Red Chilli Coconut Sambol

If you ask any Sri Lankan, everyone will say there are no recipe without coconut.  Coconut is used in all type of curries, gravy, Sambol, Appam, and even in snacks such as Murukku etc. Coconut trees are widely grown all over Sri Lanka and used in dishes by all ethnic groups.  Another thing to note is the coconut water – from the young coconut.  There are couple of varieties of coconut and the cocnut water from the orange color coconut is best as a drink (I will post elaborately later about the types of coconuts and their uses).

Coconut Sambol or Red chili sambol (Pol Sambol in Sinhala) is adored in Sri Lankan cuisine and used as a side dish with many different meals.  Sri Lankans eat Coconut Sambol with Puttu (pittu), Stringhoppers (Idiyappam), Dosai, Appam, gothamba roti, and even bread.  When I was a kid, during weekends my mother makes coconut sambol for breakfast where we eat with bread.  My favorite is to spread a little bit butter on bread and eat it with coconut sambol – spread coconut sambole and make it like a sandwich.

The red chili coconut sambol is made in many different ways while the ingredients are same as mentioned below in the recipe.  Some of the Sambol varieties are Araitha Sambol, Idiththa Sambol, Poata Sambol etc.  Here are the difference between these variety of Sambols:

Araitha Sambol: traditionally all the below mentioned ingredients are made into a sambol with Ammi and Kulavi.  Ingredients are placed in the Ammi and a Kulavi is moved back and forth on the Ammi to grind the ingredients into Sambol. See below for Ammi and Kulavi.  You can read more about the traditional equipments here.

Idiththa Sambol: Here all ingredients are placed in a traditional equipment called Ural and pound with Ulakkai.  The closest to Ural and Ulakkai is the Mortar and Pestle.

Poata Sambol: Here instead of dried red chilies, chili powder is used.  So, you place coconut, chili powder, salt and lemon juice in a bowl and mix with hand or a spoon to make the sambol.  Curry leaves and onions are not used here.  This is the simplest and quick Sambol.

Maldive fish with Coconut Sambol: For this dried Maldive fish is processed with the rest of the Sambol ingredients.  Since I am Vegetarian, I don’t make this type of sambol.

Another thing to note is, in Sri Lanka “Coconut Sambol” and “Coconut Chutney” are 2 different dishes.  Coconut Chutney is where coconut is processed with water and other ingredients that  looks wet and a bit watery.  But “Coconut Sambol” is processed without/very little water and quite dry.

It’s better to use freshly grated coconut since it will give a nice taste and distinct aroma.  If you cannot get fresh coconut, you can use the frozen unsweetened coconut.  If using fresh coconut, break coconut and grate them with a coconut grater.


  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 10 dried red chilies
  • 1 pearl onion (red)
  • Few curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Little oil for frying


  • Fry red chilies and curry leaves and drain on a paper towel.

  • Roast coconut on a skillet on low flame for about a minute or 2 and let cool – this is just to remove the moist from the coconut
  • Crush red chilies and curry leaves. Chop onion into small pieces
  • Add coconut, red chilies, curry leaves, chopped onion, salt and lemon juice to a food processor and process until we combined – that is, red chilies and curry leaves should be completely processed into minute particles. Coconut should become ground slightly (not like a paste) and well combined with the chilies and curry leaves and it should be a red/orange color.
  • Serve this with any dish you like – String hoppers, Appam, Pittu, Roti, Dosa, Pongal etc.
  • Yields: it is difficult to predict since it depends on with which food it is consumed with.  For example, Dosas will need less amount of Sambol as of compared to Pittu or String Hoppers.


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