• David

Sambal Badjak Recipe

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

I make several kinds of sambal in large quantities and store them in my fridge. Most people who attend my Indonesian cooking workshops like Sambal Badjak best because of its more refined and less spicy flavor. Sambal Badjak is originally from East Java and is known as 'pirate sambal'. The Badjak was prepared ashore and because of its long shelf life it could last for months on board of a ship.

Sambal badjak ingredients such as chillies, rawits, onions, garlic, kemiri nuts, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, trassi shrimp paste, sugar, coconut milk, ground coriander, ground cumin and ground galangal
Sambal Badjak ingredients

In contrast to raw or sambals made of lots of rawit chillies, Sambal Badjak is mild and slightly sweet due to the addition of coconut milk and sugar. Several key spices and herbs of Indonesian cuisine are added as well to achieve the refined signature flavor of Sambal Badjak. On top of that this sambal is fried so the chillies lose some more of their heat. This makes Sambal Badjak very suitable for combining with Indonesian dishes, but also with other Asian dishes. Dutch people tend to use this sambal as a spread on their sandwiches and combine it with cheese or peanut butter.

Traditionally, Indonesian and Indo-European - who moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the years after WOII - people used a pestle and mortar to make their sambals. This is a labor intensive process so nowadays most people use a food processor. However, some people still prefer a pestle and mortar ('cobek' and 'ulukan' in Indonesian) because they say that manual labor adds something special to its flavor.

Indonesian pestle and mortar with chillies, garlic and ginger
Pestle and mortar inherited from my Indonesian grandmother

Because this sambal loses some of its spicyness after adding coconut milk and sugar, and also by frying it, I don't remove the seeds and stems of the chillies. If you are using a food processor, cut the chillies, onions and garlic cloves into big chunks. No need to chop them finely because the food processor will do the hard work. Add kemiri nuts as well. Kemiri nuts are being used as a natural thickener and ensure that this sambal is thicker and less watery than other sambals. Kemiri nuts are toxic when eaten raw! So make sure you always fry or cook the Kemiri nuts first before eating them.

Sambal badjak ingredients such as chillies and kemiri nuts in food processor
Sambal Badjak ingredients in food processor

Next step is to add trassi shrimp paste, sugar and the ground spices (galangal, coriander, cumin). Grind all the ingredients in a food processor until it forms a smooth paste. For the frying part add vegetable oil in a pan and fry the mixture, lemongrass stalks (remove ends and bruise well with the back of your knife for example), Kaffir lime leaves gently for about 5 to 10 minutes while stirring now and then. Make sure the mixture doesn't burn.

Frying sambal badjak chilli paste together with bruised lemongrass and teared kaffir lime leaves
Frying Sambal Badjak chilli paste together with bruised lemongrass and teared Kaffir lime leaves

When the sambal has thickened add coconut milk and fry for 5 more minutes.

Fried sambal badjak chilli paste with coconut milk
Add coconut milk to fried Sambal Badjak chilli paste

Remove the lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves and let the sambal mixture cool. Provided that properly sterilized jars are used, this sambal can be kept in the fridge for up to three months.

Sambal badjak in glass jar
Sambal Badjak


  • 10 large Spanish chillies

  • 4 small Thai birds eye (cabe rawit) chillies

  • 2 large onions

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 12 candle nuts (kemiri’s)

  • 1 teaspoon ground galangal (laos)

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (ketoembar)

  • 0,5 teaspoon ground cumin (djintan)

  • 2 teaspoons trassi (shrimp paste)

  • 3 tablespoons caster or coconut blossom sugar

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised

  • 4 kaffir lime leaves

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut, peanut, sunflower)

  • 100 ml coconut cream/milk


  • Place chillies, onions, garlic and candle nuts in a food processor and grind until it forms a smooth paste.

  • Add trassi, ground galangal, coriander, cumin and sugar and grind again until properly mixed.

  • Heat oil in a pan and fry the paste with the lemongrass stalks (bruised) and Kaffir lime leaves gently for 5 to 10 minutes while stirring continuously until the onions are cooked and the mixture has thickened.

  • Add coconut cream/milk and mix well. Fry gently for 5 more minutes or until mixture has thickened some more.

  • Remove lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and let mixture cool.

  • Provided that properly sterilized jars are used, this sambal can be kept in the fridge for up to three months.

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