Kerala sambar recipe with step by step photos – this Kerala style sambar is a delicious and tasty variation of sambar made with mix vegetables and roasted coconut & spice paste.
I have had sambar in many places, but I like this Kerala sambar which my mom makes. She also makes the other varieties of sambar, but this one and the Malvani kala vatana sambar tops my list.
I love the food from Kerala From the appams to the avial, from the puttus to the kadala curry. I have been lucky enough to have a feast of the Kerala cuisine many times in my life, especially on onam and vishu. Thanks to my mother who is a great cook, my father who is born and brought up in Kerala.
I remember my office days, when I would come from work and ask mom about the dinner. When she would mention that she had made sambar, I would feel so good. Those days, I would take more amount of rice than I usually took. I only need to have sambar with rice and Kerala pappadums. Its one comfort food for me that I have always relished and cherished..
It would be very selfish of me if I did not share this recipe of Kerala sambar with the readers of my blog. I hope you enjoy making this sambar and having it too.
This Kerala style sambar, Makes use of mixed vegetables. You could use any vegetables you have or you like. I have used shallots, aubergines and okra. Since I was also making beans upkari with potatoes, I did not add beans nor potatoes to the sambar.
This recipe also calls for roasting the sambar masala and then grinding it. trust me, just making the fresh sambar masala is better than using ready-made sambar powder. I also use ready-made sambar powder, when I have to make a quick sambar dish. But in my experience, the sambar made with fresh, roasted ground spices taste very different than the one made with ready-made sambar powder. If you have to use ready-made sambar powder, then make your own sambar powder. It is much better than using the store-bought ones.
Tips for making Kerala style sambar
- Do not directly add the aubergines (brinjal) in sambar. Chop them and keep them in salted water for 10-15 mins so that the bitter juices are extracted from them in the salted water.
- The souring agent we use in sambar is generally tamarind. If your tamarind is too sour, then you will have to increase the chillies and salt with it and vice versa. The tamarind, chillies and salt have to balance each other. I came across this tip in chandra padmanabhan’s cook book – “Southern Spice: Delicious Vegetarian Recipes from South India“. Its a nice book if you are looking for a variety of vegetarian recipes amongst the South Indian cuisine. Fortunately, whenever I have made sambar, the tamarind has never been too tart and the sambar has never become too sour.
- If you do not have fresh coconut, you could substitute it with desiccated coconut.
- If you are using a lot of mixed vegetables, alter their amount (that is do not use the quantity of vegetables mentioned in this post) so that there is a balance of the vegetables and dal in the sambar.
How to make Kerala sambar
Method to make sambar masala:
1. Measure and keep all the ingredients ready for making sambar masala.
2. On a skillet, tava or a shallow frying pan, heat up 2 or 3 teaspoons coconut oil. add 3 to 4 shallots or pearl onions (sambar onions).
3. Fry till they become translucent.
4. Then add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds.
5. Next add 12 to 15 curry leaves and 2 tablespoons coriander seeds.
6. Also add 3 to 4 dry Kashmiri red chilies and ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing).
7. Fry till they are light brown.
8. Now add about 1 to 1.5 cups of grated coconut.
9. Roast it with the rest of the spices till the coconut is golden and you get a fragrant aroma in your kitchen. Let this mixture cool.
10. Once, cooled, grind this roasted spice mixture in the grinder.
11. Add some water.
12. Blend till smooth.
13. This is how the sambar masala paste will look like.
To make the Kerala sambar
14. Rinse 1 cup of tuvar dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils) 3 to 4 times in water.
15. Take tuvar dal in a pressure cooker. Add 1 small sized chopped onion and 1 to 2 pinches of asafoetida/hing.
16. Add 2.5 to 3 cups water.
17. Pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles or till the dal is soft and well cooked.
18. Mash the cooked dal slightly with a spoon when done.
19. Add 10 to 12 shallots (sambar onions), 5 to 7 chopped brinjals and 1 large-sized chopped tomato. Add all the vegetables except for the okra to the cooked tuvar dal.
20. Add water as required.
21. Next add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
22. Give a nice stir to the entire mixture.
23. Cook the dal with the vegetables until they are half cooked. This takes about 11-12 minutes.
24. Now add 8 to 10 chopped okra and ½ cup tamarind pulp. To make tamarind pulp, soak 1 lemon sized tamarind in ½ cup hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Then squeeze the soaked tamarind with your fingers and add in the soaked water. Then use the tamarind pulp in the sambar.
25. Add the ground masala paste.
26. Mix and stir well. add some more water if the sambar has become thick.
27. Add salt as required.
28. Give the sambar a rolling boil once and then simmer till the veggies are cooked.
29. This will approximately take about 15-16 minutes. Close the flame when all the ingredients in the sambar have nicely infused with one another and you have a lovely sambar aroma pervading all around in your kitchen.
31. Keep the sambar closed with a lid and move on to the next step of tempering the sambar.
To prepare tempering for Kerala sambar
32. Measure and keep all the ingredients ready for the tempering/tadka.
33. In a pan or the tadka utensil, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds and let them pop.
34. Then add 1 teaspoon urad dal, 2 to 3 dry red chilies and 1 sprig curry leaves. fry the red chilies till they change color. take care that the red chilies do not get burnt.
35. Once the tadka is ready, directly pour the hot tadka on the hot sambar.
36. Immediately, cover the Kerala sambar with a lid and let it stay closed for around 8 to 10 minutes. We do this at home so that the flavors and aroma of the tadka get very well infused with the sambar or dal.
37. Later mix well.
38. Serve the Kerala sambar with boiled rice and pappadums, accompanied by a side vegetable dish and a bowl of yogurt or raita. Enjoy 🙂 if there is any leftover sambar, you could have it the next day with dosa, idli, medu vada or dal vada. But keep the leftover sambar in the fridge.
More Sambar varieties
for the kerala sambar
- 1 cup tuvar dal (arhar dal, pigeon pea lentils)
- 1 small onion - sliced or chopped (optional)
- 1 to 2 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 10 to 12 pearl onions or shallots
- 8 to 10 okra (bhindi or lady finger)
- 5 to 7 aubergines (brinjal or baingan)
- 1 large tomato or 2 medium size tomatoes
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ cup tamarind pulp – made with ½ cup water and 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
- 2.5 to 3 cups water or add as required
- salt as required
for tempering kerala sambar
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or any vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (split and husked black gram)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 2 to 3 dry red kashmiri chillies - you can also use small red bor chillies for the tadka
for the sambar masala
- ½ coconut, grated – will yield about 1 to 1.5 cups of grated coconut
- 3 to 4 pearl onions or shallots - chopped
- 12 to 15 curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
- ¼ teaspoon methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
- 3 to 4 dry red chilies - i used 4 kashmiri red chillies
- 2 to 3 teaspoons coconut oil or any vegetable oil
to make sambar masala
- On a skillet, tava or a shallow frying pan, heat up 2 or 3 tsp coconut oil. Add all the shallots and fry till they become translucent. Add the rest of the spice and fry till they are light brown.
- now add the grated coconut and roast it with the rest of the spices till everything is browned and you get a fragrant aroma in your kitchen. Let this mixture cool.
- Once, cooled, grind this roasted spice mixture in the grinder with some water.
to make the kerala sambar
- First, boil the tuvar dal till in a pressure cooker with the sliced or chopped onion and hing, till the dal is soft and well cooked. Mash the cooked dal slightly with a spoon when done.
- Cook the dal with the vegetables until they are half cooked. This takes about 11 to 12 minutes.
- Now add the chopped okra, tamarind pulp, and the ground masala. Add some more water if the sambar has become thick.
- Add salt and give the sambar a rolling boil once and then simmer till the veggies are cooked. This will approximately take about 15-16 minutes.
- Close the flame when all the ingredients in the sambar have nicely infused with one another and you have a lovely sambar aroma pervading all around in your kitchen. Keep the sambar closed with a lid and move on to the next step of tempering the sambar.
tempering for kerala sambar
- In a pan or the tadka utensil, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add all the other ingredients and fry them till they become fragrant. Take care they do not get burnt.
- Once the tadka is ready, directly pour the hot tadka on the hot sambar.
- Immediately, cover the kerala sambar with a lid and let it stay closed for some 8 to 10 minutes. We do this at home, so that the flavors and aroma of the tadka gets very well infused with the sambar or dal.
- Later mix well.
- Serve the kerala sambar with boiled rice and pappadums, accompanied by a side vegetable dish and a bowl of yogurt or raita. Enjoy.
- If there is any leftover sambar, you could have it the next day with dosa, idli, medu vada or dal vada. But keep the leftover sambar in the fridge.