Sambal Terasi Spice Paste Recipe

Sambal Terasi Spice Paste

Sambal Terasi is a Chili-based Indonesian Spice Paste so named because it uses a Dried Fermented Shrimp Paste known in the region as Terasi.

Recently, I posted a recipe for Sambal Belacan, which is a chili based Malaysian Spice Paste incorporating Belacan, a Dried Fermented Shrimp product. Sambal Terasi is the Indonesian equivalent of this paste, with ‘Terasi’ being the Indonesian name for Belacan. This interpretation is a very basic one, using only 5 ingredients, and it is extremely fiery.

Ingredient Notes

Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies
Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies

The very basic Sambal Terasi is just a raw paste consisting of fresh red chilies ground to a paste with salt and dried shrimp paste. However, there are many variations, and more complex recipes can include garlic, shallots, onions, sugar, tomatoes and a variety of nuts such as Candlenuts or Macadamias. Here, I am just adding garlic to the basic recipe, with a little oil for processing.

As for the Chillies, I am using a Thai variety known as ‘Bird’s eye Chili’ (shown above), which is very commonly used in the preparation of Sambals and other Southeast Asian spice pastes. They are quite small, but they pack a real punch, coming in at around 50,000 units on the Scoville Scale. You can substitute for a less fiery variety such as Jalapeno, if you like (around 5000 Scovilles), or even go higher up the heat scale if you don’t mind killing off a dinner guest or two.

The Method

Using a food-processor to make a Sambal Terasi
Using a food-processor to make a Sambal Terasi

The process here is really straightforward. Coarsely chop the garlic and peppers, crumble up the Belacan (Terasi) and add these ingredients to your food processor along with the salt. Blend well, adding the oil to keep the blades turning, until you have a nice smooth paste.

Storing Sambal Terasi
Storing Sambal Terasi

Once you are finished, transfer the contents of your food processor to a small jar or other receptacle for storage in the fridge. With the salt, it should last many weeks even without having been cooked.

Using Sambal Terasi

Basically, you can use the paste as you would any other chili paste or hot sauce. The dried shrimp flavor won’t be glaringly apparent unless you use a lot, but the Terasi (Belacan) does add a great umami depth.

If you want to try a more traditional use, blend some of the paste with lime juice for a terrific, and quite fiery dipping sauce. You can also put a dollop on the side of your plate when eating rice along with other small side dishes and use it as a condiment.

Minangkabau Shrimp Curry
Minangkabau Shrimp Curry

While Sambal Terasi can be used extensively as a condiment, it makes a terrific flavor base for a wide range of cooked dishes, including curried preparations such as the Coconut-Milk and Shrimp Curry shown above.

Your Recipe Card:

Sambal Terasi Spice Paste Recipe

Sambal Terasi is a Chili-based Indonesian Spice Paste so named because it uses a Dried Fermented Shrimp Paste known in the region as Terasi.
Course: Spice Blend
Cuisine: Indonesian
Keyword: Chili, Garlic, Mushrooms, Pasta, Truffle Oil, Salt, Terasi
Author: John Thompson


  • 1 cup hot Red Chilies
  • 1 cube Belacan/Terasi about 2 tbsp. when crumbled
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tbsp. Oil for blending


  • Coarsely chop the garlic and peppers and crumble up the Belacan/Terasi.
  • Use a mortar, or food-processor to grind the above ingredients to a paste along with the salt and oil.
  • Transfer the paste to a suitable container for storage.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!