Sambar -Healthy Vegetarian Dish

Making Sambar involves 2 steps.

Step 1: Cook dhal and other ingredients in a pressure cooker.

Step 2: Cook vegetables separately in a pot and add the cooked dhal into the pot.

Step 1:


  • 1 Cup – Toor Dhal (soak for 2 hours)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Long Green chillies (Mild)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp -Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp – Turmeric
  • Salt – little
  • 500 ML -Water


First, wash the dhal well. Add dhal to the pressure cooker together with the above ingredients and cook according to the pressure cooker instruction. If you use an Indian pressure cooker (I use Prestige pressure cooker) stop after 4 whistles. Dhal needs to be cooked until soft. Leave it aside to cool down.

Cooked dhal

Step 2 :


Cut the following vegetables to bite size pieces.

  1. 2- Small carrots
  2. 150 gm – Beans
  3. ¼ – Cabbage
  4. 2- Small potatoes
  5. 1-Eggplant
  6. 1 -Moringa (optional)
Bite size vegetables, tomato and onion

Other Ingredients

  • 2 -Tomatoes
  • 1½ tbsp – Cumin seeds
  • 1½ tbsp – Mustard seeds
  • 1 Red Onion (Medium)
  • 2 tbsp – Sambar Powder
  • 1 tbsp – Curry Powder
  • 1/2 tsp – Turmeric
  • 1 – Sprig curry leaf
  • 2 tsp -Tamarind paste 
  • 1/4 tsp – Asafoetida powder
  • ¼ cup -Coriander leaves
  • 1tsp – Sesame oil
  • Salt to taste


Roast cumin seed and mustard seed in a pan until the mustard seed splutters. Add little water (2 tbsp) and with the formation of bubbles, add the Onion. Once the Onion is half cooked add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

(Alternatively, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds. As they begin to splutter, add onions and cook until light brown. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes). I use water instead of oil in my cooking now.

Add sambar powder, curry powder, and turmeric and stir it over. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for ten minutes. If there is excess dhal liquid in the pressure cooker pour it over vegetable mix. If there isn’t enough dhal liquid add water to the vegetable mixture.

Once the vegetables are tender and soft, add the dhal from the pressure cooker, and stir it well. After a few minutes add the tamarind paste and curry leaf. Stir the pot and add asafoetida. Add the coriander leaves and switch off the cooker. Finally, the sesame oil and mix it with a large spoon.

Serve hot with rice, bread or roti.

Sambar powder and Asafoetida powder

Helpful Hints:     

1.Tempering:  Traditionally an aromatic tempering is done to give flavour to Sambar. Heat oil (1 tbsp vegetable oil) in a non-stick pan; add mustard seeds (1tsp) and fennel seeds (1 tsp) and once mustard seeds start to splutter, add finely chopped onion (1/2 Onion), fresh curry leaves and dried red chilli (1). Once the onion turns golden brown, drain the mixture and pour it over the sambar and mix it.

My husband has some heart problem so I avoid tempering now.

2. A variety of vegetables give flavour to Sambar. You can use vegetables like Okra (ladies’ finger), Pumpkin, Cauliflower and so on.

3. Once the Sambar is cool divide it into 2 or 3 portions and store in the fridge in air-tight glass bowls. Re-heat it when required.

4. Curry Powder – King’s Curry Powder is available in Sri Lankan or Indian spice shops. You may want to use Keen’s Curry Powder or Clive of India Curry Powder which is available in the Super Markets.

5. Sambar Powder -MTR Sambar Powder is available in Indian spice shops.

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