tomato sambar recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Tomato Sambar

Thakkali sambar or tomato sambar is a delicious variation of South Indian sambar made with tomatoes and lentils. It can be served with South Indian snacks like idli, dosa, medu vada. Tomato sambar can also be served with rice.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: main course
Cuisine: south indian
Servings: 3 to 4
Author: Dassana Amit


for pressure cooking

  • 1/3 cup tuvar 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 shallots or 1 medium onion or ½ cup thickly sliced pearl onion or onions
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • 1.25 cups of water for pressure cooking

for tamarind pulp

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind soaked in 3 tablespoon hot water

other ingredients

  • 2 to 3 teaspoon sambar powder
  • 1 or 2 green chilies, slit
  • 1.5 to 2 cups water to be added later or add as required
  • salt as required

for tempering

  • 1 to 1.5 tablespoon sesame oil or any oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 to 3 dry red chilies
  • 1 sprig curry leaf
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)



  • First soak 1 tsp tamarind in 3 tbsp hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • After 15 to 20 minutes squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp. Filter 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 consistency. Keep aside.

cooking lentils

  • In a bowl, rinse ⅓ cup tuvar dal a couple of times.
  • Add the rinsed tuvar dal in a pressure cooker along with the tomato puree and 1/2 cup thickly sliced pearl onions or regular onions.
  • Now add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida.
  • Add 1.25 cups of water. stir very well.
  • Now pressure cook everything for 8 to 10 whistles or 12 to 15 minutes on a medium to high flame.
  • 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 on a low to medium flame. Now add the tamarind pulp to the cooker.
  • Add 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 requirements. 
  • For idlis, 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 flame for 10 to 12 minutes or till you get the desired consistency. Cover and keep aside.

making tempering for tomato sambar

  • Heat 1 to 1.5 tbsp sesame oil or any other oil in a small pan. 
  • Add 1 tsp mustard seeds and crackle them. Keep the flame on low while tempering.
  • Then add 2 to 3 dry red chilies, 1 sprig of curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Saute till the red chilies change color and the curry leaves become crisp.
  • Pour the tempering in the sambar. Cover and keep aside for 5 minutes for the tempering flavors to infuse with the sambar.
  • Serve thakkali sambar hot with steamed rice or with idlis.


  • ¼ to 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder can also be added along 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 also use yellow moong lentils or masoor dal (red/pink/orange lentils) instead of arhar dal.
  • If you do not have sambar powder, then add 1 tsp coriander powder, ¼ tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp black pepper powder and ¼ to 1/2 tsp red chili powder.