Sambhar Recipe (Indian Soup)

Sambhar Recipe (Indian Soup) Recipe

Sambhar is a South Indian dish made of toor dal, vegetables, turmeric powder, curry leaves, tamarind, cinnamon sticks, whole dried red chiles, cilantro, roasted coriander seeds and other Indian spices. It resembles a soup; and is often served alongside idli (rice cakes) or dosa (Indian crêpe).

To make my version of sambhar, I start by boiling toor dal with a lot of vegetables, such as Indian eggplant, drumsticks, okra, carrots, turnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes or Idaho potatoes and tomatoes, shallots and onions. Then I let the vegetables simmer until the lentils are cooked through.

If you’ve ever had sambhar at an Indian restaurant and wanted to make it at home, now you can. It’s very easy, healthy and filling.

Drumstick Recipe with Picture


Yields: 8 servings

1 cup toor dal, pre-cooked
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon red chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers
1 teaspoon jaggery, grated
6 dried red chiles, stemmed
½ cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons salt
5 fresh drumsticks, cut into 3"-pieces
1 cup pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
8 pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
2 tomatoes, blanched and chopped
6 curry leaves, torn in half
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic


Create a 2-inch incision in the fresh whole chile peppers. Note: remember not to rub your eyes after touching jalapeño peppers.

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the pearl onions and curry leaves. Once the leaves start popping (after about 2 minutes), add all the vegetables, turmeric powder, cinnmon, jaggery, 2 dried red chiles, fresh green chiles and red chili powder. Add 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1-½ teaspoons of salt half-way through the cooking process and keep stirring every now and then. Add the tamarind concentrate.

Transfer one third of the amount of cooked lentils into the bowl of an immersion blender. Coarsely blend the mixture and add all the (puréed and whole) lentils into the pot. Depending on how thick you like sambhar, you can add up to 2 cups of boiling water. Adjust seasoning and cook for an additional10 minutes over low-heat.

You might add more water if you like it thinner.

Coarsely chop the garlic (I cut each clove into four pieces).

This step is called baghar: When you're ready to serve, melt the ghee in a small saucepan, add the garlic pieces, cumin seeds, 4 dried red chiles and mustard seeds. Cook until the garlic darkens and the oil starts splattering. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to the sambhar. Cover the soup with a lid to preserve the nice fragrance.

Serve hot with idlis or dosa on the side.

Bon appétit!

Sambhar Recipe with Picture


Toor dal (also known as "split pigeon peas") can be found in any Asian or Indian stores.

toor dal picture

For a faster coking time, I pre-cook the lentils in a pressure cooker.

Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead.

Ghee Indian Clarified Butter Picture

Baghar is a very common step toward the end of cooking in many Indian dishes. I use a small 0.3-quart saucepan that I use exclusively for baghar.

I used pumpkin but you could use other vegetables that are in season such as carrots, okra or Indian eggplants.

Drumsticks (pictured above) are not the most glamorous vegetables to eat; they're very fibrous and like a real drumstick, you have to suck on them to get the edible part out (and discreetly discard the rest).

You can get all the ingredients listed in any Indian markets.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on November 8, 2010.


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