Sambar (Tamarind Lentils)

Tart with tamarind and sharp with chillies, this nutritious lentil dish made by Sanjay De is packed with tropical flavour
Sambar (Tamarind Lentils)
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: medium



  • 125 g toor lentils
  • 350 ml water
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 12 curry leaves
  • 2 small onions, cut into 3 cm chunks

For the vegetables:

  • 1 small aubergine
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 drumstick, peeled and cut into 4cm lengths
  • 3 green chillies, slit
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • 350 ml water
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste

For the spice finishing:

  • 2 tbsp clarified butter, (ghee)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 dried chillies
  • 12 curry leaves
  • chopped coriander, to garnish

Tips and Suggestions

Toovar lentils and sambar powder are sold in Asian grocers. Tamarind paste can be bought from most large supermarkets.


Boil the lentils in water until soft and quite thick.

2. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and toss in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and onion. Stir and fry over a moderate heat for five minutes. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

3. Cut the aubergine, potato and carrot into 3 cm chunks and add to the pan along with the prepared drumstick and green chillies. Stir and fry for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and sambar powder.

3. Pour in the water, bring to a boil and add the lentils to the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon in one tablespoon of tamarind paste, or enough to taste.

4. For the spice topping: heat the ghee in a frying pan and toss in the mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. Fry for about 30 seconds and tip everything into the hot lentils.

5. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve the sambar with rice, Indian pancakes or steamed rice cakes.

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