South Indian Sambar Recipe

There is no south indian breakfast without sambar. Sambar is a tasty delicious vegetables and lentil stew, thats cooked with tamarind and freshly ground sambar powder.  Sambar is served with most breakfast items like dosa, idli, pongal, vada and even for Rice.

One thing i like about sambar is so healthy as its rich in proteins and is very filling as a meal and its so versatile that i can make a big pot and serve it with rice or dosa on a lazy evening for dinner. There are many styles of sambar, some with coconut in it (arachuvitta sambar) and some without, some with made with moong dal (tiffin sambar). This sambar recipe is a general recipe which works well for rice as well as tiffin items like pongal or dosa/idli.

Every vegetable gives a different taste to the sambar too. Carrots make them slightly sweeter. personally it is my favorite :D. Brinjal and okra and lentils are match made in heaven. Very popular Sambar variety is radish sambar. I think the magic in sambar sadham comes from the Sambar powder that we use. There is my favorite recipe of sambar podi or powder which my mother in laws recipe. You can check the recipe here.

Sambar flavour comes from sambar onions or shallots or otherwise called small onions. when sambar onions are used in the recipe the taste goes another level. How ever using sambar onions is totally optional. In this recipe i have used regular white onions, and it turned out tasty. You use use any vegetable in the sambar recipe. Every vegetable will bing a unique flavour and taste to the sambar. Cooking the toor dal well is very important step in making smooth consistency in sambar. Take note on the cookinh instructions on the toor dal and follow it for perfect consistency. Now lets see how to make it.

Sambar / Lentil stew from South India

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Breakfast, dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 People


  • Pressure cooker
  • kadai / wok


  • 3/4 cup Toor dal / Yellow split pigeon peas
  • 1 cup chopped veggies (carrots/ beans/brinjal/ladies finger)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 large onion chopped or you can use small onions
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • 1 small lemon size tamarind pulp
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 asafoetida
  • 2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Coriander leaves (for garnishing)
  • 1 tsp Jaggery


  • Wash the toor dal until the dirt is removed and soak it in water for 30-60 minutes. Soaking the lentils before cooking it helps in cooking the lentils through to a smooth consistency.
  • Add the Soaked toor dal to a pressure cooker and add 2 cups of water, add turmeric and pressure cook it to about 4-5 whistles or until the lentil is smooth. (read Note).
  • Once the pressure is released, whisk it to a smooth creamy consistency and keep it aside.
  • In a separate wok/kadai, add oil, mustard seeds and allow it to sputter, next add in cumin and fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and saute for a few seconds and add the onions, curry leaves, little salt and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add the chopped veggies and saute along with the onions and cover and cook for a 5 mins.
  • Next add in the chopped tomatoes, salt , cover and cook until the tomatoes are soft. and the vegetables are cooked.
  • Add the remaining 1 cup water, tamarind pulp and jaggery and cook for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Add in the sambar powder, salt and the cooked and mashed lentils (toor dal) and cook on medium to low flame for about 10-15 minutes.
  • You will see the sambar is bubbling gently and you will see froth coming on the sides. Turn off the sambar and garnish with coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot with white rice with a dollop of ghee and appalam on the sides.


1.Alternatively you can cook the lentils in a pot until they are cooked well.
2.To make the tamarind pulp, soak the tamarind in warm water and gently squeeze it to get all the tamarind extract, discard the residue.
3. If your sambar feels a bit thicker and you want to add water please boil the water on the side slightly to bring to the same temperature as the sambar and then add it and mix well.
Keyword homemade idli podi, indian breakfast, sambar, tiffin

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