Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup) (2024)


December 9, 2023Dal (Lentils), Gluten Free, VeganManjula Jain

Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup)

Sambar is a flavorful spicy South Indian lentil soup made with a variety of vegetables. It fits nicely with many South Indian meals, including dosas (pancakes), idlis (savory cakes), and rice. It could be said that a South Indian meal is incomplete without sambar.

Print Recipe

Course dal

Cuisine Indian

Servings 4 people


  • 1/2 cup toor dal/arhar dalavailable in any Indian grocery store
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tbsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/8 tbsp fenugreek seed (methi)
  • 1/4 tbsp mustard seeds (rai)
  • Pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 4 dry whole red chilies
  • 1 large tomato cubed in small pieces
  • 1-½ cups mixed vegetables, cute into bite-size cubes (green beans, carrots, zucchini, radishes)
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sambar powder, available in any Indian grocery store


  • Wash and soak the dal in two cups of water for ten minutes or longer.

  • In a pressure cooker combine soaked dal with 2½ cups of water, salt, and turmeric. Cook over medium high heat.

  • When the pressure cooker starts to steam, reduce the heat to medium and cook for another six minutes.

  • Turn off the heat and wait until steam has escaped before opening the pressure cooker. Dal should be soft and mushy.

  • Mix the dal well enough to remove lumps. If the dal is thick, add up to one cup of water.


Prepare Seasoning

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks immediately, the oil is ready.
  2. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida, red chilies, and curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, vegetables, sambar powder, tamarind pulp and ½ cup water.
  4. Coverthe pan and let the vegetables cook until they are tender over medium heat.
  5. Combine the vegetables and the dal to make the Sambar. Sambar should be thin, like soup. If the sambar is thick, add water as needed.
  6. Cook sambar on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Serve Sambar with dosa, idli, rice or with any meal as a side.

Keyword Dal

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How to make Sambar Masala: Sambar Recipe

Sambar is a quintessential South Indian dish that holds a cherished place in Indian cuisine. This sambar recipe is a delightful combination of sambar dal, vegetables, and aromatic spices, creating a flavorful and nutritious sambar masala. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to make sambar step by step, incorporating tips, variations, and benefits to elevate your culinary experience.

Tips for Perfecting Your Sambar Recipe

  • Use Fresh Ingredients: Opt for fresh spices, vegetables, and lentils to ensure the best flavor and texture in your sambar.
  • Balance the Flavors: Adjust the proportions of tamarind paste, jaggery, and salt to achieve the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and savoury notes in your sambar.
  • Experiment with Vegetables: Don’t hesitate to experiment with different combinations of vegetables to create unique variations of sambar tailored to your liking.
  • Temper with Care: Take care not to burn the spices while tempering, as it can impart a bitter taste to the sambar. Maintain medium heat and keep a close eye on the tempering process.
  • Allow for Resting Time: Let the sambar rest for a few minutes after cooking to allow the flavors to develop fully before serving.

Variations of Sambar

  • Mixed Vegetable Sambar: Incorporate a medley of seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, beans, and bell peppers for a colorful and nutritious twist on the classic sambar.
  • Tiffin Sambar: Prepare a thinner version of sambar specifically paired with idli, dosa, or vada, featuring a lighter consistency and a higher proportion of tamarind for tanginess.
  • Kadamba Sambar: This variation of sambar includes a diverse range of vegetables along with freshly ground spices, lending it a robust and hearty character ideal for special occasions.

Benefits of Including Sambar in Your Diet

  • Rich in Protein: Sambar is a rich source of protein due to the inclusion of lentils, making it a nourishing option for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Loaded with Vitamins and Minerals: The array of vegetables in sambar provides essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, promoting overall health and well-being.
  • Digestive Aid: The spices and herbs in sambar, such as cumin, fenugreek, and curry leaves, possess digestive properties that aid in digestion and alleviate digestive discomfort.
  • Low in Calories: Despite its hearty and satisfying nature, sambar is relatively low in calories, making it a guilt-free indulgence for those watching their calorie intake.
  • Boosts Immunity: The antioxidants present in the spices and vegetables in sambar help strengthen the immune system and protect the body against various infections and diseases.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) About Sambar

  • Can I make sambar without tamarind paste?

  • Yes, you can substitute tamarind paste with lemon juice or dried mango powder (amchur) for a tangy flavor in your sambar.
  • Is sambar gluten-free?

  • Yes, sambar is naturally gluten-free as long as no wheat-based ingredients such as asafoetida powder (hing) are used in the recipe. You can use gluten-free asafoetida or omit it altogether to ensure the dish is gluten-free.
  • Can I make sambar ahead of time?

  • Yes, you can prepare sambar in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or microwave before serving.
  • Can I freeze leftover sambar?

  • While it’s technically possible to freeze leftover sambar, the texture of the vegetables and lentils may change upon thawing, resulting in a slightly altered consistency. It’s best to consume fresh sambar for optimal taste and texture.

If you’re looking to explore more Indian recipes, appetizers, beverages, and desserts, be sure to check out the following links on Manjula’s Kitchen. Here are some links to recipes on Manjula’s Kitchen official website: Vegetable Pakoras, Kaju Katli (Cashew Burfi), Baingan Bharta (Roasted Eggplant), Matar (Green Peas) Paneer, Besan Ladoo.

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Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup) (2024)


Is sambar made of lentils? ›

Sambar is a South Indian stew made with lentils and vegetables. It is comforting, super flavorful and a staple in many homes across India. It is best when paired with dosas, idlis, appams or rice, which are all the perfect vehicle to mop up this amazing stew.

Why is sambar so good? ›

Sambar or Sambhar is a healthy and tasty mix of lentils and vegetables. Sambhar has various health benefits. It contains lentils, which are a significant source of Protein. Vegetables used in Sambhar are rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

How do you increase the taste of sambar? ›

Adding chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and asafoetida in equal proportions along with sambar powder would make the dish even more delicious. More than curry leaves, coriander leaves should be added in sambar to make it more flavoursome. In Kerala, curry leaves are more preferred than coriander leaves.

Is lentil soup the same as dal? ›

“Dal” has a double meaning: It is both the word for lentils and beans and the term for a thick purée or soup made from lentils.

Are Indian lentils healthy? ›

Indian Lentils are highly beneficial for human heart health. As it contains folic acid, fibers and potassium. If the human being is consuming a good amount of fiber then due to which it can reduce cholesterol. Essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients can be obtained just with the consumption of lentils.

Why is my sambar not tasty? ›

Using too much tamarind can make your sambar too sour. Add some jaggery, more sambar powder, red chilli powder and salt to bring down the sourness in sambar. The other option is to add more cooked and mashed dal. Also adjust the consistency by adding more water.

Should sambar be spicy? ›

No spices are added in is made out of Toor dal red grams,onians, tomatoes,a little lemon, few red chillies, you can add drumsticks, brinjal or ladies finger, salt as required, onions and tomatoes have to be half toasted in oil with two or three long red chillies. It won't be too hot.

Is sambar supposed to be spicy? ›

Sambhar is actually a spicy curry...

Is sambar inflammatory? ›

Research studies have cited that turmeric in sambhar have curcuminoids, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. And, curry leaves used in sambar are rich in powerful antioxidants, have anti- mutagenic potential and can protect us from various types of cancer.

Is sambar a laxative? ›

Vegetables of choice: The common seasonal vegetables which are usually included in the sambar are high in fibre, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and phytochemicals which prevents constipation, enhances the nutrient absorption, improves digestion.

What is sambar called in English? ›

Meaning of sambar in English

sambar. noun [ U ] uk/ˈsæm.bɑːr/ us/ˈsæm.bɑːr/ a dish made with lentils (= very small dried beans that are cooked and eaten) that is popular in South India and Sri Lanka: Serve the dosa with piping hot sambar and coconut chutney.

What is eaten with a sambar? ›

Sambar is a popular South Indian lentil soup served with rice, dosa, idli, uttapam, or vada. It is a vegetarian lentil-based soup flavored with tamarind, vegetables, and a super aromatic spice blend.

What is a good side dish for sambar? ›

Potato bonda, chilly bajji, onion pakoda, uddina vada and masala vada. And many more such as panner, rajma, dry grains fry would go well with sambar amd rice.

What is sambar made of? ›

Sambar is a South Indian stew made with lentils, mixed vegetables, tamarind, herbs, spices & a special aromatic spice powder known as sambar powder. This spice powder is the key to make a good sambar. A variety of spices & lentils are used to make this powder.

What Indian food is made from lentils? ›

Dal is probably the most essential staple dish in Indian cuisine. And it's one of the most magical and economical foods in the whole world. A handful of lentils, a few spices, and just a bit of TLC transforms into a pot of deliciousness that's nutritious and makes your tastebuds dance.

Is dal the same as lentils? ›

Basically, you need dal (lentil) to make dal (lentil soup). While you can make a dal out of any pulse, typically, the word “dal” only shows up in the name of a pulse if it is a split lentil. For example, chana dal = split chickpeas, whereas if I am referring to whole chickpeas, I would say chana or chole.

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