Sambar recipe with step by step photos – A typical south Indian sambar recipe calls for lot of vegetables like pumpkin, bottle gourd, drumstick, eggplant, cucumbers, lady finger, sweet potatoes, onions and tomatoes. The choice of vegetables is based on a personal liking and are optional. Each vegetable lends a different flavor and taste.
Sambar recipe shared here is the one which has been followed by my mum for years. It makes a great side dish to pair with breakfast or a meal. This tastes good with idli, dosa, and even with rice.
If you are new to South Indian Cuisine, this may help you
What is sambar?
Sambar is a South Indian lentil (dal) & mix vegetable soup that is eaten along with breakfast or meal as a side dish. Most people enjoy this with some hot Soft idli, dosa, Vada or with plain rice. This is an everyday dish that is made in most homes since it is protein rich and healthy.
Which daal is used to make sambar?
Most traditional South Indian households use only toor dal / tuvar dal or arahar dal or split pigeon peas to make sambar. But usually tiffin centers and restaurants use a mix of toor and masoor dal. I use a mix of toor dal and moong dal. This is a personal choice and you can experiment with different proportions or use toor dal alone.
Moong dal lends a thick, creamy and delicious aroma to the dish. Including different kinds of lentils provide different nutrients to the body.
Is sambar good for you?
Yes it is rich in protein, fiber and many other nutrients essential for the body. It helps to gain weight in kids and toddlers if included in the diet regularly.
Which vegetables are used in sambar
A basic sambar can be made with just shallots and tomatoes. But including a wide variety of veggies will enhance the taste. Here are the vegetables that can be put in sambar.
Shallots or small to medium sized onions
Okra – ladies finger – bhindi
Vegetable drumsticks – (moringa)
Brinjal – egg plant – baingan
We at home use even spinach called as palakura (palak) which gives a very good taste.
Tips to make best sambar
1. The spice powder known as sambar powder is the key to a delicious and flavorful dish. So make a good choice of the powder you are going to use. I have also shared an instant sambhar powder in this post. If you have any ready made powder you can use it. Adjust to suit your liking, i suggest using mtr powder if you cannot make fresh for the recipe. It is one of the popular south Indian brands.
2. A proper combination of the veggies is also important. Use the veggies of your choice. Vegetables like brinjal, bottle gourd and cucumber do alter the taste of the dish.
If you are new to cooking i suggest reading all the notes and tips to make the best out of this South Indian sambar recipe. It keeps good for 2 days when refrigerated. I have shared the tips on how to refrigerate it at the end of the post.
In this post I have also shared the sambar powder just enough for this recipe. You also can check this post on how to make sambar powder. If you have the powder ready, it is very quick to make the vegetable sambhar anytime.
South Indian sambar recipe
Sambar recipe | South indian sambar recipe | How to make sambar recipe
Sambar is a delicious thick lentil soup that is nutritious and healthy. Vegetables like drumsticks, tomatoes, and okra are used along with fresh spice powder. It can be served with rice or idli, vada or dosa.
Ingredients (240 ml cup used)
Ingredients for sambar recipe
- ¾ cup Toor dal (or split pigeon peas) (refer notes)
- 1 to 2 tbsp Tamarind or tamarind paste as needed
- ¼ cup Coriander leaves few with tender stalks - chopped
- salt as needed
- 1/8 tsp turmeric (skip if your sambar powder has it)
Vegetables for sambar
- 12 to 15 shallots (or small onions) or 1 medium onion sliced, refer notes
- 1 to 2 vegetable drumsticks (or moringa)
- 2 to 3 Ladies finger (or okra, bhindi)
- 3 to 4 cubed red pumpkin pieces (optional)
- 1 green chili slit (optional)
- 1 medium tomato chopped
For sambar powder or use ready made powder
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds (or daniya)
- 1 tbsp Chana dal (or skinned split bengal gram)
- 1 tsp urad dal (or skinned split black gram)
- ½ tsp cumin (or jeera)
- ¼ to ½ tsp methi seeds (or fenugreek seeds)
- 4 to 5 red chilies (kashmiri or byadgi) (less spicy variety)
tempering or tadka for sambar recipe
- 2 tsp ghee or oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ tsp cumin (or jeera)
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 Pinch methi seeds or fenugreek seeds
- 2 pinches asafoetida or hing
- 1 Red chili broken (less spicy variety)
How to make the recipe
Preparation for sambar recipe
Wash toor dal a few times in cooker or pot until the water runs clear.
Pour 2 cups water & pressure cook on a medium heat for 2 to 4 whistles depending on the brand of cooker. The dal needs to be cooked till smooth. It can even be cooked in a pot.
Wash all the veggies. Scrape the drumsticks lightly & rinse. Chop them to 2 inch pieces. Peel the shallots as well & rinse. Chop tomatoes & okra to 1 inch pieces. If using pumpkin peel the skin & dice them. Set aside.
Make sambar powder - Skip this if you have the powder
While the dal cooks, make the sambar powder. Dry roast red chilies, urad dal and chana dal until golden & crisp.
Add coriander seeds & fry till aromatic. Remove to a plate.
Next add methi seeds and saute until slightly dark. Then add cumin, fry for a minute. Cool these and powder finely.
How to make sambar
Pour 5 cups of water to a pot, add the chopped veggies. Cook on a medium flame until soft. The flavor & taste of sambar is good when the veggies are soft cooked as all the flavor comes out to the stock.
optional - You can also saute all the veggies in a tsp of oil until the flavor comes - for 3 to 5 mins. If using brinjal then saute it first for 3 to 4 mins to bring out flavor.
- When the water turns slightly hot, transfer about ¼ cup hot water with a ladle to a separate bowl and soak tamarind in it.
- When the pressure goes off, mash the dal to smooth. The dal needs to be very smooth otherwise it doesn’t taste good.
When the vegetables are completely cooked, add sambhar powder, turmeric & salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour the tamarind pulp, filter if you desire.
Add smooth dal, mix well to blend the dal with water. Bring it to a boil. Check if there is enough salt & sourness. If needed add more. Add coriander leaves & stir.
- Meanwhile, heat another pan with oil or ghee.
Add mustard, cumin & methi. When they begin to sizzle, add curry leaves, broken red chili. When the leaves turn crisp, off the heat add hing. You can also add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of sambar powder to the hot pan.
Quickly pour this seasoning to the sambar. Stir well. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes for the sambar to become flavorful. We usually pour 2 to 3 ladles of sambhar to the tempering pan as the aroma of the tempering will be great this way.
Tips for refrigerating.
Stir well. Set aside the desired portion to refrigerate. Cool it and refrigerate immediately. To retain the taste of sambar, it is suggested to refrigerate within two hours of cooking. Keeps good for about 2 days. Bring it to a boil whenever needed. A fresh tadka for the refrigerated dish makes it smell and taste fresh.
Serve with rice, idli, vada or dosa.
Recipe notes for sambar recipe
For dal - you can use a mix of
1. Toor (split skinned pigeon peas)
2. Moong (skinned split mung beans or green gram)
3. Masoor (skinned split red lentils)
Do not add tamarind before the veggies are cooked completely.
Do not overcook the dal, as the taste of dal diminishes. Add it only after the veggies are cooked, this way dal is not overcooked and sambhar tastes the best.
Make sure dal is very smooth. In some parts of south India, dal is ground to smooth and then used.
If you do not have shallots you can use 3 small(lemon sized) to 1 medium sized (halved) onions. The sambar will get some sweet flavor but tastes good.
Preparation for sambar recipe
1. Cook 3/4 cup dal with 2 cups water till mushy and soft. You can use only tur dal or a combination of tur dal, moong dal and masoor dal. The taste of the sambhar depends on the dal used. To get a hotel style sambar, use masoor dal and tur dal in equal quantities. If cooking dal in pressure cooker, let it whistle for 2 to 4 whistles on a medium flame. Mash it up.
If you do not have a masher, do it with the back of a laddle or with the base of a steel glass. But dal must be very smooth. That gives a good texture to the sambhar.
2. While the dal cooks, make the sambar powder. If you have a ready made powder skip this step. Dry roast red chilies, chana dal & urad dal till golden. Then add coriander seeds fry until aromatic. Remove to a plate. Dry roast methi until slightly dark. Then add cumin and fry for a minute. Cool them and powder.
3. Wash and chop all the desired vegetables.
4. Add veggies to a large bowl with 5 cups water. Begin to cook them. You can also saute them first in a tsp of oil in the pot, if you want to bring out the flavors of veggies. But taste wise not much difference.
5. Take some hot water from the vegetable pot and add tamarind. Set aside to soak.
How to make sambar recipe
6. When the veggies are soft cooked. Add sambar powder,salt. Bring it to a boil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
7. Squeeze up the tamarind and pour the tamarind water to the sambar. I prefer to filter the tamarind to remove unwanted particles.
8. Add dal and mix it well. Now taste it to check the sour and salt taste, add more if needed.
9. Bring it to a boil. Add coriander leaves.
10. Add ghee or oil to a pan and make the seasoning. Add cumin, methi and mustard to hot oil. When they begin to crackle, add red chili and curry leaves. Sprinkle hing. Switch off the heat.
11. Add the seasoning to the hot sambar. Let the sambar simmer for 2 to 3 minutes for a good aroma. Some folks prefer not to boil further after adding the seasoning. You can choose whatever you like.
Serve sambar with rice, idli or sambar.