Like Idlis, Sambar is another speciality of Tamil cuisine. It's a stew like dish made with lentils and vegetables. Traditionally sambar is prepared using toor dal (toovar/thuvaram paruppu/pigeon peas). Vegetables are boiled in tamarind extract (water squeezed from soaked tamarind) along with spices and then the cooked dal is added to the tamarind gravy.

This Idli Sambar recipe is from my grandmother and she used mung/moong dal (skinned yellow mung beans/payatham paruppu) instead of toor dal. This is also a no fuss recipe. Simply add all the ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook it for 2 whistles. Hot and tasty sambar is ready without much work in the kitchen.

The best way to enjoy this sambar is to dunk idlis in a bowl of sambar or place idlis on a plate and pour the sambar on top of it (yes, don't bother about etiquette) and just dig in! You got to believe me when I say this. The measurement I have given below will make about 4-5 cups of sambar and you would think it would be sufficient for at least 3 people. But you are wrong, when I make this sambar for the two of us (my husband and myself) I hardly get to taste it. Also the idlis vanish in no time.

Idli Sambar

Recipe: Idli Sambar (Spicy Lentil & Vegetable Gravy for Idlis)
Prep Time: 10 mins (for cutting vegetables)
Cooking Time: 30-40 mins
Serves: 2-3 people
Cooking Level: Beginner/Easy to Intermediary
Recipe/Post by: Madhu

1 tsp Oil (Vegetable/Canola/Sunflower)
¼ tsp Mustard seeds
¼ tsp Fenugreek/methi seeds
1 Green chili, medium size, slit lengthwise
1 Onion, medium size, cut into thin strips
1 Carrot, medium size, cut into discs
1 cup Beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup Green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Tomato, medium size, chopped into cubes
¼ tsp Tamarind paste
¼ tsp Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Sambar powder (home made or store bought)
Salt to taste (¾ to 1 tsp approx)
Asafoetida/Hing a small pinch
1/3 cup Moong Dal
2 cups Water

Special Utensils:
Pressure Cooker

sambar recipe
Ingredients for Idli Sambar

  1. In a pressure cooker add the oil. Once it is hot add the mustard and fenugreek seeds.
  2. As soon as the methi starts to turn brown add the sliced onions and green chili and fry until the onions turn translucent. Add little salt at this stage so that the onions would cook quickly.
  3. Then add all the vegetables one by one.
  4. Next add the tamarind paste, turmeric powder, sambar powder (I use store bought), salt, hing and water. Taste the water to check for salt/spice.
  5. Wash and rinse the moong dal and add it to the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Close the cooker with the lid.
  7. Cover the steam vent with a small cup. This is done to quicken the cooking.
  8. Once you see the steam escaping from the vent (it make about 20-25 minutes) put the cooker's weight and wait for the whistle.
  9. Just leave for 2 whistles and remove the cooker from the stove. Open the cooker once the pressure releases and garnish it with coriander/cilantro leaves.

Special Notes/Tips:
  • If you have a small cooker, this sambar can be prepared in a pressure cooker directly. If you only have big cooker then do the tempering and frying in a deep vessel which would fit inside the cooker and then place that vessel in the cooker and leave it for 2 whistles. Don't forget to add water in the cooker before placing the vessel inside.

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  1. Parita // 27 April 2009 at 15:32  

    Sambhar looks delicious..absolutely yummmm

  2. rekhas kitchen // 27 April 2009 at 17:15  

    Never made sambar for idlies with moong dal very new to me will try next time

  3. Ramya Vijaykumar // 27 April 2009 at 17:18  

    Delectable Sambar, Yum yum!!! Nice clicks...

  4. Kitchen Flavours // 27 April 2009 at 18:33  

    Sambar with moong dal sounds new to me.....Looks yummm...

  5. Vcuisine // 27 April 2009 at 19:05  

    Nice twist Madhu. Viji

  6. Kalyani // 27 April 2009 at 19:11  

    sambar with moong dal ... very new to me ........ thanks for a new recipe ...

  7. Sia // 27 April 2009 at 19:18  

    Moong is cooling and supossed to much healthier than toor! I am going try this recipe when I make next batch of idli. thank you, Madhu! :)

  8. Srivalli // 27 April 2009 at 22:03  

    madhu sambar looks so yummy..

  9. Suparna // 27 April 2009 at 22:49  

    delicious and comforting sambar ...would love to dunk a couple of idlis and polish it off :)
    Clicks are fab! Thanks Madhuram

  10. Bharati // 28 April 2009 at 02:28  

    This is absolutely LITE version of sambar and nicely demystified.

    Any specific reason for not adding fresh curry leaves ?

    One doubt (step 6-8) - Instead of keeping cup on steam vent Why not keep whistle as you close the lid ?

  11. sriharivatsan // 28 April 2009 at 08:12  

    I too prepare the same way dear..Very comfort food...Nice clicks..

  12. Pavithra // 28 April 2009 at 21:32  

    Looking delish and nice comfort foor ever.

  13. Madhuram // 11 May 2009 at 07:17  

    Hi Bharati, no specific reason for omitting curry leaves. I was not getting it in the grocery store in US, so have got used to cooking without it. You can definitely add it. Regarding using a cup, the cooker weight should be placed only after there is enough steam, so better to go with a cup instead.

  14. A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine // 27 May 2009 at 01:06  

    Very nice pictures. Yes my mom also makes sambar with moong dal for idli.