Is There A Shortage Of Sambal Oelek?

Lately, you may have noticed that your favorite fiery condiment, Sambal Oelek, is missing from many supermarket shelves and is even harder to locate at retail stores online. 

But what might be the reason for this? A shortage of Sambal Oelek? 

Hmmm mayyybe something of that sort. 

Keep reading to discover the current situation surrounding Sambal Oelek’s availability and learn the reason why it is scarce on those shelves you’ve been scanning.

Why Is Sambal Oelek Out Of Stock Everywhere?

If you’ve been on the hunt for your beloved Sambal Oelek, only to find empty shelves, you’re not alone. 

While it’s not completely accurate to say that all Sambal Oelek is out of stock everywhere, it is true that one of America’s favorite and popular brands, Huy Fong, is facing a supply shortage which is affecting its overall production. 

Don’t be so worried though, as there are alternatives available from other manufacturers like Roland and Runel, both online and in some retail stores, and you can certainly try out a homemade version for yourself (see below)!

So what’s behind this unexpected scarcity?

In a statement made by Huy Fong last June (2022), the company revealed that they were struggling to produce their spicy paste due to a shortage of the Mexican peppers critical in the production. 

This pepper crisis can be traced back to the spring chili harvest earlier when severe weather conditions (in Mexico) led to crop failure and impacted the final quality of peppers, and is also well related to other spiralling factors as indicated by the company. 

Even though some production did resume this past pall, unfortunately, the company is still not very confident when supply will stabilize, implying that this shortage may extend for a few more months.

As a result, Huy Fong is urging retailers and distributors not to promise customers this fiery condiment unless they are sure they have it in stock. 

It’s worth noting that this pepper shortfall also affects other Huy Fong staples like chili garlic sauce and Sriracha sauce – so if you’ve been pondering their absence from store shelves, now you know the culprit.

Where Else Can You Check For Sambal Oelek?

With the statement (last year) from Huy Fong implying a shortage of Sambal Oelek to come, many stores have since been limiting the amount of bottles a single customer can purchase, making it even more challenging for us to get our hands on it.

But, there might still be hope! 

If you’re feeling particularly fortunate and resourceful, you might just be able to track down some Sambal Oelek by exploring both online and retail stores. 

Be prepared, however, as during this scarcity period, retailers may be looking to capitalize on the situation by raising the price of the paste.

You can keep an eye on retail stores online like Amazon and Walmart, to snatch up deals quickly when they appear. You can also search instacart to get quick access to whichever store currently has the paste in stock. 

What Can I Substitute For Sambal Oelek?

In times like this when sourcing for Sambal Oelek proves difficult, there are some excellent substitutes and techniques you can turn back to, to continue saving your creation such as spicy Mayo

Use a different brand

Sambal oelek from Huy Fon is a fan favorite, but when it’s not available, you can always turn face to other brands and who knows? You might end up discovering a new favorite!

Use sriracha

While sriracha has its own unique flavor profile compared to sambal oelek, it can still add some heat and zestiness to your dish which is primarily what Sambal Oelek does too. 

It may just be slightly sweeter and less chunky than sambal oelek, so make sure to adjust the quantity according to your taste. . 

You can use sriracha from the same brand (as it uses the same chili peppers) or from a different brand. Either way, your call!

Use garlic and chili sauce

Huy Fon also offer a garlic chili sauce that is made using the same chili peppers from Mexico. If you’re able to lay your hands on this, it would be a perfect substitute for their Sambal Oelek as it would add both heat and depth of flavor.

Use crushed red pepper

If you’re in need of a quick fix, crushed red pepper can provide similar heat to sambal oelek. 

Simply grind them down into a finer texture using a mortar and pestle or food processor, and then use them sparingly as they can pack quite a punch!

Tapatio sauce

This popular Mexican hot sauce is made using blends of spices and herbs and it boasts a tangy, spicy flavor which will work well as an alternative to sambal oelek in various recipes.

Tabasco sauce

Tabasco is another hot sauce classic that brings both heat and vinegar-based tanginess to dishes like pizza, pasta, curries or elsewhere that sambal oelek would be used for.

Thai chili paste

Also known as Nam Prik Pao, this Thai staple has smoky essence because the chilis are toasted, is flavorful and can easily replace sambal oelek in recipes calling for a chili paste.


Originating from North Africa, this spicy red paste combines two types of peppers: roasted red peppers and Baklouti peppers with spices, olive oil, herbs such as garlic paste, corrianda seeds and cumin to bring a complex blend of heat, sweetness and tanginess to dishes. It is a decent substitute for sambal oelek in meat or egg plant recipes. 

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is made with aged cayenne peppers and is perfect to substitute Sambal Oelek in applications such as chicken sandwiches, wings and even dips. 


This Korean fermented chili paste has a unique sweet and savory flavor which (to be honest) does differ from sambal oelek but can still make for an exciting substitution. 

Remember that each of these options may alter the taste of your recipe a bit, so experiment with little amounts first before going in full force.

How To Make Sambal Oelek At Home

If you’re a fan of Sambal Oelek, why not try making it from scratch? Really? 

There’s nothing to lose and the fact that it’s very easy to make makes it even more attractive. 

You probably even have all the ingredients at home, and who knows, after whipping a batch, you might never look back again.

Ingredients for Sambal Oelek

  • 16 pound hot red chiles
  • 6 is teaspoons tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons salt


  • Thoroughly wash your chosen hot red chiles, remove their stems and chop them up roughly.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and pulse until they form a thick and slightly coarse paste.
  • Taste and adjust accordingly with more rice vinegar or salt if the mixture is salty or too peppery.

Leave a Comment