Sambar is a staple food in Southern India, an everyday food. It is a spicy lentil soup to accompany idli, dosa, vadai or uttapam and is full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Usually sambar is made with split pigeon peas (toor dal) although this recipe is with split black gram (urad dal) and Chana Dal. The history of sambar is somewhat fascinating. It is said to have originated in the kitchen of Thanjavur Maratha ruler Shahuji. Shahuji while trying to make a dish called Amti, experimented with toor dal instead of moong dal and tamarind extract in place of kokum. The court named it ‘sambhar‘ after the guest of the day, the Marathi ruler Shivaji’s son Sambhaji. Sambaru Padartha in Kannada, the language of Karnataka means a ‘mix of spices & condiments’. There are more than 50 varieties of sambar today. The Thanjavur dish has no onion and garlic and sambar is different in Karnataka compared to Tamil Nadu. While dry powders are used in Tamil Nadu, in Karnataka, wet pastes are generally used. An interesting blend of Marathi and Jain traditions forms the foundation of milk sambar or Salina Saaru, cooked either with milk or coconut milk. One can agree that however sambar is made, is it an absolute delicious dish. Have you tried it yet? @sarchakra

PREP TIME: 10 mins

COOK TIME: 40 mins

YIELDS: Serves 5


  • Chana Dal ½ cup
  • Urad dal (split black gram) ½ cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Turmeric 2 tsp
  • Sambar powder 3 tbsp (see below)
  • Tamarind powder 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder 2 tsp
  • Jaggery 1 tsp
  • Onion 1, small, chopped
  • Tomato 1, chopped
  • Jalapeño 1, chopped into rings
  • Baby Carrots a few, chopped
  • Coriander 2 tbsp, freshly chopped


  • Rinse dal. Cook in the pressure cooker with 3 cups of water with salt and turmeric. Let the pressure release by itself.
  • Put cooked Dal in the deep pan. Put in 2 cups of water. Add the onion, tomato and carrots. Add sambar powder and adjust seasoning. Add turmeric and red chili powder.
  • Mix tamarind powder and jaggery in a bowl with ½ a cup of warm water. Add into the sambar.
  • Let it simmer for 10-15 mins.
  • Add chopped coriander.


  • Mustard seeds 1 tsp
  • Whole red chilies 2-3
  • Ghee 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaf a small handful

Heat ghee. Sauté mustard seeds, whole red chilies and curry leaves. Cook till aromatic. Pour tadka on sambar.

Sambar Masala

  • ¼ cup coriander seeds (dhaniya)
  • 2 tbsps toor dal (pigeon split peas)
  • 2 tbsps chana dal (split Bengal gram)
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds (rai)
  • handful of curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorn (kali mirch)
  • 10 whole red chiles (adjust to your spice level)
  • 1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 2 tsps cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 2 tbsps urad dal
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafetida)


  • Use a thick bottomed pan to make this masala. 
  • First dry roast the chana dal and urad dal. Keep aside. 
  • Next add the whole red chilies. Sauté. 
  • Add coriander seeds. Add in methi seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Let the curry leaves turn crisp. 
  • Add cumin seeds and peppercorn. Cook till aromatic. Turn the heat off. 
  • Put in turmeric and asafetida to the mix and stir. 
  • Let the mixture cool down completely. Blend into a powder. Store any leftovers in an airtight jar. 
  • Make sure to keep the flame low so nothing burns. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.