Pepper Delight

Kerala Sambar / Mixed Vegetable Lentil Stew

Spicy & Tangy Stew with Yellow lentils, Tamarind and Mixed Vegetables! Sambar – A Hearty South Indian Delicacy…!!

As promised in my previous post, here is my Sambar recipe prepared in a typical Kerala style, which I know you all have been eagerly waiting for since my last post on how to make a Sambar powder. So before I deep dive into the recipe, let’s talk about Sambar! It’s a South Indian vegetable stew which is flavorful, spicy n tangy, & relished as a side with any meal of the day. Sambar is a favorite all over the country but is more of a staple food in South India, and is best savored with Dosa, Idli, or Rice.

Sambar is prepared with Yellow lentils, tamarind, spices and mixed vegetables. The tanginess which comes from the tamarind is one of the highlights of the dish, but in many versions tomato is preferred, or sometimes a mix of both. Just like any other popular dish, Sambar has been widely adapted to suit the local palate in terms of flavour, spice levels, and the available local ingredients. Within Kerala itself there are a few varieties, and this recipe is a traditional version without the use of coconut, which is how my family cooks at home. Take a look at the North Kerala version and you will sometimes find ground roasted coconut among its ingredients. Keralites prefer the non-sweet versions with a balance of spice and tanginess, whereas in other states like Karnataka & Andhra a sweeter version with sugar or jaggery is popular too.

So what are the ingredients?

  1. Spice mix: You can use my Homemade Sambar powder in this recipe, or prepare it then & there from scratch with a set of spices/ingredients (See Notes).
  2. Vegetables: Your options are endless and need not worry if some of them are not available locally, refer my notes.

Sambar is also one of the key dishes in a Sadya; which is Kerala’s biggest vegetarian feast served on auspicious occasions. In short, it is a one-stop shop powerhouse of healthy nutrients and proteins, perfect for a craving hungry belly. Enjoy this delicious feast, Happy Cooking!!!

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5 from 1 vote
Kerala Sambar/Mixed Vegetable Lentil Stew
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins

Spicy & Tangy Stew with Yellow lentils, Tamarind and Mixed Vegetables! Sambar - A Hearty South Indian Delicacy…!! 

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6
Author: Akhila
  • ½ cup toor dal (split pigeon pea / tuvara parippu)
  • 1 medium sized onion (sliced into cubes)
  • 2 green chilies (slit)
  • 2 cups of mixed vegetables (see notes)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp sambar powder
  • tamarind extract (squeezed from a lemon sized ball)
For tempering
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2-3 dry red chillies
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 pearl onions (sliced)
  • 1 tsp asafetida (hing / kayam)
  1. Wash and slice the mixed vegetables and onion into medium sized chunks.
  2. Into the pressure cooker, add toor dal, mixed vegetables, onions, green chilies, salt, turmeric powder, sambar powder, along with water enough to cover the vegetables, and cook for 2 whistles.
  3. Switch off the flame and allow it to cool until all the pressure had been released.
  4. In the meantime, soak tamarind in ½ cup warm water for 5-7 minutes. Squeeze out the extract from the tamarind and keep the juice aside.
  5. Remove the lid from the cooker and turn on the heat to a medium flame. Add the tamarind juice and mix well, adjust the salt level as needed. Simmer on a low flame until the sambar thickens to the right consistency.
  6. While the sambar cooks, prepare the tempering in a separate pan. Add oil to the pan on a low/medium flame and splutter mustard seeds. Add pearl onions, curry leaves and dry red chilies, fry for a minute. Turn off the flame and add asafetida, stir to mix. Now pour the tempering into the cooker and mix the sambar well.
  7. Serve hot with dosa, idli or as a side dish along with rice.
  1. Vegetable options : Potato, Yam, Carrot, Drumsticks, Yellow Cucumber, Snake gourd, Bottle gourd, Ivy gourd, Okra, Onions/Pearl onions.
  2. The tanginess of the sambar can be adjusted by adding tamarind or tomato, or even a mix of both.
  3.  If the asafetida you are using is grainy and not the powdered one, saute it for a few seconds along with the tempering ingredients.
  4.  Even if you do not have sambar powder, you can still make a good sambar. In addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe, add the following to the cooker before pressure cooking:
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp asafetida (hing/kayam)
  • Fenugreek powder (small pinch)