Sambar is an Indian lentil stew originating from the southern part of India. It is a very popular and versatile dish served with rice and lentil dishes like idli, dosa, uttapam, and upma.
It is made with toor dal or split pigeon peas, spices, and a variety of vegetables and can be had just like a soup when you are under the weather. The sambar masala powder gives the unique flavor to the dish.
The base of sambar is toor dal, also known as split pigeon peas lentil in English. I have made it without soaking the dal but you can also soak it for about 30 minutes before cooking.
A variety of vegetables like carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, ash gourd, bottle gourd, and pumpkin are added to make this lentil stew flavorful and nutritious. For garnishing, top the dal with some onion greens.
Spices like red chili powder, turmeric powder, and sambar masala gives this stew its unique taste along with the sourness of tamarind paste and sweetness from jaggery. Sambar masala powder is available in the Indian grocery stores and I like the MDH brand the most and my second best choice is Everest brand.
For the tadka or tempering, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dry whole red chili are used. You can use dry whole red chili or green chilies for spiciness and adjust it as per taste.
Depending on the preference, you can add more water to adjust the consistency of sambar once cooked. I have used a total of 5.5 cups of water for 1 cup of dry toor dal.
Sambar is easy to make in the instant pot. All the vegetables can be pressure cooked along with the dal and spices to make this delicious lentil stew. However, you will not get a very smooth consistency of the sambar.
The pot in pot method works well as you can cook the dal in the instant pot liner and the vegetables in a small pot placed on a trivet.
Rinse the dal thoroughly well 2-3 times. There is no need to soak it before pressure cooking. Put the dal in the instant pot liner and add turmeric powder, water, red chili powder, and sambar masala powder.
In the small pot, add all the vegetables including tomato, eggplant, carrots, and drumsticks. If you are using fresh drumsticks, cut them into a size of about 3 inches. I have used the frozen ones and rinsed them before using.
Add some salt, sambar masala powder, and water to the veggies and cover it with a lid. Place the small pot on a trivet inside the liner with the dal.
Close and lock the lid with the pressure release knob in the sealing position. Cook on high-pressure mode for 12 minutes followed by natural pressure release. You can also release the pressure manually after 10 minutes of natural pressure release.
Take out the small pot and the trivet from the instant pot. With an immersion blender, blend the dal to a smooth consistency. Mix all the veggies into the dal from the small pot and some onion greens and give it a mix. Add some more water to adjust the consistency and turn the saute mode on.
In a tempering spoon or a small pan, heat some oil. Once it is hot, add some mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Add the curry leaves and a whole red chili.
Pour this tadka into the sambar and continue to cook on saute mode for a few minutes until most of the foam is gone. Any remaining foam can be removed using a spoon.
Toor dal or split pigeon peas lentils are used to make sambar. However, if you don't have it, you can make it with yellow split moong dal or red lentils called masoor dal.
I have used tamarind paste which is easily available in the Indian grocery stores. But if you don't have the paste you can also add some lemon juice after the sambar is ready.
This mixed vegetable sambar is vegan and gluten-free. You can make a few changes to suit your taste and liking.
Vegetables - small pearl onions, okra, ash gourd, bottle gourd, and pumpkin can be added to sambar. You can also make it with just one vegetable if you like.
Spicy - depending on how spicy you like, you can adjust the amount of red chili powder. You can also add some serrano pepper.
Sweet - some people like to add jaggery to make the sambar sweet while some don't prefer it. It is completely optional to add jaggery. If you want it a little sweet but don't have jaggery then you can add some sugar as well.
Sambar is eaten with rice or south Indian delicacies like idli, dosa, appam, and upma. It is usually served in a bowl as a side with them. Some people also like to dip the idli in the sambar completely and then eat it. It is also served in some restaurants that way.
Sambar can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it for a month in freezer-friendly zip lock bags or containers.
Frozen sambar can be defrosted in the microwave. You can also keep the container with sambar in the fridge overnight for defrosting. It can then be reheated in a saucepan, instant pot, or microwave.
You can also store cooked toor dal in the instant pot and store it in the fridge or freezer. When you want to make sambar, reheat it and get it to a desired consistency by adding more water. Cook the vegetables separately and add them to the dal along with the spices and finally add the tempering.
How do you fix bland sambar?
If the sambar is bland, add some sambar masala powder and cook it for a few more minutes on the saute mode in the instant pot. You can also adjust the salt and tamarind paste to your taste.
How can I thicken my sambar?
If sambar is runny because you added more water by mistake then you can continue to boil it for a few minutes on the saute mode until it reaches a desired consistency.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like
- Panchmel dal
- Chana dal
- Spinach dal
- Chana masala (chole)
- Kala chana (black chickpeas curry)
- Mixed beans curry
- Green moong dal
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Instant Pot Sambar
For instant pot liner
- 1 cup Toor Dal
- 4 cup Water
- 1 teaspoon Tamarind paste
- 1 tablespoon Jaggery (optional)
- ½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 ½ tablespoon Sambar powder
- ½ teaspoon Red chili powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Salt (to taste)
Pot in pot ingredients
- 1 large Tomato (chopped)
- 1 cup Carrot (large, diced)
- 1 cup Eggplant (cubed)
- 10 pieces Drumstick vegetable (fresh or frozen)
- ½ tablespoon Sambar powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ cup Water
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
- 1 count Whole Red Chili
- 8-10 count Curry leaves
To be added later
- 1 cup Water (or more if needed)
- Rinse toor dal in water 2-3 times and discard the water.
- Add all the ingredients listed in "for instant pot liner" to the instant pot liner.
- Add all the ingredients listed in "for pot in pot ingredients" to a small pot.
- Cover the small pot with a lid and place it in the instant pot liner over a trivet.
- Lock the lid with pressure knob in sealing position.
- Pressure cook on high pressure mode for 12 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then release the remaining pressure manually.
- Open the lid and take out the small pot and the trivet from the instant pot.
- With an immersion hand blender, blend the dal into a smooth liquid.
- Add 1 cup water or more if needed.
- Turn the saute mode on.
- Add all the cooked vegetables from the small pot into the dal and give it a mix.
- For the tempering, add oil in a tempering spoon.
- Once the oil is hot, add the red chili, mustard seeds, and curry leaves and allow the mustard seeds to crackle.
- Add the tempering to the sambar and give it a mix.
- Allow the sambar to cook on the saute mode for about 5 minutes.
- Add more sambar powder if needed.
- Discard any foam from the top of the dal.
- Cancel saute mode, add more salt if needed.
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