Vengaya sambar

Vengaya sambar is a very popular sambar among other sambars prepared in Tamil Nadu. Chinna vengayam sambar/small onion sambar (also known as kunjili) is one of my favourite sambars and it goes well with any south Indian breakfast and also with plain rice with a drizzle of ghee. I always prepare as arachuvitta vengaya sambar. Arachuvitta sambar means (in Tamil) 'made with freshly ground spices'. You can prepare arachuvitta sambar with any vegetable you like, but small onions/shallots is a must for me. I enjoy mostly with hot idlies for breakfast or with plain rice for lunch with spicy potato fry or any spicy non-veg fry. Ghee is a must if it is breakfast or lunch with sambar. I have already shared a few vegetable sambar recipes and now it is the turn for vengaya sambar.

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 40 mins

Cuisine: Tamilnadu

Spiciness: Medium

Serves: 5 to 6


    For boiling dal

  1. Toor dal (arhar dal, split pigeon peas) – 1/2 cup
  2. Water – 2 1/2 cups
  3. Oil – 1 tsp
  4. For grinding

  5. Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  6. Chana dal (Bengal gram) – 2 tsp
  7. Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  8. Urad dal (black gram) – 1/2 tsp
  9. Dry chillies (long) – 5
  10. Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp
  11. Curry leaves – 10
  12. Coconut (grated) – 1/3 cup or 3 tbsp
  13. Shallots – 5
  14. Oil – 1 tsp
  15. Water – 1/3 cup
  16. For boiling vegetables

  17. Water – 3 cups
  18. Tomatoes (medium) – 2
  19. Coriander leaves (chopped) – 1/3 cup
  20. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  21. Dry Tamarind - medium lemon size
  22. Tadka (Tempering)

  23. Oil – 3 tbsp
  24. Hing (asafoetida) – a big pinch
  25. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  26. Dry chillies – 4
  27. Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
  28. Curry leaves – 15
  29. Shallots (kunjili) – 15 or 1 cup
  30. Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) – 1/4 tsp


  1. Soak dry tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for about 10 mins, extract its juice and keep it ready. Use tamarind water as per your taste.
  2. Chop coriander leaves and tomatoes. Keep them ready.
  3. Peel small onions (kunjili or sambar onion) and keep them whole and split the attached ones.
  4. Boiling dal

  5. Wash and soak dal for about 30 mins. Cook dal in a pressure cooker with water and 1 tsp oil. When it is cooked, let it cool down and then smash it well with a big round spoon or dal masher. Keep it aside. Do not add salt while cooking dal.
  6. Roasting and grinding spices

  7. Heat a pan and add 1 tsp oil. When hot, add individual shallots (about 5) and saute until it turns translucent and light brown in colour. Remove and keep aside. In the same pan, add all the spices except coconut. There is no need to add oil. Saute for a few mins until the dal and other spices changes colour to golden brown.
  8. While roasting, you can smell the aroma and flavour of spices. Switch off the flame and then add grated coconut to the spices and saute, as the pan will be hot. Allow to cool and grind to a coarse powder. Keep aside.
  9. In the same mixer, add the fried shallots, 2 tbsp of ground powder, 1/3 cup of water and grind to a smooth paste. Keep it aside.
  10. Tadka (Tempering) and cooking vegetables

  11. Heat a wider vessel and add oil when hot. Add mustard seeds, when it splutters, add other ingredients including shallots and saute until the shallots change colour to light brown or transparent.
  12. Now add chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 mins.
  13. Add turmeric powder, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of tamarind extract. Cook for a few minutes by closing the lid (approximately 4 to 5 mins).
  14. When the shallots are cooked and the rawness of tamarind has gone, add mashed dal and 1 cup water again. Mix well and add salt (check the seasoning) and see that you do not mash vegetables. Let it cook for 3 mins.
  15. When dal and vegetables are mixed properly, add the freshly ground powder and the ground paste. Mix well. When it starts to boil, let it for about 5 mins. Add coriander leaves and simmer for 10 mins with the lid closed. If it becomes thick, add more water according to the consistency you want.
  16. As soon as the freshly ground powder is added, you can feel the aroma when it is cooking. In between stir the sambar, so that it does not stick to the vessel. The consistency of sambar should not be very thick or thin.
  17. Serve sambar with idli, rice or dosa with a drizzle of ghee on top.


  1. You can add any vegetables you like to this sambar including raw mango.
  2. You can adjust the quantity of shallots as per your taste.
  3. Dry chillies that I have used is medium hot. Use according to taste.
  4. Stir the sambar in between so that it does not stick to the pan.
  5. Sometimes I add a couple of garlic cloves and 1/2 chopped onion while boiling dal and smash it well.
  6. Instead of dry tamarind, 1 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (TRS concentrated one or any brand) can be used along with an extra cup of water.
  7. While tempering, sesame oil (nallennai in Tamil), ghee, vegetable or sunflower oil.
  8. For sweeter taste, add 1 tbsp of gud (jaggery) or as per your taste.