Seeni Sambol

Seeni sambol

Seeni Sambol, which literally translates to sugar sambol, is a classic Srilankan recipe and a twist on our Indian Onion Fry. This has all the tastes of sweet, sour, spice, and salt in one and makes a wonderful accompaniment for string hoppers, rice, or bread.

It can also be used to stuff samosas. We had it with our South Indian Dosa and it was so different and good. Bet this can be a good side dish for chapatis too.

The main ingredient in this recipe is Onion, lots of them. Peeling and slicing them thinly is the major part. If you have a food processor or a slicer it’ll make your job much easier.

Hubby was very fond of this onion fry that he used to get when he did his UG in Odisha. It simply had onions cut small and fine and sauteed with salt and chilly powder.

Seeni Sambol has a balanced mix of tamarind, sugar, salt, chilly powder as well as spices. Of course, you can add or decrease as per your preference. Srilankans usually prefer a very hot and spicy sambol. We can’t take too much spice, so my measurements are for a normal sambol.

A tbsp of pounded Maldives fish powder is also added to this. If you are a non-vegetarian, and you can access this condiment you can go ahead and add it. For people in Qatar, this is available at Shoprite as well as Retail Mart.

Frying the onions takes a bit of time, so I do it this way to minimize the cooking time and the sambol is ready in under 5-7 minutes.

Over to the recipe….

Seeni sambol
A sweet, tangy and spicy Srilankan relish to go with string hoppers, chapati or rice.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Srilankan
Servings: 2
Author: Hema Magesh
  • 4 big onions
  • a marble sized ball of tamarind
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chilly powder
  • a handful curry leaves
  • 1" piece of cinnamon
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt as needed
  • a pinch of turmeric powder.
  • Peel and slice the onions into thin longitudinal pieces. Wash the tamarind and soak it in ¼ cup of water.
  • Dry fry the onions in a pan without adding oil for about two minutes.  Add ¼ tsp of salt, and ½ tsp of sugar. When all the water in the pan evaporates and the onions become bit translucent and start browning a bit, add the oil.
    seeni sambol. steps 1-3jpg
  • Fry for a minute and add the curry leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
  • Saute this for a minute, and add the turmeric and chilly powders, as well as tamarind water (squeezed out from the soaked tamarind). Add salt as per need and close the vessel with a lid so that the contents get cooked well.
    seeni sambol steps 4-6
  • Switch off the stove once all  the water evaporates. Serve this with string hoppers, bread, rice, chapati or dosa. 
    badusha steps 1&2

Hema’s P.S

  • Dry roasting onions brings the best aroma out of them. When you do it this way, you do not have to wait for the water in the pan to dry up before adding oil.
  • The dish tastes best when all the flavors are well complimented. Adjust spices as per personal preference.
  • If you are looking for a gravy-like consistency, add one or two handfuls of water towards the end of cooking when all the water dries up, and cook with the lid on. This will sort of melt the onions partly and make it gravy-like.


Hema Magesh signature






My other sambol recipes

gotukola sambol

Pol sambol








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2 Responses

  1. kanchana says:

    Seems like a new variant. I usually don’t add tamarind & spices except for the non-veg version. Dry roasting the onion gives a special flavour and may be thats the reason why google finds your website first for seeni sambol search. Great taste and Good going 👌👌👍👍

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