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Sambar - A South Indian Dal Recipe

Updated on July 8, 2015


Sambar is a South Indian delicacy and due it's universality and rich flavors, it has become hugely popular all over, at homes as much as in restaurants. Often served as a breakfast accompaniment to idlis and dosas, it's also a great dal to have at mealtimes (lunch and dinner).

The tadka that's used for this dish (mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida) is an important base to start your cooking with. But to get the all important flavor, you must cook the veggies in the tamarind pulp with the sambar powder - this enhances both the flavor and the aroma of the dish. You may adjust the amount of sambar powder you add.

So, here's the recipe for this flavorful dal.

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 50 min
Yields: 4 to 5 people
Toor dal
Toor dal


  • 2 cups toor dal
  • 1/2 cup of tamarind
  • 8 to 10 shallots
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 2 drumsticks
  • 100 gms each of pumpkin, okra, carrot, brinjal
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • 2 or 3 pinches of asafoetida
  • 2 red chillies
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt (according to taste)
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 green chillies


1. Cut the heads and tails of the shallots and peel them.

2. Cut the onion and tomato finely. Cut each green chilli into 2 pieces.

3. Cut the drumsticks into 3 inch pieces.

4. Cut the pumpkins, carrots, okra and brinjals into half inch pieces.

5. Soak a handful of tamarind in 3/4 cup of water for an hour. Then, squeeze the tamarind and remove everything but the pulp - thus, you get your tamarind pulp which should be thick, and which we're gonna use later.

Instructions for cooking

1. Boil the toor dal in the pressure cooker with a little salt and turmeric powder for 5 minutes after the pressure comes. When your cooker cools, churn the dal well.

2. Heat oil in a pan and then on a slow to medium flame, add mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, and red and green chillies. When they splutter, add the onion and tomato, and fry for a minute.

3. Now, add shallots and the other vegetables, and fry them well. Add turmeric, chilli and sambar powder, and fry these for a minute.

4. Then, add 2 cups of water. When it starts boiling, add your tamarind pulp and a little salt, and then. with the lid on, on a slow to medium flame, cook these vegetables till they get tender.

5. As the veggies are getting cooked in the sambar powder and the other spices, you'll notice a wonderfully tangy sambar aroma emanating from your pan.

6. Now, add the boiled dal and sugar, and mix well. You may adjust the water according to your preference. Boil the dal for at least 8 to 10 minutes. Switch off the flame.

7. Your flavorful Sambar is ready.

I usually go with sambar with a little thicker consistency, but if you wish, you may add some water and thin the consistency a bit (refer to the image below to get an idea). Then, serve this dish with rice.

Sambar served with rice
Sambar served with rice

When you have sambar, it's gotta have flavor, should be full of it as a matter of fact. So, I prefer not to water it up too much. The tamarind pulp and the sambar powder are the key ingredients, along with the curry leaves. This is a recipe, I've refined over the years and it's just right, now. I make this frequently, now that I've gotten this recipe down perfectly. You can serve this with rice and with or without any veggies.

So, try this out, and enjoy.

5 stars from 1 rating of Sambar


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