This Sambar recipe without coconut is a classic south-Indian mixed vegetable and lentil curry served with idly, dosa, vada or rice. And all that while still keeping the veggies intact. Yes, I know we all have been there with a pot of sambar with no sight of the vegetables you had added. Right? Let's fix that...
I had no plans to share a Sambar recipe because I believe the internet is full of it. But "Sambar" tops my search stats and dm requests. I am guessing because I always share my plate of lunch or breakfast on Stories. So here I am with a detailed sambar recipe using my homemade Sambar powder.
My sambar recipe without coconut is an easy and basic Tamil Nadu-style recipe.
- tuvar dal (pigeon peas)
- veggies: garlic, mini shallots or red onions, sambar veggies*, tomatoes, green chillies,
- ground spices: turmeric, red chilli, and sambar powder.
- ghee or coconut oil
- tamarind pulp
- mustard seeds
- curry leaves
- dried red chillies
See the recipe card for quantities.
*ready-to-use carrots, green beans, potato, yam, brinjal, gourds, drumsticks, okra, raw plantains, pumpkin, white radish, etc. I always buy the fresh Sambar veggies box from Lulu. If using okra (lady's finger), it is better to roast them in oil and add them in the end to prevent slimy sambar.
- Tamarind pulp: You may replace it with tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses (1 tbsp)
- Oil: You may use sesame oil aka gingelly oil or coconut oil instead of ghee
- mini shallots: You may replace it with 1 medium-sized red onion, sliced thinly
- You may replace Kashmiri chilli powder with a regular one or paprika if you cannot source.
- You may use store-bought sambar powder and add more or less as per pack instructions.
Sambar is traditionally made using Toor / Tuvar / Split Pigeon Peas. You may use a mix of tuvar dal and masoor dal.
Sambar is made with one or more vegetables like carrots, green beans, potato, yam, brinjal, gourds or winter melon, drumsticks, okra, raw plantains, pumpkin, and white radish. There may be more that I am not aware of. It can be daunting to go shopping for each vegetable when you need only one piece of each. So, I usually buy the ready-to-use sambar veg mix from Lulu. Some vegetable vendors will be happy to send your sambar veggies by weight... like you can ask for 1 kg of sambar veggies.
The taste of sambar depends on the mix of vegetables and lentils and the sambar powder or podi you have used. To improve the taste of an already cooked sambar, you may stir in more sambar powder or more tamarind extract, a little jaggery or just a knob of ghee. Don't forget the methi seeds in tempering, they impart a flavour too.
If you want to make your sambar thicker, you may add more cooked tuvar dal. To prevent a watery sambar, always include a few starchy vegetables like potatoes, yam and raw plantains. Taste and add more sambar powder as the powder has lentils, it will act as a thickener too. But do remember that lentil-based stews always get thicker as it sits.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Sambar Recipe without Coconut
- 1 Pressure cooker
- 1 Saucepot
For pressure cooking (boiling the lentils)
- ½ cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 pinch turmeric powder
- 1 ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon ghee
For tamarind extract
- 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
- ¼ cup hot water
For cooking sambar
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- ¼ cup mini shallots (pearl onions)
- 500 grams sambar vegetables (see post)
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 2 to 3 green chillies
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder
- 2 cups water to cover the veggies
- 21/2 tablespoon sambar powder
- 1 teaspoon jaggery optional
- Salt to taste
For Tempering (tadka)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 sprig of curry leaves
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- a pinch of hing
- 2 dried red chillies
- Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- curry leaves
- 2 green chillies
- 1 teaspoon ghee to be stirred in before serving
Wash and soak the tuvar dal
- Rinse the dal a couple of times until the water runs almost clear. Soak the lentils in enough water for at least 20 minutes.
- Add to a small pressure cooker along with garlic clove, turmeric and a smidge of ghee. Pressure cook for 10 minutes or 3 to 4 whistles on medium heat. Let the pressure release on its own. The cooked lentils should be cooked through and easily mashable with a spoon.
Prepare the tamarind extract
- Soak the tamarind pulp in hot water and keep covered until required or at least for 10 to 20 minutes.
Cook the veggies for sambar
- Heat some ghee in a deep thick bottomed saucepot. Saute the pearl onions or onions until translucent. To have the veggies retain their shape till the end, it is better to first add the vegetables that need more time to cook to give them a head start.
- Add the chopped vegetables, tomatoes, turmeric, red chilli, half of the sambar powder and salt. Stir the veggies on high flame for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour water just enough to cover the veggies and bring this to a full boil. Reduce the flame to medium and cook partially covered until the veggies are almost cooked.
- Check the veggies by poking a knife through the centre of a few pieces to make sure they are cooked. The veggies should not be hard.
- Stir in the tamarind extract through a strainer or squeeze using your hands and mix well. Stir in the remaining sambar powder and the pressure-cooked dal.
- Mix everything thoroughly, taste and adjust the flavours. ou may add more sambar powder, tamarind water, or jaggery to balance. Let it simmer on low to medium flame until the sambar comes to a boil. Switch off and move on to preparing the tempering.
Prepare the tempering (tadka)
- Heat ghee or any coconut oil in a small tadka pan on a low flame. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter.
- Next, add the curry leaves, methi seeds and hing and fry until the curry leaves are crisp.
- Switch off and add the dried red chillies and fry in the residual heat until they turn crisp. Pour this immediately into the pot of sambar, stir and cover the pot.
Serve and store Sambar
- Stir in the freshly chopped coriander leaves, curry leaves and a teaspoon of ghee before serving with steamed rice, idli, dosa, vada, etc.
- Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator for not more than 3 days.