Kerala Sambar is a classic Sadhya dish that is rich in veggies and full of flavors. Naturally vegan and gluten-free, this Sambar can be compared to a hearty stew. It pairs well with hot rice or Idlis and Dosa.
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Classic Onam Sadhya Recipe
Sambar is a ubiquitous dish in the Southern states of India. Every state has its own version of sambar. While it is believed that Sambar originated in Karnataka, this classic dish has traveled beyond borders.
The Varutharacha Sambar or the Kerala style sambar is a classic Onam sadhya dish. Sadhya means feast in Malayalam.
Generally, an enormous feast with more than 16 items is served in a Kerala household on the festivals of Onam or Vishu.
Kerala sambar vs Tamil Nadu Sambar
What is it that makes the Kerala style Sambar different? The Tamil Nadu style Arachuvitta Sambar and this are different in the spices that they use. This classic Sadhya Sambar does not use sambar powder either.
In case you are looking for a sambar recipe using homemade sambar powder, check this Instant Pot version.
This version uses fresh coconut, urad dal and cumin seeds in its spice paste. The Tamil style recipe does not have urad dal or cumin. Neither does it use green chili or garlic.
This recipe uses an assortment of vegetables. But some are almost mandatory. While you can make this sambar with Brinjals, Drumsticks, Carrots and many veggies typically used in a sambar, what makes this version hearty is the plethora of veggies.
You can also include veggies like Okra, Brinjal, Raw banana, Raw mango and Mangalore cucumber.
I have used a combination of carrots, potatoes, okra and drumstick in this recipe along with shallots and garlic today.
Onions, Garlic and Green chili
This recipe uses the regular onions, shallots and garlic.
This combination is what makes it very different.Green chili lends a subtle flavor to this recipe and hence is highly recommended.
I have used Thai green chili which are on the spicier side. Please use green chili according to your spice preferences.
I prefer cooking the dal to a mushy consistency for all my sambar recipes. This lends a nice smooth texture to it and also gives a good body to the dish.
I soaked my toor dal for 20 mins in warm water after washing it well. Then, i discarded the water used for soaking, added fresh water and turmeric.
Then I pressure cooked my toor dal in my Instant Pot on high pressure for 11 mins and let the pressure release naturally. You can also cook your toor dal in a regular pressure cooker.
If you are using a regular pressure cooker to cook toor dal, then cook the dal for 5 to 6 whistles and let pressure release naturally.
Once the dal is cooked, drain and reserve the water used for cooking the dal. Then mash this dal nicely using a ladle or masher. Add the reserved water, mix well and set aside.
Coconut Oil In Varutharacha Sambar
Like any Kerala recipe, this also uses coconut oil for that nutty flavor.
I have used cold pressed coconut oil to make this but you can use Virgin coconut oil too.
The work flow for this Sambar can be put together like this.
First, soak your dal and tamarind. While dal and tamarind are soaking, chop all the veggies and set them aside.
Once the dal and tamarind has soaked, cook your dal. While the dal is being cooked, you can make the tamarind extract and begin roasting the spices.
Once the spices are roasted, let them cool. By this time, the dal would be ready. You can then start making the sambar.
If you are looking for more Kerala Recipes, then please check out
Step 1: Let s soak the tamarind and dal first and cook the dal.
Sambar masala with roasted coconut
Let s begin roasting the spices. We are going to use coconut oil to roast our spices.
First , let us add shallots, garlic, urad dal, channa dal, coriander seeds, dry red chillies, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and roast them on low flame till fragrant.
Once done, let s add the fresh grated coconut, switch off flame and roast the coconut in the residual heat until it turns light brown.
This process takes anywhere between 4 to 6 mins.
Once done, transfer the roasted ingredients to a blender. Allow it to cool .
Grinding the spice paste
Add ¼ cup to ½ cup water and grind the spices to a slightly coarse paste.
Cooking the veggies
Heat a pan with coconut oil. Add the sliced onions, tomato, green chili and all the veggies along with salt. Mix well and saute for 1 to 2 mins on medium flame.
When done, add tamarind extract and ground turmeric. Simmer for 5 mins until raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
Continue to cook until veggies are done. I have used potatoes, okra, carrots and drumsticks here. The potatoes take the longest time to cook. The veggies took roughly 8 mins to cook till they were fork tender.
I chose not to pressure cook the veggies because of the okra and I did not want the veggies to lose shape.
Putting together the sambar.
Add the spice paste to the veggies mixture. Mix well. Simmer for 1 to 2 mins. Now add the cooked toor dal and mix well.
Add asafetida. Mix well. Simmer for 3 to 4 mins on medium flame. When you see a frothy and slightly bubbly surface, switch off the flame.
You can also adjust the consistency of the sambar if you find it too thick by adding upto ½ c water at this stage.
If you add water, dont forget to adjust the seasoning. Also once you add water, simmer further for 1 min.
Finally, garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and fresh curry leaves and serve hot.
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- Pressure cooker or Electric pressure cooker
- 2 or 3 qt Frying pan
For the Spice Paste
- 1.5 teaspoon cold pressed coconut oil
- 2 shallots peeled and sliced
- 1 garlic peeled and sliced
- 2 to 3 dry red chili
- 1.5 tablespoon Urad dal
- 1 tablespoon channa dal
- 1.5 tablespoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 6 tablespoon freshly grated coconut tightly packed
- ¼ ro ½ c water
For the tamarind extract
- 15 to 20 grams tamarind
- 1 c warm water
For the toor dal
- ¾ c Toor dal
- 1.75 c water
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ c thinly sliced onions
- 1 medium tomato quartered
- 2 green chili
- 60 g carrot chopped into fingers
- 60 g okra chopped into 2 inch fingers
- 50 g potato chopped into thin and long wedges
- 50 g drumstick chopped into 3 inch long pieces
For the Kerala Sambar
- 1.5 tablespoon cold pressed coconut oil
- 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- All veggies mentioned
- 1 c tamarind extract
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 recipe ground spice paste
- 2.5 c cooked toor dal the amount of dal + water mentioned under Toor Dal ingredient group will yield this much.
- ¼ to ½ c water to adjust consistency if required
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves cilantro
- 1 sprig curry leaves
Prepping the Tamarind
- Soak the tamarind in warm water for 20 mins.
- Once softened, mash well with your fingers and make an extract.
- Discard the leftover fiber and strings
Cooking the toor dal
- Wash the dal thoroughly.
- Soak this in 2 c water for 20 mins.
- Once soaked, discard the water used for soaking. Add 1.75 c fresh water and ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder.
- Pressure cook this for 5 to 6 whistles until mushy.
Roasting the spices
- Heat a pan with 1.5 teaspoon coconut oil.
- Add the shallots, garlic, dry red chili, urad dal, channa dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. Mix and saute on low flame till fragrant and dals begin to turn golden.
- Once done, add coconut and switch off flame.
- Continue to roast the coconut with the spices in the residual heat till coconut turns light brown.
- Once done, transfer to a blender and let cool.
- Add ½ c water and grind to a slightly coarse paste.
Making the sambar
- Heat a pan with coconut oil.
- Add onions, tomato, green chili and all veggies.
- Saute and mix well. Cook till tomatoes begin to lose shape.
- Add salt. Mix well.
- Now, add tamarind extract along with turmeric.
- Simmer till raw smell of the tamarind goes away. Add ½ c water if the water has reduced.
- Continue to cook the veggies till they are fork tender.
- Now add ground paste and mix well.
- Simmer for 1 to 2 mins.
- Add cooked toor dal and asafetida next and simmer for 4 mins till you see a frothy surface with tiny bubbles.
- Adjust the consistency if the sambar is too thick at this stage by adding up to ½ c water.
- Once done garnish with coriander leaves and curry leaves
More Sadhya recipes
If you enjoy south Indian recipes, Onam recipes may interest you. Here are some classic Sadhya dishes.