South Indian Sambar – Sharing my Mum’s classic sambar recipe, warm, a true comfort in a bowl with aromatic cooked lentils and spices, nutritious and on your table under 25 minutes!
Sambar is one staple food in south India. It is made of lentils, vegetable, and spices are simmered together to create an emerging unabashed flavor of curry that is ridiculously easy and the most time is just the hands-off simmering!
Every other day, we make sambar with a variety of side dishes.
What distinguishes the sambar is that each household has its version, and the method they use varies slightly.
Here I’m sharing my Amma’s signature sambar recipe.
The sambar recipe is so comforting, warm, so satisfying, and also happens to be nutritious.
This recipe will satisfy even the toughest critic.
It is loaded with lovely aromatic spices, lentils, and squash all cooked with tomato, onion, green chili, and coriander leaves makes it a fabulous recipe.
This recipe is made with easy-to-find ingredients, versatile veggies and takes less than 30 minutes!
Reason to love this recipe:
- This recipe not only tastes amazing, but it also happens to be healthy.
- You can use your favorite vegetables or whatever veggies to make a completely wholesome meal.
- You can make it in a large quantity and it’s perfect to feed your entire family. It also makes fabulous leftovers to meal prep or freeze.
Ingredients- What You’ll need
- Toor dal: This is the type of lentils commonly called Toor dal also known as spilled pigeon peas (yellow). It is used in Indian cooking. They are easily available in the Asian section in the grocery store/Indian supermarket.
- Onion: I have used 1 large onion, thinly slice them. You may also use shallots, you may require 6 to 7 Shallots.
- Spices: I have Chilli powder, turmeric powder, and sambar powder. You may also skip sambar powder. You may reduce the heat by adding them less.
- Tamarind: Soak a small lime-sized tamarind in water and extract the tamarind pulp. 2 or 3 tablespoons thick tamarind pulp may be required.
- Vegetables: I used squash, but you can use any vegetables you like, such as carrots, beans, radishes, or drumsticks.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes add a mild tanginess to sambar; chop them and add to the dish.
- Green chilies: Green chilies give the sambar a mild heat. You can use less.
- Coriander leaves: Adding a handful of fresh coriander leaves to the sambar recipe adds more flavour.
- Seasonings: Seasonings in sambar are essential for enhancing the flavor and taste.
Step by Step Instructions:
- To make Dal: Combine Toor dal, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garlic, curry leaves, coriander leaves, gingerly oil, salt, and 2 cups water in a pressure cooker. Cook on low-high pressure for 5 to 6 minutes. After the pressure has been released, mash the cooked dal to soften it.
- Transfer all of the cooked dal to a saucepot, reserving 2 tablespoons for later. Add 2 cups of water, squash, tomato, onion, green chilli, coriander leaves, and curry leaves, and mix well. ( Photos 1,2,3,4)
- Over medium heat, cook until the vegetables are tender. Add in chili powder, sambar powder, turmeric powder mix well. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. (Photos 5 &6)
- Add the reserved dal and tamarind pulp. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. (Photos 7 &8)
- Heat gingerly oil in small tadka pan, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida. Stir fry for few seconds, And then add to the sambar. ( Photos 9 &10)
- Sprinkle Coriander leaves and serve.
- You may use combinations of lentils like Moong dal or masoor dal.
- You can add a pinch of jaggery to complement the taste.
- The vegetables have to be just tender, do not overcook them, if you overcook them they may turn mushy.
- Toor dal need not be soaked, wash multiple times to remove impurities.
- Seasonings play a vital role in sambar, keep the heat low while you season otherwise the spices may burn quickly.
- How to make sambar powder?
Sambar powder is one key ingredient to get the right recipe. You may use store-bought sambar powder or you can quickly whip this sambar powder,
Stir fry 5 dry red chilies, 1/2 Tbs coriander seeds, 1/2 Tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds, 1Tbs peppercorns, 1/2 Tbs channa dal, 1/2 Tbs toor dal, 6- curry leaves, 1/4 tsp asafetida, 1/4 tsp turmeric. Add these by one and ground them to a fine powder.
- What are vegetables can be added?
Vegetables like carrot, drumsticks, beans, pumpkin, raw banana, radish, snake gourd, bell pepper can be added.
Vegetables like Brinjal or aubergine or Ladies finger, stir fry them in oil and then add-in.
- How to make the sambar in the instant pot?
- Combine toor dal, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garlic cloves, curry leaves, coriander leaves, oil, and salt. Add 2 cups of water. Close the lid, press “pressure cook” set the timer to 8 to 9 minutes.
- Once the pressure has been released naturally, open the lid. Add veggies and pressure cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Close the lid once again and set the valve to the sealing position.
- You can manually release the pressure, open the lid, add the spice powder, tamarind extract. Cover with the lid. Pressure cook for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Season the sambar and serve. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves.
- How long can I store it?
The sambar recipe tastes better the next day as the flavors are meld together. Store the left-over sambar recipe in an air-tight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
- How To Re-heat?
Microwave: Transfer the portions of sambar to a microwavable bowl and warm it up for 1 minute, stir and continue to heat at 20 seconds of regular interval.
Stovetop: Transfer the sambar to saucepan, cover and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle some fresh coriander leaves and serve.
- Can I prep this South indian sambar recipe ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can prep the ingredients ahead of time.
Cook the lentils as per instructions and transfer them to an air-tight container and refrigerate.
Chop the vegetables, onion, tomato, and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Vegetables like potatoes, aubergine are needed to be soaked in water to prevent discoloration.
Make Tamarind extract and store them.
So, when you want to make it, put everything together.
- Can I freeze?
Yes, you can freeze the sambar recipe. I recommend freezing without seasoning. Transfer lentil curry to an airtight container or freezer bag and squeeze out excess air; Freeze up to 2 to3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- How to fix sambar?
Add peeled, cubed potato if your sambar is too salty. To compensate for the sourness, add a pinch of jaggery or sugar.
This sambar Recipe serves beautifully well with,
Vegetable Side dishes: Paneer Do pyaza, Bainghan Bharta, Chettinad Yam Fry, Cabbage Poriyal , Cauliflower 65, Chettinad Potato Roast, 15 mins Paneer tikka ,Bhindi Masala, kadai Paneer, Potatao Podimas.
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This post is originally published in 2014, has been republished with Photos & Contents.