I’m not a potato person. I grew up on boiled-until-glue potatoes six days a week and, you know, it just got old. Once I had a choice about what food was made/what groceries were bought, I swore off potatoes for a good many years.

A few years ago, though, I tried out Ala Badun and fell in love. The combination of potatoes with caramelized onions and spices just… worked. Well. Especially for someone not fond of potatoes.

Over the next few years, I’ve had it many times and I’ve even fed it to my sister’s family. Her daughter is a spice wuss of the highest order, and even she loved Ala Badun, despite the red chilli pepper powder in it.

If you’re tired of potatoes, or if you’re tired of potatoes the same old way, give these a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Ala Badun – Devilled Potato & Onions


  • 450 grams potatoes, boiled in salt water and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli pepper powder
  • 100 ml coconut oil
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 225 grams onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime juice


  1. To the potato, add the salt, turmeric, red chilli pepper powder.
  2. Heat the oil in a pot over medium flame. When hot, add the curry leaves and stir. Half a minute later, add the onion, mustard seed, and cinnamon.
  3. Fry until the onions are golden brown and caramelized.
  4. Add the potato and keep tossing with the onion until browned and heated through.
  5. Sprinkle with lime juice prior to serving.

If you don’t have curry leaves, omit. There is no substitute.

If you don’t have red chilli pepper powder, consider using paprika or cayenne. You can also try using red pepper flakes.

If you don’t have virgin coconut oil – the stuff that’s solid at temperatures below 27C and smells like lovely coconuts – then use any other unscented oil. Virgin coconut oil is preferable and the coconut lends a lovely but subtle flavour to Sri Lankan cooking.

If you don’t have ground mustard seed, use whole mustard seed. It’s what I usually end up using out of sheer laziness.

Fahim tells me there’s another way of doing this where the Ala Badun ends up being drier, and when it’s done right, it’s even better, but when it’s not done right, which is usually the case, it’s really bad. So, for the non-experts in the crowd, which includes me, this is the best way to go because it’s reliable in that it always turns out really good. At least, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. 😉

Other than that, have fun with it and let me know what you think. 🙂

2 Replies to “Ala Badun, aka Sri Lankan Devilled Potato & Onions”

  1. My husband is English, of Irish parents. He hates potatoes, of all things. I’ll give this a try one weekend to see if this changes his mind.

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