Sambal: Fermented Chili Paste

What You'll Need

  • blender or food processor
  • fermentation weight
  • jar top fermentation kit
  • jar lid for storage
  • 1/2 pound fresh hot red chiles
  • 1 onion. chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
Sambal is a Southeast Asian pepper paste. It’s not always traditionally fermented, but we were reminded of this recipe on a recent visit from our friends Kristin and Christopher Shockey, authors of Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes and the new Fiery Ferments: 70 Stimulating Recipes for Hot Sauces, Spicy Chutneys, Kimchis with Kick, and Other Blazing Fermented Condiments. This recipe came from their original gold standard book, Fermented Vegetables, but it would have fit just as well in the new tome. Sambal, after all, is always fiery! If it is not fermented, it is sometimes cooked, but in this case, the flavors settle into each other through the long fermentation process, and the acid that sometimes comes from tamarind or vinegar in this case comes from lemon and from the lactic acid bacteria that create the tangy flavors of fermentation. Variations abound, and are worth incorporating; turmeric, lemongrass, and tamarind are particularly delicious, but feel free to experiment.


slice chilisPut the chiles, onion, garlic, and lemon juice, in a blender or food processor, and process to a paste consistency. The mixture will be juicy and thick.
blend ingredients
Press the paste into a wide mouth pint jar. More brine should release as you press the veggies, so that you can see brine above the mixture.
pour into jar
Place a fermentation weight in the jar, to keep the paste beneath the brine. Add a fermentation airlock, or loosely affix the lid.

Set aside to ferment at room temperature for 7-15 days.

You can start to test the ferment on day 7. It’s ready when it reaches a perfect blend of spicy-hot with sour undertones.
ferment chili paste in krautsource
After fermentation is complete, secure a lid of the jar and store in the refrigerator. It should keep in the fridge for 6 months, but you’ll find ways to use it up before then.

Dollop it in soups, or use it to spike the flavor in sauces and spreads. It’s excellent on bbq, too.

Over to You

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