How to Make the Best Sambhar for Idli

How to Make the Best Sambhar for Idli
Sambhar is probably, the most popular dish from the South Indian kitchen after Idli and Dosa. You can also spell this dish as Sambar – without ‘h’. Lentils, tamarind and vegetables, make up this versatile concoction. Versatile because, Sambar is also a regular dish for the lunch and the dinner menus. It transforms as a gravy for white rice during regular meals. Also becomes the soup to soak in for Medu Vadas when it transforms into Sambhar Vada. It can even become an accompaniment for Upma varieties.

Origins of Sambhar : An Interesting Take

There are interesting anecdotes about the origins of this quintessential Tamil dish. These stories say that the dish might not be an original Tamil dish after all. If this intrigues you, you should read this article by Kamini Mathai in The Times of India, titled “ Sambar: the great Tamil dish of Maharashtrians”

Onion Sambhar

Like the other popular soupy dish from South India – Rasam, this dish also has a number of varieties. Onion Sambar is most popular with the breakfast dishes like Idli, Dosa and the likes. Another version is the Chinna Vengayam Sambar or the Shallots Sambar. These shallots, bring unique taste to the dish and is definitely head and shoulders above the regular Onion Sambar. The downside of making this version, is the peeling of the shallots. It is a painstaking job but you get a delicious Sambhar at the end of it.

The Different Varieties

There are many other vegetables that define a Sambhar – the brinjal or the aubergine version, the petha or the ash gourd variety – this Sambhar is typical dish during auspicious occasions; the drumstick variety and the Okra Sambar – you will usually find these during family lunches; the exotic coconut-based Sambar called the “Araichuvitta Sambhar”, referring to the ground coconut masala in the dish. The recipes for most Sambhar varieties with different vegetables is the pretty much the same, except for the one with coconut masala version. Finally, there is the Hotel Sambhar variety – an accompaniment to the breakfast dishes, but that has a distinct taste and flavor about it. It is called Hotel Sambar because this is the variety that is served in restaurants, or hotels as they are called, in Chennai.    

How to Make Sambhar for Idli and Dosa

This post will talk about the Sambar that is traditionally served with Idli and Dosa – the Onion-Capsicum-Tomato Sambar, one of my personal favorite.


Sambhar or Sambar, is the all-time favorite accompaniment for South Indian breakfast dishes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine south Indian
Servings 4


  • Cooking Vessel
  • Kadhai


  • 1 Cup Masoor Dal or Split Red Gram
  • ½ Cup Tamarind Juice
  • 1 Small piece of Jaggery
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tsp Urad Dal or Split Black Gram
  • ½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tsp Red Chilli Powder (Optional)
  • 1 tbsp Sambhar Powder
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 1 Chopped Medium Sized Onion
  • 1 Chopped Medium Sized Tomato
  • ½ Chopped Capsicum
  • 2 Whole Red Chilies
  • A Few Curry Leaves
  • Salt to Taste


  • Cook the Masoor Dal in a pressure cooker. Keep it aside
  • In a cooking vessel, heat the cooking oil. Add mustard seeds and let them crackle. Add the curry leaves, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, Urad Dal and let them roast for a bit on low flame.
  • Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder (optional) and the Sambhar powder
  • Now add the onions and fry them till they are translucent. Add the capsicum and the tomato.
  • Add a bit of salt now and add some water. Let the ingredients cook in the water on medium flame.
  • Once the water reduces and the ingredients become a mush, add the tamarind juice, add a bit of salt again, and add the small piece of jaggery. Adding jaggery will balance the salt and the sour taste. Bring it to a boil
  • Now add the cooked Dal to the mix. Make sure the dal is slightly watery in consistency and not a thick paste. Add half a spoon of salt again
  • Let the entire mixture come to a boil. You may taste it to see all the spices and salt are ok. You can adjust the salt. Check the consistency of the Sambhar. It is nice to have a saucy, gravy Sambhar as it will go well with Idli. Too thick a Sambhar is not ideal accompaniment for Idli or Dosa.
  • A note on adding salt: I add salt at every stage so that the ingredients, especially the vegetables, soak in the spices and the salt properly. You may choose to add the salt right at the end as well.
Keyword how to make sambhar, sambhar, sambhar for idl and dosa, sambhar recipe

Pages: 1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating

Scroll Up