Eggplant Sambar Recipe – Indian Yellow Lentil Tamarind Dal. Toor Dal Sambar with Eggplant or other seasonal veggies. Instant Pot or Saucepan. Vegan Gluten-free Soy-free Nut-free Recipe.
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Sambar is a tangy tamarind based Dal with its own spice blend called Sambar powder (recipe in book 1). It has many versions based on the region and family recipes from states in Southern India. This flavorful soup has a different flavor profile from the usual North Indian Dals. Serve it over rice or cooked grains or as a soup. Toor dal (split pigeon peas) are usually the pulse of choice to make sambar.
With the many specific needs for Sambar ( ie, Toor Dal, tamarind, Sambar powder blend), it might feel not easily achievable, but it is a delicious soup to try. I have added the substitute spices for the sambar blend, and other more easily available lentils to use. To sub tamarind, just add some lemon or lime + a pinch of sugar for the sour. Try this amazing flavored regional Dal.
Tamarind makes things look brown but believe you me that sambar is amazingly tasty meal. It is sour, savory, mildly sweet, well spiced and great as a lentil soup or as a side with steamed rice cakes (Idli) or just rice. Both Instant Pot and saucepan instructions below.
More IP recipes
- Lentil Veggie Dhansak – Lentil Veggie Stew in IP. GF
- Kohlapuri Veggies – Veggies in sesame coconut sauce GF
- Mushroom Matar Masala GF
- Bombay Potato and Peas GF
- Aloo Palak Dal- Potato Spinach Lentils in IP. GF
Toor Dal (split pigeon pea) can be labelled as yellow lentils or yellow split peas. These split peas are slightly smaller and duller than yellow split peas and also cook a bit faster. See pics of the dals here. Get the non shiny version if you get them from the Indian store. You can also make this sambar with Moong dal or Red lentils or yellow split peas. Cooking time will vary with those lentils.
If you make this soup, do let me know in the comments how it turned out!
Eggplant Sambar Recipe - Indian Yellow Lentil Tamarind Dal
- 1 teaspoon safflower or other neutral oil
- 1/2 teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) black mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp (0.25 tsp ) fenugreek seeds , optional
- 2 dried red chilies , optional
- 10 curry leaves coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/2 cup (60 g) chopped red onion or sliced pearl onions
- 1 tablespoon Sambhar Powder or use 2 tsp coriander powder + a good pinch of cumin cayenne, black pepper
- 2 medium tomatoes chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) ground turmeric
- 1 to 2 cup (85 g) chopped eggplant or use other veggies
- 1/2 cup (74.5 g) chopped green bell pepper or 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup (168 g) split pigeon peas toor dal, or split peas, washed and soaked for 15 minutes and drained
- 2.5 cups (600 ml) to 4 cups water more for saucepan
- 1 to 2 teaspoons tamarind paste concentrate or 1 tbsp tamarind pulp
- cilantro and lemon for garnish
- Heat the oil in the Instant Pot or Pressure cooker on saute (medium heat). When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, and cook until they start to pop, about 10 seconds. Add the fenugreek seeds, red chiles, and curry leaves carefully, and cook for a few seconds. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes
- Add the sambhar powder, mix, and cook for half a minute. Add tomatoes, turmeric, and mix. Cook until the tomatoes are saucy, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the vegetables and mix in.
- Add the drained split peas, salt, tamarind and water. Mix, cancel saute, close the lid.and pressure cook for 10 to 15 minutes (longer for split peas). Let the pressure release naturally. Add more tamarind extract if needed. Taste and adjust salt and heat. Add a pinch of sugar to balance the tang if needed. Garnish with cilantro and lemon juice. Serve as a soup or over rice or with dosa crepes or steamed rice cakes(Idli).
Really nice. I added a lot more tamarind for my own taste.
Vegan Richa Support
😊 thank you
This was delicious! Great recipe, I didn’t change anything and made the Sambar powder from the book. I needed a new dal to to add to the rotation and this one is definitely a keeper. Thanks!
Hello! Is it okay to use lentils in this recipe in place of pigeon peas?
I had an issue with the directions. When I put the lid on, am I supposed to leave it in saute mode? When I did that, my Instant Pot gave me the PR Se message and locked up the control panel.
It should say pressure cook. Don’t know where that went. I updated it
So the step will be Mix, cancel saute, close the lid.and pressure cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Really good – I swapped a portobello in for the eggplant, and broth instead of oil to lower the fat. Stayed with the 1 tsp tamarind paste . Excellent recipe. Thank you for sharing.
Vegan Richa Support
Just made this the other day and it was an absolute delight! So easy to make and a nice change from my usual eggplant dishes. It will definitely be in regular rotation at my house.
This looks really good and I’ve toor dal ! I bought a huge bag at Costco, so I need more recipes for it! Thanks
I’m so happy that I found this recipe! I recently had sambar for the first time a few weeks ago and have been trying to find a good recipe online for it to recreate myself. Thank you!!
Thanks! Do let meknow when you try it!
I made this last night, and it was terrific. It was relatively easy, and I enjoy using my Instant Pot. In fact, I am constantly looking for recipes, and you are my favorite source.
I didn’t have curry leaves and am wondering where I can find some. Also, how spicy are the red chilis and are they a specific kind of chili? I ended up using a jalapeno.
awesome! You can find fresh curryleaves in indian stores, buy a pack and freeze then in ziploc and use directly from the freezer, or buy them online on amazon in dried form.
Use red chilies depending on the heat preference. cayenne or thai for hot, california red for mild, etc
If I’ve only got dry curry leaves and the recipe calls for fresh (as I think this one does?), is there a conversion formula? I know with some herbs the dried version is considered more potent than fresh. Is that true with curry leaves?
use the same amount, Dried curry leaves take longer to infuse, but you dont want to add too much as the bitter profile will show up.
In My country we don’t have curry leaves, I can only get the curry that looks like a paler versión of Rosemary. Will that work? If not what can I use? Curry poder?
Just omit them. Curry powder is very different.
I made this last night. I didn’t add enough tamarind (for my taste), but outside of that it was great. I used mushrooms and squash instead of eggplants. It’s a good way to add more veggies into my diet.
Made Eggplant Sambar and enjoyed it a lot.
I followed your recipe but left out the oil and salt. I dry roasted the spices before as you suggest. Otherwise very closely followed the recipe.
By leaving the oil out how much does this deviate from the authentic flavor of this dish?
The reason I ask, as I was speaking with a vegetarian Indian co-worker who also is from Southern India and she very firmly felt that the Sambar would not taste good without the oil bloomed spices.
I have become a no oil, no salt, no sugar, no soy, no gluten vegan recently and recognize that these are different dishes that are inspired by the original, but since I do not have a taste reference on how Eggplant Sambar should taste, I have no idea if the version I made would be good (or awful) to someone who had enjoyed the original.
Like to know your thoughts.
Its a matter if getting used to. There is definitely a difference in the flavor. The spices do bloom significantly in oil as that is a medium to heat/roast the spices and release the flavor. Dry roasting works for many of the spices almost equally . Just simmer the food for long. The spices will also take longer to infuse the dish, so it might taste more like the usual oil version the next day.
Like any change, it takes some time to get used to the flavor. For eg, when we transitioned to eating vegan, the dairy in many dishes was replaced by other ingredients and though they are great substitutes, it takes some time to get accustomed to the change in flavor. Similarly, foe people who are accustomed to eating oil tempered spices they will might notice a slight difference, many might not. If the spices get simmered well into the dish, it should work out fine. Certain spices toasting in oil are harder than others, cumin or coriander seeds work fine, mustard seeds dont release the flavor as easily without oil and they also tend to burn very easily on dry roasting. If mustard seeds are unroasted, they tend to be hard knobs in the food etc.
Overall the flavor differences are minor enough that most people mostly will not notice. I think it s a similar thing with salt. If you offer someone a low or no salted dish, they will notice it and find it bland. For people used to salt, the spices and flavors come alive with the right amount, else everything feels like its faded or bland. But once we keep eating it, our tastes change.
Thanks Richa for a wonderful recipe and your thoughts.
I made this last night night and my hubby and I both loved it! Seems it made more than 4 servings, but leftovers are good. I had some eggplant and was looking for a recipe to use it. This fit the bill, I had all ingredients in the house except for the fresh cilantro. I searved it over potatoes.
I loved that I could make this recipe in the instapot. Please keep these instapot recipes coming. I know people in India have been using pressure cookers for a long time, but they always lost me when they mention the whistle blowing multiple times in their recipes. I never knew what they meant.
Awesome! Lol yes, whistles are the way i learnt pressure cooking as well (2 whistles for lentils :)) and when i tell my mom about a new recipe with a pressure cooker and i tell her the time toc ook it for, she asks me to convert it to number of whistles :). The stove top pressure cookers make a sound when they come to pressure, so thats the first whistle. But instead of converting the whistles into time, just use the time for the bean or lentil used. So for eg, if the recipe uses chickpeas, cook for 25 to 30 minutes in the IP.
P S GREEN
THANKYOU SO much for providing international metric measures. As a European cook I am baffled by the American cup ! Your thoughtfulness will help my move from vegetarian to vegan.
I made this recipe a few days ago, the stove top version, and it was delicious!! I am new to Indian cooking, but fortunately have a few very nice Indian markets near me which made it very easy to find ingredients and spices. I found this recipe easy to follow and prepare. It all came together very well and we all enjoyed it very much, thank you so much!
While enjoying leftovers I added a little Major Gray’s Chutney……wondering if you have a chutney recipe that you would recommend with this?
Awesome! Sambhar is usually served with coconut chutney http://www.veganricha.com/2017/07/cauliflower-sweet-potato-chickpea-tikka-wraps-with-coconut-chutney.html and some steamed rice cakes (idli). i definitely love it with coconut chutney
Substitute for curry leaves?
leave them out.
Your recipe for Eggplant Sambar has a photo that has three white disks of something I cannot find in the recipe. Would you tell me what they are and how to make them.
they are idli (stemed rice and lentil cakes). i used the Idli batter and cooked them as mini pancakes. https://www.veganricha.com/2017/07/vegan-gluten-free-lemon-donuts-grain-free.html
Thanks very much. I will tell you when I make them how they turned out.
You can also use dosa batter to make the small pancakes to serve with https://www.veganricha.com/?s=dosa . If you have an Indian store nearby, they usually will carry premade idli or dosa batter in the refrigerated section.
Made a lentil soup recently as a new Vegan and it’s pretty good, but this looks far better. Going to have to give this recipe a try, too. My wife and I are finding your website to be a great resource for some really unique recipes for those of us not sure what to do as new vegans.
Can you make this to use as a side dish instead of soup? How much water would you use in a standard stove top pressure cooker to make it as a side dish?
Are split pigeon peas and split peas yellow? excuse my ignorance. I am not exactly sure what I am looking for here in the UK
Can you suggest another vegetable that would work well with this sauce instead of aubergine?
Yes, pigeon peas are also yellow, see pictures here https://www.veganricha.com/indian-dals-names
You can use mess water and use split peas as they retain shape better and make a dryish split pea mix which you can use like you would use spiced beans in tacos. so a side to add to a bowl with toppings. Zucchini, okra, potato, cauliflower, sweet potato all will work.
Cassie Autumn Tran
This looks incredible! I don’t think I’ve ever tried sambar. From the looks of this recipe, I definitely have to!
thanks Cassie. Its like lentil soup.