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how to cook sambar

Delicious South Indian Sambar Recipe

A lentil and vegetable stew with spices, easy and tasty to prepare.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Indian
Servings 10 portions
Calories 144 kcal


For the lentil base:

  • 150 g Toor Dal
  • 600 ml Water
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Sunflower Oil

Vegetables for the stew:

  • 2 Medium Tomatoes Diced
  • 1 Medium Onion Peeled and Diced
  • 1 Large Potatoes Peeled and Diced
  • 90 g Green Beans, Chopped
  • 1 Medium Carrot Peeled and Chopped in Sticks
  • 90 g Kerala Cucumber, Peeled, Seeds removed and Diced
  • 1.2 l Water

For the Tadka:

  • 2 tablespoon Sunflower Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 15 Curry Leaves
  • 2 Dry Red Chilies Optional

Other Ingredients:

  • 30 g Tamarind
  • 50 g Sambar Masala
  • Salt to Taste



  • Clean and chop all of the vegetables you will be putting in the sambar and set aside.
  • Put the tamarind in a bowl with warm water and allow it to infuse while you proceed with the next steps.

Start preparing the lentil base:

  • Rinse the toor dal three times and then add it to the pressure cooker with the water, turmeric, and oil; mix well and cook on a low to medium flame for about 20 minutes. 20 minutes on a low flame should allow the lentils to be completely cooked and mashed, while not evaporating the water completely. To open the pressure cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for security; most of the time you will need to remove from the heat and allow for all the pressure to be released from the cooker before opening it.
  • Once the lentils are completely mashed, add between 1.2 and (5 cups) 1.5 liters (6.5 cups) of water to the pan, mix well and bring to the boil.
  • Once the lentil soup is simmering, add the finely chopped vegetables and adjust the salt level.
  • Once the vegetables are three quarters cooked, remove the tamarind pulp from the bowl of water you kept aside and add only the flavored water to the sambar (eliminate the tamarind, especially the seeds, but ensure you squeeze the juice out of the pulp).
  • Allow the sambar to simmer for another couple of minutes and in the meantime add the sambar masala to a small pot and add slowly water to it, while mixing well; once the sambar masala creates with the water a nice semi-liquid paste that has no knots, add it to the sambar and mix well.

Prepare the Tadka

  • While you allow the spices to cook in the sambar, prepare the tadka by warming up the oil in a small pot; once the oil is warm add the mustard seeds, and as soon as this is cooked (about 30 seconds) add the asafetida (hing).
  • Once the mustard seeds have all popped (about one minute), remove them from the heat and add the curry leaves and dry red chilies and allow them to fry without burning for about 15 seconds.
  • Once all the spices in the tadka are fragrant, add it on top of the sambar and mix well, but be careful of any splatter.
  • Serve with your chosen accompaniment and enjoy!



You can make your own sambar powder as follows: 
To make your own sambar powder recipe using Indian spices, start by lightly popping 2 cups of coriander seeds in a bit of coconut oil and setting them aside once they turn aromatic.
In the same pan, with a little coconut oil, lightly roast half a cup of cumin seeds, 4 tablespoons of urad dal, 4 tablespoons of dry fenugreek seeds, and 2 tablespoons of chana dal; once these are nearly roasted, add 1 cup of curry leaves and roast until this turns aromatic as well, without burning them. Set this mix aside with the coriander seeds. 
In the same pan add a little more coconut oil and roast 200 grams (7 oz) of whole dry red chilies until they turn crispy and aromatic. 
Set all of the roasted spices aside and allow them to cool down. 
Once all the spices have cooled down completely, add them to a grinder together with two teaspoons of turmeric powder and grind to a fine paste.
Should you wish, you can add some peppercorns to the recipe.
This sambar recipe can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to three months.


Calories: 144kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 6gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 26mgPotassium: 275mgFiber: 7gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1437IUVitamin C: 53mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 1mg
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