Sambar Powder (Sambar Podi, Milagai Thool, or Sambar Pudi) is a South Indian condiment or spice mix that is added to sambar to give it a delicious flavor. Use it to make a delicious sambar recipe or add it to a simple stir fry (vegan, can be made gluten-free).
About Sambar Powder
Sambar Powder (Sambar Podi, Milagai Thool, or Sambar Pudi) is an aromatic blend of a few lentils and whole spices.
This spice blend is primarily used to make sambar (South Indian lentil and vegetable stew) and gives it a unique taste and aroma. It can also be added to stir-fries and other dishes to make them flavorful.
Each South Indian household has its own recipe to make sambar powder and it also differs from region to region.
The base ingredients like lentils, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and dry red chillies remain the same, however, their proportions change.
Some people also add other ingredients like grated fresh coconut, cinnamon, or stone flowers to it for a change.
This is the reason each house has a very unique taste of its sambar.
To make sambar podi, all the ingredients are roasted on low flame until they are fragrant and browned. They are then cooled and ground to make a powder. This step also makes sure there is no moisture left in the spices, increasing the shelf life of homemade sambar powder.
In some households, the ingredients are not roasted at all. They are placed in strong sun for 2-3 days until all the moisture in them evaporates and then they are ground to make the sambar podi.
Although sambar podi is easily available in stores, there is nothing that can beat the fresh homemade one.
Homemade sambar masala powder uses the best ingredients, it’s hygienic and very easy to make.
It comes together in one hour and keeps good for 4-5 months in an airtight container at room temperature. Moreover, it is very economical to make at home.
In this post, I am sharing step by step sambar masala recipe I learned from my mom. I always use my homemade masala to make sambar and trust me it’s the best sambar you will ever make.
This recipe will yield, approximately 3 cups of powder. You can easily half, double, or triple the recipe.
In my house, this amount lasts for 4-5 months and I make sambar once a week. For ½ cup of Toor dal’s sambar, I use 2 tablespoon of sambar podi.
Here are some more homemade spice mix recipes that you may like
- Roasted Cumin Powder
- Dry Mint Powder
- Kerala Garam Masala Powder
- Thandai Masala Powder
- Bisi Bele Bath Powder
Make sure to use the best quality ingredients. Check their shelf life. You will be storing the sambar podi for at least 3-4 months so the shelf-life of the ingredients must be good enough.
The ingredients must have no moisture in them. Check them for any hidden molds, insects, or fungi. Discard them if they do not look and smell fresh and buy fresh ones to make the powder.
Lentils – You will need Bengal gram lentils (chana dal) and split and skinned black lentils (white urad dal).
If you want to rinse the lentils before making the podi, then rinse them well with water and drain all the water. Now spread the lentils on a plate and keep them in the strong sun for 3-4 hours. Bring them back inside, keep the plate on the kitchen counter (preferably under a fan), and let them dry well.
Spices – Whole spices that are added to this powder are coriander seeds (dhaniya), cumin seeds (jeera), brown mustard seeds (sarson), fenugreek seeds (methi dana), and black peppercorns (kali mirch).
You will also need asafetida (hing), Kashmiri dry red chilies, and a few curry leaves.
I like to use Kashmiri dry red chilies as they give a lovely color to the powder without making it too spicy. If they are not available, use any other dry red chilies.
Remove the stalks of the chilies and break them into small pieces. It will not only make the grinding easy but you will be able to discard the ones with insects or molds inside them.
You can also add some turmeric powder to this spice powder. It will also add to its color.
Tip – Roast ½ cup grated fresh coconut and add it to the recipe for a coconut-flavored sambar powder. Keep in consideration that the shelf life of sambar pudi will be reduced if coconut is added to it.
Pro Tips By Neha
Roasting the spices well is the key to making a good sambar powder recipe. It releases the oil from the spices and makes them very flavorful. Do not over roast the spices otherwise, they will become bitter.
Never add any extra oil while making the podi. It will reduce its shelf life.
You can easily, half, double, or triple the recipe.
Use fresh and high-quality ingredients to make sambar podi for the best taste and flavor.
The color of the sambar podi depends on the variety of chilies used. If your powder is dull in color, add some Kashmiri red chili powder to enhance the color. You can also add some turmeric powder for a brighter podi.
Let the roasted spices cool down completely before grinding so that there is no moisture left in them.
To make it gluten-free, skip adding asafetida (hing).
How To Make Sambar Powder
Roast The Ingredients
Add 1 cup chana dal and 1 cup white urad dal to a flat, large, and wide pan.
Dry roast on medium-low heat until they’re golden brown in color and a nutty aroma starts to emit (4-5 minutes). Stir frequently while roasting.
Transfer the roasted lentils to a large bowl and set them aside.
- 1 cup coriander seeds
- ½ cup cumin seeds
- ¼ cup brown mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned and fragrant (3-4 minutes).
Keep stirring continuously. Transfer the ingredients to the large bowl and set aside.
Note – Some people roast the ingredients individually and that is how it was done traditionally. It was also because this powder was made in large quantities and roasting everything together was anyway not possible. But you can roast the ingredients with similar roasting time together like I have done, to save time. I assure you there won’t be any difference in the taste or quality of the sambar masala.
Add 50 g (1.8 oz) of Kashmiri dry red chilies (stalks removed) to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat until they are crisp and the color becomes darker (2-3 minutes).
Keep stirring continuously. Remove them into the bowl and keep them aside.
Tip – You can break the chilies into small pieces for easy roasting and grinding.
Add ¼ cup chopped curry leaves to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until they are crisp.
Keep stirring continuously while roasting. Remove them into the bowl and set them aside.
Cool the roasted ingredients completely.
Grind The Ingredients
Add the roasted ingredients to a spice grinder along with 1 teaspoon asafetida and grind to make a fine powder.
Note – If your grinder is small or is not high-powdered, then grind the ingredients in batches and then mix them together once ground.
Store Sambar Powder
Sambar podi is ready. It might be a little warm because of the grinding. Let it cool down to room temperature and then transfer it to an airtight container.
While filling the sambar pudi in the container, fold a kitchen towel into 3-4 layers and keep it beneath the container.
Fill some podi in the container and tap the container over the towel. It will settle down the podi and you will be able to fill more in the same container.
Store in a cool and dry place at room temperature for 4-5 months. You can also refrigerate it for up to 12 months and freeze it for up to 2 years.
Close the lid of the container tightly every time you open it. Use a clean and dry spoon to take out the podi.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, these two are very different spice mixes. While sambar powder is used to make South Indian lentil stew, curry powder is not traditionally used in Indian cooking. It is a British invention to imitate the Indian flavors in their curries.
Sambar powder is made using lentils, dry red chilies, curry leaves, and whole spices while there are no lentils and curry leaves used to make curry powder.
Sambar powder is made using chana dal (Bengal gram) and urad dal (skinned black lentils) while rasam powder is made using chana dal (Bengal gram) and toor dal (pigeon peas lentils). The quantity of black peppercorns is more in rasam powder as compared to sambar podi.
Yes, you can. Just skip adding it to the recipe and follow the rest of the recipe.
There could be two reasons for it to turn bitter
1. You have over-roast the ingredients
2. You have added more fenugreek seeds than recommended
Use this sambar podi to make a delicious Sambar.
Use it to mke Kootu, Kuzhambu, Kari or Poriyal.
You can also use it to enhance the flavor of any Sabzi, Curry, Tomato Rice, Bisi Bele Bath, Pulao, Biryani, Rava Upma, or Bread Upma. This podi will add a unique flavor to your everyday recipes and make them very special.
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Best Homemade Sambar Powder Recipe (Sambar Podi)
- 1 cup Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)
- 1 cup split and skinned black lentils (white urad dal)
- 1 cup whole coriander seeds (dhaniya)
- ½ cup cumin seeds (jeera)
- ¼ cup brown mustard seeds (sarson)
- 2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns (kali mirch)
- 50 grams Kashmiri dry red chilies (stalks removed)
- ¼ cup chopped curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon asafetida (hing) (skip for gluten-free)
Roast The Ingredients
- Add chana dal and white urad dal to a flat, large and wide pan.
- Dry roast on medium-low heat until they’re golden brown in color and a nutty aroma starts to emit (4-5 minutes). Stir frequently while roasting.
- Transfer the roasted lentils to a large bowl and set them aside.
- Add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and black peppercorns to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned and fragrant (3-4 minutes), stirring continuously.
- Transfer the ingredients to the large bowl and set aside.
- Note – Some people roast the ingredients individually and that is how it was done traditionally. It was also because this powder was made in bulk and roasting everything together was anyways not possible. But you can roast the ingredients with similar roasting time together like I have done, to save time. I assure you there won’t be any difference in the taste or quality of the sambar powder.
- Add Kashmiri dry red chillies (stalks removed) to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat until they are crisp and the color becomes darker (2-3 minutes). Keep stirring continuously. Remove them in the bowl and keep them aside.
- Tip – You can break the chilies into small pieces for easy roasting and grinding.
- Add curry leaves to the same pan and roast on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until they are crisp. Stir continuously while roasting. Remove them in the bowl and set them aside.
- Cool the roasted ingredients completely.
Grind The Ingredients
- Add the roasted ingredients to a spice grinder along with asafetida and grind to make a fine powder.
- Note – If your grinder is small or is not high-powdered, then grind the ingredients in batches and then mix them together once ground.