Sambar is lentil and vegetable stew with sultry Indian spices. This Indian spiced dal recipe is a must have accompaniment for popular South Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner menus like Idli, Dosa, Vada and Steamed Rice.
This lentil stew is quick and easy to make in electric pressure cooker like InstantPot or on the stove top. Sambar (also spelled sambhar or sambaar ) is classic comfort food enjoyed across all of India.
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This wholesome and filling Vegetable Sambar Recipe is like a soup / stew and it’s a must have on your weeknight dinner menu rotation.
- It’s rich in plant based protein, complex carbs and fiber.
- It’s gluten free, vegan, dairy and soy free
- It’s one pot wonder meal perfect for dinner as well as meal prep.
Popularly called as Kuzhambu in Tamilnadu , Sambaru or Huli in Karnataka, and Sambhar in North India , every region has its own peculiarity in making the sambar. However, the basic idea remains the same.
To make sambar, Split pigeon peas ( tur dal ) or lentils are cooked with unique spice blend called sambar powder. Tamarind extract adds a unique tangy flavors to this chowder like preparation.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE SAMBAR POWDER
Sambar powder is easily available on Amazon or any Indian grocery store. Here’s quick recipe to make it at home.
Dry roast the following spices in a pan on medium-low heat until fragrant, around 3 to 4 minutes.
- 2 tablespoon channa dal (skinned split bengal gram)
- 1 tablespoon urad dal (skinned split black gram)
- 4-5 dried red chilies (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (dhaniya)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin(jeera) seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
Let it cool completely, then grind to a powder. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.
WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF VEGETABLE SAMBAR ?
Exact measurement of each ingredients is listed in the recipe card. Main ingredients and suggestions for alternatives are listed below.
Dal / lentils : I am using Toor dal ( also called tur dal ) . It’s available as Split pigeon peas. You rinse and wash the dal well in running water before using it.
Vegetable Mix : I am using drumsticks ( moringa plant beans) , baby egg plants, carrots , tomatoes and pearl onions. Cilantro leaves are used as a garnish and flavor enhancers.
Oil Tampering / Flavoring : Typically coconut oil is used to make sambhar. Black mustard seeds and cumin seeds , turmeric powder and red chili powder are typically used as a flavor base. Pinch of asafoetida adds the perfect traditional flavor and so does fresh curry leaves.
Spices and flavors – Traditional recipes including making sambar with Sambar Masala and tamarind extract. If tamarind is not easily available, use lemon juice instead. A tsp of jaggery or raw sugar makes it perfect sweet and sour combination.
Variations and Substitutes for Vegetable Sambar
Suffice to say, every Indian household has it’s own version of making sambar.
Some make it watery and spicy while others like it thick and mild. In this recipe , I am including my version which is more like stew than soup and mildly spicy.
Traditionally in south indian household toor dal (split pigeon pea) is used to make sambar. You can also use a mix of toor dal & moong dal (split yellow mung lentil).
If you are new to Indian dal recipes and want to try it out, even green or brown lentils are ok to use to make the sambar.
You can use vegetables of your choice like green beans, carrots, zucchini, pumpkin or squash. I have also used okra in making sambar and it tastes amazing.
If tamarind is not available, you can replace with juice of 1/2 lime or lemon or 1 tsp of amchur powder. Asafeitida and curry leaves can be skipped if they are not easily available.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SAMBHAR
Sambar can be served as a side dish or curry with just plain basmati rice.
The popular and perfect use of sambar, of course, is with a side dish of Idly, dosa, vada or uttapam alog with slew of lip smacking delcious chutneys.
HOW TO MAKE SAMBAR AND RICE TOGETHER IN INSTANTPOT?
While making the sambar, you can cook 1 cup of rice along. The one pot sambar rice is wonderful wholesome meal.
After you prepare the oil tempering ready to make sambar, use a tall trivet and put the stackable container with rice and water over the trivet. Close the lid and follow along the rest if the directions.
This way, Sambar and rice both cook in 8 minutes using pot in pot method.
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR OTHER POPULAR INDIAN RECIPES TO TRY
- DAL MAKHANI ( creamy lentil curry)
- ALOO MATAR ( potatoes and peas curry)
- CHOLE ( Indian chickpea curry)
- TURMERIC CABBAGE STIR-FRY
- BABY CORN MASALA
- DAL PALAK ( lentil spinach stew )
- 1 cup toor (tur) dal rinsed well, till water runs clear
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup eggplant (about 1/2 eggplant) cubed into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 cup tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup pearl onions or small onion chopped
- 1 cup moringa beans (drumsticks )
- 1/2 cup carrots diced
- 2 Tbsp cilantro leaves chopped, to garnish
- 1 Tbsp sambar powder or more to taste
- 2 tsp tamarind paste (or lemon juice)
- 1 tsp jaggery powder or brown sugar
- Salt - adjust per taste
For Oil Tempering / Tadka
Start the instant pot in sauté mode and heat oil in it. Add all the tempering ingredients.
When the mustard seeds and curry leaves start to sizzle, add the pearl onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, sambar powder and salt. Sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add all the vegetables, jagery, toor dal and water to the instant pot. Stir well and deglaze to make sure that nothing is stuck at the base.
Cancel SAUTE. Close the lid and select MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK mode for 8 minutes at high pressure with vent in sealing position.
When the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally. Stir in the tamarind paste. Stir the sambar so it is mixed well.
Garnish with cilantro and sambar is ready to be served.
For additional flavors, you can add more tadka with whole red chilies on top while serving.
STOVE TOP INSTRUCTIONS
Wash the dal and add it in a pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water, salt and turmeric powder. Cook the dal until it is softened.
Remove the pressure cooker from heat and let the pressure release naturally.
Remove the lid of the cooker. Add tamarind paste in the dal and whisk until smooth and keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds.
Add all the veggies. Stir well. Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened.
Add sambar powder and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add some water if the tempering is too dry.
Add the cooked dal to the veggies in the pan and mix everything well. Simmer the sambar for 10-12 minutes on medium low heat. Turn off the heat.
Garnish with cilantro and sambar is ready to be served.
Depending upon your preference, add more water to adjust the consistency of sambar.
Additional tempering if desired :
Heat oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, dry whole red chillies and curry leaves and let them crackle for a few seconds. Pour the tempering over the sambar and serve hot.
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