Pol Sambol


  When Nuwan and I were visiting his grandmother (Achcho) after our wedding she wanted to cook us everything under the sun. She suggested crabs and prawns and fish but every time she asked we’d say  “just pol sambol, parrippu (dhal) and bread please”.  I think if we were given the opportunity we’d have had that combination with fresh, crusty Sri Lankan bread every day. Poor Achcho on the other hand, was very exasperated! The truth is the taste of a real Sri Lankan pol sambol, made with freshly grated coconut, ground on a miris gala and seasoned with fresh lime from the garden can’t be beaten. This is a fixture on most tables in Sri Lanka and locals and tourists alike come to love it’s zing and spice. In fact a friend, who had spent time in Sri Lanka and desperately missed the food, once confessed that when she found a local Sri Lankan restaurant that made pol sambol she bought some home and ate it with everything, including spaghetti bolognese! 

My dad usually made the pol sambol at home, especially when it was needed in large quantities. He’d often use the blender and if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a blender or food processor would also work.


  • 100g of dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp. coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 small red onion diced
  • 1 tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 black pepper corns
  • 1/4 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 a small tomato chopped (I used about 4 cherry tomatoes quartered)


In a bowl mix together the coconut, coconut milk and hot water. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds and let it cool. This helps rehydrate the coconut and get back some of the coconut flavour that is lost in the dessication process. If you’re lucky to have fresh or frozen coconut, ignore the first step.


In a mortar and pestle pound the onion, salt, peper, garlic and chilli until you’ve got a fine paste.

Akki's_Kitchen-4Slowly add the coconut, 1-2 tbsp. at a time until you’ve used up all the coconut. I usually add the tomatoes at the last minute and give a quick pounds to mix it up. I don’t want to pulverize the tomatoes. If you’re using a food processor, hold off on doing this. Empty the coconut mixture into a bowl and then add the tomatoes.  


With the coconut mixture in the bowl, squeeze over the lime juice and using your hands give the whole thing a good mix and scrunch. The colour should be uniform.

Serve with fresh crusty bread or as a condiment with rice and curry.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. jdschok says:

    One of my favourites…served with any thing its the King of the meal. WOW!! Now I am hungry!!!

    1. chathginige says:

      I agree. It’s the food of kings for sure!

  2. Hi Akki,

    I’ve been looking at your site for a few weeks now and I just wanted to say thanks ever so much for the easy to follow and beautifully photographed recipes!

    I’m Sri Lankan, having grown up in England. I’ve been brought up on Sri Lankan food but I’m not the best cook so I’ve always been pretty cautious and scared to cook in fear of it going wrong. My friends have been recently bugging me to cook Sri Lankan food more so I’ve started experimenting more with Sri Lankan cooking and I’ve made a few of your recipes. They’ve all come out really well and it’s given me so much confidence in the kitchen. Now with a little help from my brother in law (an amazing cook) and your own recipes…I’m really enjoying cooking….almost as much as eating!

    I tried your Mas Beef curry, Ala Theldala, Pol Roti and Pol Sambol. You can see the pics at instagram.com/fernananando/ – I found with the Pol Sambol it was lacking in the orange colour a little so I added a pinch or two of chilli powder and it really made it zing.

    I look forward to trying out more of your recipes!

    Anushka xx

    1. chathginige says:

      Thanks for your comment Anushka. So nice to hear from people who have tried my recipes…makes it all worthwhile. I’ve found the pol sambol and it’s colour can be so dependent on the chilli powder, some that you purchase and bright red in colour while others lean toward orange and brown and just deflate the whole dish. I’ve also heard of people adding a pinch of paprika to make that colour pop (though it does alter the taste slightly). I’ll be sure to check out your instagram! Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. Marie says:

    There is literally nothing than pol sambol! It’s the best! You’re so right – it’s the dream combination with bread and parippu! And maybe a little bit of brinjal if there’s some on offer! 🙂 I also love to add pol sambol to toasted cheese sandwiches! Another dream combo!

    Looking forward to trying your recipe – I’m always temped to use garlic in my pol sambol but then never end up putting it in! You’ve inspired me to try it now though! 🙂

    1. chathginige says:

      A little goes along way but I can’t tell you what a difference it makes! So good.

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