tiffin sambar

tiffin sambar recipe with step by step photos – one of the best tiffin sambar recipe i must say. this hotel style sambar was damn good with the idlis. oh yes… idli sambar and vada sambar are all time favorite at home. not to forget our love for dosa too.

well on this day, i just made idli and not dosa. the sambar recipe was shared by a reader friend priya who writes to me often. she was gracious enough to share her sambar recipe as well as this tiffin sambar.

this tiffin sambar recipe is adapted from revathy shanmugam’s recipe and priya was kind enough to translate and send me the recipe. i did make some changes in the recipe though.

at the first go, i tried and made the recipe and it was so good, that i did get requests for it to make again. even my house help was so much in awe of the aroma of the sambar masala, that she asked me for the recipe as well as the sambar masala powder.

tiffin sambar is usually served with the tiffin snacks – idlis, mini idlis, dosa or medu vada. but you can also serve this tiffin sambar recipe with steamed rice. do give this recipe a try next time you make idlis, dosa or medu vada.

if you are looking for more sambar recipes then do check:

tiffin sambar recipe below:

hotel style tiffin sambar recipe
4.55 from 31 votes

tiffin sambar recipe | idli sambar recipe | hotel sambar recipe

hotel style tiffin sambar recipe - tasty tiffin sambar recipe for idli, medu vada and dosa.

course side dish
cuisine south indian
prep time 30 minutes
cook time 30 minutes
total time 1 hour
servings 4 to 5
author dassana amit

ingredients (1 cup = 250 ml)

for cooking the lentils:

  • ¼ cup arhar dal (tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils)
  • ¼ cup masoor dal (pink lentils)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 2 to 2.5 cups water for pressure cooking

other ingredients for tiffin sambar:

  • 9 to 10 small brinjals (baingan or aubergine) OR 100 grams baingan
  • 1 medium carrot (gajar)
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 large onion OR 9 to 10 pearl onion or shallots OR 90 to 100 grams onions
  • 3 medium tomatoes OR 220 to 230 grams tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind soaked in ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup water added later or add as required
  • salt as required

tempering for tiffin sambar:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 to 5 curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • ¼ teaspoon asafoetida powder (hing)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds (rai or sarson)
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black lentil)

for sambar masala:

  • 5 byadagi/bedgi chilies OR 4 to 5 dry red chilies - reduce depending upon the heat in the chilies
  • 11 to 12 large curry leaves or 16 to 18 small curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • 1.5 tablespoons coriander seeds (sabut dhania)
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal (split and husked bengal gram)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  • ½ teaspoon whole black pepper (sabut kali mirch)
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
  • 2 teaspoons oil

how to make recipe?

cooking the lentils:

  1. rinse both the lentils well and then add them to the pressure cooker with 2 to 2.5 cups water and ¼ tsp turmeric powder.

  2. pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 9 whistles or more, till they are soft and well cooked. 

  3. once the pressure settles down, open the cooker. mash the lentils and keep aside.

making tiffin sambar masala powder:

  1. in a small frying pan, heat 2 tsp oil. first add the mustard seeds. 

  2. then add the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (bengal gram), curry leaves and dry red chilies. 

  3. stir and saute till the spices become aromatic. 

  4. keep aside to cool. don't burn the spices. saute the spices on a low flame.

  5. once the spices cool, grind them to a powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder. keep aside.

preparation for tiffin sambar recipe:

  1. soak the tamarind in warm water for 25 to 30 mins.
  2. later squeeze the tamarind pulp. strain and keep aside.
  3. chop all the vegetables. quarter the onions. peel and dice the carrots and potatoes.
  4. dice the brinjals and add them in water to prevent discoloration.

  5.  chop the tomatoes in small pieces.

making tiffin sambar:

  1. in a pan, heat oil first. add the mustard seeds and let them begin to crackle. then add the urad dal and sauté till they turn to a maroonish color.

  2. add quartered onions or halved pearl onions, curry leaves and asafoetida. stir and and saute for 2 minutes.

  3. then add the veggies and saute for 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. add the tomatoes, salt and continue to saute for 6 to 7 minutes more.
  5. pour water. then add the strained tamarind pulp and stir well.
  6. cover simmer until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are cooked. 

  7. if the vegetables are not cooked, then continue to simmer till they get cooked.
  8. now add the ground sambar masala which we have already prepared. stir.
  9. add the mashed lentils. stir and simmer sambar for about 6 to 7 minutes. 

  10. add water if required depending on the consistency you want. the sambar which is served in the hotels is on the thinner side.

  11. check the taste of tiffin sambar and add more salt if required.

  12. garnish with coriander leaves and serve the tiffin sambar hot with idli, medu vada or dosa.

recipe video

recipe notes

  • you can add your choice of vegetables.
  • instead of tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils), you can also use a combination of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink lentils). even moong dal can be used. 

how to make hotel style tiffin sambar recipe:

1. i took ¼ cup each of tuvar dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils) and masoor dal (pink lentils). you can also just take overall ½ cup of tuvar dal.

lentils for tiffin sambar recipe

2. rinse the lentils well and then add them to the pressure cooker with 2 to 2.5 cups water and ¼ tsp turmeric powder.

pressure cook lentils for tiffin sambar recipe

3. pressure cook the lentils till they are soft and well cooked. open the lid once the pressure settles down. the lentils should have softened well, so that they can be easily mashed. mash the lentils and keep aside.

cooked lentils for hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

4. in a small frying pan, heat oil and fry the whole spices for the sambar masala. first add mustard seeds. then add the coriander, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (bengal gram), curry leaves and dry red chilies. stir and saute till the spices become aromatic. keep aside to cool. your kitchen will smell fragrant when frying these spices.

tempering for hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

5. once the spices cool, grind them to a fine powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder. keep aside.

spices for hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

6. take 1 tbsp tamarind.

tamarind for tiffin sambar recipe

7. soak the tamarind in warm water for 25 to 30 mins.

tamarind for hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

8. later squeeze the tamarind pulp. strain and keep aside.

tamarind for hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

9. chop the veggies. for brinjals, you chop them and add them to water, so that no discoloration occurs.

brinjals for making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

10. in a pot, heat oil first. add the mustard seeds and let them crackle. then add the urad dal(husked and split black lentil). let the urad dal turn into a maroonish color.

preparing hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

11. then add quartered onions or halved pearl onions, curry leaves and asafoetida. stir and and saute for 2 minutes.

onions - making tiffin sambar recipe

12. then add the veggies and saute for 4 to 5 minutes.

veggies - making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

13. add the tomatoes, salt and continue to saute for 6 to 7 minutes more.

tomatoes for making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

14. pour water.

water for making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

15. add the strained tamarind pulp and stir well.

tamarind pulp for making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

16. cover the pan and simmer until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are cooked. if the vegetables are not cooked, then continue to simmer till they soften.

making tiffin sambar recipe

17. once the veggies are cooked, then add the ground sambar masala which we have already prepared. mix very well.

add masala - making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

18. add the mashed lentils.

lentils for making hotel style tiffin sambar recipe

19. stir and simmer sambar for about 6 to 7 minutes. add water if required, depending on the consistency you want. the tiffin sambar served in the hotels is usually thinner. for idlis, dosa and medu vada you can keep the sambar having a medium to thin consistency. for serving with rice, keep the tiffin sambar slightly thick.

tiffin sambar, tiffin sambar recipe

20. garnish with coriander leaves and serve the tiffin sambar hot with idli, medu vada or dosa.

hotel style tiffin sambar recipe, tiffin sambar recipe

122 thoughts on “tiffin sambar recipe | idli sambar recipe | hotel style tiffin sambar recipe for idli”

  1. Hello Dear,

    I was thinking to write from long time… but finally I decided that I will write today..
    One of the top The Best site I ever come across till now…
    This sambar is so tasty that one of my frnd is using this recipe in their restaurant…

    I just follow your recipe and it will be hit…. thanks a lot….
    And most good thing in your site is your response for every comment… helps me to know how exactly will it be…..
    I cant praise you enough…. thanks alot again….

    1. thank you shreya for such a lovely and encouraging comment. it feels good when i get to read comment like yours and does encourage me to share better recipes. thanks again.

  2. Hi
    I prepared sambar…. It’s too good… Thank you for the recipe….. Can we prepare and keep masala powder in large quantities like 250gms……. In that case… How to prepare… Is there any taste difference?

    1. thank you nalina for this feedback on sambar recipe. of course you can make the masala, but keep in fridge. just double or triple the proportions to make sambar masala. taste will be same. prepare sambar the same way as you have made this one. any query you can ask me.

  3. Hi Amit..recently I tried your veg cutlets it turned good and yum off course as always … Am going to try this today evening… I wana knw u mentioned to pour some water in step 14 but how much to pour a cup or more than that.. And u suggested not to use onions if fasting ?? .. Thank you plzz reply soon

    1. thanks fazila for the feedback on veg cutlet. for adding water in the sambar, i have mentioned the amount in the ingredient list. its 1 cup water to be added later once you add the dal. you can add less or more water as per the consistency you want. onions can be skipped if fasting as per the hindu customs. so it becomes a no onion no garlic satvik sambar.

  4. Great recipe. Excellent explanation and wonderful guidance for newbies like me. Turned out amazing. No more $15 dosage trips. Thanks n cheers mate.

  5. thanks for this perfect recipe. i wont be going to a south indian restaurant for idlli sambhar any more

  6. Can you tell me what type of tamarind you use? Here in North America, in my local grocery stores, I can find the following: tamarind concentrate (the blackish brown shiny pulp), tamarind in the brown shell (looks like a large worm with a crispy black shell, with stringy material and large seeds inside), tamarind paste (comes in a rectangle tray, the tamarind is compressed into a large 1 inch thick rectangle which can then be easily torn into pieces).

    When you ask for a tablespoon of tamarind, what type is it? I have been using the paste, which I soak in boiling water in a bowl and strain out stringy fibrous material and some peels, not too many seeds. It seems to work well. Would you be able to send a photo of what the tamarind looks like when you buy it in the store? Apart from that, all other ingredients are available locally.

    I love your recipes!!!!

  7. Hello I tried this recipe and oh gosh it was finger licking good. You are just amazing. More talented than any other chef i guess. Lots of love.

  8. Dear Dassana,
    Tried dis recipe,it ws yummilicious..Ur food blog hs made my life so simple.i hv tried so many of ur recipes n all turned out so tasty n almost perfect. Nw my husband says tht v dnt hv d need to go any restaurant ☺️.Thank u so much

  9. If you are looking for a good recipe of idli sambar, then look no further. It tastes awesome with mini idlis when drizzled with hot ghee. While serving mini idlis, place them in a slightly deep serving bowl, dunk them in a liberal amount tiffin sambar, drizzle melted ghee and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Your kids will relish it and so will you.

  10. Hello,

    Tried this recipe and it was simply awesome. We ate it with rice too and it was pretty good. Thanks for sharing such wonderful recipes again!

  11. Hi,
    How much is 1 tbsp Tamarind… Is it Lemon size or gooseberry size?Do we have to add all the grounded sambar Masala to the above recipe? And I would like to know if I can simply double the recipe if am doing for 10 ppl?

  12. Hi Amit, I made this sambar (1) today together with your coconut (2) and coriander (3) chutneys too. I used an instant store bought mix to make idlis and dhokla to see if I could cheat a little at least. Well suffice to say I won’t be using an idli instant mix again! Dhokla was actually quite good but more because I used your tempering (4) recipe.
    (1) was simply fantastic. The highlight of the recipe has got to be grinding your own masala; I did it by hand in a stone mortar and pestle. The aromatics were superb and my kitchen has never smelt so authentic. I didn’t use brinjal but put in slightly more potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. My wife came home, ate the dhokla at tea time and said she wouldn’t be eating dinner as she wouldn’t be hungry. Well, after she tasted the sambar and the chutneys she ended up eating dinner like a soldier. So thanks very much for taking the time to put this up online. May I ask though, why does the masala go in so late and not earlier?
    (2) and (3), were excellent accompaniments though I think I have to be careful to ensure the lemon I use is sour enough. Here in England the lemons aren’t as sharp as they should be.
    (4) was authentic too and tasted like a pukka Gujarati made it.
    All this of course means my local Kerala and Gujarati restaurants won’t be seeing me anymore!
    All the best. Rohit.

    1. thank you very much rohit for this lovely comment. i was smiling reading your narration. the idli and dosa mixes are not good. i have tried them when i was in a corporate job, working full time, to ease the their preparation time at home. but not like the ones we make at home. but rava idli is still better. even dhokla is good. the masala goes late as we have already sauteed it in the oil and its cooked to some extent. so we don’t need to add it earlier. thanks again.

      1. Reference the masala, yes that makes sense and apologies in case I mixed up your first / last name? I tried idli batter yesterday, nightmare! I used 1/2 cup urad, 1.5 cups basmati and some fenugreek seeds. Washed and soaked for several hours then blended all together with enough water to make a paste. It was only 20 C degrees here during day so colder in night, so I put in Pyrex dish with lid in oven with pilot light on overnight. Ready for idlis in morning but no chance. Batter hadn’t risen. So oven went on at 95 degrees farenheight. A few hours later it had fermented and risen but just didn’t look right. All the water had been absorbed and mixture looked a little cooked. Salvage operation meant adding salt and mixing with spoon plus water until batter like consistency. Then steamed in idli maker for 15 minutes. Idlis tasted good but the texture was granular, a little incoherent and basically un-idli like. It would have fed babies very well. I then used remaining batter for uttapum which actually were good enough for feeling mildly proud if prior experience with idlis hadn’t taken place. It’s going to take practice and experimentation! Next time, I think I’ll try poha, idli/par boiled rice etc instead of basmati. I’ll also blend for a lot longer and may be put in a preheated oven to only ignite the reaction initially then revert to pilot light. Finally, I think even the amount of water I put into idli steamer may need careful thought. Or…..I could just move to Kerala and invoke the idli gods to bless my batter!

        1. fine. i guess the idli batter kind of cooked in the oven. thats why it looked like the water had been absorbed. the granular texture is also due to the fact that the slightly cooked batter getting mixed with water and then again getting steamed. making the batter takes practice. and in cold climates, it does take time to ferment. i would suggest to use a large casserole for the batter (allowing space and volume when the batter triples) and then wrap it with a warm kitchen towel and keep in the lighted oven. you can also keep the batter during daytime near a window sill or balcony to get some light from outside. the oven can be preheated but at lower temperatures like 80 degrees celsius. then switch off the oven and keep the batter. with practice the idli gods will bless you 🙂

          1. Thanks for the advise. I wonder why we simply don’t use yeast or baking powder? What are the pros and cons of using some kind of agent to ingnite the fermentation and rising?

            1. of course, you can use yeast. i forgot to mention in the previous comment. a couple of times the idli gods have been unhappy with me during winters. so after keeping the batter overnight, just 30 to 45 minutes before steaming, i add 1/2 tsp instant yeast. i dissolve them in a tsp of water and then add. cover and allow the batter to leaven. after 30 to 45 minutes, you will see nice bubbles in the batter. but with yeast the issue is that the batter keeps on getting leavened. if you keep the batter in the fridge, then it gets too much leavened, fermented and the yeasty aroma can be felt distinctly. so when i add yeast, i try to use all the batter in one go. with baking soda its better to have an acidic ingredient. like 1 tbsp to 2 tbsp of curd mixed with the batter. but with baking soda, the batter has to be used immediately for making idlis. the same rule applies to eno/fruit salt.

  13. Dear Dassana,

    The sambar turned out just amazing! Delecious! All the best to you n your husband for all the handwork you do, compiling the recipes with such beautiful simplicity. Keep up
    The good work and I Look forward to your recipes, always.

  14. Thanks Dassana for your reply. I get it just because it’s quick one pot method thats why you are adding boiled dal with veges. How about if we just boil the dal(raw) and veges(raw) together you think that would be good ,please advise, thanks

    1. welcome simmi. if you boil and dal veggies together, by the time the dal cooks, the veggies will become too soft and mushy. they can be mashed easily. so avoid cooking both veggies and dal together.

  15. Hello Dear Dassana
    Your vegetable sambar recipe and tiffin sambar recipe really looks delicious. I will try definitely vegetable Sambar . However I have one question on vegetable sambar as If you have already boiled dal in pressure cooker then why are you boiling it again with vegetables. Can I avoid boiling it again with veges or would it make some change to taste please advise, thanks

  16. I made this for dinner today and it turned awesome.thanks for the beautiful recipe.
    Whenever i want some receipe first i check just your site.

  17. Recipes are very nice, recipe with step by step along with picture of recipe is very good to understand the method of the particular recipe, thankyou

  18. had made sambhar before but it never tasted so good. i added a few more vegetables and followed the steps exactly…..hmmmm very tasty. thanks

  19. Hi Dassana

    i made this for lunch today and it turned awesome.thanks for the beautiful recipe. Can u post koli masala ingredients. I have heard its very tasty bt u dnt get it at calcutta.

    thanks sunita

  20. Hi Dassana,
    Wanted to know that while grinding the sambhar masala, should the curry leaves be ground or should I discard them after tempering?
    Awaiting a reply soon.

  21. Your recipe is good mam. But I have one doubt, we South Indians generally wont grind the mustard seeds. If we do so, they’l say that it will change the taste. Can we do so?

    1. thanks dharani. if you want then skip grinding the mustard seeds. this is a south indian recipe only. there are many ways of making a recipe. thats why the difference.

  22. awesome sambhar …siimply mouth watering. … previously I was using achi sambhar powder but after making this shifted to yours recipes .. I just wanna ask can I keep this masala in air tight container and how long ??

  23. Thanks for the recipe….i followed the same procedure as you mentioned result was a tastey sambar.

  24. Great recipe! I had a coffee grinder handy and was able to make the masala from scratch……I just added my own twist of a crushed garlic clove and one green chilli……..but overall best sambar I had in over a year 🙂

  25. Hi
    Your way of expressing clear instructions with pictures is of great help. I am an occasional writer but a regular cook at home. I have found many recipes from your food blog that have turned out quite well.

    Reshma krishnamurthy

  26. hi madam,
    this sambhar will taste like home made sambhar.
    if u add shallots with the tuvar dal and few garlic pieces ,tomatoes it will taste like hotel sambhar.curry leaves and coriander leaves should be added…..

  27. I tried this sambar receipe yesterday… its came out very well…my little one loved this very much.. credit goes to u… thank you.

  28. Hi Dassana,

    The sambhar looks delicious here and I intent to make it this weekend. Can you tell me if I can replace tamarind pulp with lemon juice? Would there be any change in the sambhar?

    Awaiting your reply.

    Thanks and Regards,

    1. thanks komal. tamarind gives authentic taste to the sambar and is always added traditionally. no other souring agent will give you that taste. if you add lemon the taste only will change but you can give it a try.

  29. This sambar turned out to be AMAZING! 5 stars isn’t enough- it truly takes like restaurant style sambar, or if made by someone’s mother. The freshly ground sambar masala really makes a huge difference. I served this along with ven pongal for some guests, and it was a hit all around. 😀 And thank you for such detailed instructions- the cooking times listed helped immensely to make sure that everything was cooked just right.

  30. Hey I tried this today.. And the sambar was really like restaurant sambar… Love this recipe.. Please also share recipe of spring rolls

  31. hey dassana i really like your recipies this sambar recipe is too good i tried it its tasty .THANKS I am from Goa

      1. Dear Dassana,

        Please advise your recipe for sambar powder….is it possible that we can make it and keep using it …or its supposed to be made for every time…..

        I also wish you would share your recipe for the white colour coconut chutney that we get at the restaurants……..

        1. hi joyce, i will surely add sambar powder recipe. i do have a stock now which is getting over. once its over, i will prepare a fresh batch and then add a post. you can make the sambar powder in small quantities like 250 grams or in bulk, like 1 or 2 kgs and store it. it can be added to whenever sambar is made. okay, let me see if can post the white color coconut chutney. usually what i do is i grind the coconut with 1 or 2 green chilies and salt.

      2. Hi Dasanna, I just went through your sambhar recipe. Definitely I will go home and try this. Also can you please share with me few recipes like, vegetable pulav, rasam, vangibath, bisibelebath etc. since I am not a good cook and i am not able to satisfy my people with tasty items.

        Thanks & Regards,

        1. welcome nandini. these recipes are already posted in the blog. please use Google search button at top right corner of website to search recipes. i hope the recipes will be helpful to you.

    1. neelam, ready made sambar masala will not give you the exact taste. depending upon on what ingredients have gone into sambar masala, the taste will change.

  32. Hi this is flora,,,just wanted to know can I use (saboot)whole pink lentils….

  33. Dassana, this sambhar looks yummy, I am sure making fresh sambhar powder at home adds a lot of flavour to the sambhar.

    Will it make any difference if I boil the veggies also with pulses???


    1. thanks swati. lentils take a longer time to cook than vegetables. so if you cook both together, than the vegetables will become mushy. i would suggest you to first cook the pulses. mash them. and add vegetables and some more water to the mashed lentils. don’t add the sambar masala, tamarind pulp. once the vegetables are cooked, then you add the sambar masala and tamarind pulp. simmer till the raw aroma of the tamarind pulp goes away. and lastly you temper or prepare the tadka and add it to the sambar.

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