Sambal Terasi in a blue patterned bowl with slices of lime


Sambal Terasi is so easy to make at home, and a 'must-know' recipe for the budding home cook! With a few simple ingredients, you will never have to rely on store bought ones ever again! 

Course Sauces & Garnishes
Cuisine Malay, Indonesian
Keyword sambal, Indonesian sambal, sambal belachan, sambal terasi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 114 kcal



  • 8 Bird's eye chillies (chilli padi) deseeded
  • 8 Fresh red chillies deseeded
  • 1 Red tomato Quartered, optional
  • 5 Garlic
  • 5 Red shallots
  • 1 small block Fermented shrimp paste (belacan or terasi) ~20 grams
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • 5 tbsp Cooking oil
  • Squeeze of green lime or calamansi juice



  1. In a dry pan, dry toast the shrimp paste till it becomes slightly charred. 

  2. Heat a wok or pan to medium-heat and add the cooking oil. 

  3. Saute all the ingredients together (except shrimp paste, salt and sugar) until they become tender. You want the tomatoes slightly blistered, caramelised and mushy, and onions translucent .

  4. Remove from heat and transfer to a mortar, leaving excess oil behind.

  5. Pound the sambal ingredients with salt and sugar into as paste. The consistency is up to your own discretion (fine or chunky) 

  6. Finish off with a quick squeeze of lime juice just before serving 

Top Tips


  1. All the ingredients are easily accessible here in Singapore, so setting aside half an hour of your time will save you trips to the market to purchase store bought sambal!
  2. When purchasing shrimp paste,
  3. Terasi or Belachan (shrimp paste) is the dominant flavour, so you need to get a good brand. Be sure to read the ingredients list and select one with only shrimp and salt. The best belachan comes from Malacca, Malaysia. The packaging is usually round (not square or rectangular), and only contains shrimp and salt. The shrimp-y aroma is milder, not be jarringly pungent. It should also have a light, golden brown colour.
  4. Many supermarket brands contain other ingredients such as sugar, soybean and water that will affect the overall flavour of the sambal. They tend to have a dark brown colour and are extremely pungent.


  1. Remember not to add salt and sugar when cooking the sambal - salt and sugar act as an abrasive to help break down in the ingredients in the pestle and mortar
  2. There are raw versions of sambal, however cooking it always extracts more flavour and sweetness - especially from the onions and tomatoes
  3. There is no secret recipe, but it is important to nail the flavour balance of spice, umami and sweetness.
  4. Charring the shrimp paste is highly recommended, this helps to extract a more smokey flavour to the sambal
  5. Store the sambal in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep for 4-5 days.