredients

Once the tempe is fried, it’s time to grind the other ingredients. In a food processor, blend the chili peppers, onion, and garlic until smooth and fine.

grinding ingredients
ground ingredients

If the mixture is too dry, you can add a bit of oil or water to help it blend easier. Be careful when blending the chilies, as it may release a strong aroma that could irritate your eyes and nose.

Step 4: Fry sambal tempe

After blending the ingredients, you can start frying the sambal. Heat up a clean pan on medium heat with a bit of oil and add the ground mixture.

frying ground ingredients
adding spices

Fry it for a few minutes, add the palm sugar and salt and mix well. In the meantime, add the tempe to the foodprocessor and grind lightly, only for a short time.

ground tempe

Once you’ve given the ingredients and spices some time to cook, add the ground tempe.

adding tempe to pan
fried sambal tempe

That’s it! Congratulations on making sambal tempe, let’s see how to use it.

Step 5: Serve and conserve sambal tempe

You can serve sambal tempe directly with your favorite dishes, such as rice, noodles, vegetables, you name it! You can also use it as a sandwich spread or a dipping sauce. I highly recommend the following:

sambal tempe served

If you have leftovers, you can conserve the sambal tempe in the fridge for a few days or maybe a week. It really depends on how clean you work when storing it. I recommend cleaning an airtight container with boiling water before storing.

You can also store it in portion sizes and freeze the sambal, you can conserve it for months this way and only defrost the portions you will use.

If you want to try out different sambals, I highly recommend the following:

That’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed another great sambal recipe. Let me know what you think and please leave a rating!

Frequently asked questions

What is Indonesian tempe?

Indonesian tempe is a traditional soy-based product that is made by fermenting soybeans with rhizopus mold. It is widely used in Indonesian cuisine and can be prepared in various ways, such as fried, sautéed, or grilled.

What is tempe dish?

Tempe can be used in many dishes, such as nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (vegetable salad), and tempe mendoan (fried tempe). It can also be served as a snack or an appetizer.

What is the taste of fried tempe?

Fried tempe has a nutty, savory flavor with a crispy and slightly chewy texture. It is also a good source of protein and fiber.

How spicy is sambal?

Sambal can be very spicy, depending on the amount and type of chili peppers used. It can range from mild to extremely hot, so it’s important to adjust the spiciness level according to your taste.

Is sambal sweet?

Sambal can be sweet if it contains palm sugar or other sweeteners. The sweetness can balance out the spiciness and add depth to the overall taste.

Is sambal bad for you?

Sambal is generally safe to eat, but it may contain high amounts of salt and sugar if not prepared properly. It’s important to consume it in moderation and to choose healthier ingredients when possible.

Is sambal good for you?

Sambal can be good for you if it contains fresh and natural ingredients. Chili peppers, for example, are rich in vitamins and minerals and have anti-inflammatory properties. It can also boost your metabolism and immunity.

In general, homemade sambals are better then store bought versions as the sambals you buy in supermarkets contain a high amount of salt!

What is sambal?

Sambal is a chili-based sauce that is commonly used in Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisine. It can be made with different ingredients and variations, such as sambal belacan, sambal oelek, and sambal terasi.

What does sambal taste like?

Sambal has a complex and bold taste that combines spicy, sweet, and sour notes. The taste can vary depending on the ingredients and the spiciness level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating