Kerala Style Sambar / Lentil based Spicy Vegetable Soup


by: Seena Koshy

Sambar, every South Indian’s weakness!! Isn’t it? My husband is a core fan of kerala style sambar. He will eat four or five idlis and a full bowl of sambar for a breakfast!! ? Because of that reason once in a while I make this dish. I remember in Delhi, Bangalore and other cities people visit South Indian restaurants to drink sambar. Some restaurants in Bangalore serve three or four idlis in a sambar bowl with a spoon. ? Kerala sambar is made with so many vegetables where as in some parts of South India, they use only one vegetable for sambar. It’s a healthy accompaniment with rice and a good option to make kids eat some vegetables. I had been waiting since long to make this dish one day for my blog, but all veggies were not available, especially yam / chena. My in-laws sent yam / chena and my mom sent good quality fresh chembu / coclocasia from her garden when my husband returned after his last India visit. ? My sambar recipe is an adapted recipe and the author is Mrs. K M Mathew. This recipe I have learned from the Pachaka Rani Recipe book of Mrs. K M Mathew which I got as a wedding gift. This is one of the recipes I have learned by heart after my marriage. Since then I have not altered the recipe. Why should I change it since that recipe is a perfect one and it satisfies our taste buds? I don’t have that recipe book with me now. I made this last week and was so happy with the outcome. There are number of ways one can prepare sambar. The procedure will not be the same in every part of Kerala and in India. Every family has their own way of making sambar. But since I am happy with this recipe, the basic sambar recipe I am not planning to change. I know that learning how to make sambar would be one of the initial recipes any South Indian newly wedded bride go for immediately after her wedding.. I am sure that my sambar recipe will be helpful for all newbies.. Sambar is one of the main traditional vegetarian feasts, ‘sadya’ dishes for festivals like Onam and Vishu, served on plantain leaves. It brings so many nostalgic memories.. Sadya always displays the splendour of cooking skills. As a child, I loved it and still love to see and have so many colourful dishes around the plantain leaves. Sambar’s place is not on the sides of the plantain, but on the top of rice which is served on the middle of the plantain leaf. We use so many different vegetables to make sambar, like drumstick (muringakka), ladies finger (vendakka), raw banana (pachakka), brinjal (vazhuthananga), potato (urulakizhangu), pumpkin (mathanga), onion (ulli), tomato (thakkali), elephant yam (chena), beans (French payaru), cluster beans (kothamara), cucumber (vellari), colocasia (chembu), carrot etc.. etc.. ? Each vegetable gives us a unique taste and flavour. We use Sambar Powder to give sambar it’s authentic taste. I used readymade sambar powder to make sambar. One can make sambar powder at home too. It’s a mixture of chilly powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and fenugreek powder. I would be adding the recipe of ‘how to make homemade sambar powder’ later. This sambar recipe will be good for all house wives, bachelors, spinsters and working women who wants to finish cooking fast in the busy morning hours. . This sambar can be done in 15 or 20 minutes if you plan it in advance and do all the necessary arrangements. Some people have the habit of storing cooked dal (lentil) in the freezer. In such case, just before cooking sambar, you can keep it in the room temperature for minimum 2 hours. OMG, just now I saw an article about using Ajino Moto (MSG –Mono Sodium Glutamate) in the sambar and biriyanies in restaurants!! If the taste of sambar is not good, their sales will go down. Owners of the restaurants admit it!! Here comes the recipe of Kerala Style Sambar.


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serves: 4

Cook Lentils:

1/2 cup Toor Dal (pigeon peas spilt & skinned)

1/4 cup Masoor Dal (pink lentil)

2 cups Water

1 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder

Vegetables I used:

3 Ladies Finger

2 Drumstick

2 Carrot

1 Raw Banana

1 small Yam – piece,

1/2 medium Cucumber – of one sized,

French Beans – few,

Cluster Beans – few ,

1 Potato –

Jack Fruit Seeds – few,

1 Onion –

1 Taro (Chembu) -

1 Raw Mango – (I didn’t use tamarind paste)

1 tsp Or Tamarind paste

Salt – to taste

Sambar Masala:

2 tbsp Sambar Powder

1 tbsp Kashmiri Chilly Powder

3/4 tbsp Corriander Powder

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds powder

For Seasoning / tadkka:

2 tbsp Coconut Oil –

1 tsp Mustard Seeds –

1 tsp Cumin Seeds –

3 Shallots (kunjulli), sliced-

1 Green Chilly, slit –

1 or 2 Red Chilly Broken

4 leaves Curry – sprigs

3 pinches Asafoetida powder –

Nutrition Facts
Kerala Style Sambar / Lentil based Spicy Vegetable Soup

Servings Per Recipe: 4

Amount per Serving

Calories: 364

  • Total Fat: 9.3 g
  •     Saturated Fat: 6.5 g
  •     Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 18.2 mg
  • Sodium: 720.5 mg
  • Total Carbs: 65.4 g
  •     Dietary Fiber: 13.1 g
  •     Sugars: 21.3 g
  • Protein: 9.7 g

how is this calculated?

Download Nutrition Facts Widget Code


1.  Wash and chop all desired veggies in to I" pieces.

2.  Wash dal several times and Pressure Cook both lentils / dals in a pressure cooker by adding the ingredients given under section ‘cook lentils’ for 2 or 3 whistles on medium flame. Remove from heat and let it cool down.

3.  When the pressure goes off, transfer it to a mixer bowl and grind it to ensure the consistency of a thick soup. Keep it aside.

4.  Take another heavy bottom wide pan and add 5 cups of water. Half Cook Carrot and potato first.

5.  Add more boiling water to this and add the rest of the veggies to this as per the time required for cooking each vegetable. Cover with a lid and cook for few minutes. After the veggies are half cooked add little salt.

6.  Now in a bowl take all the ingredients given under the section, ‘Sambar Masala’. Mix it well with a spoon. Take few spoons of vegetable broth from the pan and mix it well without forming lumps. Add this masala to the veggies. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

7.  Next add the tamarind paste and mix well. (Remember, I didn’t add this since I had raw mangoes and I love its taste in sambar)

8.  Add the ground or mashed dal and mix it well to blend the dal with water. Let it come to a boil. Remove from heat. Do a salt check and add if required.

9.  Heat oil in another small pan. Add mustard seeds. When it crackles, add cumin seeds. When it begin to sizzles, add sliced shallots and fry till it gets golden colour. Add slit green chilly and broken red chillies. Add curry leaves and mix well till it turns crispy.

10.  Do a salt check as per your taste

11.  Switch off the heat, remove from the stove and add asafoetida / hing powder. Mix well.

12.  Pour this seasoning in to the sambar. Mix it for a while. Close the lid immediately.

13.  Your yummy and aromatic Kerala Style Sambar is ready to be served.

14.  This sambar is good with Idli, Dosa, vada, Rice etc. In fact sambar is so essential with these dishes.

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