Onion-Tomato Sambar / How to make Sambar


This Sambar goes super well with Idli. I make this sambar whenever I make idli for breakfasts. I also make Tomato Sambar on “NO onion No garlic” day. For that we grind the tomatoes, mix them with dal and cook with other ingredients.

In this particular recipe I have used the sambar powder which my mother made. You can use any sambar powder of your choice.  This is a tangy sambar as we add both tomatoes and tamarind paste to this. I have also added little bit of roasted jeera powder to enhance the taste. If you find shallots, please use them instead of the regular red or white onions. I could not find them here and I made this sambar using my regular onions. But the shallots give the sambar a very unique flavour.


To be cooked in the pressure cooker:

Tur dal/ Arhar dal – 1/4 cup


Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Asafoetida – a pinch

To be made into a smooth paste:

Sambar powder – 1 tbsp (leveled)

Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp (optional)

Roasted jeera/cumin powder – 1/4 tsp

Tamarind pulp – little

For seasoning :

Ghee/Clarified butter – 2 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Asafoetida – a generous pinch

Curry leaves – 1 spring

Other ingredients:

Tomatoes – 3 medium (chopped fine)

Onions – 2 medium( cut lenghtwise)

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves – finely chopped (also use the tender stems)


     Part 1 : Cooking the lentil

     Part 2 : Making a Sambar paste

     Part 3 : Mixing both the above

     Part 4 : Seasoning

Part 1 : Cooking the tuvar dal

  1. In a pressure cooker, add cleaned and washed dal.
  2. Add turmeric powder and asafoetida to it
  3. Add water. Approximately twice the quantity of dal
  4. Pressure cook till dal is cooked well
  5. Mash it with a masher
  6. Set aside

Part 2 : Making sambar paste

  1. In a bowl, mix sambar powder, red chilli powder, roasted jeera powder and  tamarind pulp
  2. Add little water and make a smooth paste out of it
  3. Set aside

Part 3 : Mixing both

  1. In a heavy bottomed vessel, add the mashed dal
  2. Add 1/2 cup water if required
  3. Turn on the gas stove
  4. Gradually add the prepared sambar paste
  5. Mix well
  6. Add chopped onions and tomatoes.
  7. Add salt
  8. Add coriander leaves and its tender stem
  9. Bring this to boil.

Part 4 : Seasoning

  1. In a tadka pan, add ghee/clarified butter and allow it to heat
  2. Once hot, add mustard seeds. allow them to crackle
  3. Add curry leaves and wait for it to curl
  4. Turn off the gas
  5. Add asafoetida
  6. Add this seasoning to the prepared sambar and mix well


  • You also can add slit green chillies when you add onions and tomatoes.
  • If you are using shallots, pressure cook them with the dal
  • You can also replace tur dal with moong dal or masoor dal.
  • You can use oil instead of ghee for seasoning.
  • You can also mix other vegetables with this. In that case cook the veggies with the dal. Some veggies are an exception. such as baingan. If you are using eggplant/Baingan, do not pressure cook.
  • If you are on a “No onion No garlic” day, blindly eliminate onions from the recipe and you can make delicious tomato sambar 🙂
  • I have used the tender stems of coriander leaves because they give out nice flavour to any of your sambars or rasams 🙂


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