Tangy and Spicy Sambar is a South Indian staple dish that is served for all the meals including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a stew of yellow lentils with vegetables and spices added to it. Here is my easy recipe to make it at home.
What is Sambar?
Sambar is one of the most popular recipes from South India and it happens to be my favorite too. It is basically a spicy Lentil Stew with Mixed Vegetables that is served as a side dish with Dosa, Idli, Vada, or Rice.
Sambar is made in South Indian homes almost every day and is served at Tiffin Centres and restaurants too. It is packed with proteins and tastes delicious and is a great protein-rich diet for vegetarians.
Simple, healthy, nutritious, and comforting, it is loaded with the goodness of vegetable and tuvar dal.
Being a North Indian, I make different types of Dals at home, each and every Dal unique in terms of taste and nutrition. But this Sambar Dal recipe from South India is very different, due to the use of Sambar Masala and a variety of vegetables.
Along with Sambar Masala, this stew also gets its taste from tamarind paste, which not only provides it with an amazing tangy flavor but also enhances the overall taste.
Moreover, because we include a lot of boiled vegetables in it, it is also loaded with all the essential nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis. The overall nutrient factor of Sambhar also depends upon your choice of vegetables.
Every household has its own recipe for making this scrumptious lentil stew. Some like to have big chunks of vegetables, while some prefer to have smaller ones. Some like theirs to be of a thick consistency, while others like it to be more on a liquidy side.
This Mixed Vegetable Sambar is,
- Easy to make
- Protein Rich
- Loaded with veggies
- Perfect for everyday meals
Tuvar Dal – Traditionally, Tuvar Dal is used for making this delicious and traditional Indian dish. Tuvar Dal is also known as Toor Dal, Arhar Dal, or Split Pigeon Peas. You can also use Moong Dal or Masoor Dal. A mix of any of these dals also works great.
In some Sambar recipes, even black eyed beans (lobia, chawli) and whole moong beans are used.
Hotel Style Sambar makes use of 50% Masoor Dal and 50% Tuvar Dal. If you want to cook the lentils faster, soak them in water for 20 minutes.
Vegetables – This dish is loaded with the goodness of vegetables. Here, I have used pearl onions, drumstick, carrot, eggplant and yellow pumpkin, but you can go ahead and add any vegetables of your choice.
This dish is also a great way to use up all the leftover vegetables in the fridge.
Tamarind Paste – This ingredient is a must and adds a delicious hint of tanginess to this soup. If you are out of tamarind, you can substitute it with lemon juice.
You can filter the tamarind water using a mesh trainer to make it free of any fibers. You can also use readymade tamarind paste but you will have to adjust its quantity according to its tartness.
Sambar Powder – This lentil stew only uses Sambar Powder when it comes to dry spice powders, which is made by roasting and grinding a few whole spices. You can use a homemade powder or store-bought one.
You can either make Sambar Powder in bulk or make it for single use. Single-use freshly made powder obviously tastes much better but if you want a quick recipe, do consider making it in bulk or using readymade powder.
Other Ingredients – Other than the above ingredients, you will need turmeric powder, salt, curry leaves, dry red chilies, oil, mustard seeds, onion, and tomato.
Use fresh curry leaves, as they are very aromatic and delivers a nice flavor in the Sambar. If curry leaves are not available, skip them but do not use dry leaves. Dry leaves have a very funny flavor which is not very palatable.
Oil – While I prefer making Sambar in vegetable oil, you can also make it in ghee. In Tamil Nadu, it is made in Gingelly Oil while in Kerala it is made using Coconut Oil.
How to make Sambar?
Wash the dal and add it in a pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water, salt, and turmeric powder.
Note – You can also cook the dal in Instant Pot or in a Pan. If cooking in Instant Pot, PRESSURE COOK for 10 minutes. If cooking in Pot, add more water and cook o medium heat until the dal is softened. It will take quite sometime to cook the dal in a pot.
Cook until the dal is softened. I cook it for one whistle on high heat. Then simmer the heat to low and cook for 8 minutes. Let the steam release naturally and then open the lid. Add tamarind paste (or tamarind water) and mix well. Traditionally a wooden masher was used to mix the dal but you can use a wire whisk.
Add all the prepared vegetables along with water, salt and turmeric powder in a pan.
Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened.
Do not overcook the vegetables otherwise they will become mushy. You can cook the vegetables in a pressure cooker as well. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan. Traditionally sambar was cooked in ghee but you can use any oil or your choice.
Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds.
Add onion and fry until they turn translucent. You can skip to add onion if going for a no onion recipe.
Add tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes until their are mushy and everything comes together.
Now add sambar powder and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add some water if the tempering is too dry. Add the cooked dal and veggies in this pan and mix everything well.
Now add more water to adjust the consistency. Cook it for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat. The consistency of sambar is a personal preference. Some people like it very thin while some like it thick.
Heat oil in a pan. You can use ghee or coconut oil as well.
Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, red chilies, and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds.
Pour the tempering over the sambar and serve hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is a blend of various aromatic spices such as coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chillies, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves, mustard seeds, asafoetida, and turmeric powder.
All these spices are dry roasted one by one and then ground into a fine powder.
It is easily available in all the grocery stores, but you can also make it at home. Check out my Sambar Powder recipe and make a big batch at home.
Although you can make a big batch and keep using it, nothing can beat the taste of the sambar when we use some freshly ground powder in its preparation.
To make this powder for one-time usage, you need one tablespoon each of chana dal, urad dal, and coriander seeds. Half teaspoon each of cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, asafoetida, and mustard seeds along with two dry red chilies and few curry leaves.
Dry roast all the spices one by one and grind them into a fine powder. This quantity is good for making one batch.
Here are some of the vegetables which are mostly used to make sambar and how to prepare the,
You can always choose a combination of vegetables as per your taste and preferences as well.
Carrots – Gajar – Peeled and cubed
Eggplant (Brinjal) – Baingan – Cubed and soaked in water until ready to use
Drumsticks – Sahjan ki Fhali – Peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
Yellow Pumpkin – Kaddu – Cubed – Peeling is optional
Shallots – Chote Pyaaaz- peeled
Radish – Mooli – Peeled and cubed
Tomatoes – Tamatar – Chopped
Bottle Gourd – Lauki – Peeled and cubed
French Beans – Cut into 1-inch pieces
Plantain (Raw Banana) – Kaccha Kela – Peeled and cubed
Spinach – Palak – Chopped
Amaranth – Chaulai – Chopped
Snake Gourd – Chichinda – Peeled and cubed
Vegetable Sambar goes really well with hot idli, dosa, medu vada, uttapam, or with steamed or boiled rice by its side. When serving with rice, do not forget to add an extra dollop of ghee on top with a side of your favorite Thoran/Poriyal and fried rice papad.
If you wish you can also serve it along with soft chapatis as well. Quinoa, Brown Rice or Couscous also taste great with it.
Sambar with a thin consistency is served with idli, dosa, and vada, whereas a slightly thicker version is served with steamed or boiled rice.
If you have leftovers, you can store it in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container. If you make extra, don’t temper the entire sambar.
Just temper the amount you will consume it, otherwise store it in the fridge. The time you want to serve it again, heat it well and temper it fresh.
Now the types of sambar are categorized as per the state in which it is made.
Sambar made in Tamil Nadu use sesame oil in its preparation, while the people in Kerala add coconut powder or coconut paste.
But when we move towards Karnataka, a bit of jaggery is added in it to give it a nice sweet taste.
Vengaya and Mullangi Sambar are quite popular in Tamil Nadu.
Arachuvitta and Kerala style Varutharacha Sambar are two of the most popular Kerala Style recipes, but, when it comes to Karnataka, Mysore and Udupi Style Sambar are absolutely loved by all.
You can also make different variations of Sambar, by adding all the veggies at once, or using different vegetables for different Sambar recipes.
Pro Tips By Neha
If possible, use freshly roasted Sambar Masala to make Sambar, It delivers a refreshing taste and makes the Sambar even more delicious.
Soak the Tuvar Dal for 15 to 20 minutes, before you start cooking it.
I have added a combination of vegetables in this Sambar recipe, but you can add a single preferred vegetable too.
Do not miss on tamarind paste, this ingredients makes this Dal recipe unique from other dals along with sambar masala. It is better to use freshly extracted tamarind for better taste.
You can adjust the consistency of sambar, thick or thin as per your taste and preference.
Do not overcook the vegetables. They should be soft yet have a bite. If cooked too soft, they will turn mushy and wont taste great.
Use coconut oil to make the Sambar, if you want to get that authentic taste.
If your Sambar has turned sour, then add a little bit of jaggery to compensate the taste.
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For the Dal
- ½ cup Tuvar Dal
- Salt to taste
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tbsp Tamarind Paste
For the vegetables
- 10-12 Shallots
- ½ cup Eggplant (Cubed)
- ½ cup Carrot (Cubed)
- 1 Drumstick (Cut into 2 inch pieces)
- ½ cup Yellow Pumpkin (Peeled and cubed)
- 1 cup Water
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
For the masala
- 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 3-4 Dry Red Chillies
- 15-20 Curry Leaves
- ½ cup Onion (Finely chopped)
- 1 cup Tomato (Finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp Sambar Powder
For the tempering
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 tbsp Mustard Seeds
- 2-3 Dry Red Chillies
- 10-12 Curry Leaves
For the dal
- Wash the dal and add it in a pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water, salt and turmeric powder.
- Cook the dal until it is softened. I cook it for one whistle on high heat. Then simmer the heat to low and cook for 8 minutes. Let the steam release naturally and then open the lid. Add tamarind paste (or tamarind water) and mix well. Traditionally a wooden masher was used to mix the dal but you can use a wire whisk.
- Remove the pressure cooker from heat and let the pressure release.
- Remove the lid of the cooker.
- Add tamarind paste in the dal and whisk until smooth and keep aside.
For the vegetables
- Add all the vegetables along with water, salt and turmeric powder in a pan.
- Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened.
- Do not over cook the vegetables otherwise they will become mushy.
- You can cook the vegetables in a pressure cooker as well.
- Keep aside.
For the masala
- Heat oil in a pan.
- Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds.
- Add onion and fry until they turn translucent. You can skip to add onion if going for a no onion recipe.
- Add tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes until their are mushy and everything comes together.
- Now add sambar powder and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add some water if the tempering is too dry.
- Add the cooked dal and veggies in this pan and mix everything well.
- Now add more water to adjust the consistency of sambar.
- Cook the sambar for 10-12 minutes on medium low heat.
- Heat oil in a pan.
- Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds.
- Pour the tempering over the sambar and serve hot.