Go Back
+ servings
South Indian sambar in a metal bowl from above.
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

south Indian sambar

Sambar is a delicious South Indian lentil and vegetable stew. Eat it with rice, idli, dosas, vadas or just on its own.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: sambar
Servings: 4
Calories: 304kcal
Author: romain | glebekitchen



  • 1 cup toor dal - you can substitute masoor dal
  • 3 1/2 cups water plus more at the end
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes fresh in season, canned otherwise
  • 2 tbsp sambar powder - available at any Indian grocer
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1-2 green chilies seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 10-12 pearl onions - boiled for 3 minutes and peeled
  • 1 cup green beans - your choice of any vegetable here
  • 1-2 small potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces and par-boiled for 7-8 minutes(optional)
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste - paste is not the same as concentrate. Do not use concentrate.
  • 1-2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped

Tempering (the final flavour blast)

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 4-5 dried red chilies broken into large pieces
  • 20-25 curry leaves fresh
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil


Cook the lentils

  • Combine the toor dal, water and turmeric in a pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, over low heat until they start to fall apart. This takes 20-30 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies, sambar powder and chili powder. Simmer until the lentils are pretty much broken down. This can take another 20-30 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, beans, onions and salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Make the tempering

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Add the chilies, mustard seed and cumin seed and cook until the seeds start to pop. Press the chilies into the oil. Flip them. This takes about 30 seconds. 
  • Add the curry leaves and cook another 20-30 seconds.
  • Add the tempering into the sambar. Stir in the tamarind and cilantro. Cook for 5 minutes. Add enough water to make the consistency a bit runny. Taste for salt and adjust
  • Serve with Indian flatbreads or rice as a vegetarian meal or serve as a side with whatever other curries you want. No rules here...


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 304kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 694mg | Potassium: 656mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 850IU | Vitamin C: 124.1mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 5.7mg