Coconut Sambol (Grated Coconut Salad with Chili)

This is a staple dish in Sri Lanka. This salad is served with most of the main meals. Sri Lankans eat lot of rice and food made with rice flour. Typical Sri Lankan main meals are rice, bread, pol roti (flat bread made with wheat flour and grated coconut), string hoppers (steamed rice noodles), pittu (steamed rice couscous with grated coconut) and hoppers (half moon shaped pancakes made with fermented rice flour)

Although coconut is not as big as Ceylon Tea plantations it is also one of the main agricultural crop in Sri Lanka. Hence coconut is used liberally in Sri Lankan cuisine along with locally available spices. All our curries are made with coconut cream and we add grated coconut to our vegetable stir fries and raw vegetable salads to add sweetness and texture.

Sambol is made with freshly grated coconut and is blended along with onion, curry leaves and chili powder. Traditionally it is blended using a mortar and pestle. It is believed that using a stone pestle to blend them gives a special taste.

Coconut sambol has been a major hit with everyone here. (taste testers includes Swiss, British, Americans and German) Everyone I have served has ended up trying it by themselves and also scraping the dish clean.


Serves 2-3

200g shredded coconut
1 onion
1” piece of ginger
handful of curry leaves
1 tomato
1 tsp chili powder (reduce or increase chili powder according to your taste preference)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil


Heat oil in a pan, add curry leaves and stir fry them till they are slightly crispy. Set them aside.

Reduce heat and roast shredded coconut till they are slightly browned.
Add rest of the ingredients along with shredded coconut and curry leaves blend it together till its well mixed.

You can serve this with bread, roti or even rice. Spread butter and sambol in bread and serve it as a sandwich.


It is always good to make this salad with fresh coconut, in my case I used frozen coconut due to its availability. If you are using frozen coconut dry roast them to bring in the aroma and sweetness. You can buy frozen coconut from Sri Lankan, Indian or Asian stores.

I sometimes add soy sauce, curry powder, roasted coriander seeds and garlic to this sambol. It purely depends on your personal taste preference. If you are trying it for the first time I recommend to try above recipe and gradually you may enhance the flavors according to your preference.

You can use similar method to make Mint Sambol.