Sambal Goreng Kentang beckons with an irresistible combination of crispy, tender potatoes and out-of-this-world aromatic, fiery sambal sauce. Potatoes are one of the main foods in my family, and this tried and true recipe will help you pull this traditional Indonesian dish off without burning your ‘taters or making a mess of your whole stovetop.
Sambal, a hallmark of Indonesian cooking, is usually a chili paste (except in the case of condiments like sambal matah and sambal dabu dabu). Goreng means fried, or stir fried, as in the case of pisang goreng (fried bananas) or bihun goreng (stir fried rice noodles).
The word Kentang, well, that's the humble potato, who I have always been jealous of. Why? Because my wife really loves potatoes, probably more than me! Heck, she probably would have married Mr. Potatohead if she could have…
Sometimes called Kering Kentang, or simply Sambal Potatoes, the heart of the dish remains the same: a rich, fragrant sambal with traditional Indonesian herbs and chilies embracing perfectly cooked potatoes.
With clear, easy-to-follow instructions, I’m going to guide you through the process, steering you clear of common potato-pitfalls, and ensuring your Sambal Goreng Kentang emerges as a masterpiece of flavor and texture. Let's get cooking!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🥔 Perfies P’taters: I’m gonna walk you through a couple of hacks to make these flawlessly, and with less mess, whether you are deep-frying, using an air fryer, or prefer to roast them in an oven.
🌶️ Fiery Sambal Magic: Using a homemade sambal makes all the difference, and my recipe is going to have you pull off authentic flavor from scratch, without taking up your whole darn day. Want something to chill your palette out with? Serve it with a side of cool rujak serut!
✅ Worldwide Tested: Like all of the recipes on my blog, not only have I extensively tweaked this recipe to perfection, but it has also been tested and approved by a team of dedicated recipe testers in kitchens all around the globe!
🥔Notable ingredients and substitutions
Russet potatoes are the best option for this recipe for a couple of reasons. They are a starchy variety, and this is vital for achieving the desired fluffy interior and crispy exterior in Sambal Goreng Kentang. Because they are larger, they also make for less peeling. Can you make these with sweet potatoes (like I do in my Shakarkandi ki chaat recipe)? Sure, and it's a really nice variation!
Whether frying, roasting or using an air fryer, the oil you use makes a big difference. I have tried making this recipe with Canola, Vegetable, and Peanut Oil. It should also work fine with sunflower oil, or safflower oil. I would stay away from coconut oil, sesame oil or any oil that will impart too strong of a flavor, or smoke at a lower temperature, like extra virgin olive oil.
Shallots are essential in Southeast Asian cooking in recipes like Banh Trang Tron, tahu goreng, or this recipe’s sambal paste. In a pinch, you can get away with using red onions or yellow sweet onions in this recipe.
Galangal, or Lengkuas as it is called in Indonesia, is super important in dishes like Sayur Lodeh, and it plays an essential role in proper Tom Yum Paste. It contributes a citrusy, peppery essence that's distinctive to Indonesian cuisine, enhancing the dish's complexity. If it's unavailable, regular ginger can be used as a substitute, although it has a sharper, less delicate flavor.
I use both fresno chilies and bird’s eye chilies in this recipe. The fresno chilis provide a base sweet pepper flavor, whereas the bird’s eye chilies (a small red chili sometimes called "Thai Chili") which are crucial in making Thai fried rice dishes like Khao Pad and Tom Yum Fried Rice) bring flavorful heat. Adjust the quantity and type of chilies to your preferred heat level.
Indonesian Bay Leaves
Called Daun Salam in Indonesia, these are a bit milder and thinner than standard bay leaves. They are great in rice dishes like nasi kunyit and nasi uduk betawi. If you can't get them, you can substitute regular bay leaves.
Daun Jeruk, or makrut lime leaves are often called Kaffir Lime leaves throughout the West. Since finding out this common term is actually a racist slur I have since abandoned calling them by the K-word. These aromatic leaves infuse the dish with a distinctly Indonesian aroma and taste. There are no exact substitutes for these, but you can use a bit of lime zest or omit them if unavailable.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
- Sambal Goreng Kentang Balado (Spicy Potato Balado): In this Indonesian regional variation, the sambal takes on a rich, bold flavor by incorporating tomatoes and red bell peppers. I like making it with lightly charred red bell peppers. It’s a lovely bouquet of sweetness, smokiness, and spiciness that adds a unique twist to the classic dish.
- Sambal Goreng Kentang Jawa (Javanese Spicy Potato): This regional Javanese version features a sambal with a stronger presence of tamarind, which lends a delightful tangy, fruity note to the dish. Additionally, it may include tempeh, a fermented soybean cake, for added protein and texture. To make this variation, add a generous spoonful of tamarind paste to the sambal, and add strips of separately fried tempeh to the potatoes when you add the sambal.
Pull off perfect potatoes on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Frying Prep (3 different options):
- Frying: If you're frying either in a deep fryer or in a pot on the stove, heat 2 cups of canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil to 350°F (177°C). If cooking on the stovetop, don't use a frying pan! Use a deep pan or Dutch oven with high sides to limit the splattering and mess that frying can cause. I recommend using a frying thermometer to ensure the oil is at the perfect temperature.
- Air Frying: Simply follow the instructions provided with your air fryer for potato fries, using 2 teaspoons of oil to coat the potatoes.
- Roasting: Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the diced potatoes in a mixing bowl with 4 teaspoons of oil, and spread them in a thin even latter on the baking sheet. Roast for 8 minutes, and then toast the potatoes around with a thin metal spatula. Continue to roast for 8-12 minutes until evenly crisp and lightly golden brown.
Fry them ‘taters:
If deep frying, cook the diced potatoes for about 7 minutes at 350°F (177°C) until lightly golden brown all over.
It's okay to give them a stir at the halfway point using a slotted spoon, but don’t go crazy messing with them as if they burst it will cause some of the pieces to stick together.
Preparing the Sambal Paste:
While the potatoes are busy cooking, it's time to craft the sambal paste. Use a blender or food processor to puree shallots, garlic, freshly grated ginger, galangal, fresno chilis, bird's eye chilies, palm sugar (or coconut sugar, or brown sugar), and salt. Blend these ingredients into a mostly smooth, flavorful paste.
Dry them ‘taters:
When done, use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the potatoes from the oil and allow them to dry on a kitchen towel-lined plate.
Infusing Fragrant Aromas:
In a Dutch oven or wok over medium heat, warm up 2 teaspoons of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil. After about 90 seconds, when the oil is sufficiently hot, stir in the Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam), lime leaves, and lemongrass (halved and gently bruised, with dry outer leaves discarded) into the pan. Sauté these aromatic elements for just a couple of minutes until their fragrance fills the air.
Creating the Sambal Magic:
Add the freshly prepared sambal paste to the pan, and let it sizzle and transform. Cook until it becomes aromatic, slightly deepens in color, and you notice the oil starting to separate from the paste.
Potato Family Reunion:
Once the potatoes are fried or air-fried to perfection, it's time to unite them with the spicy sambal. Gently toss the fried potatoes (or roasted, or air-fried) in the sambal mixture, ensuring they are fully coated in this fiery, flavorful goodness.
Sambal Goreng Kentang pairs wonderfully with a variety of Southeast Asian dishes.
For a veggie-packed side, consider serving it with asinan sayur, Filipino ensaladang talong, miso-glazed aubergine, or Balinese urap sayur salad. If you are craving some nice plant-based protein to have with this, it’s great alongside some crispy tofu sisig, tofu katsu, or vegan fried chicken drizzled with nuoc cham, or Korean BBQ sauce over kimchi fried rice.
After this life changing potato feast, you know you need a bomb dessert right? Treat yourself to traditional Asian desserts like klepon, Kuih dadar, Putu Ayu, cekodok pisang, martabak, or ice cold chè ba màu!
- Perfectly Cooked Potatoes: Whether frying or air-frying, ensure your potatoes are uniformly peeled, diced, and cooked until they are golden and irresistibly crispy. Potato cubes that are consistent in size, and using a starchy potato variety like russet will make this better.
- Deep frying best practices: If frying this in a pot on your stove, opt for a Dutch oven, or another thick-bottomed pot with high sides to discourage splatters of oil from making a mess of your stove. I also recommend using a frying thermometer to get the temperature right.
- Balanced Sambal Paste: Pay close attention to blending the sambal paste to a smooth consistency. Achieving the right balance of flavors from shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, chilies, sugar, and salt is crucial to creating a delectable sambal sauce.
- Aromatics in the Oil: When sautéing the aromatic ingredients like Indonesian bay leaves, lime leaves, and lemongrass, ensure they are heated in the oil until they become fragrant. Make sure not to cook them so long that the tender leaves burn.
Sambal Goreng Kentang can vary in spiciness based on the type and quantity of chilies used. I think my recipe finds a nice balance by using a mix of sweet and spicy chilies. You can adjust the heat level to your preference.
I mean all you cooked in these was potatoes right? Once cool, filter your cooking oil through a very fine mesh strainer and save it in a container out of direct sunlight. You can re-use the oil to make apple cider donuts, crispy onion bhaji, medhu vadai, or Turkish shakshuka.
🥶Storage: To store your spicy fried potatoes, place them in an airtight container and refrigerate it. Ensure the container has a secure lid to preserve its flavor and texture. Do not freeze this dish, because frozen potatoes lose all their charm and will make you so, so, so sad.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating: When reheating on the stovetop, use a cast iron skillet, non-stick pan, or a wok. Place the refrigerated Sambal Goreng Kentang in the pan and reheat it over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating. Reheat until it reaches your desired temperature, and enjoy.
☢️ Microwave Reheating: If using a microwave, transfer the dish to a microwave-safe container. Cover it with a microwave-safe lid or a microwave-safe plate. Heat it in short intervals, stirring between each interval, until it's heated to your liking.
Place fresh garnishes on your reheated kentang so there is a touch of fresh-stuff to balance the cooked dish.
✌️My faves to serve with this dish:
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Sambal Goreng Kentang (Spicy Indonesian Potatoes)
- Dutch oven, air fryer, or baking sheet
- Blender or food processor
- Stovetop or microwave for reheating
- Mixing bowls and utensils
Fried or Air-fried Potatoes:
- 2.2 lbs. russet potatoes (1 kg.) peeled and 1 cm. diced
- 2 cups canola oil vegetable oil, or peanut oil, for deep-frying the potatoes, or use 2 teaspoons oil if using an air fryer
To finish and serve:
- Thinly sliced bird’s eye chilies to garnish
- Thinly sliced chives or spring onion to garnish
- Cook the potatoes: If frying, heat 2 cups of canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil in a deep pan. When the oil is 350 degrees or hotter, fry the peeled and diced russet potatoes until they are golden and crispy. If air-frying, follow your air fryer's instructions for potato fries. If air-frying, use 2 teaspoons of oil to coat the potatoes. If roasting, bake the oiled potatoes at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes until lightly golden brown all around.
- While the potatoes are cooking, use a blender or a food processor to blend together shallots, garlic, grated fresh ginger, grated fresh galangal, Fresno chilis, bird's eye chilies, palm sugar (or coconut sugar, or brown sugar), and salt. Blend until you have a smooth paste.
- In a dutch oven or wok over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons of canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil. After 90 seconds when the oil is hot, add Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam), lime leaves, and lemongrass (cut in half and bruised with dry external leaves discarded) to the pan. Sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Add the sambal paste to the pan and cook until it's aromatic, slightly darker in color, and the oil begins to separate from the paste.
- Drain and add the fried or air-fried potatoes to the sambal mixture. Toss them together until the potatoes are well coated with the spicy sambal.
- Serve your Sambal Goreng Kentang garnished with thinly sliced bird's eye chilies and chives or spring onions.