Grilled Sambal Chicken and Shrimp

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to mix and match flavors from different cultures.  The idea for this recipe came from wanting to make a Thai inspired taco. It ended up morphing into a quick, weeknight dinner recipe that can be served in multiple ways.  The recipe for Grilled Sambal Chicken Shrimp made some delicious tacos (I love tacos) but can also be dressed up for a nice dinner.  I just love recipes that are easy and multi-use!

What are we cooking again?

I cooked a mix of chicken and shrimp (keep separate until cooked though.)  The marinade is the same for both, so feel free to pick your favorite and just stick with that (I was I testing mode.) I think the marinade would be terrific on pork as well, so that will be next for me to try.

Sambal Oelek is a ground-up chili paste made with a variety of chilis, and other ingredients such as shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallots, and lime.  It looks like it would be really, really spicy, but it’s not.  It has a good spiciness to it, but also has a nice flavor and color.

sambal oelek

The original idea for this recipe came from combining a Thai based marinade with some southwestern flavors that I think meld really well- cumin, coriander, and a rich chili powder such as ancho.  Then, plating it all up on some delicious tacos, because I love tacos (have I said that already?  Well, it’s true.)  The food really came out terrific.

sambal chicken skewers

Ok, well tell me about it then.

The recipe is easy, even though it has a few ingredients.  The good thing is the marinade can be made in advance, so you can have an easy time putting dinner on the table.  The chicken definitely needs to marinate some hours.  I recommend trimming and cubing the chicken in the morning, then removing from the marinade when you get home from work, skewering the meat and then grilling.  Super easy, and dinner will be ready in 20 minutes!

chicken and shrimp skewers

The shrimp is even easier!  I am always a bit trepidatious about marinating shrimp as it doesn’t take long for shrimp to take on flavor, and marinades will sometimes make shrimp tough or chewy.  I simply brushed the marinade on the shrimp and basted the shrimp with the sauce as it cooked.  It was delicious and flavored just right.

When you want dinner grilled right, always trust ol’ blue, Kingsford Original.  I fired up a chimney full of Kingsford and dropped into one side of my grill.  Then, I oiled the grates and got dinner cooking.  Both the shrimp and chicken cook quickly, so food will be on the table in less than 15 minutes no matter which you choose.

grill with sambal chicken

Ways to serve the food

sambal chicken tacos

This is where it really gets fun.  You can go on and make some delicious tacos, or dress the items up with whatever sides you’d like.  Reserve some of the marinade as it makes a delicious dipping sauce too.

sambal shrimp on rice sambal shrimp on rice with asparagus


Have fun, and as always, I hope you enjoy!


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Grilled Sambal Chicken and Shrimp

  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb peeled shrimp, 21-25 count
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sambal oelek
  • 2 TBS reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup Sriracha sauce
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


  1. In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients except chicken or shrimp and whisk well.
  2. Cut chicken breasts into cubes, or if you are using shrimp, peel and devein shrimp
  3. If using chicken, add to a resealable bag, then pour in half the marinade. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Reserve remaining marinade for a dipping sauce.
  5. Remove chicken from bag and skewer on soaked skewers. Prepare grill and cook until chicken is at least 165 degrees. Remove and pull off skewers.
  6. If using shrimp, skewer shrimp and then brush with marinade. Grill until shrimp is opaque and firm, brushing with marinade often.
  7. Serve with either your favorite taco condiments or as a main course with your favorite side items.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes