Sambhar (South Indian lentil and vegetable stew)

Sambar or Sambhar  is an integral part of the South Indian cuisine. It is a lentil based stew with the addition of various vegetables or sometimes just one vegetable is added. It is a perfect accompaniment to idli’s ( steamed rice cakes), dosa’s ( crispy rice crepes), uttapam ( pretty much an Indian version of pizza :p) or medu wada ( savory Indian donuts :D) and the likes. One of my favorite meals is plain steamed rice with piping hot sambhar, an omelette, some crunchy papad and pickle.Thoroughly satisfying!

I love sambhar which has a good balance of mild heat & tang along with a  bit of sweetness. The Udipi style sambhar tends to have a hint of sweetness with the addition of jaggery. There are various versions of Sambhar prepared differently across regions in the South!

When I started my culinary journey, I had quite a few futile attempts at nailing the perfect sambhar. My standard of comparison would obviously be with the sambhar served at my favorite and authentic South Indian restaurant in Mumbai. It was a gorgeous orange color & had a perfect balance of all the elements. Since there is no sight of any South Indian restaurant in my vicinity here, I have learnt to make and perfect these delicacies over the years:)

Sharing my mum in law’s way of making sambhar, which is just perfect and delicious, just as I like it!

Ingredients: Measuring Cup used, 1 Cup = 250 ml, 1 teaspoon = 5 ml

3/4 cup toor/arhar dal (split pigeon peas)

300 grams mixed veggies ( I used frozen sambhar veggie mix- drumsticks, bottle gourd, okra, tomatoes, eggplants)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seeds

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

3-4 chillies

A sprig of curry leaves

1/2 cup pearl onions

1 tomato, diced finely

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 & 1/2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

2 tablespoons sambhar masala

Lemon sized balls of tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup warm water, extract the pulp, strain and use

1 tablespoon grated jaggery (optional)

salt to taste


1.Wash the toor dal under running water, soak in sufficient water for about 30 minutes.


2.Transfer the drained toor dal to a pressure cooker, add 2 & 1/4 cups water along with salt to taste and turmeric powder. Pressure cook until soft and mushy. Whisk the dal to make it smooth ( Do not blend).


3. Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard seeds. when it crackles add methi seeds.


4. Once the methi seeds turn brown, add red chillies, curry leaves & asafoetida.


5. Add the pearl onions, saute until translucent.


6. Next add in all the veggies, saute on medium heat for 5 minutes until tender yet firm.


7. Now add salt, red chilli powder, coriander powder & sambhar masala. Saute the spices well for 2 more minutes, sprinkle little water if required to avoid the spices from burning and turning bitter.


8. Add 1 cup water, mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.


9. Add in the churned dal, tamarind extract and jaggery, mix well. Let it boil for further 15-20 minutes. Add water if required. Stir occasionally.

10. Sprinkle cilantro, switch of the heat and serve sambhar with idli/dosa/uttapams or even plain steamed rice.

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    • Freda Dias says:

      Thanks Loretta! Yes those are drumsticks 🙂 I made the idlis. After lots and lots of disastrous attempts, I’ve finally managed to make good idlis over the past few months 🙂 Will be doin a post on it soon 🙂

  1. Gracy says:

    Hi Freda, Loved the sambhar for its taste and simplicity in making. No grinding involved? Wt a relief. More easy recipes coming our way dear.
    Thank u


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