Sambar (dish)

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Pumpkin sambar.JPG
TypeStew or chowder
Place of originIndia
Region or stateSouth India, Sri Lanka
Main ingredientsTamarind broth, lentils, vegetables

Sambar (IPA: sʌmbʌʀ, ISO 15919: Sāmbār), also spelled sambaar, is a lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder, cooked with dal and tamarind broth. It is popular in South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines.


According to food historian K. T. Achaya, the earliest extant mention of sambar in literature can be dated to the 17th century.[1]

Legend states that sambar was first made accidentally by the Maratha ruler Sambhaji, when he tried to make dal curry in absence of his chef. He added tamarind to the dal, resulting in the dish that later came to be known as sambar.[2]


Typical ingredients in a sambar dish

Sambar is made with one or more of these vegetables:

Sambar often contains sambar powder, a coarse spice mix made of roasted lentils, dried whole red chilies, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and sometimes asafoetida and curry leaves. Regional variations include cumin, black pepper, grated coconut, cinnamon, or other spices.

The vegetables, tamarind pulp, sambar powder, turmeric, salt, and asafoetida are boiled together until the vegetables are half-cooked. Then the cooked lentils Urad dal are added and allowed to cook until the vegetables are done. A spice-scented oil is added to the cooked sambar for extra flavor and tempering, and the dish is served garnished with fresh coriander leaves or curry leaves.

The addition of spice-scented oils, made by popping mustard seeds and other ingredients in hot vegetable oil, at the end of cooking is a common Indian culinary technique and is known as tempering. A combination of mustard seeds, black gram, dried red chillies, and curry leaves fried in ghee or vegetable oil is one example of numerous oil flavourings used for sambar. Some variations include additional ingredients such as cumin seeds, shallots, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida powder.

This lentils and multi vegetables combination is a very healthy dish and is served hot with cooked rice or many of the South Indian preparations like idli, dosa, medu-wada, etc.

Some variations of sambhar include ingredients such as moong dal and pumpkin.


Sambar is part of a tradition of lentil-based vegetable stews in southern India. In regions that grow coconuts, notably some areas of Tamil Nadu, coastal Karnataka and Kerala, sambar is made with a paste of fresh, grated and roasted coconuts and spices, instead of sambar powder.

In Karnataka it is called Huli by Brahmins and saaru by others. This saaru is a speciality of Karnataka, especially the Old Mysore region. This saaru is slightly sweeter due to the addition of extra tamarind to the cooked vegetables and lentils.

In Andhra Pradesh, it is called sambar. Apart from dal and tamarind, few vegetables are used in preparation, combination of few of these: onions, dosakaaya, bitter gourd, drum stick, okra, brinjal, pumpkin and tomatoes.

Sambar without lentils (but with vegetables, or dried or fresh fish, or meat) is called kuzhambu in Tamil Nadu.


Sambar is usually served with steamed rice as one of the main courses of both formal and everyday south Indian cuisine. A two-course meal of sambar mixed with rice and eaten with some sort of vegetable side dish, followed by yoghurt mixed with rice, is a southern Indian staple.

Vada sambar and idli sambar are popular for breakfast or an evening snack in the south Indian states. Roadside restaurants often offer free refills of sambar for idli and vadas.

Sambar is also served as a side dish for dosa.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ G. J. V. Prasad (2017). "Idli, Dosai, Sambar, Coffee: Consuming Tamil Identity". In Shweta Rao Garg; Deepti Gupta (eds.). The English Paradigm in India: Essays in Language, Literature and Culture. Springer Singapore. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-981-10-5332-0.
  2. ^ Mathai, Kamini (26 September 2014). "Sambar: the great Tamil dish of Maharashtrians". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 September 2019.