Sambar – Lentil & Vegetable Curry


“Sambar is a vegan south Indian lentil and vegetable curry that is perfectly tangy, nutty and fragrant!”

This south Indian lentil and vegetable curry known all throughout India as Sambar is packed with flavour. The tanginess from the tamarind complemented against the nuttiness of the dal and fragrant ghee elevates this vegetable curry into an ethereal plane of deliciousness! 

The assortment of vegetables chosen imparts the base flavour to the curry. So for this recipe I have chosen to use shallots, carrots, tomatoes and okra.  Although feel free to mix them up with any seasonal vegetables of your choice. I promise that once you try this recipe it will become a staple curry in your home!


Ingredients

to cook lentils

  • 3/4 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 5 cups water

to cook vegetables

  • 9 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 1 green chilli, slit lengthways and deseeded
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 10 okra
  • 4 cups water

tamarind pulp

  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup water 

spice powder mix

  • 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp chana dal, pounded into a powder 
  • 1 tsp urad dal, pounded into a powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, pounded into a powder 
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder

tempering

  • 2 tsp coconut oil (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 pinches asafoetida

garnish

  • 2-3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

(* 1 Tsp = 5ml, 1 Tbsp = 15 ml, 1 Cup = 250 ml)


How to make Sambar

1. Mix the tamarind paste with water until it has dissolved. Remove and discard any tamarind seeds from the liquid pulp. Set the tamarind pulp aside.


2. Blend the spice mix for the sambar and set aside.


3. Rinse the dried split pigeon peas several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. To a heavy bottomed pot add the split pigeon peas along with 5 cups of water.

4. Cover with a lid and gently simmer on a medium low flame for 45 – 60 minutes or until the split pigeon peas have completely softened. Add more water if necessary.


5. Using a masher mash the dal until it completely disintegrates and turns into a paste.



6. To the pot add the chopped shallots, green chilli, tomato, carrots and okra and 4 cups of water. Cook the vegetables for 20-25 minutes on a gentle simmer or until they have cooked through.

7. Next add the spice powder mix and tamarind pulp and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.


8. Into a heavy bottomed pan heat coconut oil (or vegan butter) over a medium flame. Once the oil has warmed, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and within 10 – 30 seconds the seeds should begin to splutter.

9. Next add the curry leaves and sauté for 60 seconds. Remove the pan from the flame and sprinkle in the asafoetida.


10. Pour the tempered ingredients into the curry along with a handful of chopped coriander leaves and stir well.



Tips on making the perfect Sambar

Tamarind Pulp vs Tamarind Concentrate – Tamarind pulp is made from the citrusy flesh inside the tamarind pod. It has a brown-red date-like consistency with distinctively tart and fruity flavours. Tamarind concentrate on the other hand is pre-salted and has a more sour taste then tamarind pulp. So if you decide to use tamarind concentrate only use 2/3 the quantity of tamarind pulp. 

Coriander leaves – The addition of chopped coriander leaves is an essential part of the recipe. The herb will impart a satisfying flavour that will finish the dish off perfectly, so do not skip this ingredient. 

Consistency of the curry – In general sambar is made in a thick but pourable consistency. However you will find that every Indian has a different definition and preference on pourable. So feel free to add water to the Sambar to bring it to a consistency you like. 

Tempering in different oils – Once again this is down to your preference. Different regions of India use different oils to temper the sambar. In Kerala coconut oil is used and in Tamilnadu the preferred fat is sesame oil. 

If you one to make a vegetarian version of this dish then I would recommend tempering with ghee. The ghee imparts a distinct nutty and buttery flavour that ties the curry together well. If you want to replicate this whilst keeping it vegan, then I would suggest using a good vegan butter as a substitute.


What vegetables should I use?

When making sambar feel free to use a selection of vegetables of your choice. In its most essential form a sambar can be made from simply two vegetables, shallots and tomatoes. Though more are added to create a complex flavour. 

As you are essentially creating a vegetable stock, the taste of the sambar will alter depending on the combination used. So use vegetables that will suit your taste preferences. 

A typical South Indian sambar will call for vegetables such as pumpkin, drumstick, cucumbers, okra, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and onions. For some inspiration here are a list of vegetables that you could add to your sambar:

  • Okra 
  • French beans 
  • Golden pumpkin 
  • Eggplant 
  • Drumsticks (moringa)
  • Carrots 
  • Yellow cucumber 
  • Shallots 
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach 

Similar dishes that you could try

Is this recipe making you hungry? Why not check out some of these other vegetarian and vegan recipes!

Roasted Pumpkin Curry Soup

Tasty Vegan Chili

Comforting Winter Vegetable Curry

Keralan Dhal Curry


How to serve your Sambar

Sambar is commonly enjoyed with dosa, a rice pancake originating from South India made from a fermented batter. It is also served as a gravy to many Indian rice based meals and sits well alongside non-vegetarian or vegetarian curries. 

Add sides such as lime pickle, papadum, natural yogurt and you’ve got a delicious traditional home-cooked feast. Alternatively you could just have the curry on its own! As it is delicately spiced, it is perfect by itself and can be enjoyed as a hearty vegan lentil and vegetable soup.


Storing Suggestions

You can refrigerate your Lentil & Vegetable Curry in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. Similarly, if you’re thinking of freezing the curry, when properly stored it will keep well for 3 months. 


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Sambar South Indian Vegetable Curry in a Cast Iron Skillet

Sambar – Lentil & Vegetable Curry

Sambar is a VEGAN south Indian lentil and vegetable curry that is perfectly tangy, nutty and fragrant!
AuthorGeorge Alexander
PREP TIME20 minutes
COOK TIME1 hour 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME1 hour 50 minutes
Servings4 (servings)
CourseMain Course Side Dish
CuisineGluten-Free Healthy Indian Lentils & Legumes Vegan
KeywordSambar Vegan Lentil Curry Vegetable Curry Indian
Calories171 kcal

Ingredients

TO COOK LENTILS

  • 3/4 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 5 cups water

TO COOK VEGETABLES

  • 9 shallots (sliced thinly)
  • 1 green chilli (slit lengthways and deseeded)
  • 1 large tomato (diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (diced into 1/2 inch chunks)
  • 10 okra
  • 4 cups water

TAMARIND PULP

  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup water

SPICE POWDER MIX

  • 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp chana dal (pounded into a powder)
  • 1 tsp urad dal (pounded into a powder)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (pounded into a powder)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder

TEMPERING

  • 2 tsp coconut oil (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 pinches asafoetida

GARNISH

  • 2-3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Instructions

  • Mix the tamarind paste with water until it has dissolved. Remove and discard any tamarind seeds from the liquid pulp. Set the tamarind pulp aside.
  • Blend the spice mix for the sambar and set aside.
  • Rinse the dried split pigeon peas several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. To a heavy bottomed pot add the split pigeon peas along with 5 cups of water.
  • Cover with a lid and gently simmer on a medium low flame for 45 – 60 minutes or until the split pigeon peas have completely softened. Add more water if necessary.
  • Using a masher mash the dal until it completely disintegrates and turns into a paste.
  • To the pot add the chopped shallots, green chilli, tomato, carrots and okra and 4 cups of water. Cook the vegetables for 20-25 minutes on a gentle simmer or until they have cooked through.
  • Next add the spice powder mix and tamarind pulp and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Into a heavy bottomed pan heat coconut oil (or vegan butter) over a medium flame. Once the oil has warmed, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and within 10 – 30 seconds the seeds should begin to splutter.
  • Next add the curry leaves and sauté for 60 seconds. Remove the pan from the flame and sprinkle in the asafoetida.
  • Pour the tempered ingredients into the curry along with a handful of chopped coriander leaves and stir well.

Nutrition

Calories: 171kcal (9%) Carbohydrates: 16g (5%) Protein: 3g (6%) Fat: 3g (5%) Saturated Fat: 2g (13%) Trans Fat: 1g Sodium: 140mg (6%) Potassium: 483mg (14%) Fiber: 5g (21%) Sugar: 7g (8%) Vitamin A: 13IU Vitamin C: 47mg (57%) Calcium: 5mg (1%) Iron: 12mg (67%)

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #pestleandspiceuk.

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for the latest recipes and follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

If you love this vegetable curry recipe, then why don’t you check out our other vegetarian recipes? Like this tasty spinach and paneer pasty.

Recipe consulted during the making of this recipe: kerala sambar from malayali.me, sambhar masala from tarladalal and sambar recipe by indianhealthyrecipes.


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