Sambal Oelek vs. Chili Garlic Sauce: Is It Same or Have Any Difference?

Sambal Oelek vs. Chili Garlic SauceLike cookware, a kitchen is not complete without having good spices in the pantry. That said, at some point, you might run out of a particular ingredient. Well, for our case, recently, we ran out of chili garlic sauce. But we did have sambal oelek avaialbe in the shelve.

So, we wondered, would there be any differences when it comes to chili garlic sauce vs sambal oelek?

Also, would it be possible to use one for the other or not? That is where we got into experimenting. We tried both of them in different dishes and compared them head to head.

We found the answer we were primarily looking for through those extensive experiments. And trust us; it is not what you would generally expect. Want to know what we found? Read till the very end of this article!

What Is Sambal Oelek?

What Is Sambal Oelek

Before we dive deep into Sambal vs chili garlic sauce, we want to give you a fair idea of each. Let us start with Sambal Oelek. You might have already seen bottles of these in the supermarket. Yes, we are talking about the bottles with green caps on the top.

Nonetheless, there are hundreds of different types of Sambal. But the sambal oelek is the most common. Even if the name might not suggest it, sambal oelek is basically a type of chili garlic sauce. However, the ingredients will be different from a conventional chili garlic sauce.

Advantages of Sambal Oelek

Advantages of Sambal Oelek

Now that you have a little idea about Sambal Oelek let us move into describing what it can bring to the table, or in our case, in terms of food and taste.

Healthy Alternative

Most of the sauces available in the market will have loads of sugar in the blend. Sometimes, brands will use unnecessary amounts of sugar to make the sauce less spicy and hot.

Now, we believe you already know that taking too much sugar is not suitable for your health. That is where the Sambal Oelek stands out.

The ingredients of the sauce do not have any sugar at all! Even if you do find a slight hint of sugar, it will be from other elements, not sugar. This nature makes the sauce the healthiest.


If you consider the composition of Sambal, you will find something that will be reasonably similar to sriracha.

However, as it does not contain any sugar, all of the components come out at full fledge. While other condiments will mask out the flavor profile of most of the ingredients with sugar, Sambal Oelek will not.


Along with bringing out more flavors, the absence of sugar also leads to a better texture. Now, what do we exactly mean by a better texture?

Well, we are pretty sure that you found yourself struggling to bring the last bit of sauce out of a bottle. That will not be the case for Sambal Oelek.

The better texture will make it easier for you to get each bit of the sauce from the bottles and will make having foods with it enjoyable. It will not be runny. However, it will not be super chunky as well.


Countless recipes out there will call for different sauces, such as sriracha. However, you will find Sambal Oelek going with more than just a few recipes. In fact, we will go ahead and state that it will go with most of the foods that require dipping.

Other than that, it will be possible to use it as a stand-alone condiment, dressing, and substitute for some sauces.

Spice City

Last but not least, Sambal Oelek is a spicy condiment. The absence of sugar makes each ingredient show how capable they bring an intense flavor.

So, it will be possible to make a bland dish back to life. Also, let us not forget that it will mostly come in a glass jar. And glass jars are well-known to preserve flavors.

Disadvantages of Sambal Oelek

It will be impossible to find a perfect condiment. And the same thing goes with Sambal Oelek as well. Want to know about the drawback it associates with? Continue reading!

Spice Attack

As you know by now, there is no sugar in the condiment. That means it will have straight-up chili flavor. People with a low spice tolerance will not be capable of using this sauce in the first place. They will need to get used to it little by little.


The rustic texture of the sauce can make it look good on certain foods, while it might take away the overall looks of the dish. You will notice that seeds are floating on the jar of the sauce.

What Is Chilli Garlic Sauce?

What Is Chilli Garlic Sauce

Just like the name suggests, chili garlic sauce has two dominant ingredients. The first one is chili, and the other one is garlic. However, there is more than just garlic and chili insider the condiment. For example, you will find loads of seasoning ingredients inside the sauce.


The first thing that will stand out is the texture. Most of the brands will utilize jalapeno chili peppers for manufacturing the condiment.

That will allow the sauce to gain a perfect chunky texture. This specific texture makes it super dippable and makes it go well with most of the food items.


The garlic profile in this sauce is way too high. However, the flavoring will be a bit complex in most cases. As in, the sauce will have the perfect level of tanginess to it. But the tangy profile is not the only thing it has to offer. The flavor can get pretty fiery.


There will be a good hint of sweetness inside the condiment. That is because the sauce will have a good amount of sugar in it.

This sweetness level will make it a moderately easy pick for people with a low tolerance to spicy stuff. In other words, if you do not like too much spice in the condiment, this one will be perfect.


Chili garlic sauce is pretty standard. You will find offerings of different brands available on the shelves of the supermarket. That would also mean you will have loads of choices. And having options can make it hard to stick with one, but it is better because it will bring competition into the market.


This sauce is highly versatile as well. You can enjoy it with noodles, pasta, macaroni, burgers, soup, and sandwiches. Also, it will go well as a dipping sauce for chips and nacho tortillas.

Disadvantages of Chilli Garlic Sauce

Like the Sambal Oelek, there are some drawbacks that the chili garlic sauce is associated with. Let us describe the most crucial ones to you.


As we mentioned, there is a good amount of sugar inside the sauce. Even though it adds a bit of sweetness to the condiment, it degrades the healthiness level of the sauce. Also, the sugar makes some of the ingredients inside the sauce a bit muted. So, you will be capable of enjoying the full burst of flavors.

Less Amount of Heat

Due to having sugar, the sauce can not gain a higher level of heat. So, if you were looking for something that would spice up your food with a good amount of heat, chili garlic sauce would not be the ideal pick.

Difference Between Chili Garlic Sauce and Sambal Oelek

Difference Between Chili Garlic Sauce and Sambal Oelek

At first glance, both the sauces might seem like the same thing. But is Sambal Oelek the same as chili garlic sauce? Not really! If you deep a little deeper, you will find loads of differences. Here are the most prominent ones:


First and foremost, Sambal Oelek is much healthier than the other sauce we have in hand. How?

Sambal Oelek does not contain any sugar in the recipe. That would also mean that the sweet note inside the sauce will be pretty low. You might not even get a hint of sweetness in some of the options.

Sambal Oelek does not contain any sugar in the recipe

Manufacturing Process

The main ingredients of Sambal Oelek are salt, vinegar, and hot red chili peppers. All of these ingredients will go through a grinding process and will eventually come out as a sauce in the end.

On the other hand, the main ingredients for the chili garlic sauce are vinegar, salt, sugar, red jalapeno peppers, and finally, a slurry of cornstarch. Like Oelek, it will also go through a squashing process and will come out as a paste or sauce.


Sambal Oelek is exceptionally versatile. You can use it as a condiment for grilled meat, noodles, pasta, tofu, burgers, pizzas, chicken fries, and many more foods.

On the contrary, you can use the chili garlic sauce as a dipping sauce for Chinese foods, steamed vegetables, and spring rolls.

Spice Level

The second major difference between the two sauces is the heat level. Due to having sugar in it, the chili sauce that we have in hand will not have a high heat level.

On the other hand, the absence of sugar makes each of the ingredients inside the Sambal Oelek shine through. It also makes the sauce get a higher heat level.

For that reason, people that have a lower tolerance to spicy food will find it difficult to enjoy this condiment.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is inside chili garlic sauce?

As the name suggests, chili and garlic will be two of the major ingredients of the sauce. However, along with those two, the condiment will have sugar and other spices to make the sauce achieve a tangy and complex taste.

2. What makes Sambal Oelek?

The main ingredients of Sambal Oelek are salt, chili peppers, and vinegar. For most cases, the chili will be red hot peppers. Those have a high level of heat, which makes the condiment offer a spice kick to your throat.

3. Which is spicier among chili garlic sauce and Sambal Oelek?

Sambal Oelek does not contain any sugar. That means each of the ingredients will offer you a burst of spicy flavors. Even the heat level of the condiment will be exceptionally high.

Final Words

To conclude, when it comes to Sambal Oelek vs chili garlic sauce, loads of things make them different. First and foremost, the heat! Sambal Oelek will have a higher overall heat level than the other sauce.

It does not have any sugar, which lets all of the ingredients shine through. So, if your heat tolerance is low, pick chili garlic.

Secondly, Sambal Oelek is healthier than the other. As it does not contain any sugar, you can have loads of it without having to go through a guilt trip. There are other differences as well, but those are not that major compared to the ones we just mentioned here.

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