Sambhar (Lentil stew with vegetables)

One of the most popular food item from the south of India, sambhar combines the goodness of lentils with a variety of vegetables, making it an excellent option for the vegetarians (and non vegetarians as well).

Last week my 8 years old asked me to check the weather outside, in order to know whether to wear pants or shorts. I checked, and to my surprise, my weather app showed 7 degrees Celsius. Confused, I thought there might be an error with the app and went out to check only to come back with shivers. The air was indeed crisp and it dawned upon me that summer will soon be gone. Autumn is on its way.

There are several things I love about autumn:
•🍁the leaves turning golden
•🧥the possibility of layering up my outfits
•🍲 and stews
not necessarily in the same order.

✅being a kind of stew and
✅having butternut squash,
ticks two of my autumn favorites. And depending upon the season and your region, the vegetables could totally be varied. In my recipe, I didn’t use any store bought masala but only pantry ingredients, easily found in the kitchen which gives it a very fresh aroma and a mild home made taste. Sambhar is so versatile, it could be paired just as well with idli as with dosa, as good with rice as with chapati. Or you could enjoy it, like I do, on its own, just adding some coconut and curry leaves chutney. 

I used red lentil for my sambhar as its quick and easy to cook. You could also use yellow lentil, but that will take longer to be cooked (instructions below). The curry leaves gives it a very refreshing taste while the tamarind juice adds some acidity to balance the flavor. Finally, the vegetables are added to the lentil and cooked until tender, soaking up all the aromas and the juices.

Here is the recipe (written instructions below):

Ingredients Serves 4 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Cooking time: 30 minutes

• 2 cups red lentils (masoor daal) (Substitute: Yellow lentils, Toor daal)

• 2 tsp mustard seeds (rai)

• 1 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)

• 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dana)

• 1 onion

• 2 tomatoes

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup tamarind juice (adjust for preferred sourness)

• 1/2 tsp red chili powder (adjust for preferred spiciness)

• 1 tsp turmeric powder

• 2 tsp coriander powder

• 8-10 curry leaves

• 1/2 cup green beans

• 1/2 cup carrots

• 1 cup butternut squash

• 1/2 cup aubergine

• salt to taste

• 1 Tbsp coconut oil/ ghee


  1. Wash the lentil really well until the water that comes out is not cloudy any more.
  2. Soak in water for half an hour.
  3. Drain the water and add 4 cups of fresh water and 1 tsp of salt to the lentils.
  4. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. (If using yellow lentils: cover and cook for 30 minutes.)
  5. In a separate pot, melt 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on medium high heat.
  6. Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds and fry until they start to crackle (about 1 minute).
  7. Now add the cumin seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves, and fry for another minute.
  8. Add the onion and saute until its soft (about 2 minutes).
  9. Now, add the tomatoes and the red chili-, coriander-, and turmeric powders and 1/2 tsp salt.
  10. Saute until the tomatoes are mushy (about 3-4 minutes).
  11. Add the cooked daal into the spice mixture, along with the tamarind juice.
  12. Taste the lentil for sourness and seasoning. Add more tamarind juice if you prefer it more sour.
  13. Let cook for 5 minutes and then add your vegetables.
  14. Now cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. (Cooking time will depend on the kind of vegetables you are using)
  15. After 15 minutes, check vegetables for tenderness. They should be fork tender but not over cooked.
  16. Sambhar is ready to be served. You could serve it with dosa, idli, rice or even on its own with some coconut and curry leaves chutney (check out the recipe here).

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