Indonesian Tomato Sambal

If you read my recent review of Lara Lee’s Coconut & Sambal, you’ll already know that we loved Lee’s recipe for tomato sambal. This versatile and fiery condiment can be served with many of the Indonesian dishes throughout the book.

Indonesian Tomato Sambal

Made from tomatoes, red chillies, ginger, garlic, shallots and some tamarind and brown sugar (for a hint of sweet and sour), it’s quick and easy too.

Tomato Sambal

We made half the amount in the recipe, which was perfect for a few meals. The full batch makes 250 grams, and you can freeze some of it for later use, if you prefer.

Indonesian Tomato Sambal
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4 from 1 vote

Indonesian Tomato Sambal

I think of this tomato relish as a beginner’s guide to sambal, as it works beautifully either spicy or mild, depending on your preference. For those with chilli-sensitive palates, like my Devonshire mother-in-law, Caroline, deseeding the chillies lowers the potency of the heat. The addition of tomatoes makes it a mellow and umami-rich relish that is irresistible drizzled over soups, added to stews or used as a dipping sauce with wedges or fritters. 
This is typically made with intensely flavoured bush tomatoes in the parts of Indonesia where they are lucky enough to grow them, but in my home kitchen in London I’m happy to use good-quality cherry tomatoes. 
This sambal keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge covered with a thin layer of sunflower oil, or for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Chilli heat: Moderate
Servings 16 portions (250 grams)
Author Lara Lee


  • 20 long red chillies (about 250 g), deseeded and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cm piece of ginger (about 20 g), peeled and sliced
  • 2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots peeled and sliced
  • 180 g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste (or 1 tsp lime juice mixed with 1 tsp brown sugar)
  • ½ tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying


  • Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, shallots and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a semi-fine paste, retaining a little texture.
  • Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Add the paste to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 10–15 minutes or until the sambal darkens, is fragrant and reduces to a thick consistency. Season with the tamarind paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Leave to cool.

Check out two more recipes from Coconut & Sambal:


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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from My Indonesian Kitchen by Lara Lee from publishers Bloomsbury. Book photography by Louise Hagger, other images by Kavita Favelle. 

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10 Comments to "Indonesian Tomato Sambal"

  1. Jackie Gately

    I am a big fan of sauces, condiments, and chutnees that add to my dining experience. Looks like you’ve hit the mark here for me with this Indonesian Tomato Sambal! I love this rich combination of fresh ingredients and imagine that besides its sweet and sour flavors, it might be a healthy remedy (for what?)—especially with powerful natural ingredients like garlic and ginger. I’ll be making up a double batch and freezing the extra. Can’t wait to enjoy this fiery condiment. Yum!

  2. kaveyeats

    I imagine there are many many variations of tomato sambal, this one from Lara Lee’s book doesn’t have shrimp paste.

  3. Jan

    Excellent.. Always remember having sambal along with salt & pepper, as a condiment. As I write this Thia chilli peppers are ripening. Can’t wait to give this recipe a go.


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