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This has to be one of my favourite Indian soups

I have been working on this recipe ever since visiting my local dosa restaurant and having it as a starter with dosas and coconut chutney about a year ago. There are many recipes for Sambar but after playing with the recipes – adding this and omitting that, I think I’ve finally come up with the version I like best.

Sambar is a very popular southern Indian soup that is usually served with dosas or idlis. It’s quite nice on its own too but I do like dipping the idlis and dosas into it. The combined flavour is to die for.

Most Indian restaurant here in the UK don’t have these on the menu so you are in for a real treat. Sambar is mildly spiced with just a little sugar and salt to give you a taste sensation that is truly unique and delicious. The pigeon peas bring it all together. I’m sure you are going to love this one.

Yield: 6


Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 225g toor dhal (split pigeon pea lentils)
  • 1 teaspoon sunflower oil
  • 4 large chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium sized aubergine - cut into 1cm chunks
  • 1 tablespoon ginger puree
  • 1 green chilli pepper - chopped
  • 50g fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt - or to taste
  • 60ml sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 20 fresh curry leaves


  1. Soak the split pigeon peas in hot water for 20 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse and then pour into a large saucepan.
  3. Add 1 1/2 litres water and heat over high heat.
  4. As you do this, a foam will raise to the top. Skim this off until no foam remains and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and the ginger and green chilli and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.
  7. Now, using a hand held blender (or any blender) blend until creamy smooth. I do this for about five minutes.
  8. Add the rest of the ingredients up to the tarka ingredients and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the sambar from the heat while you make your tarka.
  10. In a small saucepan, heat the oil until hot but not yet boiling.
  11. Toss in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, throw in the curry leaves and sprinkle in the asafoetida.
  12. Very carefully, add this seasoned oil to the sambar. The oil may spit some so I do suggest standing back a little when you do this.
  13. Stir in into the sambar and bring back up to heat.
  14. Serve hot with dosas, idlis or even with crusty French bread.

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Friday 18th of February 2022

Hi! I am an avid food lover and cook!! I am also south Indian and cook sambar as part of our diet atleast 2 times a week! I love your blog but i see that the sambar recipe is a bit different than the traditional recipe. Yes, there are many traditional recipes, but the main thing is they use something called sambar powder and do not use garam masala or cumin ..also we do not use ginger or too many tomatoes. We instead use tamarind puree to sour the sambar!!..i wish you could taste my homemade sambar!!

Dan Toombs

Saturday 19th of February 2022

I wish I could taste it too, bet it is amazing. Thanks Dan


Thursday 15th of July 2021

Dan, my local take away does a chicken sambar dish which is delish. Could this be adapted to make that?


Friday 18th of February 2022

@Shelley, sambar is always vegetarian with varied vegetables like aubergine, Ash gourd, okra , small onions (shallots?) or radish. We also use a combination of vegetables like carrots beans and yellow pumpkin.

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 4th of August 2021

I don't think that will be the same thing unfortunately. It sounds like their own name for one of their recipes. My sambar is a soup. Thanks Dan

stephen holman

Sunday 23rd of March 2014

have to admit i've not tried an indian soup before, looks delicious

Dan Toombs

Thursday 27th of March 2014

Thank you Stephen. Hope you get a chance to try the recipe.


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