Sambar recipe is a simple and tasty side dish from South India. It is usually prepared with vegetables, lentils/dal, a special masala powder, and tamarind paste or pulp. It is a delicious protein-rich dish that is typically served as a side dish for Idli, dosa, Ven Pongal, appam, medu vada, uttapam, and rice. And this sambar is easy to make in a pan, pressure cooker, and an instant pot for your lunch and dinner.
What is Sambar?
Sambar is an authentic and tasty south Indian dish. It is usually prepared with toor/tuvar dal, mixed vegetables, tamarind pulp, and a special spice/masala blend called sambar powder. This vegetable sambar is one of the staple food from Tamilnadu that you could find in any Tamil home, restaurants, hotels, canteens, and other food joints. And people from the state typically enjoy this vegetable sambar with rice, idli, dosa, uthappam, and Pongal.
Sambar is not only delicious but also healthy and protein-rich. The ingredients used are fresh and filled with nutrition that is much needed for a healthy life. This Tamilnadu-style vegetable sambar recipe is prepared with only plant-based ingredients, hence it is also a perfect Vegan-friendly dish.
How to make Sambar?
The recipe I have shared here is a typical Tamilnadu-style mixed vegetable sambar that yields 4 to 5 servings. In this section, we will see how to make/prepare this recipe and I believe it would help you to make this dish from scratch.
To make this sambar, initially, I have cooked the toor dal with some garlic and small onions in a pressure cooker for two whistles. Here I have used the pressure cooker to speed up the cooking time of dal. But you could also go with a pan which might take a little longer time to cook.
The toor dal that I am using cooks perfectly mushy for two whistles. If it is not the case for you, you could soak the dal in hot water for 30 minutes, or allow for extra one or two whistles to cook it. Once it is done, I reserved it for later use.
After that, in a pan with medium heat, I added asafoetida/hing and other seasoning spices mentioned below in the recipe card and allowed them to sizzle. Then I added the small onions and sauteed them until it turns soft. And then added the tomatoes and allowed them to turn mushy.
Following that, I added turmeric, sambar, chili, coriander powder, and salt and gave a nice mix. Then added the vegetables like brinjal, drumsticks, beans, carrots, and potatoes and gave a good mix. Afterward, I added water and closed the pan with the lid, and cooked the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes. Then I opened the lid and added the cooked toor dal and tamarind water or tamarind sauce. Since I love my sambar to be a little flowing, I have adjusted the consistency by adding extra water.
After that, I allowed the vegetable dal mixture to boil for 10 minutes. Then I garnished it with coriander leaves and gave a final stir. Finally, I served this delicious dish with white rice and a crispy appalam.
Sambar in Instant Pot
Making sambar in an instant pot needs only less than 15 minutes. Yes, it is just as short and simple as that. All in one pot and saves a whole lot of time when you are busy with something but still want to taste this sambar with the dishes like idli, dosa, or Ven Pongal.
In this part, let's see how to make this instant pot version of mixed vegetable sambar. To do that, in sauté mode sizzle all the seasonings and add the onions. Saute the onions for 2 to 3 minutes. After that, add the tomatoes, masala powder, and salt and give a quick mix.
Once done add the washed dal, veggies of your choice, and water. Close the lid and cook at high pressure for 7 to 8 minutes. Once the pressure is naturally released open the lid and add the tamarind water and give a good mix. Finally, garnish the dish with coriander leaves and the instant pot version is ready in under 15 minutes. That's so easy, right?
Variations in Sambar
Tamilnadu-style sambar is a delicious and finger-licking dish that has a lot of variations. Even though it is a common dish to the state, people make this vegetable sambar according to their family needs to best suit their taste buds. Following are some of the variations of this recipe that are popular across the south Indian state of Tamilnadu.
- Moong Dal - Sambar with moong dal is one of the tasty versions that perfectly matches any south Indian breakfast/tiffin. Especially, sambar with moong dal works well even without any veggies. This is also called a tiffin sambar in hotels and restaurants in Tamilnadu
- Masoor Dal -You could also make this sambar recipe with masoor dal. Masoor dal has a unique flavor that really enhances the taste of sambar
- Skip Tamarind - In case you don't like tamarind but still would like to have a tangy flavor to the dish you could just replace it with extra tomatoes. Adding them will help us to achieve a similar tanginess to the dish
- Jaggery - If you would like a slight sweetness in your sambar then feel free to add some jaggery powder to it. The jaggery adds a unique flavor and it tastes great too
- Coconut - There is also a version where you could roast all the spices and ground them along with fresh coconuts. This style of sambar recipe is also famous in Tamilnadu and it is called arachuvitta sambar. Personally, I love this version a lot for its rich taste and flavor that totally comes from roasted spices and coconut
Usually, I like to make the sambar in a traditional way where the dal and veggies are cooked separately. You could also marinate the vegetables with spice or masala powder before cooking them in water to make a flavorful curry. But to make the process fast and easy you could also make it in one pot by pressure cooking them in a rice cooker or instant pot. And it saves a whole lot of time on your busy day without compromising the traditional taste.
The key to making a perfect sambar is to choose the right sambar masala powder and fresh tender vegetables. In this recipe, I have used only the store-bought powder but you can also use homemade powder. Usually, my dish turns out equally delicious with both versions of the powders. Just that you have to be cautious on-shelf dates to help yourself.
Another important fact is that adding small onions while tempering gives a unique flavor and taste to the dish. So I recommend using the same to enjoy the authentic taste of the mixed vegetable sambar.
This sambar is great to treat the taste buds when you crave the traditional Tamilnadu-style dish. The vegetables and masala used in the recipe compliments each other to give a perfect sambar. And I believe you would try and enjoy this delicious dish and enjoy it with your family and loved ones.
Serve this sambar with dosa, and idli. And it also goes great with Rava Dosa, Rava Upma, Rava Idli, uttapam, or white rice, basmati rice. For a combo platter, it tastes great with white rice, Poppadom, and Aloo Gobi.
Looking for easy breakfast recipes to kick start your busy mornings? Then you could also check this collection of Indian Vegetarian Breakfast Recipes and Indian Vegetarian Lunch Recipes to enjoy with your family and loved ones.
Sambar Recipe video
I have also shared a video of the Sambar recipe below that I hope will help you in the making process of the dish. You could also find the recipe story in story format for a quick reference.
- ½ cup Toor Dal
- 0.55 lb Small Onion
- 5 Garlic Cloves
- ¼ cup Oil
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 4 Green Chili, sliced
- 1 sprig Curry Leaves
- ½ tsp Asafoetida, or hing
- 1 Tomato, chopped
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1½ tsp Chili Powder
- 3 tsp Sambar Powder
- 2 tsp Coriander Powder
- Salt, as needed
- 1 Drumstick, chopped
- 3 Green Brinjal, sliced
- ¼ cup Green Beans, chopped
- ¼ cup Carrot, chopped
- 2 Potato, chopped
- ¼ cup Tamarind Water , or 2 tsp tamarind sauce
- 3 cups Water
- ¼ cup Coriander Leaves
To Cook Toor Dal for Vegetable Sambar
- In a pressure cooker with medium heat add ½ cup of toor dal, 1½ cup of water, 5 garlic cloves, and 7 small onions
- Close the lid of the pressure cooker with the regular on and wait for 2 whistles. And open the lid, once the pressure releases naturally and reserve the dal for later use
To Prepare Sambar
- In a pan with medium heat, pour oil and add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, green chili, curry leaves, asafoetida/hing and allow it to splutter
- Add the small onions and saute until it turns soft
- Add the tomatoes and allow them to turn mushy
- Now add turmeric, chili, sambar, coriander powder, salt and give a good mix
- Add drumstick, green brinjal, green beans, carrot, potato, and mix everything well
- Now add 1 cup of water and close the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes
- Open the lid and add the cooked dal and give a quick mix
- Add the tamarind water, or tamarind sauce, and water to the dal veggie mixture.
- Now allow the vegetable dal mixture to boil for 10 minutes
- Add the coriander leaves and give a quick mix
- Now the Mixed Vegetable Sambar is ready for you to taste and enjoy
- Serve the delicious Mixed Vegetable Sambar with rice, dosa, idli or Pongal
Chef's Notes and Tips
- Cooking the vegetables along with sambar powder and other spice mix gives a good flavor and taste to the sambar, so I suggest not compromising on it
- Adding tamarind juice before the vegetables are cooked will increase the cooking time of the veggies, so make sure you add it after the veggies are cooked soft and tender
- I have used drumstick, green brinjal, carrots, beans, potatoes for this vegetable sambar and you could also use pumpkin, bottle gourd, okra/ladies finger for more variations
- I have used toor/tuvar dal for making this recipe, but you could also replace it with moong dal, masoor dal which gives a unique and different flavor to the sambar
- I have used a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process of dal. So, you can also cook the dal in a pan which might take a little longer time for it to cook
- You could also make this mixed vegetable sambar in a pressure cooker and an instant pot for a quicker version
- This vegetable sambar tastes great with idli, dosa, Pongal, uttapam, and rice.
Disclaimer: We’re not nutrition experts. Nutritional info is estimated and should be used as a guide. For precise details, consult a professional.
Sambar is a south Indian style dish usually made with vegetables, dal, tamarind pulp, with a special spice/masala powder called sambar powder. And it is usually served for rice, and south Indian breakfast like uttapam, Pongal, Idli, and dosa.
Yes, vegetable sambar is healthy as it is a good source of protein and nutrition.
Yes, you can make this sambar without tamarind by just replacing it with extra tomatoes to achieve a similar tanginess to the dish.
You could dry roast the coconut and ground it to a fine paste. And add after tamarind water in the recipe instructions mentioned above.
To make this dish with Jaggery, add half tsp of Jaggery before garnishing the dish with coriander leaves and giving a nice mix.
Sambar goes as a perfect side dish with dosa, idli, uthappam, Pongal, upma, and rice.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe that I have shared here and I would love to hear from you on how it turned out for you. Please let me know.
If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.