Araichuvitta Sambhar @ South Indian style Lentil curry/soup is a flavourful mixture of roasted and ground spices, cooked with lentils and vegetables that forms an integral part of a typical Tam Brahm style menu. It is featured as a main course in most of the celebration menus, be it weddings or festivals. This recipe has many variations to it and prepared in different styles in different regions of Southern states. To non-Indians, the familiar term is 'curry'.

Be it a recipe with rice or as a side dish for Indian breakfasts (aka tiffin) such as idli, dosai and vadai, the best accompaniment is this sambhar. 

Farm fresh vegetables cooked with freshly roasted and ground spices are a fitting accompaniment with this fragrant Lentil soup. It also goes well with any simple stir fried vegetable or Appalam ( Lentil crisps). Can I call this combo a real Tongue Treat? 

I have many a times failed in the past, attempting to make good Sambhar. Sometimes the Sambhar tasted bland, sometimes tart, sometimes too spicy. When I got all the other things right, I would fail in the consistency of the curry. I was fed up and swore not to make any more attempts until my MIL (My saviour) gave me some fine tuning and tips to prepare an ideal one. I must also mention that my better half prepares excellent Sambhar. I fondly prefix Sambhar before his name (and so do his friends !!!).  

Preparation Time : 20 min               Cooking Time : 10-15 min          Cooking Level : Medium  
Cuisine: South Indian                       Spice Level :  Medium                 Recipe Source : MIL  
Serves: 4                         
15-20 cubes of  Yellow Pumpkin
1/4 cup of water (to cook the pumpkins)

1 cup Toor Dhal
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
A few drops of Castor Oil
2 -2.5 cups of water 

2 cups of Tamarind extract ( made from gooseberry sized tamarind ball

1 1/2 tbsp Coriander seeds (refer to Notes)
1 tbsp Channa Dhal/ Gram Dhal
6 to 7 Red Chillies
1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds
3 to 4 Peppercorns (optional)
2 to 3 flakes of Compounded Asafoetida or its powder
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp freshly grated coconut

2 tbsp oil
a pinch of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
Crystal Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Jaggery
2 sprigs of curry leaves 
Freshly chopped Coriander leaves for garnish

  • Wash the Dhal twice in running water. Add 2 to 2.5 cups of water,1/2 tsp of Turmeric powder and few drops of castor oil to the dhal+ water before you start cooking. Pressure cook in medium flame to three whistles or until done. (Refer notes for tips).
  • In a Kadai, dry roast all the ingredients given under -To roast heading, leaving the cumin seeds and coconut with 1 tbsp of oil. Once a nice aroma wafts, transfer it to a plate. Cool and powder it along with the cumin seeds and grated coconut. Divide this powder into two halves and mix one half with a little water to make a paste. Reserve this for later use.
  • Simultaneously, heat a thick bottomed vessel and cook the yellow pumpkins with 1/4 cup of water and 2-3 crystals of salt and close with a lid. Keep the flame simmered. 
  • Meanwhile, soak Tamarind in 2 cups of water for 10-15 mins and gently extract the pulp. We require something with medium tartness. So do not squeeze. Set this aside.
  • Now go back to the vessel in which the pumpkins are being cooked. Once they are done, drain excess water ( just  say half the quantity). Add a pinch of turmeric powder and salt along with the Tamarind extract and cook for 5 minutes. Once it begins to boil, add half of the dry sambar masala powder and continue to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Now add the dhal+ water mixture, jaggery and the remaining sambhar masala paste and bring to a rolling boil. The mixture should have thickened by now to a thick soup.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add mustard seeds. When they pop, add two sprigs of fresh curry leaves and add this to the Sambhar. 
  • Finally, add freshly chopped coriander leaves. 
  • Serve with hot rice, a drop of ghee and your favourite accompaniment. 

  • Ensure equal amount of chillis to coriander seeds in proportion. For those prefering spicy ones, add more chillis.
  • The most important step in preparing good Sambhar is to cook the dhals right. The moment you churn the cooked dhal, it should disintegrate well. At the same time it should not become a paste nor be under cooked. If one of the above happens, your Sambhar is a failure.
  • I always add few drops of castor oil while cooking dhals, as it is efficient in minimizing the impact of anti nutritional factors/ gas causing factors. 
  • Never boil  Sambhar for a long time. This causes flavour loss. It is best to stay by the stove and finish the steps one after another. Never move around. You may miss out on subtle flavour changes that requires immediate attention. 
  • Always use Crystal salt while preparing dishes like Sambhar and Rasam. I have mentioned this in my previous posts but would like to emphasize again. Adding crystal salt enhances the taste and flavour. It takes a while to get a hang on adding crystal salt as it comes by practice.
  • Another factor to test the success of your Sambhar recipe is that you will note a layer of clear water once the Sambhar cools and settles. When you mix it, you will get the soupy consistency (This is my Husband's tip).
  • Though the basic procedure remains the same, using different vegetables yields a characteristic flavour to the recipe. My choice of vegetables is always in this order -Shallots, Yellow pumpkin, White pumpkin, Ladies finger, Drumstick and Brinjals. Other popular choices are raddish, potatoes and green pepper.


  1. Thank you Smitha. How are you? Happy New Year.

  2. When we have to add the tamarind paste??

    1. Sorry and thanks for notifying. I have updated the 5th step. You need to add Tamarind extract once the pumpkins are cooked, followed by turmeric powder, salt and sambhar masala powder.

  3. flavorful and rich sambar,nicely made :)

  4. Delicious, nice aromatic sambhar...........lovely presentation.


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