Seeni Sambol: Sri Lankan Sweet Onion Chutney

Ignoring the last couple of days, the weather has definitely started to get warmer recently and it’s really starting to feel like Spring. Mark and I even had lunch outside in the garden at the weekend! This warmer weather always makes me think of being on holiday and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about our honeymoon to Sri Lanka. What better way to remember an incredible place than to cook some delicious Sri Lankan food?!


This recipe is for a sweet onion chutney-like condiment, seeni sambol, that was offered with many of the meals we had in Sri Lanka. “Seeni” essentially means “sugar” and “sambol” or “sambal” is the name for this type of chilli condiment. Sambal/sambol takes a number of different forms across Asia, with variations in Indonesia and Malaysia to name just two. Another slightly more common Sri Lankan sambol is pol sambol or coconut sambol which you can get my recipe for here.


Seeni sambol is full of classic Sri Lankan spices and flavours like cardamom, curry leaves and of course cinnamon. Most of the variations of seeni sambol we came across in Sri Lanka weren’t particularly spicy, but I’ve added crushed chillies for a hint of a kick here. Nothing too crazy though, and you can always adapt the recipe to your taste.


Like any chutney, you can serve seeni sambol alongside curries. However, also like any chutney, you can get creative! Try it in sandwiches, with eggs on toast for breakfast, or with cheese on this delicious toastie.


  • 3 Indian onions or 4 shallots
  • 1/2 tsp chillies
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1-2 cinnamon/cassia sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and curry leaves. Heat carefully until they start to release their aromas and the leaves wilt a little, but take care not to burn them.
  2. Add the sliced onions/shallots and heat until translucent and beginning to brown.
  3. Add the tamarind, chillies, lime, sugar and salt and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool before removing what you can of the larger spices and serving as a chutney.

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