Authentic piping hot Mixed Vegetable Sambar made in Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker).  Sambar is primarily a South Indian delicacy, but because of it’s benefits and taste popular all over India.  This recipe is to make the popular South Indian Lentils “Sambar” in an instant pot.  It is very easy to make sambar and even easier in an instant pot. 

Vegetable Sambar in a bowl with idli and dosa in the back
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I am a North Indian, but eating sambar with idli (steamed rice cakes) and dosa (rice crepes) has always been my favorite breakfast growing up. I can eat it anytime, for lunch or dinner. Sambar can also be enjoyed as a soup.

Sambar is typically enjoyed with idli, dosa, rice, or menu vada. My family loves idli, dosa, sambar & chutney for breakfast or dinner.

Idli, sambar, and chutney are considered one of India’s healthiest breakfasts.  It is rich in carbohydrates and proteins.  It is a complete meal that includes lentils, vegetables, and spices.

Dosa, Sambar and Chutney in a plate

Ingredients of Sambar

Sambar is mainly a South Indian Lentil Stew. It is made with lentils, vegetables, tamarind and spices.

Dal: I have heard the question frequently about which dal (lentil) to use when making sambar. I make sambar mostly with split pigeon pea (toor or arhar dal), but it can be made with split red lentils (masoor dal) as well. We use the non-oily version of lentils in this recipe.

Sambar Powder: One of the main ingredients of sambar is sambar powder, which gives it a distinctive taste.  I use the MTR brand sambar powder.  You can find it easily on Amazon or in your nearby Indian grocery store.

If you don’t have sambar powder, grind these spices to a fine powder –

  • 2 whole red chilies
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppers
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder.

Tamarind: Another important ingredient of sambar is tamarind paste.  You can use a store-bought paste, or you can make it at home.  To make tamarind paste, soak about 2 tbsp of seedless tamarind in 1/4 cup water and microwave for 30 seconds.  It will become soft enough to use.  Some people also like to add jaggery or sugar to their sambar.

Vegetables: Finally, you can add a variety of vegetables when making sambar. I usually add carrots, eggplants, drumsticks, and pumpkins.  Other options are pearl onions and okra. You can vary the vegetables you add to Sambar to get a different flavor each time.

Drumsticks: This might be new to many. Drumsticks are the fruits of the moringa tree. I found this article that gives more details. I usually cannot find it fresh at the Indian grocery store, so I buy it frozen. Feel free to skip if you are unable to find them.

Idli, Sambar and Chutney in a plate

Every state in South India, and probably every house, has a different version of Sambar that they enjoy and has been passed down for generations. I will share my family’s favorite sambar recipe here.

How to make Sambar in Instant Pot?

I am preparing Sambar in Instant Pot. However, the same recipe can be followed in a stovetop pressure cooker too.

Start the instant pot in Sauté mode and heat the oil in it.  Add mustard, asafoetida, and curry leaves to it.

In about 30 seconds, add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Then add tomatoes, sambar powder, and salt.

Now add the veggies, toor dal, and water.  That is it!

Close the instant pot and cook the sambar for 8 minutes under high pressure.

steps to make sambar in the instant pot

When the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally.

You will notice that all the veggies are cooked well and almost mixed with the lentils.

Add in the tamarind paste to get the tangy flavor.  You will definitely taste the difference.  Note: We add tamarind at the end, as the tartness of tamarind will hinder the lentils from being cooked properly.

Garnish with cilantro and sambar is ready to be served.

Lentil Sambar served in a bowl

Cooking vegetables pot-in-pot

With the method above of cooking vegetables along with the dal, the vegetables get well cooked and can be mixed together with the lentils. However, if you like your veggies cooked but not completely mushed with the lentils, use this pot-in-pot method to cook the vegetables.

Add the ingredients for sambar, except the veggies, to the instant pot steel insert. Then, add veggies to a steamer basket. Close the lid and pressure cook the sambar.

Sambar instant pot steps with pot-in-pot veggies

After the pressure is released, take the steamer basket out carefully. Now you can whisk the lentils if needed to make the sambar completely smooth. Then, add the steamed veggies.

Vegetable Sambar Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

I served this sambar with idli and chutney.  You can also serve it with poriyal and white or brown rice or enjoy it as soup.  Yum!

4.91 from 140 votes

Instant Pot Vegetable Sambar (South Indian Lentils)

Sambar, a flavorful South Indian Lentil Stew made with lentils, vegetables, tamarind, curry leaves and spices prepared in the instant pot (pressure cooker).
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

Tempering

Vegetables

  • 1 cup Pumpkin, about 120 gms, cut in medium sized pieces
  • 1 Carrot, cut into small pieces
  • 3 Baby Eggplant, cut into 4 pieces each
  • 6 pieces Drumsticks, 2-inch pieces*

Instructions 

  • Start the instant pot in sauté mode and heat oil in it. Add all the tempering ingredients.
  • When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the chopped onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, sambar powder and salt. Sauté for another 2 minutes.
  • Add all the vegetables, toor dal and water to the instant pot. Change the instant pot setting to manual or pressure cook mode for 8 minutes at high pressure with vent in sealing position. (Note: you can also follow the pot-in-pot method mentioned in notes)
  • When the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally. Stir in the tamarind paste. Stir the sambar so it is mixed well.
  • Garnish with cilantro and sambar is ready to be served.

Stovetop Pressure Cooker Method

  • Follow the same steps as above in a stovetop pressure cooker. Cook on medium-high heat for 3 whistles, then turn off the flame and let the pressure release naturally.
  • Stir in the tamarind paste with the sambar so it is mixed well. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Notes

Drumsticks: This might be new to many. Drumsticks are the fruits of the moringa tree. I found this article that gives more details. I usually cannot find it fresh at the Indian grocery store, so I buy it frozen. Feel free to skip if you are unable to find them.
Tamarind paste: If you don’t have tamarind paste, you can soak seedless tamarind in 1/4 cup water and microwave for 30 seconds.  It will become soft enough to use.
Sambar powder: If you don’t have sambar powder, grind all these spices – 2 whole red chilies, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp whole black peppers, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder.
Jaggery or Sugar: I did not add any jaggery or sugar in this recipe. However you can add some to your taste after pressure cooking. Start with 1-2 teaspoon of grated jaggery, and increase to taste.  
Pot-in-pot veggies for sambar: With the method above of cooking vegetables along with the dal, the vegetables get well cooked and mix together with the lentils. However if you like your veggies cooked, but not completely mushed with the lentils, use pot-in-pot method to cook the vegetables. 
Add the ingredients for sambar, except the veggies in the instant pot steel insert. Then in a steamer basket, add veggies. Close lid and pressure cook the sambar. After the pressure is released, take the steamer basket out carefully. Now you can whisk the lentils if needed to make the sambar completely smooth. Then add the steamed veggies. 

Nutrition

Calories: 305kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 16gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1237mgPotassium: 1185mgFiber: 23gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 5700IUVitamin C: 80mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 5mg

Additional Info

Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: South Indian
Diet: Gluten-free, Vegan
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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124 Comments

  1. Hi Meeta, I didn’t have enough toor dal so I mixed it with Masoor dal. I couldn’t tell the difference after cooking. The sambar was very delicious and easy to make. Thank you soo much for sharing your recipe. Can you also share any seafood recipes like fish and shrimp?

  2. I don’t yet own a pressure cooker or instant pot. I assume this recipe (and others on your website) can easily be adapted to stove top? And, I assume it reheats well, too?

    1. Hi Heather – Sure, you can make this on stovetop too. To make on stovetop in a pot, first add the lentils with 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are soft and mushy. Then in another large pan, make the tempering as in the steps above. Add the veggies and cook them in the pan until they are soft and completely cooked. Then add the cooked lentils, 1 cup of water, and tamarind paste to the pan. Bring to a boil. And the sambar is ready. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Curious as to why you don’t add the tamarind paste and then pressure cook. I thought it would take the raw smell away.

    Thank you for the recipe

    1. Hi Sudha – It will take much longer to cook the dal completely if tamarind (tangy ingredient) is added along to pressure cook. That said, I have heard from friends that they do add tamarind along and pressure cook for 15 minutes. So feel free to try that if you prefer.

  4. What are you referring to when it says six drumsticks it doesnt mention chicken in it is there something else called drumsticks.

      1. As a child, I loved drumsticks, very nutritious too.
        But, now I am allergic to drumsticks!
        If you are like me then avoid drumstick.

  5. Thank you for this recipe. I’m going to try it today. What serving size did you use for the nutrition info?

    1. Hi Manisha – Yes, the cooking time stays the same even if you double the recipe. The instant pot will take longer to come to pressure and release pressure. Hope you enjoy the sambar!

      1. Hi, can I add White Basmati rice to this pot in pot with the same cooking time of 8 minutes?

      2. Hi Silpa – Sure, basmati rice pot-in-pot will work great with this sambar. Hope you enjoy it!

    1. Hi Annette – Sure, you can use frozen veggies. I do that all the time. I would do the same cooking time. The veggies do get well cooked, but that works fine for sambar. Hope you enjoy it!