Sambhar Lentil Soup


Occasionally, when I have leftover tadka dal I will convert it into a tasty soup using some vegetable stock and a handful or two of chopped vegetables. This is a cheat’s version of sambhar and as delicious as it is, it doesn’t compare to the real deal. This is my version.

Sambhar is prepared every day in South Indian homes and is eaten at all times of the day. Sambhar makes a tasty and filling lunch but can also be served as a more substantial main meal if served with some rice and homemade onion bhajis. I’d imagine it would make a great hangover “cure”, though of course I have no first-hand experience of this…

You can use any combination of vegetables you like – I used green beans, celery, courgette etc. because they’re easily available here in Ireland. You could also use aubergines, cauliflower, peas, broad beans or broccoli. You can use more authentic vegetables like okra and drumstick if you have an available supply. (Having tasted drumstick in restaurants, I am happy to leave out this most strange of vegetables!)


  • 225g toor dal
  • 750ml water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • thumb-sized piece of root ginger
  • a selection of mixed vegetables, chopped into small pieces (I used 1 red onion, 2 green chillies, 3 tomatoes, 2 carrots, 200g green beans, 1 stick of celery, 1 small courgette and a few pre-cooked baby potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower/groundnut oil
  • pinch of asafoetida (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 15 curry leaves (fresh, if possible)
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp sambhar powder (see below)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tamarind puree (or lemon juice)


  1. First make the dal. Rinse the lentils and check for little stones. Rinse well using a sieve, then place in a large saucepan along with the water, turmeric and salt. Slice the root ginger into fine matchsticks.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off any scum that rises to the top of the cooking water. Reduce the heat and add the sliced root ginger. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally as the lentils will stick to the bottom of the pan as the liquid starts to evaporate. While the dal is cooking you can prepare the vegetables and spices.
  3. When the dal is cooked, heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds. Stir-fry until the seeds have started to pop, then add the curry leaves and chilli flakes. Fry for another few seconds before adding the vegetables.
  4. Stir-fry the raw vegetables for a few minutes then add the sambhar masala, stock and tamarind. Now add the cooked dal and stir to combine. Season with a little extra salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
  5. Taste for seasoning, then mix through a handful of chopped fresh coriander and serve.

Serves 6.


  • I use a commercial sambhar powder, available in any good Asian store. But you can make you own if you wish.
  • This is great recipe for using up any vegetables a little past their prime. You can also add leftover cooked vegetables. This is one of the first things I think of cooking when I have some leftover baby potatoes. Just add the cooked vegetables at the end to warm through.
  • You can add a little cooked basmati rice to make it more substantial or my favourite: a tin of cooked (and rinsed) chickpeas.
  • Needless to say, make sure you chop your vegetables according to cooking time. Carrots will take longer to cook than green beans, for example, so chop them smaller.

1 Response to “Sambhar Lentil Soup”

  1. 1 Sambhar Powder | Toasted Special Trackback on March 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm
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