Sambal Kelapa

There are so many different kinds of sambal (Indonesian chili salsa) and Beb Vuyk has the best in her cookbook I think. Most of them look like spicy, red chili salsas when you make them but this sambal kelapa is different. This is more like serundeng but spicy!

Grated coconut

This sambal consists of a few spices and grated coconut. Beb’s recipe says ‘coconut flour’, but she means grated coconut. I can buy coconut flour, but that is far too fine and too dry for this sambal kelapa.

This recipe makes over 100 grams of sambal kelapa and it is ready in 20 minutes.

Sambal Kelapa # 37 from Beb Vuyk Groot Indonesisch Kookboek, page 66.


  • 100 grams of grated coconut
  • 4 tablespoons of sambal terasi (shrimp paste)
  • 1 teaspoon of laos (galangal)
  • 2 teaspoons of ketumbar (koriander)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kencur
  • 2 teaspoons of Javanese sugar
  • 4 jeruk leafs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  1. Mix together the sambal terasi with the laos, ketumbar, kencur, the sugar and the salt. Make the oil hot in a skillet or wok, with a thick bottom.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the coconut flour while stirring constantly.
  3. Place the pan back on the fire, turn it on lowest heat (use an asbestos plate for gas).
  4. Fry the sambal for a few minutes, stirring constantly until it turns yellow-brown in color. The color should not be too dark.
  5. Do not leave the sambal in the pan. Move it to a plate and let it cool down. Then transfer to a well-sealed jam jar.
  6. Remove jeruk purut leaves before serving.

I replace a tablespoon of grated coconut with a small hand of a coarser coconut. It just looks nice. I buy this coarse coconut at my supermarket. It is part of the superfood area in the store.

My sambal trassi (terasi) is finished, so I make sambal trassi on the go. It just contains chili peppers and trassi with a bit of salt. You will find a complete recipe for sambal trassi here.

Javanese sugar is the same as gula Jawa. My Asian local store sells gula Jawa in round discs. I like those the best because they have a deep and dark flavor; delicious. I also buy lemon leaf (jeruk purut or kaffir lime leaves) at my Asian store; crisp and fresh from the freezer.

Kencur is a delicious scented root. The powder can also be obtained from the Asian specialty store. Sometimes they have the fresh root too. It can be used in this sambal kelapa too, but you have to cut it fine first.

Powdered spices work well in this sambal, because it has to sauté dry during cooking.

While making my sambal trassi, I immediately add the salt and gula Jawa with my trassi and chili peppers. Then I grind everything together well in my mortar. The sugar makes it a nice dark sticky paste.

The ketumbar (coriander), laos (galangal) and kencur can now go through too. The herb mix or bumbu is dry and sticky; which is good.

Beb doesn’t explain in the preparation of this sambal kelapa when the spice mix has to go through the grated coconut. I think there is a mistake in the text about the preparation. I have looked up a few sambal kelapa recipes online and everywhere I see that the chef first saute the spice mix in some oil and then add the coconut.

This is how I do it too and I keep the heat low.

I keep moving the coconut well in the pan. The bumbu must be mixed in thoroughly with the coconut and that will take some time. I continue to stir and ultimately everything blends well together.

Beb warns that the sambal kelapa should not be too dark. I think because too dark means too bitter.


Online I see that some cooks add two tablespoons of water so that everything that sticks to the bottom comes loose. I do that too. But I make sure that the sambal kelapa does not get too wet, because the coconut has to become just as dry as a serundeng.

If I like the color of the sambal kelapa, I take it off the pan immediately otherwise it will continue to darken. I scoop the kelapa in a dish with parchment paper and let it cool down and dry. I leave it like this one night (or two if you think the mix is still not dry enough) and add my sambal kelapa in to a clean pot. I place a paper towel on the bottom to catch excess moisture.

This coconut mix is deliciously tasty and spicy. It combines well with nasi goreng! Or you can sprinkle some over Indonesian fish dishes or over a sayur lodeh as well. The best condiment with Indonesian food!

Want to see how I make a nasi goreng to go with this sambal kelapa: check out this video.

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