Sambhar is a dish common in South India especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu and also in Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines that’s made of Toor dal (yellow Lentils) and Vegetables. South Indian food, people and culture are inextricably linked to a ubiquitous dish as in idli and sambhar, sambhar and rice and so on. Each state, rather each household in the South prepares Sambhar with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment. 

For e.g. my mother-in-law from north part of Kerala prepares sambhar in a different way to my mother who comes from South Kerala. My MIL adds coconut and tamarind in the sambhar, while my mother doesn’t use coconut at all and she uses tomato in place of tamarind. Also my mother puts coriander leaves in hers, while my MIL doesn’t. These are just some of the differences that I’ve listed.

So the below recipe is how sambhar is cooked by my mother and that’s the only way I like and have my sambhar. 🙂



  • Toor Dal – about 1/2 – 3/4 cup
  • Onion – 1, sliced
  • Small onions – 3 nos.
  • Green chillies – 2, slit
  • Tomato – 1 no.
  • Vegetables – 1/2 kilo diced into chunks (I normally use carrot, potato, vellari, french beans, yam, and drumstick)
  • Water – 2 cups ( or as needed)
  • Salt
  • Turmeric – 1/2 teaspoon

For Tadka

  • Oil (coconut or vegetable oil) – 2 tablespoon
  • Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Small Onions – 2 sliced
  • Curry leaves –  2 sprigs
  • Turmeric – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chilli powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Asafoetida (hing/kaayam) – 1 tablespoon if it’s store-bought, else 1/2 tablespoon if its freshly ground
  • Sambar powder – 3 teaspoons
  • Coriander leaves


Boil Toor dal with water and when it’s half-cooked, add the sliced onions, small onions, and the green chillies. Cook till  the dal has been cooked really well and can be mashed with the back of your spoon. Or if you are running short on time (like me!) you can put the dal, water onions, small onions and green chilli in the pressure cooker for about 7-8 whistles. By which the dal will be mashed well.

To this add your cut and washed vegetables, chopped tomato, salt and a little turmeric. Pressure cook this again for just one whistle. (If you are not using the cooker, then I would suggest putting in the vegetables that’ll take more time to cook first and then slowly adding vegetables that take less time to cook).

Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok, splutter mustard seeds. To this add the sliced small onions, curry leaves and cumin seeds and let it brown a little. Saute . Add turmeric, chilli powder, asafoetida, and sambhar powder. Saute for a minute to get the raw powders to cook.

Add this masala to the cooked vegetable mixture.  Check for salt. And then add torn coriander leaves to this and let it all boil together for another few minutes.

Seve with Rice, Pappad and Pickle. I love to add even Yoghurt and a spicy Fish Fry to it too 🙂


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2 Responses to Sambhar

  1. Pingback: Coconut Chutney and Tomato Chutney | For the Purple Foodie…

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