Recipes: Sambar without using Sambar Powder

I usually get my stash of Sambar Powder from my mum who makes it at home, either when we go down to India or she comes to Singapore. But because of travel restrictions in the past 18 months and no travel happening, as expected, my stock of Sambar powder finally finished. I then asked my mother for the recipe to make the powder, but because she told me it was a tedious process, I kept putting it off. And then last month, I needed to make Sambar and with no powder available, I decided to use the recipe that mother gave me and tweaked it slightly to make a paste which I used to make the Sambar. It was super tasty and I thought it’s a good alternative to those who don’t have access to a good quality powder.

For this recipe, I used raw bananas, but you can use any other vegetable you like including potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, bell peppers etc.

Sambar without using Sambar Powder


  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind, soaked in hot water for 20-30 minutes
  • 1 cup tuvar dal, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped raw bananas, cut in bite sized pieces which are then soaked in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation
  • ¾ tsp chana dal
  • 1 tsp tuvar dal
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4-5 dried red chillies (reduce this amount if you want it less spicy)
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • ½ tsp peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp jaggery powder (You can use brown sugar instead, but the taste would not be the same)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 tsp oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and in the following order fry the spices for the sambar paste, making sure you fry each ingredient for about 30 seconds before adding the next ingredient. Fry the tuvar dal, chana dal, coriander seeds, dried red chillies, coconut, peppercorns and fenugreek seeds and let the dal become brown and the coconut become brown and crisp and loses all water. Do not let them burn. Take off from the flame and let it cool.
  • Once cool, blend with some water to a fine paste. You can also powder this and use it as a powder.
  • Cook the tuvar dal in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop and whisk it to a fine paste and keep aside.
  • Mash the tamarind and strain it to get just the water and thin it to get the preferred sourness.
  • In the same pan, heat the balance 1 tsp oil and when the oil warms up, add the mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add the asafoetida and the turmeric powder and stir for a couple of seconds.
  • Now add the peeled, chopped and soaked raw banana pieces and stir for a few minutes.
  • Add half a cup of water, just enough to cover the bananas (or any of the vegetables used) and let it cook covered for about 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are about half cooked.
  • Now add the sambar powder or paste, depending on how you have blended it and the tamarind water as well as the jaggery powder and salt and cook until the vegetables are almost cooked, like about 90%.
  • At this point, add the cooked dal and check for seasoning and add what seems to be missing.
  • Let it boil together in a medium boil for another 5 minutes, garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice and as an accompaniment to a South Indian meal.

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