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Authentic South Indian Sambar Recipe

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Sambar is a South Indian lentil and vegetable stew made with pigeon pea lentils, tamarind and a unique spice blend called sambar powder. It is a staple dish in South Indian homes and is also equally popular and loved by many.

A basic sambar recipe will have a mix or one or two types of vegetables along with lentils, tamarind, sambar powder and a few spices.

India Bazaar brings to you a mouth-watering recipe of authentic South Indian Sambar in simple steps below...

Sambar Recipe

This recipe includes a series of preparations, that are all assembled later together. So you need to make the tamarind pulp, cook vegetables and lentils. Lets begin.


1 tablespoon Raw Tamarind,

½ cup toor dal,

½ teaspoon turmeric powder,

¼ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder,

Salt as per taste,

1 to 1.5 cup of chopped vegetables (pumpkin, brinjals, okra, drumsticks etc),

6 to 7 pearl onions or 1 small to medium onion (thickly sliced),

1 small to medium tomato (quartered),

1 to 1.5 tablespoons Sambar Powder,

½ to 1 teaspoon of jaggery powder,

2 tablespoons sesame oil,

½ teaspoon mustard seeds,

1 to 2 dry red chillies,

10 to 12 curry leaves, 

5 to 6 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds),

2 pinches of asafoetida (hing),

Some coriander leaves for garnishing.


Preparation for sambar

1. Soak 1 tablespoon tamarind in ⅓ cup hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Once the tamarind gets soft, then squeeze the tamarind in the water itself. Discard the strained tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.

3. Rinse ½ cup tuvar dal (100 grams) a couple of times in fresh and clean water. You can use a strainer to rinse the lentils. For quick cooking of the lentils you can opt to soak them for an hour prior to cooking.

4. Drain all the water and add the dal in a 2 litre stovetop pressure cooker. Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.

5. Add 1.5 to 1.75 cups of water and mix to combine.

6. Cover and pressure cook dal for 7 to 8 whistles or 9 to 10 minutes on medium heat.

7. When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dal. The dal should be completely cooked and mushy. 

Cook Vegetables

8. When the dal is pressure cooking – rinse, peel and chop the vegetables. When making sambar, chop the vegetables which get cooked faster in large sizes like pumpkin, brinjals (small aubergines) okra, drumsticks etc.

You will need 1 to 1.5 cup of chopped vegetables.

9. Take 1 to 1.5 cups 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).

10. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder and salt as per taste.

11. Add 1.5 to 2 cups water and stir. Add enough water so that they cover the vegetables.

12. Keep the pan on a stove top and begin to cook vegetables on a medium-low to medium heat. In between do check when the vegetables are cooking.

13. Cook till the vegetables are almost done. Ensure that you don’t overcook the vegetables.

Make Sambar

14. Add the prepared tamarind pulp to the cooked vegetables. If you don’t have dried tamarind then use packaged or bottled tamarind paste.

You can add about ½ to 1 tablespoon of the tamarind paste or add as according to your taste.

15. Mix well.

16. Next add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons Sambar Powder. At this step you can also add ½ to 1 teaspoon of jaggery powder. Adding jaggery is optional.

17. Stir and mix well again.

18. Add the mashed dal.

19. Stir and mix very well. If the consistency looks very thick, you can add some water.

20. Simmer on a medium-low heat till it comes to a boil. Stir at intervals. You will see a frothy layer on top when the sambar begins boiling.

Temper Sambar

21. In a small pan or tadka pan, heat 2 tablespoons gingelly oil (oil made from raw sesame seeds).

You can even use sunflower oil, ghee or coconut oil instead. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.

22. Let the mustard seeds crackle on low heat.

23. Then add 1 to 2 dry red chillies (halved and seeds removed).

24. Immediately add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) and 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing). Be careful while adding curry leaves as the oil splutters a lot.

25. Fry them till the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp on low heat. Take care that you don’t burn the spice

26. Immediately add this tempering mixture in the hot sambar.

27. Cover the pan with its lid for 4 to 5 minutes, so that the aroma and flavors from the tempering mixture get infused with the sambar.

28. Serve sambar hot or warm. Garnish with some coriander leaves if you prefer.

Credits :

  • Nov 09, 2022
  • Category: Recipes
  • Comments: 0
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