Vegetable sambar

From breakfast to tiffin, sambar plays a vital role. It is a must accompaniment for popular South Indian breakfast like Idli, Dosa, Vada and many more. Even during lunchtime, sambar is served with rice. There are a variety of sambar recipes, few of which I have already shared. This one I am sharing here is the mixed vegetables sambar.

I love to add small onions (kunjili or shallots or sambar onions) to my sambar because of its sweet taste. It gives a distinct flavour to the sambar. In this mixed vegetables sambar, you can add any vegetables you like carrot, drumstick, okra, radish, potato, cucumber, chow chow, pumpkin, brinjal and/or any vegetables you like. This time I have served the mixed vegetables sambar and Idli along with tomato and mint chutneys.

Preparation time: 10 mins (excluding soaking dal)

Cooking time: 40 mins

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Spiciness: Medium

Serves: 5 to 6


    For sambar masala paste

  1. Oil – 1 tsp
  2. Shallots - 7
  3. Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  4. Chana dal (Bengal gram) – 1 tsp
  5. Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  6. Dry chillies (long) – 4
  7. Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp
  8. Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  9. Grated coconut – 5 to 6 tbsp
  10. For boiling dal

  11. Toor dal (arhar dal/split pigeon peas) – 1/2 cup
  12. Water – 2 1/2 cups
  13. Oil – 1 tsp
  14. For boiling vegetables

  15. Water – 3 cups
  16. Drumstick - 1
  17. Brinjal – 3
  18. Carrot – 1
  19. Okra – 1/2 cup
  20. Tomatoes (big) – 2
  21. Gur (jaggery) – 3 tsp
  22. Coriander leaves (chopped) – 1/3 cup
  23. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  24. Dry Tamarind - medium lemon size
  25. Tadka (Tempering)

  26. Sesame Oil (Nalla ennai) – 3 tbsp
  27. Hing (asafoetida) – a big pinch
  28. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  29. Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  30. Dry chillies - 4
  31. Curry leaves – 15
  32. Shallots (kunjili) – 15
  33. Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp


  1. Soak dry tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for about 20 mins and extract its juice. Keep it ready. Use tamarind water as per your taste.
  2. Chop the vegetables according to the size you want and keep aside. I have sliced the brinjal to medium sized pieces and cut drumstick into 3-4 inch size.
  3. Chop coriander leaves and one tomato. Slice the other tomato. Keep them ready.
  4. Peel small onions (kunjili or sambar onions) and keep aside whole. Split the ones that are attached.
  5. Boiling dal

  6. Wash and soak dal for 30 mins. Boil dal in a pressure cooker with water and 1 tsp of oil. Cook until the dal is soft and mushy. Mash it well with a big round spoon or dal masher. Keep aside. Do not add salt while cooking dal.
  7. Roasting and grinding for sambar masala

  8. Heat a pan or tava and add 1 tsp of oil (roasting can be done even without oil). Add all the spices (except grated coconut) and saute for a few mins at a low flame until the spices change colour and turns golden brown. While roasting, you can smell the aroma and flavour of spices. Switch off the flame. Transfer to a bowl and keep aside.
  9. Saute shallots separately or in the same pan. Fry until transparent and is light brown in colour.
  10. Allow to cool and add all the roasted ingredients along with shallots and grated coconut to the mixer or grinder. Grind to a slightly coarse paste.
  11. Tadka (Tempering) and cooking vegetables

  12. Heat a wide vessel and add oil when hot. Add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add cumin seeds, methi seeds, dry chillies and curry leaves including shallots and hing. Saute until the shallots change their colour to light brown or transparent.
  13. Now add all the vegetables, including chopped tomato (1) and cook for 2 mins.
  14. Now add turmeric powder. Keep the flame low at this stage to avoid burning. Add one cup of tamarind water (tamarind extract) and two cups of water immediately. Cook for about 12 to 15 mins with closed lid.
  15. When the vegetables are cooked and the rawness of tamarind has gone, add the ground paste and one cup of water. Mix well and add salt (check the seasoning). Let it cook for about 5 mins.
  16. When the paste and the vegetables are mixed properly, add the remaining sliced tomato and mix well. When it starts to boil, let it boil for about 5 mins.
  17. Add dal, 1/2 cup water, gur (jaggery) and coriander leaves. Mix well. Boil for about 3 mins and then simmer for about 10 mins with closed lid. If it becomes thick, you can add a little water again according to the consistency you are looking for.
  18. When the sambar is cooked, you can smell the aroma. Stir the sambar occasionally so that it does not stick to the bottom of the vessel. The consistency of the sambar should not be very thick or thin.
  19. Serve sambar with idli, rice or dosa with a drizzle of ghee on top.


  1. You can add any vegetables you like including raw mango. If you are using raw mango, you need to adjust the sourness as tamarind is also present.
  2. The dry chillies I used are medium hot. Adjust quantity according to taste.
  3. Instead of dry tamarind, you can use 1 1/2 tsp of tamarind paste (concentrated) and 1 cup extra water or according to your taste.
  4. While tempering you can use sesame oil also known as Gingelly oil or Nalla Ennai in Tamil, ghee, vegetable or sunflower oil. Do not use the sesame oil used in Chinese cooking.
  5. When sambar gets cold, it becomes thick. When reheating just add some water to bring it to the consistency you want.