Learn how to make delicious and flavorful vegetable sambar in the traditional way.
Loads of hearty chunks of mixed vegetables, smoothly mashed split pigeon peas and flavorful samabr masala come together in this south Indian stew and it is best served with steamed rice. Vegan & gluten free!
If you have tasted this stew before you know how delicious it is, if you are new to south Indian cuisine and want to know more, keep reading and do try this out!
South Indian Sambar Recipe.
It is usually made with cooked and mashed split pigeon peas or toor dal, vegetables like onions, drumsticks, eggplants, potato and the souring agent is tamarind pulp.
There are many variations to this recipe pertaining to different regions of south India. In few places is has slight sweet taste in some places it is made super spicy and in the same way con
Here I am sharing with you all an easy recipe to make vegetable sambar. The same recipe can be adapted to make in regular pressure cooker or instant pot.
Sambar is a traditional south Indian recipe that is wholesome and healthy. Sambar is a balanced mix of protein other nutrients. It is very delicious too.
In south India, we prepare sambar at least thrice a week. I usually make a big batch and serve as side dish for breakfast and with rice in lunch.
This is my Mom’s sambar recipe that I have been making for more than a decade. Here I have made the recipe in instant pot to save time and cook with just one pot.
It is so tasty, thick and lush and has perfect flavor. I use whatever vegetables I have in hand and it turns out so good.
You can serve sambar with idli, dosa, upma or with rice and any vegetable side dish.
This Sambar Is
Authentic & traditional south Indian recipe
Made easily in instant pot
very delicious and flavorful
loaded with vegetables
vegan and gluten free.
Are you all set to make this recipe, here are few notes, tips and helpful details before going into the detailed recipe.
How Is Sambar Made?
Basic steps of making traditional sambar are
- sauteing vegetables in sambar powder in a tempering of mustard, methi and curry leaves.
- cooking lentils separately
- mixing everything together and simmer along with tamarind pulp.
In authentic sambhar recipe, usually a second tempering is not done.
Which Vegetables Are Good In Sambar?
Traditional south Indian sambar recipe can be made with one or combination of many vegetables. Depending on the region and community, the vegetables used in this recipe varies.
Most popular combination of vegetables used in sambar recipe are
- shallots or pearl onions
Some we also make sambhar with just one vegetable like white pumpkin or ash gourd, yellow pumpkin.
Other vegetables that you can add in this recipe are
- Greens like amaranth
Sometimes when no vegetables are available we make sambar with just tomatoes or onions too. Here I have made this sambar recipe with eggplants or baingan, carrots, beans, tomatoes and onions.
Basically you can add any vegetable you like and that is available. Please note that the taste and flavor of sambar varies with the vegetables used.
What Is Sambar Powder?
Sambar powder is the typical spice blend used for flavoring sambar. In Tamil homes where sambar is a daily affair, we make this as dry spice powder and store for months.
This is the sambar powder recipe I use and this is the one we have been making in the family for years.
There is one more variation with this masala, a spice paste with chilies, coriander seeds, peppercorns and coconut used for arachuvitta samabar literally meaning sambar with fresh ground spices. This version is mostly made for special occasions.
Which Dal Is Best For Sambar
Traditionally south Indian sambar recipe is made with tuvar dal or arhar dal only. I mean the authentic recipe calls for only tuvar dal.
However there are many variations with this recipe made in restaurants, wedding feasts etc. Usually when making in high volume such as restaurants or for wedding feasts, a mix of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink lentils ) to cut the cost.
Pink lentils make the sambar thick and increases the volume. Sometimes we also use moong dal or split green moong to make samba. Moong dal is used for making tiffin sambar mostly.
You can try different combinations of lentils and arrive at the best one you like. Moong dal is light on tummy, easy to digest and has cooling effect compared to toor dal. So you can try and use it once in a while.
Make sure to cook the lentils really well using a pressure cooker, instant pot or on stove top until completely mushy.
Tips For Making Best Sambar
Though a very simple and straight forward recipe, few tips and tricks listed here will let you make best flavorful sambar ever. Do not miss these tips especially you are beginner.
Sambar powder– The sambar powder you use can make or break your sambar. The spice blend should be a perfect balance of all the ingredients so that it lends wonderful taste, flavor, color and texture to the sambar.
It is made of coriander seeds, red chilies, chana dal, coriander seeds and few other ingredients.
This is my tried and tested homemade sambar powder recipe that yields best results every time. You can also use your trusted brand’s store bought powder if making at home is not an option.
Here in the recipe card I have given recipe for making sambar powder in small quantity. You can use that too. Along with sambar powder some turmeric powder is always added for flavor.
Toor dal- Use fresh, unpolished tuvar dal to make sambar. Good toor dal will not be shiny and will not be in uniform size. Unpolished dal cooks faster, mashing up is easy and very flavorful. Here you can also soak the split pigeon peas for 30 minutes for faster cooking.
Make sure that the dal is properly cooked and thoroughly mashed. One of my aunt’s just grind the cooked dal before adding to the sambar. I always use a pressure cooker or instant pot for faster cooking of dal.
Tamarind– In south India we always use aged tamarind that is dark in color to make kuzhambu and sambar. Aged tamarind lends a nice deep color. Aged tamarind is less sour too
You can also use store bought tamarind paste, I have given measurement in the recipe. There are few recipes for sambar without tamarind where tomato puree is used.
Soak dried in tamarind in warm or hot water to extract pulp easily. Always add tamarind pulp only after the vegetables are cooked well.
Consistency– Consistency of sambar should be of thin curry. It is thick, lush yet you should be able to pour and mix well with rice. Do note that this stew thickens on cooling. So if you make it very thick, it will become thicker on cooling. However reheating sambar is really easy and does not reduce the taste, so you can add 1 to 1.5 cups water and adjust the consistency as desired.
Tempering– Tempering is what lends a wonderful flavor and rounds off the taste of this stew. Unlike many recipes on internet, sambar is not tempered twice as far as I know. You start with the tempering, saute veggies with samabr masala, add tamrind pulp and finally add the dal. These are the steps.
For tempering sambar you will need mustard seeds, methi or fenugreek sees, curry leaves, green chilies. Asafoetida is added if onions are not used. Here in this recipe I have used shallots, so no asafoetida.
Add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves only after oil turns hot. Fry mustard seeds and curry leaves in low flame else they may turn bitter.
Curry leaves add a unique flavor to this recipe, so do add them.
For authentic flavor use sesame oil to temper. Ghee is not used for tempering sambar, it is used for tempering rasam only. However you can drizzle a teaspoon of ghee before removing the sambar from flame. If you temper the sambar with ghee, sometimes it gives an unpleasant flavor.
Jaggery– To enhance the flavor of sambar, you can add a small bit of jaggery after while the samabr is simmering. If jaggery is unavailable just skip it, do not sugar.
Sauteing sambar powder– Usually sambar powder is added after adding tamrind pulp. But I always saute sambar powder with veggies so they get to fry in oil for somtime. This small step really elevates the flavor of the stew.
Do not boil the sambar for long time after adding cooked dal. Just simmer gently for 5-6 minutes.
Cilantro leaves or coriander leaves is a must for flavorful sambar. Add finely chopped cilantro leves, just before removing the stew from flame and close the lid for 3-4 minutes. This infuses the flavor very well.
Refrigerating sambar– This is a recipe that you can make well ahead and store for 3-4 days in refrigerator. Just prepare the recipe as mentioned and divide among small containers. It is better to store in small serve containers rather than one large one to retain favor.
When required, remove and reheat gently. Chances are the the stew has well thickened, so add 1 cup or 2 cups water mix and reheat until it bubbles. To enhance flavor, add few drop of oil or even a fresh tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Variations Of Sambar Recipe
Sambar is the most popular south Indian stew and every region, in fact every home has its own minor and major variations and special touches. Here are few common variations you can try with this recipe.
idli sambar– A delicious and easy recipe especially prepared as side dish for breakfast like idli, vada etc. Made with moong dal, this has a different taste and flavor.
Kerala special varuthacha sambar– In this recipe, the spices are well roasted and made into a paste. This spice blend is used to flavor the stew.
Udupi sambar– This is one more very popular version from Udupi city, karnataka. Made with vegetables like ash gourd and special spice blend, this is super flavorful with a slight sweet taste, one of my favorite.
Arachuvitta sambar– Instead of pre made spice blend, you will have to make a spice paste with ingredients like coriander seeds, peppercorns and freshly grated coconut.
The flavor of this sambar is so good and tastes wonderful.
Apart from this there are so many recipes with onions, drumsticks, tomato etc.
Step By Step Method
Pick and rinse split pigeon peas well. Add 3 cups of water and soak the lentils for 30 minutes.
Pressure cook 1/2 cup tuvar dal with 2 cups water until completely mushy. Once pressure is released mash the dal very well. In pressure cooker cook for 4 whistles, in instant pot cook for 8 minutes.
Use the back of ladle or a mashed and mash the dal until very smooth. This is very important for making perfect sambhar. You can mash the dal only if it is completely cooked. So adjust water and cooking time according to the quality of your dal. You can also grind the also to make it smooth.
Soak tamarind in warm or hot water for 15 minutes.
Squeeze and extract thick pulp, discard the peels.
Rinse, peel and chop the vegetables.
Peel and rinse the pearl onions.
How To Make Sambar
Heat 2 tablespoons in a heavy pan or pot. Once the oil is hot add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, urad dal (optional) methi seeds and few curry leaves. Let the seeds splutter.
Add pearl onion and saute till it changes color slightly.
Next add all the chopped vegetables, saute and cook the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Then Add turmeric powder, sambar powder and mix well. Saute well.
Now add 1- 1.25 cups of water and cook the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. After that add the thick tamarind extract and mix well. Cook well for 5-7 minutes.
Add cooked dal, season with salt and add a small bit of jaggery. Cook for 3-5 more minutes. Finally garnish with cilantro leaves.
I hope you will try this recipe and enjoy as much as we did. P
Sambar Recipe | South Indian Sambar Recipe
- 1/2 cup pigeon peas
- 3 tablespoons Tamarind pulp from small gooseberry sized ball.
- 10-12 shallots
- 1 small carrot peeled and chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper cubed
- 1 small tomato finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3 tablespoons sambar powder
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon jaggery
To roast and grind for making sambar masala
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon channa dal
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 3-4 dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon urad dal optional
To temper sambar
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 10-12 curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Pressure cook toor dal until very soft. Mash the cooked dal thoroughly and set aside.
- Soak tamarind in water for 15 minutes and extract thick juice.
- Peel the onions, chop the vegetables.
- Heat a pan and add 2 tablespoons oil to it. Temper with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- Add pearl onions and saute well.
- Add the veggies and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add turmeric powder, sambar powder and saute well. Add 3/4 cup water and cook the veggies for 5 minutes.
- Add tamarind juice and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cooked dal and mix well. Add salt and jaggery. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add cilantro leaves and serve sambar hot with rice or dosa.