Easy Sambar (With Sambar Powder & No Coconut)

A very simple lentil and vegetable gravy using store bought Sambar powder…




I am looking at my home page and at the moment, I feel like I am no longer “The Big Sweet Tooth” because there is a savory recipe overload on the blog. 😀 But I guess, that is fine, till I finish whatever I am meant to be doing at the moment. Hehe… Usually I tend to keep two week gap between my BM posts but this time, I did ask for a few adjustments and here I am within a week. This week, the theme for the Blogging Marathon #138 is “A dish for each course of a meal”. Since sadya is a meal, I decided to continue with the recipes that I had kept specifically for this theme. I sometimes feel sambar from a store-bought sambar powder is a no-brainer, but I have noticed that most of the pouches do not give a proper recipe to follow. The instructions are vague and I guess it has to do with the limited amount of space on the pack. Since I am someone who cooks a lot of sambar for my afternoon meals, I decided to post it on the blog. I already have a few sambar recipes on the blog:

Varutharacha Sambar – with roasted coconut paste

Vengaaya Sambar – with only shallots, just so delicious!

Tiffin Sambar – made with freshly roasted spices

Instant Sambar – sambar which isn’t actually sambar but feels like sambar… 😉


Sambar is cooked in stages – cook the lentil with tomatoes and onion, cook the vegetables, mix both together with sambar powder and tamarind, and finally temper. Initially, I used to cook the lentils and vegetables together, however I stopped doing that since the vegetables started getting overcooked and would leave a gloopy mess. A few tips that I keep handy while making a sambar are:

  •  I always use precut sambar vegetables. If you do it yourself, try to stick to vegetables that cook similar and fast, like carrots, potatoes, yam, brinjal and drumsticks.
  • Toor dal is preferred as the lentil base, though many times I used masoor dal.
  • Tomatoes are optional. If you want a little extra tanginess to your sambar, you can use, or else you can skip it. I do add one small tomato. But if tomatoes go in, I only use a lime size pc of tamarind, otherwise I take a little more.
  • Whole shallots are always better than chopped onion. However, if using the latter, chop them as large pieces instead of thin slices.
  • Add a small piece of jaggery at the end. It just changes the game – totally balances out the tanginess and gives a delicious flavor to the sambar. But yes, just a tiny piece…
  • Try to stick to the same brand of sambar powder once you start liking one. Every sambar powder has its own taste and some are thicker than the other. I use Eastern and Nirapara brands usually, but it is totally upto your taste buds.
  • Sambar tastes best as it sits. It is best to give it enough time for the flavors to settle.
  • You can freeze leftover sambar for upto six weeks – successfully tried and tested. I can’t tell you how much a saver this is. 😉

I guess that is about it. Off to the recipe…




5 from 2 votes

Easy Sambar (With Sambar Powder & No Coconut)

Course Accompaniments
Cuisine Kerala
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
Author Rafeeda AR


  • 1/2 cup toor dal
  • 6-8 shallots peeled
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 350 gm mixed sambar vegetables gourd, brinjal, drumstick, yam
  • 1 lime pc tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sambar powder I used Nirapara brand
  • A small pc jaggery


  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida/ hing
  • 5-8 dried red chillies
  • 1 sprig curry leaves


  • In a pressure cooker, combine the toor dal, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, shallots and tomato. Add water just upto its level. Cook for one whistle. Allow the pressure to go by itself.
  • In a chatti (earthern pot), add the sambar vegetables with little salt and water upto its level. Bring it to boil and cook till almost done.
  • Pour in the prepared lentil mixture. Add the sambar powder. Squeeze in the tamarind juice - add more water if the tamarind still has its juice. Give a good mix.
  • Add the jaggery as well, and simmer for a few minutes till the flavors are done. Adjust seasoning and switch off.
  • For tempering, heat coconut oil. Splutter mustard seeds, add the rest of the ingredients. Fry briefly and add into the sambar.
  • Allow the sambar to rest till serving. The more it sits, the better it tastes.


Join the Conversation

  1. 5 stars
    I haven’t tried freezing sambar before, but now that you mention it, it is a good idea! Great tips to improve the flavor of the sambar Rafeeda!

  2. 5 stars
    I do freeze sambhar and rasam as well as curries for consumption on busy days. Sambhar is a saver to fix a meal quickly. This simple sambhar makes the meal most comforting. I agree that keeping the sambhar powder constant gives same results. Great share.

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