Coconut sambal in a pestle and mortar

Coconut sambal

  • serves 4
  • Easy

Coconut sambal (pol sambal) is served with nearly every meal in Sri Lanka. This easy recipe is ready in 15 minutes and would taste great with egg hoppers


This coconut sambal recipe is extracted from Peter Kuruvita’s book Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen (£16.99, Murdoch Books). Find out more about Sri Lankan food with Peter’s guide, then check out our Sri Lankan mutton rolls, egg hoppersSri Lankan chicken curry and more delicious Sri Lankan recipes.

Peter says, “Fresh pol (coconut) sambal is great with everything and is served with nearly every meal, including breakfast, when it is eaten with egg hoppers and kiri bath (coconut milk rice). Desiccated coconut is not as juicy as fresh coconut, but is an acceptable alternative. I have used paprika solely to give the sambal a rich red colour – you can use more red chilli if you want it very hot. Maldive fish flakes have the same importance in Sri Lankan cooking as shrimp paste does in Thai, Indonesian or Malay cooking. Used sparingly in most Sri Lankan curries as a thickening agent, they are a key ingredient in pol and seeni sambols (made with onions), and part of the secret to achieving an authentic Sri Lankan flavour. They have a strong aroma and lovely smoky flavour.”



  • whole black peppercorns 1 tsp
  • Maldive fish flakes 1 tsp
  • red onion ½ small, finely chopped
  • chilli powder 2 tsp
  • hot paprika 1 tsp
  • fresh coconut 1 large, flesh grated, or 100g desiccated coconut combined with 100ml water
  • lime 1, juiced


  • Step 1

    Grind the peppercorns and fish flakes together with a large pestle and mortar until a coarse paste forms. Add the onion, chilli and paprika and pound until combined, then add the coconut and pound again until thoroughly mixed.

  • Step 2

    Stir in the lime juice, a little at a time, so the sambal is not too sour, then season to taste with salt. The sambal will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for five days.

*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards

*This recipe has been extracted from the book and not retested by our team

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Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 176
  • Fat 15.9g
  • Saturates 13.4g
  • Carbs 2.8g
  • Sugars 2.7g
  • Fibre 5.8g
  • Protein 2.7g
  • Salt 0.2g