I share our favorite Sambar Recipe which I have perfected over the years. Make this flavorsome, hearty and nutritious South Indian vegetable-lentil stew with this easy method. Enjoy the sambar with South Indian snacks like idli, dosa, uttapam, medu vada or simply pair it with rice for a comforting, healthy and filling meal.
Soak the tamarind in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
Once the tamarind gets soft, then squeeze the tamarind in the water itself. Discard the strained tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.
Rinse tuvar dal a couple of times in water.
Drain all the water and add the dal in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
Add 1.5 to 1.75 cups water and mix. Cover and pressure cook dal for 7 to 8 whistles or 9 to 10 minutes on medium heat.
When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dal. The dal should be completely cooked and mushy.
Mash the dal with a spoon or wired whisk. Cover and keep aside. You can see the consistency of dal in the pic below.
When the dal is pressure cooking – rinse, peel and chop the vegetables.
Take the chopped vegetables in a pan or pot. Also add 6 to 7 pearl onions or 1 small to medium onion (thickly sliced) and 1 small to medium tomato (quartered).
Sprinkle turmeric powder, kashmiri red chilli powder and salt as per taste. Adding kashmiri red chili powder is optional and can be skipped.
Add 1.5 to 2 cups water and stir.
Keep the pan on a stove top and begin to cook vegetables on a medium-low to medium flame. In between do check when the vegetables are cooking.
Cook till the vegetables are almost done. Ensure that you don’t over cook the vegetables.
Once the vegetables are almost cooked, then add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.5 tablespoons sambar powder. Mix well.
Add the mashed dal. Mix again very well.
Simmer on a medium-low heat till the sambar comes to a boil.
You will see a frothy layer on top when the sambar begins boiling. At this step switch off the heat. Cover and set aside.
In a small pan or tadka pan, heat 2 tablespoons gingelly oil. Add ½ tsp mustard seeds.
Let the mustard seeds crackle.
Then add 1 to 2 dry red chillies (halved and seeds removed).
Immediately add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 5 to 6 methi seeds and 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing). Be careful as the oil splutters while adding curry leaves.
Fry them till the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp.
Immediately add this tempering mixture in the hot sambar.
Cover the pan with its lid for 4 to 5 minutes, so that the aroma and flavors from the tempering mixture gets infused with the sambar.
Serve sambar hot. You can garnish it with a few coriander leaves if you prefer. It can also be served with steamed rice, idli, dosa, medu vada or uttapam.
Serve sambarwith steamed rice, idli, dosa or medu vadai or uttapam.
Vary the consistency of sambar keeping in mind the dish you want to serve it with. Example - a medium to slightly thin sambar is served with idli, dosa and medu vada. Sambar with a medium to thick consistency is served with steamed rice.
Storage and Leftovers
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for a day only. Note that the consistency will thicken after refrigeration. Add some water and mix to get your desired consistency while reheating in a pan.
Sambar Powder: The sambar powder can make or break your sambar. Use the best sambar powder. It can be homemade or from your favorite brand. Sambar powder is easily available online.
Vegetables: The mix of various vegetables add plenty of their unique flavor and taste to sambar. Thus depending on the type of vegetables used, your sambar recipe will taste different every time. I prefer to add a mix of drumsticks, brinjals, pumpkin or ash gourd, pearl onions (shallots), carrots and okra. Feel free to mix and match the veggies from the list mentioned in the post.
Lentils: Try to use fresh and preferably unpolished tuvar dal for best flavor and health reasons. The fresher the dal is the better it tastes and cooks faster. For faster cooking, you can opt to soak the lentils in water for 30 to 60 minutes.
Cooking Lentils: The lentils can be cooked in an Instant Pot or pan on the stove top. Add water as needed. The lentils should be softened and mushy.
Tamarind: I suggest to use fresh tamarind. If you use aged tamarind, then it will be darker in color and more sour. So add a bit less of the dark tamarind than what is mentioned in this recipe.
Cooking Vegetables: Always cook the vegetables till they are done but whole. They should not break or become a mush in the sambar. So when cooking, add vegetables which cook slower first and cook them for some minutes. Then add vegetables which cook faster. Note that The vegetables can also be steamed in a steamer or pressure cooker or Instant pot.
Oils: Both gingelly oil (raw sesame oil) and edible coconut oil give a really good taste in sambar. If you do not have these oils, then you can use sunflower oil or peanut oil or even ghee
Frying spices: While doing the tempering or tadka, always fry on a low heat and stir regularly. The spices and herbs cook fast, so you have to be attentive. If they get burned, then discard them and make a new tempering. Never add a burnt tempering in sambar as it will ruin the taste.
Consistency: Change the consistency of your sambar by adding less or more water. However, do not add too much water and make it thin as then the flavors get diluted. For serving with rice you can make a thick sambhar and for serving with idli or dosa, you can make a medium consistency sambar.
Balancing sourness: In case if you find the taste of sambar more sour, then you can always balance the sour taste by adding a bit of jaggery.
Variations: A few crushed garlic cloves can also be added to the tempering. This imparts a different flavor in sambar. A bit of jaggery can also be added to give a slight sweeter taste.