Tomato sambar (Thakkali Sambar) is yet another delicious variation of the classic South Indian Sambar and is made with tomatoes, lentils, pearl onions, spices and herbs. This is a healthy vegan recipe. Serve tomato sambar with steamed rice, Idli, Dosa, Medu Vada, for a hearty and comforting meal.
There are many variations of sambar in the South Indian cuisine. Sometimes they are made with just one vegetable. As the name implies tomato sambar has tomatoes as the hero ingredient. In Tamil this sambar variant is called Thakkali Sambar as tomatoes are called thakkali.
I make both Onion Sambar and tomato sambar regularly. Both of these two sambar varieties come handy when you do want to make sambar and there are no mix veggies at home.
In this tomato sambar, I have used homemade Sambar Powder. You can use any good brand of sambar powder. I have made a puree of the tomatoes and added to the sambar. But you can also add chopped tomatoes. Onions can also be skipped in this sambar.
Obviously, since tomatoes are added, the sambar has the tang of the tomatoes in it. This tomato sambar pairs very well with idli and dosa. Though you can also serve it with steamed rice.
How to make Tomato Sambar
1. First soak 1 teaspoon tamarind in 3 tablespoons hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. After 15 to 20 minutes squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp. Filter using a small strainer and keep aside.
3. Meanwhile when the tamarind is soaking, take 1.5 cups roughly chopped tomatoes in a mixer or blender jar.
4. Puree the chopped tomatoes to a smooth consistency. Keep aside.
5. In a bowl, rinse ⅓ cup tur dal (pigeon pea lentils) a couple of times and keep aside.
6. Add the rinsed tur dal in a 2 to 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker together with the prepared tomato puree. Also, add ½ cup thickly sliced pearl onions or shallots or regular onions.
7. Now add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida (hing).
8. Add 1.25 cups of water.
9. Mix very well.
10. Now pressure cook everything for 8 to 10 whistles or 12 to 15 minutes on medium to high heat. When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, open the lid of the cooker. Mash the cooked lentils with a spoon.
Make Tomato Sambar
11. Keep the cooker with the cooked lentils, without its lid on a low to medium heat. Now add the prepared tamarind pulp to the lentils in the cooker.
12. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of sambar powder or as required.
13. Season with salt as per taste. Mix very well.
14. Add 1.5 to 2 cups water to thin the consistency. You can add the amount of water as per your requirements.
If serving with idli, you can make a slightly thin tomato sambar. If serving with steamed rice, you can make a slightly thick tomato sambar.
15. Mix very well.
16. Bring the sambar to a simmer and then add 1 or 2 slit green chilies.
17. Simmer the tomato sambar on a medium heat for a total of 10 to 12 minutes or till you get the desired consistency. Cover with lid and keep aside.
18. Heat 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of sesame oil or any other oil in a small pan. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds and crackle them. Keep the heat to a low while tempering.
19. Then add 2 to 3 dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed), 1 sprig of curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida (hing). Fry for a few seconds till the red chilies change color and the curry leaves become crisp.
20. Pour the tempering in the tomato sambar inside the cooker. Cover with lid and keep aside for 5 minutes for the tempering flavors to infuse with the sambar.
21. Serve tomato sambar hot with steamed rice or with idli or dosa. You can also garnish thakkali sambar with coriander leaves (cilantro) if you want.
More Sambar Varieties To Try!
South Indian Food
Tamil Nadu Food
Tamil Nadu Food
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Tomato Sambar (Thakkali Sambar)
For cooking lentils
- ⅓ cup tur dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils)
- 250 grams tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes or 1.5 cups roughly chopped tomatoes – pureed
- 8 to 10 pearl onions or 1 medium onion or ½ cup thickly sliced pearl onion or onions or shallots
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 1.25 cups water for pressure cooking
For tamarind pulp
- 1 teaspoon tamarind
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Sambar Powder
- 1 to 2 green chilies – slit
- 1.5 to 2 cups water to be added later, add as required
- salt as required
- 1 to 1.5 tablespoon sesame oil or any oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 to 3 dry red chilies
- 1 sprig curry leaf or 10 to 12 curry leaves
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- First soak tamarind in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- After 15 to 20 minutes squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp. Filter using a small strainer and keep aside.
- Meanwhile when the tamarind is soaking, take 1.5 cups roughly chopped tomatoes in a mixer or blender jar.
- Puree the chopped tomatoes to a smooth and fine consistency. Keep aside.
- In a bowl, rinse tur dal a couple of times.
- Add the rinsed tur dal in a 2 to 3 litre pressure cooker together with the tomato puree and and thickly sliced pearl onions or regular onions.
- Now add turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida.
- Add 1.25 cups of water. Mix very well.
- Pressure cook for 8 to 10 whistles or 12 to 15 minutes on a medium to high heat.
- When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, open the lid of the cooker. Mash the cooked lentils with a spoon.
Making tomato sambar
- Keep the cooker with the cooked lentils on a low to medium heat. Add the tamarind pulp to the lentils inside the cooker.
- Add the sambar powder. Season with salt as per taste. Mix very well.
- Add 1.5 to 2 cups water to thin the consistency. Stir well. You can add the amount of water as per your needs.
- For idli, you can make a slightly thin sambar and for rice, you can make a slightly thick tomato sambar.
- Bring the sambar to a simmer and then add 1 or 2 slit green chilies.
- Continue to simmer the sambar on a medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or till you get the desired consistency. Cover and keep aside.
- Heat sesame oil or any other oil in a small pan.
- Add mustard seeds and crackle them. Keep the heat to a low while tempering.
- Then add the dry red chilies, curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Fry for a few seconds till the red chilies change color and the curry leaves become crisp. Do not burn the spices.
- Pour the entire tempering mixture into the sambar inside the cooker. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes for the tempering flavors to infuse with the thakkali sambar.
- Serve tomato sambar hot with steamed rice or with idli or dosa or medu vada.
- ¼ to ½ tsp of red chilli powder can also be added together with the sambar powder.
- You can also add few mix veggies to the sambar.
- Ghee can be used for tempering instead of oil.
- You can use yellow moong lentils or masoor dal (red/pink/orange lentils) instead of tur dal.
- If you do not have sambar powder, then add 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder and ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chili powder.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This tomato sambar from the blog archives first published in May 2016 has been republished and updated on 10 January 2022.
Tried it and it was DELICIOUS. Really like a tasty sambar in an hotel. Thanks!
I’ve got a question. If I want to triple the amount, do I just triple everything (including tamarind, hing, sambar powder etc’…) ? Or is there some nuance to it? Detailed info would be appreciated as I am new to cooking and don’t want to ruin the great taste of the original recipe 🙂
tripling can be tricky, but you can try. the trickiness can come from the tamarind and sambar powder. the rest of the ingredients can be easily tripled. tamarind can be really tart and sour if its increased. so i would suggest to use only 2 teaspoons of tamarind. for sambar powder, add 2 tablespoons first. if you feel the aroma, taste and flavor is less, then add 1 to 2 teaspoons more. hope this helps.
Hey I just found your page and am already loving it!!!!
Just wanted to ask I’ve eaten some sambhar which tasted sweet and it was amazing. Can you please let me know the recipe for sweet sambhar.
Thank you so much.
sumi, just add some jaggery in any sambar recipe that you prepare. the jaggery makes it sweet. you can check this recipe of udipi sambar which has a light sweet taste – https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/udipi-sambar/
hey in this recipe. do we need to add the tamarind pulp or the water in which it was soaked?
ashwini you could add both the tamarind pulp and also the water if you wish. hope this help’s you.
HI, I was wanting to share this site with a friend, and was looking for the “About Us” link you used to have….. as I wanted to share about the people (you) behind it, as well as share the yummy recipes. Have you changed the site, or am I missing something??
Kind regards Clare
thanks claire. the about section we removed from the top menu bar as wanted only the important recipe sections and category to come on top. however, here is the link to our about page – https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/about/