Restaurant Style Sambhar

Sambhar is a south Indian lentil based vegetable stew which uses tomato and tamarind as a base for the soup. It is quintessential to the south Indian cuisine and one cannot imagine enjoying dosas (rice crepes) or Idlis (steamed rice cake) without this delicious accompaniment. This is a tried and tested recipe for a restaurant style sambhar. Hope you enjoy it !

Everyone loves south Indian food at my place. Whenever we go out to eat Indian food, it is always south Indian food. I find it so fancy : Dosa (rice batter crepes), sambhar (lentil soup) and a variety of chutneys.. what’s not to love !!

sambhar 1

Now sambhar can be made with various vegetable variations and thus each household develops its own “favorite version”. I am a North Indian and since south Indian meals are just not as common at our place, we have grown up enjoying the slightly north Indian spiced and presumably skewed version of sambhars. Still, there is this one south Indian restaurant in Delhi which has been certified of  “Authentic flavors” by one of my south Indian friends and i have to agree that i am absolutely knock-out crazy about it !

sambhar 2 copy

They have a wide variety of stuffed dosa and wadas but my favorite item on the menu is their spicy and tangy sambhar. As a child, we often went there for weekend lunches. Each dish would be accompanied by sambhar and an array of chutneys. This year when i went to India, we visited the same restaurant and after some persuasion, i got them to spill the secret on their recipe and today i am sharing that recipe with you. Read on.

Restaurant Style Sambhar

Restaurant Style Sambhar

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

sambhar copy


For this recipe, you need : Pressure cooker, chopping board, knives, grater, ladles, small pan for tempering, mixing spoons

For pressure cooking

  • 1/2 cup Toor/ Arhar/ Split Pigeon peas
  • 1/2 cup masoor dal/ red lentils
  • 1 inch ginger, grated (optional. This is my personal addition but i really like it !)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup bringal/ eggplants, cut into cubes
  • 5-6 french beans, cut into chunks
  • 3-4 drumsticks pieces (optional)
  • 4 cups water

Tempering/ Tadka

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon Ghee/ clarified butter
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste / seedless tamarind soaked in some warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sambhar powder (store bought/ homemade)
  • 2 cups water


  1. Wash the lentils in enough water couple of times. Put the washed lentils in the pressure cooker. Add in the water and all the other ingredients for the pressure cooking in the cooker and cook on high for 2 whistles. After the second whistle, simmer the cooker for 10 minutes. The dal should be soft, mushy and almost dissolved by this time. We are looking for a mushy texture. If the dal is soft but not mushy, take a masher or a big spoon and mash the dal a little without breaking the vegetables too much. This is a important step.
  2. In a separate pan, we will prepare the tempering/ tadka. Begin with adding oil and bring to heat.When the oil is hot, add in the asafoetida, mustard seeds, curry leaves and saute till the mustard seeds begin to splutter.
  3. Now, add in the chopped onion and saute for a couple of minutes or till the onions are golden brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, salt, tamarind paste, sambhar powder and mix. Cook for a couple of minutes or till the tomatoes are tender and cooked. Mash the tomatoes with a big spoon till smooth. Add in water and mix well. Let it come to boil.
  5. Add this tempering in the mashed dal and mix well. Bring to heat and let the dal boil. Once boiled, add in the ghee and mix. The sambhar is ready to be served.

Serve along with dosas, idli, vadas, uttapams or upma.

Did you notice that i used a mix of 2 dals for this sambhar? Usually it is prepared only using the toor dal but as i learnt from this restaurant recipe, the red lentils help in having a lighter sambhar without altering the flavour and it does not thicken up the sambhar as quickly.Another trick i learnt is that it is important to mash the lentils and have almost a paste consistency when you cook the lentils. I always notice that the restaurant sambhars are very thin soup like consistency which works well with dunking the idlis or to enjoy with rice. I served this sambhar with the masala vadas and the family loved it ! I plan to include more south Indian recipes on the blog soon ! You should try out this sambhar too.

Have any more tricks to share? Would love to hear.

Some of the south Indian recipes on my blog :

masala vada 1 copycurd riceonion chutneyonion dip copy

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