Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup)

July 19th, 2011 filed under Dal (Lentils), Gluten Free, Vegan
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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.

Serve 4.


  • 1/2 cup toor dal/arhar dal available in any Indian grocery store
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)

For Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seed (methi)
  • 1/4 teaspoon 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 tablespoons tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sambar powder, available in any Indian grocery store


  1. Wash and soak the dal in two cups of water for ten minutes or longer.
  2. In a pressure cooker combine soaked dal with 2½ cups of water, salt, and turmeric. Cook over medium high heat.
  3. When the pressure cooker starts to steam, reduce the heat to medium and cook for another six minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and wait until steam has escaped before opening the pressure cooker. Dal should be soft and mushy.
  5. 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. Cover the 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.

If you enjoyed the recipe for Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup), here are more great recipes you should try from Manjula's Kitchen.

37 Responses to “Sambar (Spicy Lentil Soup)”

  1. [...] The Sambar recipe can be found here: Sambar [...]

  2. isha.gini says:

    Auntie Ji, thanks so much for all the kind work you do. The Sambar is exactly what I fell in love with at the Ashram. Just wonderful. So many more things to try, you have given me the tools to cook like I was born Indian. Again thanks so much Manjula, the hard work you do is beyond words.

  3. omchick says:

    This is a delicious recipe. Thank you for inspiring me to make more fabulous Indian food.

  4. [...] for is as follows (Link: Recipe will serve [...]

  5. Dee Randall says:

    I have a Fagor pressure cooker that looks like the one you are using; it is the smaller 4 qt. size, and the other piece is an 8 qt.

    My husband thinks it is a larger one; can you clear this up for me.

    I am happy to see that you did not (or I did not see you do it on screen) oil the rubber gasket. I have been afraid not to oil it because the beans foam so much. But your beans seem to work fine. Can you tell me if you did oil the gasket.

  6. Joel says:

    Thanks for the awesome & fun to follow recipes. It worked great.

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