Recipe: Coconut Roti

The best thing about thinking I don’t like something, is finding out how wrong I am. I’ve always operated under the assumption that flaked coconut is much too squeaky between my teeth. Sri Lanka and these Coconut Roti proved me wrong.

There’s something so refreshing about dumping three ingredients in a bowl and emerging with warm, doughy flatbread that smells like a day in the tropics. Or Sri Lanka, to be specific.

In fact, I did an entire post cataloging the best recipes with three ingredients or less from around the world.

Ambewela, Sri Lanka. Photo by Anuradha Ratnaweera.

Ambewela, Sri Lanka. Photo by Anuradha Ratnaweera.

I learned how to make these by watching my friend shake flour and coconut shreds into a bowl. There wasn’t a measuring cup in sight. She added the water by feel, too.

When I asked her the ratio of coconut to flour, she shrugged and said “a little coconut. more flour.”

So, as you make these, remember her advice. There really is no wrong way to make coconut roti.

As long as you eat them warm…


Makes 8-10 small, or 4-6 large


2 cups flour
1 cup frozen shredded coconut, thawed
water until smooth dough forms (I used 1/3-1/2 cup)

vegetable oil


Add the shredded coconut to the flour, rubbing it together to break up any clumps. Mix with water until…

… a smooth, soft ball forms.

Shape into balls and coat each one lightly with vegetable oil. Let rest 20 minutes (or as long as you need).

While you’re waiting, write a thank you note by the water. Just because.

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. This temple is one of the most holy sites in Sri Lanka reputed to contain an actual tooth of the Buddha on his 2nd visit to the Island over 2000 years ago. Photo by McKay Savage.

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. This temple is one of the most holy sites in Sri Lanka reputed to contain an actual tooth of the Buddha on his 2nd visit to the Island over 2000 years ago. Photo by McKay Savage.

When you’re ready to cook, flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hands to form discs like below:

Cook on a lightly oiled pan over medium, turning once. The surface of the roti should be dotted with dark brown “sun spots.”

Keep them warm byin a basket covered with a cloth.

Enjoy every last bite with a smile and a swing in your step. Happy Friday!

P.S. Have you ever had Roti? This was my first time making it and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was! I’ve already made it twice. My friend Ruby says you can enjoy Roti with curry, coconut sambal, … or, in the morning, try it with butter and syrup… she said the syrup they use in Sri Lanka is not maple syrup, though (although, in a pinch, you can use it).  Phew! 

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  1. annaclarice says:

    If frozen coconut shreds aren’t available can you use freshly grated coconut? I’m guessing dried, unsweetened flakes aren’t going to work here…or could you soak the dried unsweetened coconut and make it work? So many questions…but I really want to make this! :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’d guess so – I think they might not be as tender is all … enjoy and take pictures if you think of it to share on :)

  2. Kathleen says:

    This sounds delicious! We south Indians use Roti like naan, and eat it with everything! It’s an off day if there’s no roti in the house. It’s so easy to make, but I’ve never seen it with coconut before. It looks delicious!

  3. Yes! I actually made a gluten-free version back when I was cooking Sri Lankan food. If any of your gluten-free readers are curious, plain rice flour also works great!

  4. Yes, when its warm like it with food or to make it sweet-like with Kithul panni which is sweet syrup from the local kithul tree.. It isn’t proper SL, but as kids we loved adding different things to the roti which didn’t with naan, but can somewhat with parathas-in PK growing up we used to Americanize it with peanut butter and their local jelly/jam.

  5. I adore everything about this! Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Made those today with some help from my 4-year-old, he loved them, and so did my 2-year-old. My husband, who doesn’t like coconut, tried some and said they were addictive, he ate at least three. :) Thank you, Sasha!


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