Coconut sambal

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

In Sri Lanka, this fresh sambal is served with nearly every meal. We loved putting a big spoonful of it on our bread, still hot from the bakery next door. You really need fresh coconut for this sambal. When we first arrived in Australia in 1979 it was very hard to get a fresh coconut, so we’d reconstitute the desiccated version with warm water. Not as good as fresh, but acceptable.

I have used paprika here solely to give the sambal its distinctive rich red colour; you can use extra chilli powder if you’d like it very hot.

Preparation 15 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 60 g ( oz/ cup) chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large fresh coconut, flesh scraped, or 100 g ( oz/1 cup) desiccated coconut soaked in 100 ml ( fl oz) water
  • juice of 1 lime


Using a large mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns. Add the onion, crushing it well. Stir in the chilli powder and paprika and work the mixture into a coarse paste.

Add the coconut and pound together, so the coconut and paste are thoroughly combined.

Add the lime juice a little at a time, making sure the sambal doesn’t taste sour, and season to taste with salt.

This sambal will keep in a clean airtight container in the fridge for 2–3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.