Sambar Recipe

Sambar Recipe

Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 30 mins
Total Time : 45 mins


For tamarind pulp

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  •  cup hot water

For cooking dal

  • ½ cup tur dal or arhar dal (pigeon pea lentils) – 100 grams
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • 1.5 to 1.75 cups water or add as required

For cooking vegetables

  • 1 to 1.5 cups chopped vegetables like okra, french beans, potatoes, small round brinjals, pumpkin
  • 1 to 2 drumsticks – scraped and chopped in 3 to 4 inches sticks.
  • 6 to 7 pearl onions (sambar onions) or 1 small to medium onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 tomato – small to medium, quartered or diced
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder – optional
  • salt as required
  • 1.5 to 2 cups water or add as required

Important ingredient

  • 1 to 1.5 tablespoons Sambar Powder

For tempering

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (gingelly oil), can also use coconut oil or sunflower oil or ghee
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 dry red chillies – halved and seeds removed
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves
  • 2 pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) – optional

For garnish

  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) – optional


Making tamarind pulp

  • Soak the tamarind in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Once the tamarind gets soft, then squeeze the tamarind in the water itself. Discard the strained tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.

Cooking lentils

  • Rinse tuvar dal a couple of times in water.
  • Drain all the water and add the dal in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
  • Add 1.5 to 1.75 cups water and mix. Cover and pressure cook dal for 7 to 8 whistles or 9 to 10 minutes on medium heat.
  • When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dal. The dal should be completely cooked and mushy.
  • Mash the dal with a spoon or wired whisk. Cover and keep aside. You can see the consistency of dal in the pic below.

Cooking vegetables

  • When the dal is pressure cooking – rinse, peel and chop the vegetables.
  • Take the chopped vegetables in a pan or pot. Also add 6 to 7 pearl onions or 1 small to medium onion (thickly sliced) and 1 small to medium tomato (quartered).
  • Sprinkle turmeric powder, kashmiri red chilli powder and salt as per taste. Adding kashmiri red chili powder is optional and can be skipped. 
  • Add 1.5 to 2 cups water and stir.
  • Keep the pan on a stove top and begin to cook vegetables on a medium-low to medium flame. In between do check when the vegetables are cooking.
  • Cook till the vegetables are almost done. Ensure that you don’t over cook the vegetables.

Making sambar

  • Once the vegetables are almost cooked, then add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.5 tablespoons sambar powder. Mix well.
  • Add the mashed dal. Mix again very well.
  • Simmer on a medium-low heat till the sambar comes to a boil. 
  • You will see a frothy layer on top when the sambar begins boiling. At this step switch off the heat. Cover and set aside.


  • In a small pan or tadka pan, heat 2 tablespoons gingelly oil. Add ½ tsp mustard seeds.
  • Let the mustard seeds crackle.
  • Then add 1 to 2 dry red chillies (halved and seeds removed).
  • Immediately add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 5 to 6 methi seeds and 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing). Be careful as the oil splutters while adding curry leaves.
  • Fry them till the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp.
  • Immediately add this tempering mixture in the hot sambar.
  • Cover the pan with its lid for 4 to 5 minutes, so that the aroma and flavors from the tempering mixture gets infused with the sambar.
  • Serve sambar hot. You can garnish it with a few coriander leaves if you prefer. It can also be served with steamed rice, idli, dosa, medu vada or uttapam. 

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve sambar with steamed rice, idli, dosa or medu vadai or uttapam.
  • Vary the consistency of sambar keeping in mind the dish you want to serve it with. Example – a medium to slightly thin sambar is served with idli, dosa and medu vada. Sambar with a medium to thick consistency is served with steamed rice.

Storage and Leftovers

  • Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for a day only. Note that the consistency will thicken after refrigeration. Add some water and mix to get your desired consistency while reheating in a pan.

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