Sambar is a South Indian lentil and vegetable stew made with pigeon pea lentils, tamarind and a unique spice blend referred to as Sambar powder. It is miles a staple dish in South Indian homes and is also equally famous and cherished by many.


For Tamarind Pulp

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • ⅓ 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

  • x1 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
  • x¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili 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

  • tablespoons sesame oil (gingerly oil), can also use coconut oil or sunflower oil or ghee
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 dry red chilies – halved and seeds removed
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves
  • 2 pinch asafetida (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 chili 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 chilies (halved and seeds removed).
  • Immediately add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 5 to 6 methi seeds and 2 pinches of asafetida (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. 

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