How to make coconut pancakes (Cooking course in Sri Lanka)

My tan is already starting to fade but luckily on my honeymoon in Sri Lanka I did a cooking course so I do have a type of memento in the form of some great Sri Lankan recipes. The course was with the lovely Karuna at Sonja’s Health Food Restaurant at Unawatuna which is 10 minutes outside of Galle. Sonja herself moved on quite a few years ago and Karuna now uses the restaurant exclusively for cooking classes which involve a tour of the Galle markets to buy provisions and then an afternoon spent whipping up curries. The course is not super organised (there are no written recipes and I had to scribble them down myself) and the restaurant itself is quite ramshackle but Karuna is a great teacher with an infectious laugh. Another bonus is that you get to do everything yourself, rather than just watching Karuna, although she does lend a helping hand particularly when you feel like your arm is about to fall off from grating so much coconut.

Galle market tour with Karuna
The curries that we made were some of the best I had during my time in Sri Lanka, but first to start the day we made some coconut pancakes to snack on. We made the pancakes using fresh coconut which is sometimes hard to get your hands on (and even harder to crack open) so I have adapted Karuna’s recipe below and included substitutions for dessicated coconut.
Grating the fresh coconut
1 coconut or 250g dessicated coconut
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup treacle
1/2 tsp coconut oil (use vegetable oil if no coconut oil available)
2 limes
Cooking the coconut and treacle mix
1. Half the coconut and grate the coconut flesh (you will need one of these, grate the coconut by turning the handle and pressing the flesh into the grinder) or use dessicated coconut instead.
2. Add 1 cup of water and the treacle to a frying pan on high heat and then mix in the coconut and then stir to reduce the mixture until all the moisture has been removed. This will take around 10 minutes. Set aside once cooked.
3. Mix the flour, salt, tumeric and 1/2 a cup of water until smooth to form the pancake mix.
Cooking the pancake mix
4. Add the coconut oil to a small frying pan and once sizzling pour in a thin coating of pancake mix to form one pancake. Once the pancake starts to bubble and moves easily in the pan, flip the pancake so that it is cooked on both sides.
5. Remove the pancake from the pan and place a large spoonful of the coconut mix at one side of the pancake, squeeze some fresh lime on top and then roll the pancake up, tucking in the ends like a burrito.

Pancake prior to rolling
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the remaining pancake mix taking care to clean the pan between pancakes.
7. Serve the coconut pancakes with fresh lime wedges to squeeze on top.

Essentials: Karuna’s cooking course, Sonjas Health Food Restaurant, Beach road, Unawatatuna, Sri Lanka (Ph +91 77 961 5310)
Damage: 3000 Rs (roughly £17) which includes a market tour and all your ingredients.
Tips for travellers
We stayed in nearby Galle (15 minutes away in a tuk-tuk) at the stunning Galle Fort Hotel which is a boutique hotel in a lovingly restored old merchants home. Each room is filled with antique and huge beds with beautiful white linen. The rooms face onto a central courtyard which has a terrace for a restaurant and a swimming pool. Rooms from USD$140 a night.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in reading about other cooking courses you can do on your travels like La Maison Arabe school in Morocco or Cook’n with Class in Paris.


  1. Lovely pix! Class sounds fun. I love doing cooking classes every now and again while traveling (just did one in luang prabang, Laos this week).

    I’ll add this to my “to do when I get there” list.

  2. Adding tumeric to the pancake mix reminds me of Vietnamese banh xeo except you roll up these pancakes rather than fold over in half.

    PS: Blogging on honeymoon – that’s dedication

  3. These look fantastic! I thought you meant coconut cream pancakes as in using it in the batter but these look even better! 🙂

  4. These market pictures are so lively, I love that device for getting the flesh out of the coconut.

  5. How lovely! Looks delicious. I would love to do a bit of travelling with some courses like this.

  6. Wen – Lucky you in Luang Prabang – I was there about 8 years ago and loved it – such a magical place – I hope your cooking course went well.

    Mr Noodles – Yes the addition of tumeric is interesting and also the fact that there are no eggs used.

    Lorraine – The coconut is all in the filling which is delicious.

    Sarah – I know it is great – I am tempted to buy one!

    Niamh – Maybe you will get to do a similar course in Argentina….

  7. This is great… I am Sri Lankan and you have done us proud!

    I’ve just stumbled across this site and it’s perfect for me.

    I love it!

  8. Anon – thanks very much – I had a great time in your beautiful country

  9. oh yum 😀 Glad you enjoyed the trip to Sri Lanka! (I’m typing this from there)

    We have these pancakes for tea sometimes. (When mum is feeling generous haha)

  10. Hi, I’ve also done this exact same cooking course (except in 2006) and it was awesome! I loved making the coconut pancake but my personal favourite was the pumpkin curry!
    I’d definitely recommend this course to anyone whose in the area for the day (plus there’s a lovely beach not far away!)

  11. Dee – Lucky you – I’m jealous!

    Lara – How great that you did the course as well and that you also recommend it. Yes the beach is beautiful too – added bonus!

  12. We are there in 2 weeks – did you have to book many days ahead to do the course?

  13. Anon – That should be plenty of time. We booked a day ahead but I would advise at least a couple of days ahead to be on the safe side. Hope you enjoy!

  14. Thanks for this recipe. Well done

    Jessica 🙂

  15. We are just about to go to Srilanka. I was hoping to find a good cookery course! I’m half Sri-lankan so can do some dishes myself but love to learn more. Thanks.

  16. […] to do: Cooking course with Karuna at Sonja’s Health Food Restaurant. Sri Lanka, […]

  17. This is a nice one. Thanks for this!
    By the way, Sri Lanka’s country code is +94. Not +91(India’s country code).
    Anyway, I like your blog. Good luck!

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