Sambar – How to make Sambar

Sambar – south Indian lentil stew made with vegetables, lentils and a special blend of spices.

It’s best enjoyed with rice, idli or dosa. Don’t let the list of ingredients intimidate you, it’s actually easy to put together!

sambar served in a grey bowl garnished with curry leaves with twigs on cilantro and more curry leaves scattered all around

When we eat South Indian food in restaurants, my focus is always more on the sambar and chutneys than the idli and dosa.

Sure, I love my idli and dosa but a good sambar and chutney makes all the difference in my opinion.

Unfortunately, most of the restaurants here make really bad sambar. It’s usually tasteless and lacks flavor. So I compensate for the lack of it by making a good sambar at home.

My sambar recipe is pretty basic and straight forward. I don’t use a ton of veggies either but I can promise that this make a good basic sambar.

What is Sambar

Sambar is a lentil and vegetable stew, most popular in South India.

Even though I am not south Indian, I have always loved it as far as I can remember. So, I guess it’s safe to say it’s popular all across India.

Here are the key ingredients required to make a sambar.

Lentil (dal): Lentils form the base of sambar. Usually it’s made with toor dal (split pigeon peas lentil) but can also be made by mixing moong and toor dal  or masoor (red lentils) and toor dal.

You can cook the dal either in a stove top pressure cooker or Instant Pot.

Vegetables:  a number of vegetables are traditionally used in sambar like pearl onion, tomatoes, pumpkin, eggplant, drumstick, carrots, okra etc. Using different vegetables makes the sambar flavorful.

However, my recipes doesn’t use a ton of veggies. I use tomato, drumstick, eggplant and carrots. You can add more veggies as you like.

Always remember to not overcook the veggies for your sambar. They should hold their shape and not become mushy.

a hand digging into a bowl of sambar with a spoon

Sambar powder: the taste of the sambar depends heavily on the sambar powder which is a spice mix made by grinding several spices. Use your favorite brand of sambar powder or make one at home (see recipe below).

Tamarind & Jaggery: these ingredients add the little tartness & sweetness to the sambar respectively.

Final Tadka: and a good tadka (tempering) at the end with mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing is what makes the sambar so delicious!

I like using ghee for the tadka in my sambar. You can use oil if you want to keep this recipe vegan.

And that’s pretty much it what you need to make sambar at home. The consistency of sambar can be adjusted to preference.

Some like really thin sambar while others prefer it thick. I prefer mine on the thicker side.

Homemade Sambar Powder

In case you can’t find sambar powder, here’s a quick recipe to make it at home.

In a pan over medium heat, dry roast the following spices in a pan on medium heat until fragrant, around 3 to 4 minutes.

  • 1 tablespoon chana dal
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 dried red chilies (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 clove

Let cool and then grind to a powder. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Serving Suggestions for Sambar

Sambar is served traditionally with idli, dosa, vada, rice.

But honestly you can eat it with anything you like. I also eat it with my roti, quinoa, brown rice!

3 pieces of idli served with sambar in a black bowl

Method

1- To a pressure cooker, add the rinsed dal with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Cook for 5 whistles on medium-high flame, then lower the heat to medium-low and let it cook for another 5 to 6 minutes.

Once the pressure releases naturally, open the cooker and mash the cooked dal lightly with a potato masher. Set aside.

If using an Instant Pot, pressure cook for 9 minutes on high pressure with natural pressure release.

2- Meanwhile soak 1 tablespoon tamarind piece in 1/3 cup of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.

3- Then strain the liquid using a strainer.

4- You will get 3 to 4 tablespoons of tamarind water/juice. Set it aside.

step by step collage to make sambar at home

5- In a pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped eggplant and cook for around 2 minutes.

6- Add carrots and frozen drumsticks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 more minutes.

7- Add the chopped tomato and cook for 1 minute.

8- Then add around 3 cups (24 oz) water and stir.

step by step collage to make sambar at home

9- Add 2 tablespoons sambar powder (or adjust to taste).

10- Also add jaggery powder, again adjust to taste.

11- Add 4 tablespoons of the tamarind water that you had extracted earlier.

12-Stir in the cooked dal.

step by step collage to make sambar at home

13- Also add the kashmiri red chili powder, if using.

14- Stir everything together and let the sambar simmer on medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes.

15- For the tempering, heat 1 tablespoon ghee (or oil if you want to keep this vegan), in a small pan on medium heat. Once the ghee is hot, add mustard seeds and let them pop.

Then add the hing and curry leaves for stir for few seconds until leaves turn crisp.

16- Pour tempering over the simmering sambar.

step by step collage to make sambar at home

Serve the sambar hot with idli, dosa or rice!

overhead shot of a bowl of sambar garnished with cilantro and curry leaves

If you’ve tried this Sambar Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

Sambar

sambar served in a grey bowl garnished with curry leaves with twigs on cilantro and more curry leaves scattered all around
Manali
South Indian lentil stew made with vegetables and spices! This flavorful and spiced Sambar goes well with rice, idli or dosa!
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 8
Calories 238 kcal

Ingredients
  

To Pressure Cook the Dal

  • 1 cup toor dal/arhar dal pigeon peas lentil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water 24 oz

Tamarind Juice

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind piece
  • 1/3 cup hot water

For Cooking The Vegetable

  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped eggplant
  • 2 medium carrots diced
  • 7-8 drumsticks I used frozen ones that I got from Indian store
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • 3 cups water 24 oz
  • 2 tablespoons sambar powder homemade or store bought, adjust to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons powdered jaggery
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder optional

Tadka/Tempering

  • 1 tablespoon ghee or use oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds black
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing (asafoetida)
  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Instructions
 

  • To a pressure cooker, add the rinsed dal with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups (24 oz) of water. Cook for 5 whistles on medium-high flame, then lower the heat to medium-low and let it cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. Once the pressure releases naturally, open the cooker and mash the cooked dal lightly with a potato masher. Set aside. If using an Instant Pot, pressure cook for 9 minutes on high pressure with natural pressure release.
  • Meanwhile soak 1 tablespoon tamarind piece in 1/3 cup of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Then strain the liquid using a strainer. You will get 3 to 4 tablespoons of tamarind water/juice. Set it aside.
  • In a pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped eggplant and cook for around 2 minutes.
  • Add carrots and frozen drumsticks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 1 minute.
  • Then add around 3 cups (24 oz) water and stir.
  • Add 2 tablespoons sambar powder (or adjust to taste). Also add jaggery powder, and 4 tablespoons of the tamarind water that you had extracted earlier.
  • Stir in the cooked dal. Also add the kashmiri red chili powder, if using.
  • Stir everything together and let the sambar simmer on medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes.
  • For the tempering, heat 1 tablespoon ghee (or oil if you want to keep this vegan), in a small pan on medium heat. 
  • Once the ghee is hot, add mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add the hing and curry leaves for stir for few seconds until leaves turn crisp.
  • Pour tempering over the simmering sambar.
  • Serve the sambar hot with idli, dosa or rice!

Video

Notes

  1. Use oil in place of ghee in the final tadka to make this recipe vegan.
  2. You can also use a mix of toor and moong dal to make this sambar.

Nutrition

Calories: 238kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 18gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 529mgPotassium: 473mgFiber: 8gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2800IUVitamin C: 29.2mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 2.4mg
Keyword sambar
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

57 thoughts on “Sambar – How to make Sambar

  1. 5 stars
    Hello
    I like &love to prepare cook the vegetable sambar
    with rice,idli and dosa so very good taste, better eat breakfast for good health..👌👌👌👍💪😊 Brahmin vegetarian dishes only ..

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve tried several different recipes and I like this one the best. My husband said it tasted better than in the restaurants.

  3. 5 stars
    Just returned from a vacation with friends in Tamil Nadu. I immediately missed the home cooked Sambar accompanying every meal. I was able to follow this recipe to make it at home. My first try turned out perfect, so I never have to leave the memories behind.

  4. 5 stars
    The recipe turned out really good. I have tried so many recipes of sambhar before but to no avail. This is simple and very tasty. Thank you!

  5. Planning to make this – thank you for sharing. If I use tamarind paste instead of sailing tamarind pieces, thoughts on how much paste to use? Thanks!

  6. 5 stars
    This was AMAZING. So much better than any Sambar I have had in restaurants. I did add a slit green chili and a LOT of Kashmiri Chili Powder though because I like it hot.

    I am just a middle aged white woman who loves to cook adventurously and your site has proven to be an excellent source of recipes. I also love that you add the nutritional information….may I ask how you get that information about your dishes?

  7. Thank you for your amazing and well defined recepie. I love idli with chetney and sambhar.i will try this rrcepie.From Daman India

  8. 5 stars
    Hey Manali,
    I tried this recipe and it was one of the best Sambhar anyone in my home ever had. Loved it. Following your recipes has been really fruitful for me and it makes everyone in my home super happy, like literally fighting for the last bite: P I tried your kadhai paneer and a couple of other recipes as well. You are truly a savior

  9. Your sambar recipe seems amazing – Can you recommend any good Sambar powder that I can buy? Or is it better if I make it from the ingredients you recommended above. Thank you.

  10. 5 stars
    Hello Manali
    This is shobha I tried your sambhar recipe and coconut chatny and it turned out the best that I haven’t eaten sambhar like this my husband was very please too
    Thank you very much

  11. I love this and will definite make it as it sounds so healthy and delicious. Please keep smiling as you are as beautiful as your recipes!💗💗💗💗

  12. Hey Manali ,I am looking forward to try this sambar recipe..as I have tried many of your recipes and they have turned out to be super tasty always. I just have one question regarding the alternative of “drumsticks” and can I add more vegetables other than mentioned ?

  13. 5 stars
    Tried this recipe 3 times now. Best sambar I have made, tastes delicious. My wife loves it too! Thank you Manali!

  14. 5 stars
    Tried this recipe today. I cooked sambhar first time in my life and i cane out super delicious. All the credit goes to you. Thank you for this amazing recipe.

  15. 5 stars
    I tried this recipe today and it came pretty well. Thanks for nicely breaking down the recipe making it easier to follow.

  16. 5 stars
    Hi Manali,

    Thank you so much for putting this up – i cooked sambar this morning for breakfast ad it turned out amazing. Everyone in the family said that they had never eaten such great sambar before and thats why i am commenting here to thank you (though i am usually lazy to comment on recipes on the internet). It was super easy, quick to cook and tasty.

    Thank you

  17. Thanks. The sugar worked great. The sambar came out great, everyone in my family enjoyed it. I didn’t have eggplant so I used a small potato instead.

  18. 5 stars
    This sambar recipe actually gets more than 5 stars from me! So simple, amazingly flavorful and very fast to come together!!!
    Thank you for this awesome recipe! I used carrots and celery, since thats all I had.

  19. Hi, under preparing the spices you list one tablespoon of chana dal. When I look that up I’m directed to a different recipe for a dish called chana dal. What is the spice to which you are referring?

    Thanks.

    1. In India chana dal is both- an ingredient (a type of lentil) and the final dish that’s made using that lentil is also called chana dal. Dal is just a term we in India use for both the ingredient and also the dish. I am referring to chana dal only (not the dish, the lentil that you can buy at Indian grocery store). Hope it clears it up.

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