Sri Lankan Coconut Sambol

An incredibly easy Sri Lankan coconut Sambal recipe that only takes 10 mins to make and needs very few ingredients. Goes well with every meal.
Coconut Sambal / Sambol pinit
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Sri Lankan Coconut Sambol (pol Sambola/ pol sambal) is the unofficial national dish of Sri Lanka, in my opinion. It’s so popular that you wouldn’t find any Sri Lankan who doesn’t love this. This is my ultimate comfort food. And definitely a food that I cannot live without. When I go for vacations or even after a long flight, or whenever I have no appetite, coconut sambol/sambal served with warm rice is the only thing I want to eat. The best thing about coconut Sambol/Sambal is, that it doesn’t take 10 minutes to make this. Seriously. You can make this even before your rice is cooked.

Serving Ideas

There is an endless number of dishes you can pair up with coconut sambal. It’s impossible for me to write a list of meals that go well with this. Here are my top five favorite meals that accompany Sri Lankan Coconut Sambol.

There are so many variations of coconut sambol too. There is white coconut sambal where we only add green hot peppers/ habanero and make it white without any red chilies. You can also add Maldive fish flakes, garlic, finely chopped tomatoes, Curry leaves, or black peppers. The one I’m giving you here is my basic version of coconut sambol. Even the habanero is optional. But I’m adding it since I love the nice aroma it gives to the Sambol.

Rice Chicken curry and Coconut Sambol
Rice Chicken curry and Coconut Sambol

Ingredients and Equipment

I’m using my mortar and pestle to make coconut sambal. Which makes it even tastier (btw I love my 4 cup mortar and pestle, a really good investment if you’re looking for one. I’ll link it below). But you can use your food processor too. If you don’t have both, then chop everything super finely and mix well with your hands. This recipe is very forgiving, you can make it any way you like, and any quantities you like. The basic recipe only needs shredded coconut, salt, lime, and something hot. It could be either red chili flakes or powder or habanero or any other green chili variety. The key to a good coconut Sambol is balancing those flavors.

shredded coconut:

For shredded coconut, you can get a fresh coconut and grate it using a coconut scraper, which is the best way. And the authentic way. But if you don’t have a coconut scraper there are frozen shredded coconut packs you can buy in Asian grocery stores that you can microwave until they reach room temp. If you don’t have both, use some unsweetened desiccated coconut and add a little bit of coconut milk, thoroughly mix and microwave it to soften it up.


Traditionally we use small shallots (aka small onions in South Asia) that look more like pearl onions. And directly add that to the mortar and pestle without chopping. But the shallots I buy are way bigger than the ones we have in Sri Lanka. And whenever I crush them in my mortar and pestle I always notice that my Sambol gets a bitter taste. Same with the onions. So always chop your onions before you crush them in either mortar and pestle or in the food processor. Also, do not crush them until they become a paste.


Lime is the most common sour ingredient that we use in coconut Sambol. But you can use lemon juice or even lime preserves (aka Lunu Dehi in Sri Lanka) too. My mom always adds the piece of lime to the mortar and pestle at the end, gently crushes it and then later removes the peel. Which adds a really nice zesty flavor. But don’t crush it too much since the peel tastes bitter. And definitely don’t do this if you use a food processor.


I’m using 3 kinds of chilis here. Chili flakes, chili powder, habanero. Habanero is totally optional. You can use either chili flakes (commonly used) or chili powder. I’m adding a combination of both. Adding a little bit of chili powder gives Sambol a nice orange color.

Maldive Fish Chips: 

Maldives fish is a Staple in Sri Lankan cuisine. It is made out of dried tuna. It adds a nice umami flavor to coconut sambol. I do not use that in this recipe since it’s tough to find outside of Sri Lanka, especially in the USA where I live.  If you have it on hand, you definetely can use it. 

Coconut sambol with stringhoppers, chicken curry and red lentil curry
Coconut sambol with stringhoppers, chicken curry and red lentil curry

You might also like these recipes:

Sri Lankan White coconut sambol

Sri Lankan Seeni Sambol

Authentic Sri Lankan chicken curry

Sri Lankan Red lentil curry

Products Equipments I use (amazon affiliate)

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 5 mins Cook Time 5 mins Total Time 10 mins
Servings: 5


An incredibly easy Sri Lankan coconut Sambal recipe that only takes 10 mins to make and needs very few ingredients. Goes well with every meal.



  1. Add chili flakes, chili powder, and salt to the mortar and pestle. pound it to make a coarse powder. Salt makes it easier to grind. (if you're adding Maldive fish chips, you can add them now too.)

  2. Then add chopped shallots, and chopped habanero (optional but adds a nice floral aroma and heat), and grind to a coarse paste. Do not grind shallot/onion too much, they become bitter. (You can add the habanero first, grind it finely, and then add chopped shallot and grind that too)

  3. Now add your shredded coconut to the mortar and pestle and pound again to mix.
  4. Add lime juice and pound very well unit everything is thoroughly mixed and no white-color coconut pieces are left.

  5. Taste and adjust salt and lime to your taste.

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    1. You can use either packaged shredded frozen or dehydrated coconut, for dehydrated coconut make sure to rehydrate with some coconut milk

    1. Hi, mine usually lasts for like 4 days, but it depends on the temperature of the fridge. glad to know you liked the recipe.

  1. I am from Pakistan. I am originally from sri lanka. I miss sri lankan food.
    Unfortunately we don’t have red onions. Also I don’t know how to shred coconut . Is it ok if we use chopper machine to chop the coconut pieces?

    1. Asma, you can use any type of onions for the recipe. I’m not sure if chopped coconut would work for this but if you’re making it in a mortar and pestle and if you can pound it for a little longer I think it might work. I’m sorry I haven’t tried coconut sambol with chopped coconut before

    1. Hi James,
      I’m not sure what you mean by grated cream coconut. I use either freshly grated coconut or frozen grated coconut that I found in Asian grocery stores. Or you can also use dessicated coconut but make sure to rehydrate them with some warm coconut milk. I hope this answer helps.

    1. John did you read this part in the recipe description? “You can also add Maldive fish flakes, garlic, finely chopped tomatoes, Curry leaves, or black peppers. The one I’m giving you here is my basic version of coconut sambol. ” As I mentioned, this is the very basic recipe for coconut sambol so I only use the basic ingredients that anyone can find anywhere in the world.

  2. My friend suggested this to me, and I was really skeptical. The ingredients sounded… odd.

    This stuff is amazing! it almost tastes like meat for some reason… and makes you feel nice and warm inside. 🙂

    I used a whole coconut. With a potato peeler, I got the brown stuff off of the coconut meat, and then grated the meat with a cheese grater. I used two dry shallots instead of onions, and two big teaspoons of garlic. I also substituted chipotle powder for the chili powder.

    I look forward to making this with some scorpion pepper powder. ]=D


    1. Thank you!! I make it with habanero peppers too that adds heat and also a nice aroma. Let me know how it went with scorpion pepper powder.

  3. HI Roshani,
    Wondering if i’m overlooking the link you have to the mortar pestle you mentioned? Thanks! Looking foarward to trying this!

    1. Hi Karen, it seems like the exact model that I bought is not available on amazon right now. But I added a similar mortar and pestle link, that has the same capacity and from the same brand. Here’s the link (amazon affiliate):
      I hope you like the dish 🙂

  4. This is one of my favorite Sri Lankan sambals. However I am surprised you did not mention that Maldive fish is a Maldivian ingredient rather than Sri Lankan. It is available in many countries in UK, Australia and parts of Asia as well.

    1. Glad that you like the Sambol, Raymond. Most of Maldives fish is imported from Maldives, some are locally made. It’s a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine. Click on the link it has more information about Maldives fish chips. I live in the USA and it’s extremely hard to find it here (and in many other countries/regions as far as I’m aware) unless I get it shipped from an online Sri Lankan grocery store. It’s great that it’s easily available to you!

  5. Hello! I’m wondering if something’s wrong with the website. At the top it says you need coconut, onion, and lime, but there’s no actual recipe or list of ingredients?

    1. Hi JD,
      I just found out there was a technical problem and the recipe card was not visible, thanks to your comment. I fixed the bug it should be visible now. Thank you!


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