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Sambal Kecap


by Ilysa Lodge



Sambal Kecap, also known as Indonesian sweet soy chili sauce, is a popular condiment in Indonesian cuisine. This savory and slightly spicy sauce is made by combining kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with chili peppers and other flavorful ingredients. Sambal Kecap is a versatile sauce that adds a delightful kick to various dishes, making it a staple in Indonesian households and restaurants.


Indonesia is renowned for its diverse culinary heritage, and sambal is undoubtedly one of the most important components of Indonesian cuisine. Sambal Kecap stands out for its unique combination of heat, sweetness, and umami flavors. The contrasting elements in the sauce create a perfect balance that complements a wide array of dishes, from stir-fries and grilled meats to fried rice and noodles.


One of the key ingredients in Sambal Kecap is kecap manis, a thick and sweet Indonesian soy sauce. It carries a distinct flavor profile, combining the rich umami taste of soy sauce with a caramel-like sweetness. The sauce also incorporates chili peppers, which vary in heat level depending on personal preference. This gives Sambal Kecap a spicy kick that can be adjusted to suit individual taste buds.


While sambal typically refers to a chili-based sauce, Sambal Kecap is unique due to its sweet and savory twist. It offers a more mellow heat as compared to traditional sambal, making it a great option for those who prefer a bit of spiciness without overwhelming their palate.


The beauty of Sambal Kecap lies in its simplicity. With just a few key ingredients, it is easy to whip up this aromatic sauce in your own kitchen. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the culinary world, Sambal Kecap is a great addition to your repertoire. So let’s dive into the ingredients and preparation process to create this delightful Indonesian condiment.



Sambal Kecap requires a handful of simple and readily available ingredients that are commonly found in Indonesian cuisine. Here are the key ingredients you will need to make this delicious condiment:

  • 1/4 cup kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 2-3 red chili peppers (depending on desired spiciness)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • A pinch of salt

Kecap manis is the star ingredient of Sambal Kecap. This sweet soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and has a thick texture with a rich, sweet, and slightly savory flavor. You can find kecap manis in most Asian grocery stores or make it from scratch using soy sauce and palm sugar.


The chili peppers give Sambal Kecap its signature heat. Red chili peppers are commonly used, but you can adjust the quantity depending on your spice tolerance. Remove the seeds and finely chop the chili peppers to evenly distribute the heat throughout the sauce.


Shallots and garlic add depth and aroma to the Sambal Kecap. Finely chop the shallots to release their sweet flavor, and mince the garlic to infuse the sauce with its pungent aroma.


Lime juice adds a tangy freshness to balance the sweetness of the sauce. It adds a bright and citrusy note that enhances the overall flavor profile of the Sambal Kecap.


A small amount of vegetable oil is used for cooking the shallots and garlic, adding a smooth texture to the sauce. Finally, a pinch of salt helps to enhance the flavors and balance the sweetness of the kecap manis.


Now that we have gathered all the necessary ingredients, let’s move on to the preparation process and create your own homemade Sambal Kecap!



Preparing Sambal Kecap is a quick and straightforward process that requires minimal effort. Follow these steps to create your own flavorful Indonesian sweet soy chili sauce:

  1. Start by heating a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the finely chopped shallots and minced garlic to the pan and sauté them until fragrant and golden brown.
  3. Next, add the chopped red chili peppers to the pan and continue to cook for a few minutes until the peppers become slightly soft.
  4. Pour in the kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  5. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld together.
  6. Remove the pan from heat and let the Sambal Kecap cool down slightly.
  7. Once the sauce has cooled, add the lime juice and a pinch of salt.
  8. Give the Sambal Kecap a good stir to ensure all the flavors are well incorporated.
  9. Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your preference, adding more chili peppers for extra heat or lime juice for acidity.

Your homemade Sambal Kecap is now ready to be enjoyed! Transfer it to a clean, airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Sambal Kecap can be served immediately, but the flavors will deepen and develop over time. So, if possible, allow the sauce to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours before using it.


This versatile sauce can be paired with a wide range of dishes. It adds a delightful kick to grilled meats, satay, fried rice, noodles, and even as a dipping sauce for fried snacks. Let your creativity shine and explore the endless possibilities of incorporating Sambal Kecap into your favorite Indonesian dishes.


Now that you have mastered the art of making Sambal Kecap, it’s time to move on to explore the different variations of this popular Indonesian condiment.



While the traditional Sambal Kecap recipe is delicious on its own, there are several variations you can try to add unique flavors and twists to this classic Indonesian condiment. Here are a few popular variations:

  1. Sambal Kecap Bawang: In this variation, you can add finely chopped fried shallots to the Sambal Kecap for an extra burst of flavor and texture. The fried shallots complement the sweetness of the sauce and add a delightful crunch.
  2. Sambal Kecap Jeruk: By substituting lime juice with freshly squeezed orange or tangerine juice, you can create a tangy and citrusy version of Sambal Kecap. The bright citrus notes add a refreshing twist to the sauce.
  3. Sambal Kecap Pedas: If you prefer a spicier kick, you can add more chili peppers or even incorporate different types of spicy peppers like bird’s eye chili or Thai chili. Adjust the heat level according to your taste preferences.
  4. Sambal Kecap Mangga: For a delightful combination of sweet and tangy flavors, consider adding diced ripe mango to the Sambal Kecap. The juicy and tropical fruit adds a fruity twist that pairs exceptionally well with grilled seafood or chicken.
  5. Sambal Kecap Tomat: Introduce a tangy element to the sauce by mixing in some diced tomatoes. The tomatoes add a fresh acidity that complements the sweetness of the kecap manis.

Feel free to experiment and customize your Sambal Kecap to suit your taste preferences and the dishes you plan to pair it with. The beauty of this condiment lies in its versatility, allowing you to play around with different flavors and ingredients.


Now that you have tried different variations, let’s move on to explore how to serve Sambal Kecap and enhance your dining experience.


Serving Suggestions

Sambal Kecap can elevate the flavors of various dishes and add a delightful kick to your meals. Here are some serving suggestions to enjoy this versatile Indonesian condiment:

  1. Grilled Meats: Drizzle Sambal Kecap over grilled meats, such as chicken, beef, or pork, to add a spicy and sweet glaze. The sauce pairs exceptionally well with satay, skewers, or grilled fish.
  2. Fried Rice and Noodles: Add a spoonful of Sambal Kecap to your fried rice or noodles to give them a burst of flavor. The sauce adds depth and spice to the dish, taking it to a whole new level.
  3. Stir-fries: Use Sambal Kecap as a finishing touch in stir-fried vegetables or tofu dishes. The sauce will infuse the dish with its distinct flavors and create a harmonious balance of sweet, spicy, and savory notes.
  4. Dipping Sauce: Serve Sambal Kecap as a dipping sauce for fried snacks like spring rolls, fried tofu, or coconut shrimp. The combination of the crispy texture with the tangy and flavorful sauce is simply irresistible.
  5. Soup Enhancer: Stir a tablespoon of Sambal Kecap into your soup to add depth and a hint of spiciness. It works particularly well with clear broth-based soups.
  6. Rice Bowls and Salads: Drizzle Sambal Kecap over rice bowls, grain salads, or vegetable dishes to give them an extra layer of flavor. It acts as a versatile seasoning that enhances the overall taste of the dish.

Remember to adjust the amount of Sambal Kecap according to your taste preferences and desired level of spiciness. Start with a small amount and gradually add more if desired.


Sambal Kecap can also be served as a condiment on the side, allowing each individual to customize the level of spiciness and sweetness according to their preference. Place a small bowl of Sambal Kecap on the table during mealtime and let everyone enjoy it at their own pace.


Now that you know about serving suggestions, you are ready to incorporate Sambal Kecap into your favorite Indonesian dishes and explore the delightful combination of flavors it offers.



Sambal Kecap is a versatile and delicious Indonesian condiment that adds a unique blend of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors to a wide range of dishes. With its key ingredient, kecap manis, this sauce delivers a rich and caramel-like sweetness that complements the heat from the chili peppers.


Creating your own Sambal Kecap is a simple process, using ingredients that are easily accessible. By sautéing shallots, garlic, and chili peppers before adding kecap manis and a touch of lime juice, you can craft a flavorful sauce that will enhance your meals.


While the traditional Sambal Kecap recipe is delicious, don’t be afraid to experiment with variations. Whether it’s adding fried shallots, using different types of chili peppers, or incorporating other ingredients like mango or tomatoes, you can create unique flavor profiles to suit your taste.


Serving Sambal Kecap is a delightful experience. You can drizzle it over grilled meats, stir it into fried rice or noodles, use it as a dipping sauce, enhance soups, or even dress rice bowls and salads. The possibilities are endless.


As you embark on your culinary journey with Sambal Kecap, remember to adjust the spiciness and sweetness according to your preference. You have the freedom to tailor the sauce to your liking, ensuring a perfect balance of flavors for your palate.


So, whether you’re a fan of Indonesian cuisine or looking to explore new flavors, Sambal Kecap is a must-try condiment. Its combination of sweet, spicy, and savory notes will take your taste buds on a delightful adventure, adding depth and excitement to your meals.


Get creative in the kitchen, embrace the diverse variations, and enjoy the wonderful world of Sambal Kecap!