Sambar is a well-known classic lentil dish made with vegetables, tamarind water, and Indian spice powder. It is a great side dish that is often served with south Indian breakfasts and dinners. South Indian dishes are incomplete without sambar.


Sambar, a filling stew cooked with yellow lentils, veggies, and a tonne of fragrant spice powder, is a staple served with every meal in every South Indian home. It is cooked with spices like all spice powder, paprika, and turmeric. The savory lentil curry pairs perfectly with steaming idlis, vada, dosa, or even simple steamed rice.

It is both healthful and nutritious, as it is high in protein and other elements such as vitamins and minerals. Sambar makes a complete meal when it is eaten with rice or idli.

Close up image of sambar recipe

Sambar Recipe

I frequently use this recipe to make sambar because it’s a foolproof way to ensure that the vegetables and lentils are both perfectly cooked. You won’t receive undercooked lentils or mushy vegetables as a result. Making the sambar recipe this way is also simple.

Typically, I either blend a few different veggies from the list below or add just one item to the sambar. I’ve included cauliflower, okra, carrot, potatoes, peas, and eggplant in my sambar dish.

Each home has a unique sambar recipe with varying preferences for thickness, texture, and taste. Some prefer chunky vegetables, while others like a smooth consistency. The level of tanginess is also subjective, with some preferring a stronger tartness than others.



  • Yellow lentils – In this recipe, chana dal was used. But you can use pretty much any type of lentil to make this dish, such as masoor, tur or toor, or moong. You can combine them as well.
  • Mixed veggies – When making sambar, you can add different kinds of vegetables. Carrots, eggplants, okra, potatoes, peas, and cauliflower are usually added by me. To achieve a different flavor every time, you can switch up the veggies you add to the sambar.
  • Salt – I used pink salt you can use any salt.
  • Turmeric – Gives a hearty flavor and that distinctive yellow color.
  • Paprika powder – The flavor of paprika is sweet and spicy. It’s a great way to add some smokiness and heat to your dishes.
  • Garam masala – A perfect blend, that gives a punch of flavor.
  • Tamarind paste – Tamarind is a key component of sambar. You have the option of making your own tamarind water by soaking tamarind in ½ cup water. It will eventually soften up enough to use. Strain it before adding. Or use one from the store (about 2 tablespoons of seedless tamarind paste).
  • Oil – I have used olive oil for this recipe. It is loaded with healthy fats and is a perfect choice. In place of olive oil, use melted vegan butter. It’s really delectable!

How To Make Indian Sambar?

  1. Wash and soak yellow lentils.
  2. Boil lentils with salt and turmeric.
  3. Add in veggies, tamarind water, jaggery, and all the spices.
  4. Cook on low flame until veggies are done.
  5. Prepare a concoction, heat some oil, and add paprika.
  6. Pour hot oil on the sambar and enjoy with steamed rice and dosa.

How To Serve Sambar?

It is typically served with steaming rice, medu vadai, dosa, idli, or uttapam. Sambar’s consistency can be adjusted and served with any food you’re making. Idli, dosa, and medu vada are served with sambar having a slightly thin consistency. Sambar is typically served with steaming rice and has a consistency between medium to thick.

Storage and Leftovers

Sambar should only be kept in the fridge for one day. After cooling, its consistency will thicken slightly. Add some water, stir until you get the consistency you want, and heat it up in a pan.

Expert Tips To Make The Best Sambar

If you use some of the helpful advice I’ve provided below, you can make sambar that is incredibly flavorful and delicious.

  • Cooking vegetables: Vegetables should always be cooked until they are tender yet whole. They shouldn’t break or turn to mush. So, add vegetables that cook more slowly when cooking. Avoid overcooking or undercooking them.
  • Tamarind: Sambar’s tamarind tang is one of my favorite flavors. So, I like to use a lot of it because my family also likes dishes that are tangier.

However, you can certainly reduce the quantity to suit your tastes. If you like more tanginess, add it; if you prefer less sourness, decrease it.

  • Consistency: Adjust the dish’s consistency so that it is the way you prefer. Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency, or less water if you prefer a thicker yet pourable consistency.

Be careful not to add too much water as well. Or otherwise, to achieve the desired flavor and taste in this situation, you might need to add extra sambar powder.

  • Lentil quality: Always use fresh, high-quality yellow lentils. Fresher dal tastes better and cooks more quickly. Lentils can be soaked for an hour prior to cooking for a faster cooking time. Use lentils that aren’t polished for the best flavor and nutrition.

Sambar Variations

Sambar can be made in a variety of ways. Every region of southern India has its own version, from the use of oil to the number and types of spices included in the recipe

  • Use any of the following oils: coconut oil, sesum oil peanut oil, or refined oil.
  • In Tamil Nadu, gingelly, another name for sesame oil, is utilized. Gingelly oil is produced from unroasted sesame seeds and has a flavor and taste that are very distinct from Asian-style toasted sesame oil. Coconut oil is widely utilized in Kerala.
  • In this recipe, I did not include any green chiles. You can utilize it as much as you like or skip it entirely. There isn’t really a set rule.

My Other Favorite Indian Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Other Types of Vegetables?

The addition of veggies to the sambar dish adds yet another taste and flavor factor. So the flavor will vary based on the sort of veggies used. Personally, I prefer a mix of eggplant, okra, radish, peas, cauliflower, ash gourd, pumpkin, shallots, potatoes, or carrots.

What Does Sambar Taste Like?

Sambar’s flavor varies with ingredients used, like in Karnataka where jaggery is added to sambar powder for a subtle sweet taste. Pigeon pea lentils, such as tur dal, arhar dal, and tuvar dal, are commonly used to make sambar.

What Are The Best Lentils To Make Sambar?

Tur dal has historically been used to make sambar (pigeon pea lentils or arhar dal).

Sambhar can be made using any type of lentil, including masoor dal or moong dal (yellow or orange).

You can also use a mixture of tur and masoor dal. I occasionally also prepare mine using simply mung dal.

Another option is to combine moong dal with tuvar dal.

Whole moong beans and black-eyed beans are also used in some variants.

Why Is Sambar So Good?

Foods high in fiber are healthy for cholesterol and the heart. Iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium are among the vitamins and minerals that the dal-based stew is rich in. Sambar is good for you not only because it has lentils and vegetables, but also because it has a wide range of herbs and spices.

How Many Types Of Sambar Are There?

Some recipes include coconut-based paste or powder, like Arachuvitta Sambar and Kerala Style Varutharacha. Mysore Sambar and Udupi Sambar are famous varieties of Sambar from Karnataka, India.

Overlay of sambar in a saucepan

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indian sambar in a silver pot on grey background

Indian Sambar

Sambar is a well-known classic lentil dish made with vegetables, tamarind water, and Indian spice powder. It is a great side dish that is often served with south Indian breakfasts and dinners. South Indian dishes are incomplete without sambar.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entrée, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Indian sambar
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 242kcal


  • 1 cup yellow lentils soaked
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup mixed veggies (cabbage, eggplant, carrots, okra, peas, potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup tamarind pulp
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala


  • Rinse and soak the yellow lentils for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a pressure cooker or a pot, add the soaked lentils and 3 cups of water. Cook the lentils until they are soft and mushy. If using a pressure cooker, cook for 2 whistles.
  • Meanwhile, chop the mixed veggies into bite-sized pieces.
  • Heat the avocado oil in a pan and add the mixed veggies. Saute the veggies for 3-4 minutes until they are lightly browned.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water and salt to the veggies. Cover and cook the veggies until they are tender.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, add the cooked veggies to the pot.
  • Add the tamarind pulp, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala to the pot. Mix well.
  • Bring the Sambar to a boil and then let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until the flavors are well combined.
  • Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice and your favorite side dishes.
  • Enjoy your flavorful and healthy Sambar with yellow lentils and mixed veggies!


Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 619mg | Potassium: 597mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2577IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 4mg