Sri Lankan Sweet and Spicy Onion Sambal

Sweet and spicy onion sambal or “seeni sambal” is a popular side dish in Sri Lanka typically served alongside milk rice (kiribath), bread, hoppers, string hoppers, roti and many others. It is also used as a filling for a number of savory pastries and buns on its own or paired with boiled eggs. Seeni sambal is usually made in large quantities, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated to be used as a condiment.


  • Onions – 2 sliced
  • Garlic – 3 cloves chopped
  • Green chilli – 1 chopped
  • Curry leaves – 6 leaves
  • Pandan leaves – 2 inch piece
  • Cinnamon sticks – 1 inch piece crushed
  • Cardamom – 2 pods
  • Roasted curry powder – 1 teaspoon (store bought or recipe found here)
  • Chilli powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Chilli flakes – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Turmeric – a pinch
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Vegetable oil – 4 tablespoons
  • Salt – to taste
  • Lemon juice – to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Add onions, garlic, green chillies, curry leaves and pandan leaves.
  4. Stir-fry for 2 minutes until onions are soft.
  5. Add roasted curry powder, turmeric, chilli powder, chilli flakes, salt and stir-fry for two more minutes.
  6. Add sugar and stir-fry until the onions caramelize.
  7. Add lemon juice and adjust salt to taste.
  8. After cooling down to room temperature, pack into an airtight container and refrigerate to use as a condiment or serve as a side dish.

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