South Indian Sambar Recipe – How to Make Sambar

The Recipe for Sambar! Make the best sambar at home with this simple recipe! Sambar, a South Indian lentil and mixed vegetable stew, is the ultimate comfort food. This classic recipe is so simple to make and so delicious that you will cook it again and again. This traditional sambar is filling, savoury, and full of veggies, spices, and herbs. Not to mention that it’s nutritious, high in protein, and keeps you fuller for longer. It goes well with rice, soft idli, plain dosa, crispy medu vada, and Ven Pongal.

South Indian Sambar Recipe

Because it is nutrient-packed, this traditional meal is said to give complete nutrition to the body. As a result, it is a staple in the majority of South Indian homes. Sambar is also a popular food at tiffin centres and restaurants, where it is provided as a side dish, as part of a breakfast combo—idli sambar, vada sambar—and is also served with dosa, masala dosa, and so on. 

We Indians consume lentils virtually every day since they are a good source of protein. As a result, sambar is frequently consumed in South India as part of a healthy protein-rich diet. Sambhar is nutrition-packed since it is made with a variety of mixed vegetables.

This sambar recipe is essential to my heart since I remember my mother cooking it for us using home-grown vegetables and herbs. I am confident that once you prepare this, you will fall in love with this really delicious sambar.

This sambar goes well with short-grain rice, as well as stir-fried veggies and papad on the side. It goes well with idli, dosa, bonda, Pongal, and even vada for breakfast. If you’re new to South Indian cuisine and have questions.

About Sambar

Sambar is a South Indian stew composed of lentils, mixed vegetables, tamarind, herbs, spices, and sambar powder, a fragrant spice powder. This spice powder is essential for making a delicious sambar. This powder is made using a combination of spices and lentils. Most traditional households prepare their own sambhar masala powder to suit their tastes.

Many individuals nowadays choose to use store-bought powder since it is more convenient. I avoid purchasing spice powders and instead create my own for the finest scent and flavour.

Nothing beats the scent of freshly roasted and ground sambar powder, so I usually make the quick powder while the dal cooks.

In this post, I also published a recipe for sambar powder, which is just enough for this sambar dish. So, while you’re cooking the dal, make the sambhar powder as well. It’ll be tastier, and sanitary, and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

If you want to store it for a month or two, you may also look at this article on how to make sambar powder. If you have the powder on hand, you may prepare the vegetable sambhar at any time.

Making sambar

Sambar can be made in a variety of ways. But, as I indicated, this is my mother’s recipe, so I prepare it the same way she does, and I’ve always thought that every step I’ve described here is the key to increasing the flavour and taste level.

  • The lentils must first be pressure cooked until soft and mushy. You may pressure cook them or boil them in a pot.
  • The second step is to boil mixed veggies in a lot of water until tender.
  • The vegetable stock is then simmered with sambar powder in the third phase.
  • The dal is then combined and quickly boiled to allow the flavours to mingle.
  • Finally, aromatic tempering is used to finish the sambar. This is accomplished by cooking the spices and herbs in pure ghee or oil and then pouring them over the cooked sambhar.

How To Make Sambar (Stepwise Photos)

Cook Dal

1. In 2 cups of water, cook 3/4 cup toor dal until soft and mushy. You may use tur dal alone or in conjunction with moong dal and masoor dal. 1/4 cup moong dal and 1/2 cup toor dal The flavour and texture of the sambhar are determined by the dal used.

To make a hotel-style sambar, use equal parts of masoor dal and tur dal. Allow 2 to 4 whistles on a medium temperature if cooking dal in a pressure cooker. Cook for 9 minutes on high pressure in an instant pot. If you do not have a cooker, cook in a pot with additional water as needed.

How To Make Sambar

When the pressure has been released, mash the dal with a potato masher or a laddle. Dal should be soft and completely cooked through. This gives the sambhar a nice texture. It was traditionally mashed using a wooden masher.

How to Make Sambar

Make Spice Powder

2. While the dal is cooking, make the sambar powder. If you have ready-made powder, you may skip this step. Dry roast 4 to 5 dried red chillies, 1 tablespoon chana dal, and 1 teaspoon urad dal till brown over medium heat. Then add 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds and cook till fragrant. Transfer it to a plate.

1/2 teaspoons of methi (fenugreek) seeds, dry roasted until slightly dark. Reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 teaspoon cumin, cooking for a minute, or until fragrant. Cool them all and powder them coarsely. Set this aside for now.

Prepare Vegetables

3. Rinse and cut all of your vegetables. I usually cook using shallots or tiny onions, tomatoes, drumsticks, bhindi (okra), and carrots.

  • 1 medium onion (diced) or 12 to 15 shallots (peeled)
  • 1 to 2 drumsticks (cut into 3-inch pieces) of vegetables 
  • 2 to 3 okra (bhindi) pieces (1 inch) 
  • 1 medium carrot, diced into 1 cube 
  • 1 large tomato (diced or chopped)
  • Red pumpkin is optional (2 pieces diced to 2 inches each)
  • Eggplant or brinjal is optional (quartered or diced)
How to Make Sambar

Cook Vegetables for Sambar

4. In a big pot, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. Saute the onions for a minute before adding the rest of the vegetables. After 2 minutes, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of red chilli powder (optional). Pour in 4 to 5 cups of water and mix well. [If using only toor dal, use 4 cups; if including moong dal, use 5 cups.]

Sautéing vegetables is an optional but highly recommended step. Some onions, tomatoes, and chilli powder do not taste well when boiled straight, thus they should be sautéed. If you’re using shallots, you may skip the sauté phase entirely.

How to Make Sambar

5. When the water in the saucepan becomes hot, ladle some hot water into a small dish. 1 to 2 tablespoons of tamarind (the size of a small lemon) and 1 tablespoon of jaggery (optional). Set aside for soaking.

How to Make Sambar

6. When the vegetables are al dente, add the

  • 1/4 tablespoon of turmeric 
  • Step 2: Sambar powder (or 1.5 to 2 tablespoons store-bought)
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • We normally sauté the vegetables until they are mushy and the drumstick seeds are tender.
How to Make Sambar

7. Squeeze the tamarind and add it to the sambar along with some of the tamarind water. To remove the pulp, I like to filter the tamarind. Do not add the tamarind all at once. You can leave some in the bowl and add more later if necessary.

How to Make Sambar

8. Mix in the mashed dal well. Now taste it and adjust it with extra salt and tamarind water as needed. If you think it’s too thick, add extra hot water. I’m not going to add anything else. 

How to Make Sambar

9. Bring it to a boil. Add the coriander leaves, chopped.

Temper

10. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil in a small pan. When the ghee is hot, stir in 1/2 teaspoon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional), 1 pinch methi seeds, and 1 to 2 broken dried red chillies. After the mustard seeds have popped, add 1 sprig of curry leaves. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of hing over the curry leaves when they are crisp.

How to Make Sambar

11. Combine the tempered and heated sambar. Allow the sambhar to boil for 2 to 3 minutes to provide a pleasant scent. Some people prefer not to boil the seasoning anymore. You are free to select whatever you like.

The pictures in step-by-step images were posted in 2012. I prepared it without the red chilli powder because I had a kid at home. If you have young children, leave out the chilli powder entirely.

How to Make Sambar

Sambar is best served hot with rice or idli.

Pro Tips

  1. Sambar powder, a spice powder, is the secret to a wonderful and flavorful cuisine. Make an informed decision about the powder you want to use. In this post, I also included a recipe for quick sambhar powder. You can use whatever ready-made powder you have on hand. Adjust to taste; if you can’t prepare it fresh for the recipe, I recommend using MTR powder. It is a well-known South Indian brand.
  2. A suitable vegetable mix is also essential. Choose your favourite vegetables. Vegetables such as brinjal, bottled gourd, and cucumber change the flavour of the dish. So use the vegetables that you believe will appeal to your palate. In general, I do not include any of them.
  3. We normally gently cook the vegetables so that the flavour of the vegetables permeates the stock. This improves the taste and flavour of the sambar.
  4. Tamarind from India is what I use. If you want to use the concentrate, proceed with caution because it is salty and has a sourer flavour. Only add tamarind to the sambhar after the vegetables have softened; otherwise, the sourness would prevent the vegetables from cooking properly.
  5. Coriander leaves or cilantro is another herb that is essential for flavouring the sambar. We normally prefer the smaller coriander leaves because the larger ones are primarily hybrids and do not have a pleasant aroma.
  6. Sambar is frequently made thick but pourable. Feel free to add water as needed to get the desired consistency. The sambhar cooked in Tamil Nadu is substantially thicker than the sambar created in Andhra and Karnataka.
South Indian Sambar Recipe

Tempering tips

  1. Traditionally, sambar was tempered with ghee. Different regions, however, employ different fats. Sesame oil is used in Tamil Nadu. Coconut oil is used in Kerala. However, ghee has a far greater flavour than any of them.
  2. Fresh curry leaves are essential for tempering the sambhar since they impart a distinct fragrance. If you reside in a country where curry leaves are unavailable, feel free to skip them. I would avoid using dried curry leaves because they have an odd taste.

Tips to refrigerate sambar

If you want to prepare enough sambar for a couple of days, Then, try not to temper the entire sambhar. Simply chill the sambar and divide it into tiny servings to refrigerate. 

Heat the sambar until it begins to bubble, as needed. Then prepare a new temper and pour it. Your sambar will be fresh and flavorful. 

Avoid preserving the entire sambar in a single pot since the flavour decreases with each bite.

If you’re new to cooking, I recommend going through all of the notes and advice to get the most out of this South Indian sambar dish. When refrigerated, it keeps for 2 days. I’ve included instructions for refrigerating it at the bottom of the post.

Sambar Recipe – How to Make Sambar

South Indian sambar is a tasty thick lentil stew cooked with toor dal (lentils), mixed veggies, tamarind, and a specific spice powder called sambar masala powder. Drumsticks, tomatoes, beans, carrots, pumpkin, and okra are among the vegetables utilised.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 People
Author Habib Ullah

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup toor dal  (split pigeon peas) (refer notes)
  • 2 cups water to cook dal
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon tamarind  or tamarind paste as needed
  • 1 tablespoon jaggery  (optional)
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (skip if your sambar powder has it)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (optional) (notes)
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves  chopped

Vegetables

  • 1 medium onion diced (or 12 to 15 shallots) (150 grams)
  • 1 large tomato (100 grams)
  • 1 medium carrot diced (optional)
  • 1 to 2 vegetable drumsticks (8 to 10 pieces, moringa (100 grams))
  • 2 to 3 bhindi (okra, optional (50 grams))
  • 1 green chili slit (optional)

Tempering (tadka)

  • 1 tablespoon ghee  or oil
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds  optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 Pinch methi seeds  (fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 to 2 dried red chili  (optional)

For sambar powder or (2 tablespoons readymade powder)

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal  (skinned split bengal gram)
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (skinned split black gram)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon methi seeds  (fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds  (jeera)
  • 4 to 5 dried red chilies (kashmiri or byadgi) (less spicy variety)

Instructions

Preparation

  • Wash toor dal in the cooker or pot few times until the water flows clean.
  • Pour in 2 cups of water and cook for 2 to 4 whistles, depending on the model of pressure cooker. If using an Instant Pot, set the timer for 9 minutes and hit the pressure cook button. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook it in a pot until soft, adding water as required.
  • Rinse all of the vegetables. Rinse the drumsticks after softly scraping them. Cut them into 2-inch pieces. Peel and rinse the shallots as well.
  • Chop tomatoes and okra into 1-inch pieces. Peel and dice the pumpkin if using. Set all of this aside.

Make Sambar Powder – Skip this if you have the powder

  • Make the sambar powder while the dal is cooking. Red chilies, urad dal, and chana dal should be dry roasted till brown and crispy. Fry the coriander seeds until fragrant. Transfer it to a plate.
  • Then add the methi seeds and cook till they are slightly dark. Then add cumin and cook for a minute. Cool and finely powder in a spice jar.

How to Make Sambar

  • In a pot, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. 1 minute onions sautéed Sauté all of the vegetables for 2 minutes. This stage can be ignored, because onions, tomatoes, and chilli powder don't always smell good when boiled without being sautéed.
  • Pour in 4 to 5 cups of water and stir in the chilli powder (optional). [If using simple toor dal, use 4 cups; if including moong dal, use 5 cups.]
  • When the water is hot, ladle 1/4 cup of hot water into a bowl. Mix in the tamarind and jaggery (optional). Set aside for soaking.
  • When the vegetables are al dente, add the turmeric, sambar powder, and salt. Pour in the tamarind water once you've squeezed the tamarind. While pouring, I prefer to filter the tamarind water.
  • Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. When the pressure is released, mash the dal with a masher or ladle to smooth it out.
  • Stir it into the boiling sambar. If necessary, adjust the salt and tamarind. Bring it to a slow boil and then add the coriander leaves.

Tempering

  • Heat ghee in a small pan. Mix in the mustard, cumin, methi, and red chilies. When the spices have popped, add the curry leaves.
  • When the leaves are crisp, add the hing and pour it into the boiling sambar.
  • Sambar goes well with rice, idli, vada, or dosa.

Tips to Refrigerate

  • Refrigerate the required quantity in smaller containers.
  • Refrigerate immediately after thoroughly cooling. Refrigerate the sambar within two hours of cooking to keep the taste.
  • It will keep for around 2 to 4 days. Bring it back to a boil and temper it again. 

Notes

  1. I use 1/2 cup toor dal and 1/4 cup moong dal. Moong dal thickens the texture of your sambar. Toor (split-skinned pigeon peas), Moong dal (skinned split mung beans or green gramme), and Masoor can all be combined (skinned split red lentils).
  2. If using store-bought sambar powder, skip the red chili powder.
  3. Do not add the tamarind until the vegetables are completely cooked.
  4. If you overcook the dal, the flavor will suffer. Only add it after the vegetables have finished cooking. This ensures that the dal is not overcooked and that the sambhar tastes delicious.
  5. Check that the dal is extremely smooth. Dal is ground to a smooth consistency and then used in several regions of south India.
  6. If you don’t have shallots, use 3 little (lemon-sized) to 1 medium (halved) onion instead. The sambar will have a sweet flavor, but it will taste nice. 
    You may also use 2 to 3 red pumpkin slices cut to 1 inch each.

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