idli sambar
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4.58 from 28 votes

idli sambar recipe | tiffin sambar

idli sambar recipe is a tasty & delicious hotel style tiffin sambar that is served with idli. apart from idli, this sambar can also be served with dosa, vada and pongal. the hallmark of this idli sambar recipe is the addition of freshly roasted and ground spices. tomatoes are also added and is a key ingredient in this recipe which gives a good taste in the sambar. this idli sambar recipe can be halved or doubled too. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: side dish
Cuisine: south indian
Servings: 5
Calories: 372kcal
Author: Dassana Amit


for cooking lentils

  • ¼ cup arhar dal (husked and split tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils)
  • ¼ cup masoor dal (husked and split red lentils)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1.25 to 1.5 cups water for pressure cooking - for a 2 litre cooker

tempering for tiffin sambar

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

for cooking vegetables

  • 1 large onion OR 10 to 12 pearl onions or shallots OR 90 to 100 grams onions
  • 3 medium tomatoes OR 220 to 230 grams tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 drumsticks - scraped and chopped in 2 to 3 inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot (gajar)
  • 6 to 7 green beans or flat beans - chopped
  • 1 medium potato - optional
  • 4 to 5 okra (bhindi) - chopped
  • 6 to 7 small brinjals (baingan or aubergine) OR 80 to 100 grams baingan
  • 1 to 1.25 cups water or add as required
  • salt as required

for tamarind pulp

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup warm or hot water

for sambar powder

  • 5 kashmiri chilies or 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 (gingelly oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)

other ingredients for idli sambar

  • 1 cup water to be added later or add as required
  • few coriander leaves for garnish


cooking the lentils

  • rinse both the lentils well and then add them in a 2 litre pressure cooker with 1.25 to 1.5 cups water and ¼ tsp turmeric powder.
  • pressure cook the lentils for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes until the lentils have softened and well cooked. 
  • once the pressure settles down, open the cooker. mash the lentils and keep aside.

making tiffin sambar powder

  • in a small and heavy frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil. keep the flame to a low. first, add the mustard seeds. 
  • then add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (bengal gram), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies. 
  • on a low flame stir non-stop and roast till the spices become aromatic and golden.
  • keep aside to cool. don't burn the spices.
  • once the spices cool, grind them to a powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder. keep aside.

preparation for idli sambar recipe

  • soak the tamarind in warm water for 25 to 30 mins.
  • later squeeze the tamarind in the soaked water and extract the tamarind pulp. you can strain tamarind pulp and keep aside.
  • chop all the vegetables. quarter the onions or halve the pearl onions. peel and dice the carrots and potatoes.
  • dice the brinjals and add them in water to prevent discoloration.
  • chop the tomatoes in small pieces.

cooking vegetables for idli sambar

  • 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.
  • add quartered onions or halved pearl onions, curry leaves and asafoetida. stir and saute for 2 minutes till the onions soften a bit.
  • add the tomatoes, salt and continue to saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.
  • then add the veggies which take a longer time to cook (carrots, beans, potatoes, drumsticks etc) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.
  • then add remaining quick-cooking vegetables like brinjals, ladyfingers (okra), pumpkin etc now. stir and mix. 
  • add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.25 cups water. 
  • season with salt as per taste. mix well. 
  • cover pan and simmer until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are almost cooked. 
  • if the vegetables are not almost cooked, then continue to simmer till they are almost cooked. 

making idli sambar

  • once the veggies are almost cooked add the ground sambar powder which we have already prepared. mix well. 
  • add the mashed dal.
  • add 1 cup water or as required depending on the consistency you want. the sambar which is served in the hotels is on the thinner side. for idli, 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.
  • stir and simmer tiffin sambar without lid for about 6 to 7 minutes or till it comes to a boil. stir at intervals. 
  • check the taste of tiffin sambar and add more salt if required.
  • meanwhile when the vegetables were cooking you can steam idli. both small-sized mini idli or large idli goes well with tiffin sambar.
  • while serving place the idli in a serving bowl. pour sambar. garnish with some coriander leaves. you can even drizzle a bit of ghee on top. serve idli sambar hot.
  • you can also garnish with coriander leaves and serve the tiffin sambar hot with medu vada or dosa.


idli sambar recipe video


  • 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. 


Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 510mg | Potassium: 2192mg | Fiber: 28g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 3170IU | Vitamin C: 116.9mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 5.4mg