I share our favorite Sambar recipe which I have made perfect over the years. Make this tasty, filling and healthy South Indian Vegetable Lentil Stew with this easy method. Enjoy sambar with South Indian snacks such as dosa, idli, medu vada, uttapam or simply have it with rice for a comforting, filling and nutritious meal.
What is Sambar
Sambar is a South Indian lentil and vegetable braise made from pigeon pea lentils, tamarind, and a unique blend of spices called sambar powder. It is a staple dish in South Indian homes and is also popular and loved by many.
A basic sambar recipe will include a mixture or one or two types of vegetables with lentils, tamarind, sambar powder, and a few spices.
A good sambar powder always gives a good and tasty sambar. so when you do, try to have a good aromatic sambar powder.
You can also use your favorite sambar powder brand. I make sambar powder at home and I think homemade sambar powder makes sambar the best and perfect taste.
If you live outside of India and are new to Indian cuisine, you can find Sambar powder online on amazon or even in an Indian grocery store.
It is healthy and nutritious, rich in protein and other nutrients like vitamins, minerals etc. as it is made from lentils and vegetables. Sambar served with rice or idli is a complete meal.
I usually make sambar with this recipe because it’s a foolproof method – where the lentils and vegetables are cooked to perfection. So you don’t get half-cooked lentils or mushy vegetables. It is also a simple method to prepare a sambar recipe.
I usually add a mixture of vegetables from the list mentioned above or just one vegetable in the sambhar. In this sambar recipe, I added drumstick, okra, pumpkin, carrots, brinjals, green beans, and baby onions (shallots or pearl onions).
How is Sambar made
A basic sambar recipe is prepared by cooking the vegetables and lentils separately. Lentils are cooked until soft, then mashed.
The cooked vegetables, dal puree, tamarind pulp and sambar powder are mixed together and then simmered for a few minutes.
Later, a mash is made of oil (or ghee) with mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida (hing), and dry red peppers. This tadka or tempering is mixed with the sambar.
Lentils of your choice
- Conventionally, sambar is always made with tur dal (arhar dal lentils or pigeon peas).
- Even masoor dal (orange lentils) or moong dal (yellow mung lentils) can be used to make sambhar.
- A mixture of masoor dal and tur dal can also be used. Occasionally, I also make sambar recipes using only mung dal.
- You can also use a combination of moong dal and tuvar dal.
- In some forms, black-eyed beans and whole moong beans are also used.
Choice of vegetables
Sambar can be made with a single vegetable or a mixture of vegetables. Vegetables that can be used alone or in mix are listed below. From the list below, you can have a combination of vegetables.
If you are using green vegetables like spinach or amaranth, just add them and don’t mix them with other vegetables. You can also add your choice of vegetables to the sambar recipe.
Yellow pumpkin Kaddu
Ash gourd (white pumpkin) Petha
Drumstick Saijan ki phalli
Pearl onions, shallots, onions Chote pyaaz ya pyaaz
Okra (lady fingers) Bhindi
Brinjals (eggplant) Baingan
Snake gourd Chichinda
Amaranth leaves Chaulai
Bottle gourd Lauki, Dudhi, Ghiya
Banana stem Kele ka tana
Plantain (unripe raw banana) Kacha kela
Green beans (French beans) Faraz beans
Ivy gourd Tindora, tendli
(Mangalore cucumber) Madras cucumber
How to make sambar
The Sambar recipe includes a series of preparations, all of which are later assembled together. It is therefore necessary to make the tamarind pulp, cook the vegetables and the lentils. Let’s get started.
Make tamarind pulp
1. Before you start making sambar, it is always helpful to soak the tamarind earlier in the water. So in ⅓ cup of hot water, soak 1 tablespoon of tamarind for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Once the tamarind becomes soft, squeeze it into the water itself. Discard the drained tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.
Cook the lentils
3. Rinse ½ cup of tuvar dal (100 grams) several times in cool, clean water. You can use a colander to rinse the lenses. For quick cooking of the lentils, you can choose to soak them for an hour before cooking.
I suggest making your sambar recipe with unpolished tuvar dal for great taste and more nutrition.
4. Drain all the water and add the dal to a 2 liter pressure cooker. Also add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Note: You can also cook the lentils in a skillet or instant casserole. Add water as needed while the lentils are cooking.
5. Add 1.5 to 1.75 cups of water and stir.
6. Cover and pressure cook the dal for 7 to 8 whistles or 9 to 10 minutes over medium heat.
7. When the pressure stabilizes on its own, open the cover and check the dal. The dal should be completely cooked and mushy. crush the dal with a spoon or wire whisk. Cover and keep aside.
8. When the dal cooks under pressure, rinse, peel and chop the vegetables. When preparing sambar, chop vegetables that cook faster into larger sizes like pumpkin, brinjals (small eggplants), okra, drumsticks, etc.
Vegetables that take longer to cook should be chopped into small sizes like carrots, potatoes, etc. I chopped the pumpkin into large cubes and the carrots and potatoes into small cubes.
Chop the brinjals before adding them to the pan or else they turn black. You will need about 1 to 1.5 cups of chopped vegetables.
Note: For reasons of health and taste, I always make sambar with fresh vegetables. However, you can also use frozen vegetables.
9. Take 1 to 1.5 cups of chopped vegetables in a saucepan or saucepan. Also add 6-7 pearl onions or 1 small to medium onion (thick sliced) and 1 small to medium tomato (quartered).
Also Read: Bhindi Masala
10. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder and salt to taste. It is optional to add Kashmiri red chili powder and can be skipped. I add it for a nice shiny color in the sambar.
11. Add 1.5 to 2 cups of water and mix. Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
12. Keep the pot on a stovetop and begin to cook the vegetables over medium-low to medium heat. in between, check when the vegetables are cooking.
13. Cook until the vegetables are almost cooked. Make sure you don’t overcook the vegetables.
14. To the cooked vegetables, add the prepared tamarind pulp. If you don’t have dried tamarind, use packaged or bottled tamarind paste. You can add about ½ to 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste or add according to your taste.
15. Mix well.
16. Then add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of Sambar powder. You can also add ½ to 1 teaspoon of jaggery powder at this step. Adding jaggery is optional.
The flavor of your sambar mainly depends on the sambar powder you will be using. So make your own homemade sambar powder or use a trusted brand. You can buy packaged sambar powder easily online.
17. Stir and mix well again.
18. Add the dal puree.
19. Mix very well. If the consistency seems very thick, you can add water. You can easily adjust the amount of water and achieve a medium to fine consistency of sambar. But keep in mind not to add too much water as it will dilute the flavors.
20. Simmer over medium-low heat until boiling. Stir at intervals. You will see a frothy layer on top when the sambar begins to boil.
At this stage, extinguish the fire. Cover and keep aside. Check the taste and add salt if necessary.
21. In a small saucepan or tadka pan, heat 2 tablespoons of ginger oil (oil made from raw sesame seeds).
You can even use coconut oil, ghee, or sunflower oil instead. Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.
22. Let the mustard seeds crackle.
23. Then add 1 to 2 dry red peppers (halved and seeded).
24. Immediately add 5 to 6 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds), 10 to 12 curry leaves and 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing). Be careful when adding curry leaves as the oil splashes a lot.
Note: To make sambar gluten free, omit asafetida and make sure your sambar powder does not contain asafetida or use gluten free asafetida.
25. Fry them until the red peppers change color and the curry leaves become crisp.
26. Quickly add this tempering mixture to the hot sambar.
27. For 4 to 5 minutes, cover the pot with its lid so that the aroma and flavors of the tempering mixture are infused with the sambar.
28. Serve the sambar hot or warm. Decorate with a few coriander leaves if you prefer. Usually, it is cooked two to three hours earlier because its taste improves over time.
However, we prefer the sambar to be served as soon as it’s done. It can also be served with dosa, idli, medu vada, steamed rice or uttapam.
Sambar is served with dosa, idli, medu vadai or steamed rice or uttapam. You can vary the consistency of the sambhar and serve it with any dish you prepare like idli, dosa, or rice.
A slightly thin sambhar is served with dosa, idli and medu vada. The medium to thick sambar is served with steamed rice.
Storage and leftovers
Store sambar in the refrigerator for only one day. The consistency will thicken after refrigeration. Add a little water and mix to obtain the desired consistency and reheat in a saucepan.
There are many variations for making sambhar. Each state in South India has a few variations like adding a specific oil or adding a few more ingredients or spices in sambar powder.
- In Tamil Nadu, sesame oil, also called gingelly, is used. Ginger oil is made from raw sesame seeds and is very different in flavor and taste from Asian toasted sesame oil. In Kerala, coconut oil is often used.
- Some variations of sambar recipes involve making a ground sambar masala paste with or without coconut. In some variations, the coconut is roasted until golden, then crushed into a paste. So, depending on the ingredients used, the sambar recipe will have a different flavor and taste.
- In Karnataka, a little jaggery is added to the sambar powder. This gives the sambar a slight sweet taste that some people like.
- Pigeon pea lentils (arhar dal, tur dal, tuvar dal) are mainly used when preparing the sambar recipe. But in some variations, red lentils (masoor dal) and yellow moong lentils (mung dal) can also be included. A mix of these three lentils can also be added. I mainly do with arhar dal and moong dal.