Sambar, a popular South Indian lentil and vegetable stew


For the Sambar:

  • 1/2 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 1 small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (such as carrots, drumsticks, eggplant, and okra), chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 green chilies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your spice preference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon sambar powder (readily available or homemade)
  • A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 10-12 fresh curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2-3 dried red chilies (optional)
  • Fresh coriander leaves, chopped (for garnish)

For the Sambar Powder (if making from scratch):

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal (split chickpeas)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 6-8 dried red chilies (adjust to your spice preference)
  • 1 tablespoon grated coconut (optional)
  • A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder


Preparing the Sambar Powder (if making from scratch):

  1. Dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, and dried red chilies in a pan until they turn fragrant and slightly brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Let the roasted spices cool down and then grind them to a fine powder along with grated coconut, turmeric powder, and asafoetida. Set the homemade sambar powder aside.

Making the Sambar:

  1. Wash and cook the toor dal with enough water and a pinch of turmeric powder until it becomes soft and mushy. You can do this on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.
  2. Soak the tamarind in warm water and extract tamarind juice. Set the juice aside.
  3. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Let them splutter.
  4. Add asafoetida, dried red chilies (if using), and fresh curry leaves.
  5. Add the finely chopped onions and green chilies. Sauté until the onions turn translucent.
  6. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.
  7. Add the tamarind juice, chopped tomatoes, sambar powder, and salt. Mix well.
  8. Let the mixture simmer until the vegetables become tender. You can add some water to achieve the desired consistency.
  9. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the cooked toor dal. Mix well and let it simmer for a few more minutes.
  10. Check and adjust the seasoning. You can add more salt or sambar powder if needed.
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  12. Serve hot sambar with rice, dosa, idli, or as a side dish for a South Indian meal.

Sambar is a delicious and nutritious South Indian dish known for its combination of lentils, vegetables, and aromatic spices. Enjoy it as a hearty and flavorful meal