Tomato Sambal recipe from Coconut & Sambal

Recipes excerpted from Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen by Lara Lee. Reproduced by permission of Bloomsbury. 


Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen (Bloomsbury)
Tomato Sambal. Image credit: Bloomsbury

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.


Origin Popular all over Indonesia

Chilli heat Moderate

Makes 250g (about 16 portions)

20 long red chillies (about 250g), deseeded and sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

4cm piece of ginger (about 20g), peeled and sliced

2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and sliced

180g 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


  1. Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, shallots and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a semi-fine paste, retaining a little texture.
  2. 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.

London based Indonesian-Australian Lara Lee is a food writer, chef and co-founder of London based catering company Kiwi and Roo. Her first cookbook, Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen (Bloomsbury) is named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2020 by The New York TimesEater and The Guardian.