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Jun 11, 2024

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns

Enjoy these soft and fluffy sambal oelek milk bread rolls for breakfast, with dinner, or tasty mid-afternoon snack. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns in a pan.

These sambal oelek milk buns are super fluffy with a light and pillowy texture. The bread is slightly sweet and the rolls are lighter than air when you pick them up. They're easy to pull apart in thin layers. 

You begin with a basic milk bread dough that features a tangzhong, which is a roux made with flour and milk that is cooked until the mixture reaches 149 degrees F and kind of resembles mashed potatoes. Once you've cooled the tangzhong, you use it in your bread recipe. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns in a Basket.

Using a Tangzhong in Bread:

Using a tangzhong in bread dough softens the dough and also keeps the bread fresher longer. If you've ever been to an Asian bakery, I'm sure you've seen the tall loaves and rolls with the soft ethereal interior. 

Making the tangzhong gelatinizes the starches in the flour to trap moisture. It helps you add more liquid to the dough without the dough becoming super sticky. It can be made either with water or milk. 

It adds amazing oven spring to your breads too. 

To make the tangzhong, you heat milk or water with flour (at a 1:5 ratio flour to liquid), whisking constantly, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. Let it cool before adding to your dough mixture. It's okay to make it in advance and refrigerate. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns on a Cooling Rack.

About Sambal Oelek: 

You fill these rolls with sambal oelek and a bit of Parmesan cheese. 

Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian-style chili paste. It's made with fresh chiles, salt, and vinegar. While you can make your own by grinding some chiles in a stone mortar and pestle and adding a bit of salt and vinegar, my Dutch-Indonesian foodie friend swears by the brand "with the gold label." It lasts in your fridge forever.

It's thicker than hot sauce, it tastes super fresh, and and it's a great substitute for fresh chopped chiles in any recipe. A little bit goes a long way. 

You can also use it to add heat to soups, stews, dips, and condiments. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns on a plate showing the interior and a basket in the back.

Tips for Making these Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns:

A little bit of sambal goes a long way. You only need a teaspoon per roll. 

For the dough, this recipe calls for scalded milk. While you can use room temperature milk, scalding the milk makes sense for bread baking because it deactivates the whey protein in the milk. Otherwise, this protein interferes with gluten development in the flour, leading to a lower rise. 

The recipe also calls for bread flour, which has a higher protein level. This also helps the bread rise higher. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns Illustrations Collage.

To assemble the buns, roll the dough out into 3 inch by 5 inch ovals and use a bench knife/scraper to cut the top half of the dough into 1/4 inch strips. The method is called "score and roll" and is kind of a less exaggerated version of wool roll bread (a brief Tik Tok sensation). 

Spread a teaspoon of sambal oelek in the middle of the uncut portion, top it wish some Parmesan cheese, and roll the dough up so that the strips are on top. 

When you are ready to bake the rolls, brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle them with more Parmesan. 

Final Tip: Keep an eye on the rolls during the first few minutes of baking as some of them may begin to unroll because of the "oven spring." Quickly open your oven door and gently and carefully re-roll the ones that are beginning to unroll and then close the door to continue baking. I had to do this with about four rolls of the 12. 

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns in a Tray.

Recipe Variations:

If you're not a fan of hot and spicy, you can fill these rolls with anything you like. My favorite alternative for savory rolls is pesto with extra cheese. 

To satisfy your heat lovers and your non-heat lovers, you can make half of the rolls with the sambal and half of the rolls with pesto. 

For sweet rolls, you can fill these with jam or pureed pie filling. 


These rolls will keep for up to three days in a zippered bag or air tight container at room temperature. Just reheat them for about 15 to 20 seconds in the microwave. 

You can also individually wrap them and keep them in the freezer for up to 30 days. 

After reheating these rolls, they are tasty spread with butter, or dipped in olive oil or pesto (my favorite). 

More Milk Bread Rolls You May Also Enjoy:

Checkerboard Tangzhong Rolls

Pineapple Buns

Hokkaido Milk Bread Rolls

Scallion and Sesame Rolls

Blueberry Jam Milk Bread Muffins

Bread Bakers Logo

More Breads with Chiles from the Bread Bakers Group:

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns in a Basket.

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns

Sambal Oelek Milk Bread Buns
Yield: 12 Rolls
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 40 MinCook time: 20 MinInactive time: 3 HourTotal time: 4 Hour
Enjoy these soft and fluffy sambal oelek milk bread rolls for breakfast, with dinner, or tasty mid-afternoon snack.


For the Tangzhong
  • 100 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) milk
  • 20 grams (2 tablespoons) bread flour
For the Bread
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) milk
  • 1 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus a pinch
  • 335 grams (2 2/3 cups) bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 55 grams (4 tablespoons) room temperature unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
For the Filling and Topping
  • 1/4 cup sambal oelek
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon cream for the egg wash


To Make the Tangzhong
  1. In a small saucepan, cook the milk and flour over low heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is pudding like and reaches 149 degrees F. This should take only 2 or 3 minutes, so do not walk away. Remove the mixture from the pan and place it in a bowl to cool.
To Make the Dough
  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just simmering but not boiling. Remove it from the heat and pour it into a small bowl and let it cool to 110 degrees F. Add the yeast and a pinch of sugar and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixture, add the rest of the sugar, flour, salt, the egg, the scalded milk, and the tangzhong. Mix on low with the dough hook until you have a rough, shaggy dough. Begin to add the butter, one piece at a time. Do not add the next piece until the prior piece is fully incorporated.
  3. Once you have fully incorporated the butter, switch the machine to medium high and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is very elastic and smooth. It will be slightly sticky.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen, covered, until doubled, about 2 hours.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the dough has risen, deflate it and divide it into 12 equal pieces, about 2 ounces each by weight. Form each into a ball. Loosely cover the dough balls with a damp tea towel while they are waiting to be shaped. 
  6. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll each piece into a 3 inch by 5 inch oval and cut slits, vertically, into the oval halfway down, about 1/4 inch apart. Spread one teaspoon of the sambal on the uncut part and top with two teaspoons of the grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Beginning with the uncut end, roll up the dough, enclosing the sambal and cheese, with the strips on the outside. Place the shaped rolls, seam side down, on the parchment lined baking sheets, three inches apart, six per baking sheet.
  8. Cover the shaped rolls loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. When the rolls have risen, whisk together the egg and cream and brush it on the tops of the rolls. Sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, beginning with the sheet of rolls that you shaped first.
  10. Let the rolls cool on the pan for five minutes, and then move them to a wire rack.
  11. Serve warm or cooled.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

7 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

4 g

Carbs (grams)

27 g

Fiber (grams)

1 g

Net carbs

26 g

Sugar (grams)

5 g

Protein (grams)

6 g

Cholesterol (grams)

32 mg
tangzhong, milk bread, rolls, sambal
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This recipe was adapted from Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet & Savory Reicpes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries by Kristina Cho. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. What gorgeous rolls! I love the shape and I just know they taste amazing.

  2. Oh they are too cute, the little mini wool roll shape is great! And sambal oelek is something we always have on hand.

  3. Those are so pretty, Karen! I love a soft milk bun but add sambal and now you are really talking!

  4. Loved this Karen with sambal oelek stuffed inside it. Would love with some soup

  5. What a wonderful bread , this sounds delicious!


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