Sambar - a nutritious and protein-rich South Indian dish made of lentils, vegetables, tamarind and spices. This mixed vegetable sambar is a gluten-free and vegan dish and is an instant version made in one pot with homemade sambar masala.
- What is sambar?
- Why you will love this south Indian sambar recipe?
- How to make vegetable sambar in a pressure cooker (instant pot)?
- Step by Step Instructions
- Difference between instant vegetable sambar and traditional sambar
- How to make vegetable sambar on the stovetop?
- Vegetable Sambar Variations
- Serving Suggestions
- Tips and Tricks
- 📖 Recipe Card
What is sambar?
Sambar is a delicious south Indian lentil stew prepared with lentils, vegetables and a special spice blend called sambar powder. This south Indian stew goes well with rice and a few south Indian breakfast dishes.
It is the most common dish preferred at south Indian festivals and cultural events. Every household has its own variations and the choice of vegetables depends on the availability and season.
There are various types of sambar prepared in south Indian homes. Tiffin sambar is usually made with various vegetables and toor dal ( split pigeon peas). In some regions, it is made with moong dal and vegetables. Drumsticks, eggplant, okra (bhindi/lady finger), shallots (pearl onions) and carrots are the most common vegetables used for this type of sambar.
Why you will love this south Indian sambar recipe?
One pot dish
Gets ready in 30 minutes
The ingredients of sambar are fewer and easy to remember
Ideal recipe for beginners or those who are new to south Indian cooking.
- Vegetables: Carrot, drumstick, eggplant (brinjal/aubergine), tomato, curry leaves and fresh coriander leaves.
- Whole Spices and Lentils: mustard, cumin, urad dal, asafoetida
- Liquids: Oil and water.
- Spice Blend: Instant sambar premix. I've used a homemade spice blend. Check out the instant sambar premix recipe on the blog.
Find the quantities and a short video in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
How to make vegetable sambar in a pressure cooker (instant pot)?
Instant pot sambar made with homemade Instant sambar masala is quick and very easy to make. No need to cook dal or extract tamarind pulp. Saute vegetables with whole spices, combine instant sambar masala powder and pressure cook. That’s it! Super delicious instant sambar is ready.
Step by Step Instructions
Put the rice in a steel container
Wash the rice 3-4 times with cold tap water or until the water runs clear.
Add the required amount of water to the rice and keep it aside.
In a big bowl place sambar masala. Add water gradually and mix well until you get a lump-free paste.
Plug in an Instant pot and press the SAUTE button.
Add oil to the inner steel pot.
Once the oil is hot, fry mustard, cumin and urad dal for a minute.
Now add curry leaves and asafoetida, and fry for half a minute or until aromatic.
Add vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes.
Now add the prepared sambar masala paste, more water and coriander leaves and stir well.
Press the cancel button.
Place the trivet and put a steel container of rice with water on the trivet.
Secure the pot with the lid and move the steam release valve to the SEALING position.
Press the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL button.
Set the timer to 7 minutes at high pressure.
Once the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, move the steam release valve to the vent position to release the remaining pressure.
Difference between instant vegetable sambar and traditional sambar
The traditional sambar preparation is a bit of time taking process where the dal is first cooked in a pressure cooker. Later in a separate pot, vegetables are cooked and then combined with cooked dal, tamarind paste/tamarind extract, sambar powder and other spices. It is then simmered for a few minutes and finished with coriander leaves.
This is an instant sambar made with homemade instant sambar masala. The sambar masala is essentially a spice blend made of lentils, aromatic whole spices, dried red chillies, tamarind and jaggery. The south Indian masala powder contains all the elements like traditional sambar masala along with a few extra ingredients such as lentils, rice and tamarind. Unlike the traditional method, the extra step of cooking dal and getting the juice from the soaked tamarind is no longer needed.
Homemade sambar premix masala is not only economical but also better than store-bought stuff as they are free of additives and preservatives. Moreover, homemade masalas are fresh and aromatic. Check out the instant sambar premix recipe on the blog.
The pressure cooker sambar gets ready in under 30 minutes. A batch of homemade instant sambar masala comes in handy on those lazy days or busy midweek nights when you crave a hearty south Indian meal as simple as rice, sambar, kosambari and papad but don’t have time to spare. It makes a quick dish for a light dinner such as idli and dosa.
This delicious instant sambar can be prepared either in an instant pot or on a stovetop. However, an instant pot is an efficient way to cook multiple dishes in one go. Here I have used the instant pot to cook sambar and rice together. This is a no onion and no garlic sambar easy recipe, but feel free to add them if you wish to.
How to make vegetable sambar on the stovetop?
In a pot add vegetables and water, and boil over medium heat until vegetables are 90% cooked.
Now add the prepared sambar masala paste, more water (only if necessary to adjust the consistency) and stir well.
Simmer for 5-8 minutes or until the sambar thickens and reaches your desired consistency.
Mix in coriander leaves and switch the heat off.
For tadka (tempering), heat oil in a small pan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add mustard, cumin and urad dal and fry for a minute.
Add curry leaves, asafoetida, and fry for half a minute until aromatic and switch the heat off.
Add the tadka to the prepared sambar and stir until well combined.
Delicious south Indian cuisine special dish sambar is ready.
Vegetable Sambar Variations
Seasonal Vegetables: Mixed vegetables in sambar can be replaced with just one most common vegetable such as radish, drumstick, eggplant, or okra.
You could even experiment with seasonal produce such as raw mango, chow chow (chayote), knol khol (kholrabi) or pumpkin.
Leafy Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables such as drumstick leaves (moringa leaves), ponnaganti koora (water amaranth) are common in many households. These leafy greens make a healthy addition to sambar.
Extra Vegetables: In some regions, it's quite common to use potato, sweet potato, cucumber and bottle gourd in sambar.
Satvik Recipe: This is a no onion and no garlic recipe. But feel free to use them if you wish to. Saute sliced onion and chopped garlic before vegetables.
Ghee: Use ghee (clarified butter) for extra flavour. Replace half the quantity of oil with ghee. However, the sambar won't be vegan anymore.
Fridge: This sambar curry stays good for 3-4 days in the fridge if stored in a clean airtight container.
Reheat: Place the sambar in a microwave-safe bowl and reheat it in a microwave until hot. Or heat it in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat stirring regularly.
Freezer: Consider freezing if you have a lot of sambar leftover and don’t want to consume the same dish the following days. Divide and transfer leftover sambar into the required portions into freezer-safe containers or ziplock bags and store them in the freezer.
Defrost: Thaw sambar the night before you plan to consume it. Take a portion out of the freezer and pop it in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop until piping hot.
Vegetable sambar pairs absolutely well with parboiled rice and brown rice.
Dip vada in a bowl of sambar and enjoy it as breakfast or an evening snack with a cup of masala chai.
Tips and Tricks
Chilli powder: The instant sambar masala is medium spicy and it perfectly suits my family's preference. However, feel free to add a little extra red chili powder for a spicy kick. Test the taste and add as per requirement and simmer the sambar for a few more minutes until the raw aroma vanishes.
Water: Adjust the water depending on the desired thickness of the sambar.
Is sambar too thick? Add more water and cook in saute mode for 5-8 minutes. Check the taste and add more salt if required. First, add ¼ cup water and check the consistency. Add another ¼ cup of water if required. Check the consistency and add water accordingly.
Is sambar too thin? Combine 1 teaspoon of sambar masala with water and make a paste. Add it to sambar and cook on saute mode for 3-4 minutes. I necessary, add more until you get the right consistency.
Cook Time: The pressure cook time is NOT the complete cooking time. The instant pot takes time to build pressure and then the timer countdown starts. It calculates the time depending on the quantity inside the pot. So the total time IP takes to get this vegetable sambar and rice ready would be the time to saute vegetables and spices + time to come to the pressure + timer countdown + natural pressure release time.
The cook time might vary depending on the model you use.
Deglaze: Ensure to deglaze the pot before closing it with a lid to prevent a BURN message.
Vegetables: Do not chop vegetables into too small pieces as they get mushy.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Do let me know if you make this south Indian cuisine staple vegetable sambar recipe. If you like this recipe kindly consider rating it using stars in the comment section or on the recipe card to help more people find this recipe online. You can stay up to date by following me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or subscribing to my Youtube channel. Or why not subscribe to my blog and get simple recipes straight to your inbox?
📖 Recipe Card
20-Minute Vegetable Sambar
- 1 Ladle/Wooden Spoon
1 Cup = 250ml ; 1 Tablespoon = 15ml ; 1 Teaspoon = 5ml
- 150 gms (or) 1 cup Instant Sambar Powder
- 1.5 Tablespoons (or) 1 ½ Tablespoons Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Mustard
- ½ Teaspoon Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon Urad Dal
- Few Curry Leaves
- 2 Pinches Asafoetida
- 174 gms (or) 1 cup Tomato washed and chopped
- 142 gms (or) ¾ cup Carrot wash, peel, trim edges, cut into half lengthwise and cut each half into bite size cubes
- 160 gms (or) 1 cup Eggplant wash, trim the edges, cut into half and cut each half into 3-4 pieces lenghtwise
- 133 gms (or) Drumstick each cut into 3-4 inches long
- Handful Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- 1000ml (or) 4 cups Water adjust as per preferred consistency
- Put the rice in a steel container.
- Wash the rice 3-4 times with cold tap water or until the water runs clear.
- Add the required amount of water to the rice and keep it aside.
- In a big bowl combine instant sambar masala with water. Mix until150 gms (or) 1 cup Instant Sambar Powder, 1000ml (or) 4 cups Water
- Plug in an Instant pot and press the saute button.
- Add oil in the inner steel pot.1.5 Tablespoons (or) 1 ½ Tablespoons Oil
- Once oil is hot, fry mustard, cumin and urad dal for a minute. Let cumin sizzle.1 Teaspoon Mustard, ½ Teaspoon Cumin, 1 Teaspoon Urad Dal
- Now add curry leaves and asafoetida, and fry for half a minute or until aromatic.Few Curry Leaves, 2 Pinches Asafoetida
- Add vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes.174 gms (or) 1 cup Tomato, 142 gms (or) ¾ cup Carrot, 160 gms (or) 1 cup Eggplant, 133 gms (or) Drumstick
- Now add the prepared sambar masala paste, more water and coriander leaves and stir well.Handful Fresh coriander leaves
- Press the cancel button.
- Place the trivet and put a steel container of rice with water on the trivet.
- Secure the pot with the lid and move the steam release valve to the SEALING position.
- Press the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL button.
- Set the timer to 7 minutes at high pressure.
- Once the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, move the steam release valve to the vent position to release the remaining pressure.
- Delicious instant sambar is ready.
Looking for other south Indian recipes? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with sambar:
Welcome to Flavours Treat. I share vegetarian recipes made with wholesome, mostly fresh ingredients. Every recipe has easy-to-follow instructions with process shots (detailed step-wise pictures), a short video and lots of tips to help your cooking journey. Read more