The South Indian Classic – Sambar

The celebrated Sambar or a Spiced Lentil Stew with seasonal vegetables

A Sambar was one of the first things I learned to cook as a teenager through observation and has stayed with me since

This recipe was passed on to me by my maternal grandmother or Ajji as we affectionately call her, I thank her for passing this skill on to me as this has been a life saver for us after we moved out of home. She cooked many of these during her time and had developed a unique sense of balance for flavors namely the hot, salty & tangy – without tasting it until served she was able to achieve this balance in taste, every time!!

When these flavors are perfectly balanced you have a great tasting Sambar

A good spice blend or Sambar Masala Powder is the key to it turning out authentic. I will, in my future post, share a recipe for a good spice blend (Sambar Powder). They are also readily available at any South Asian store near you.

Lastly – the tadka or tempering is like the icing on the cake! It just takes it to another level!

There are different variations of this recipe, every region of South India have their own unique recipe and hold it very close to their heart!

This version is from Karnataka, India.

Cook Time: 30mins                    Prep Time: 10mins                 Serves: 4


  • 200 grams Toor Dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 3-4 cups of water to cook lentils
  • 4 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • half a teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • half a teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • half a teaspoon urad dal
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • a pinch of asofoetida
  • 2-3 dried red chilies
  • 3-4 tablespoons of Sambar Masala Powder
  • a sprig of fresh curry leaves
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • seasonal Indian vegetables of your choice (I’ve used drumstick & carrots)
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste

Start by washing the Toor Dal in water 2-3 times or until the water runs clear. Then add drinking water to it and cook either in pressure cooker or in a cooking utensil for 15-20mins along with chopped tomatoes. While cooking add a pinch of turmeric and 2-3 drops of oil. Cook this on medium heat.

While the Toor Dal cooks, prep the other vegetables you would like to add (wash & chop)

In a second cooking utensil on medium- low heat, add oil, once hot add in asofoetida, cumin seeds, mustard, Urad Dal, dried red chilies & curry leaves (in this order, to avoid burning). While they splutter add in the chopped vegetables. Sprinkle some salt at this stage along and add the Sambar Masala Powder, mix well.

Quickly add a dash of water to avoid burning and cook with lid on for 10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked through.

Now, check if the Toor Dal is completely cooked through & disintegrating. If so, add the cooked Toor Dal to the cooking vegetables and stir well.

You can add some water if you prefer a thinner consistency and bring to a boil for 2-3 mins

Then add the remaining salt, taste it to check if its alright.

Lastly, add the tamarind paste and chopped fresh coriander leaves and turn the heat off.

The Sambar’s traditional accompaniment is soft, steamed white rice! Try some and let me know how it went πŸ™‚

Happy Cooking! If you liked reading this, please follow my blog 😊

Tip: Taste it during every phase while cooking to ensure you arrive at the right balance of flavors! Until practice makes you perfect like dear Ajji πŸ˜‰

Reference: Fellow Blogger Richa from Vegan Richa has listed (with pictures) different beans and dals used in Indian Cooking, this may be helpful –  Here is a link :


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Pia says:

    Yum! Love sambar, I can have it everyday πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Guess what! Me too!!πŸ’›

      Liked by 1 person

  2. anindya0909 says:

    Loved reading this. Sambar is also my favourite and now I want to have some

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading this post! I’m glad you enjoyed it, I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Sambar and going through the recipe just makes me want it right now. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s