Pol Sambol (Coconut Salad)

How to Make Pol Sambol in Two Easy Steps

Pol Sambol (Sri Lankan Coconut Salad)
Coconut is the king of Sri Lankan cuisine. Coconut milk and scraped coconut are staples of many Sri Lankan recipes. Today we’ll be looking at one of the quickest, easiest and most delicious way to prepare coconut: Pol sambol (sometimes spelled sambal) is a spicy and refreshing coconut salad that you can prepare in just a few minutes.

The recipe is so simple that I wasn’t sure whether I should even post it. It’s however such an integral part of Sri Lankan food culture, that you shouldn’t miss it. You can eat it by itself as a quick and refreshing healthy snack or you can serve it with almost any combination of other Sri Lankan foods.

If you don’t like the taste of dry fish, you can leave out the maldive fish. Some pol sambol recipes use a few curry leaves or garlic, but in my experience their flavours tend to be too dominant in the mix, even at small amounts.

Doing it the Traditional Way

Pol sambol is best prepared with freshly grated coconut. There are various different graters you can use, mine looks like this:

Sri Lankan Coconut Grater

If you don’t have access to such a device, your next best option is to buy fresh coconut scraps. I’ve used desiccated coconut in a pinch when nothing else was available, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it over fresh scraps.

I use a mortar and pestle to prepare my pol sambol, but you can just mix it by hand if you want to keep things simple. I’ve seen my mother use an electric blender to mix the ingredients in step one, so that’s another option if you don’t want to use a mortar and pestle.


3 cups of fresh coconut scraps
2 full tbsp ground chili pieces
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
optional: 2 tbsp ground maldive fish

Note: If 2 full table spoons of ground chili pieces are too spicy for you, you can just use less. I wouldn’t substitute it with sweet red pepper as in other recipes, I feel it interferes too much with the flavour of your pol sambol. 


1. Put the chili pieces, black pepper, onion, salt and maldive fish in the mortar. Use the pestle to crush everything into a paste.
2. Add the coconut and the lemon juice, then give it a few more grinds in the mortar until it’s mixed well. Alternatively you can mix it all by hand at this point, but I prefer using the mortar for this step as well.


Recipe Name
Pol Sambol (Sri Lankan Coconut Salad)
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