Homemade sambar powder step-by-step recipe with video and photos.
What is sambar
Sambar is a South-Indian style dal made with toor dal (pigeon pea), tamarind, and an aromatic spice blend known as sambar powder. Sambar is a staple in my kitchen. Sambar is called ‘huli’ in Kannada. Sambar can be made with different vegetables - either a single vegetable or a mix of certain types of vegetables. Radish, drumstick, eggplant, green leafy vegetables, any summer squash, pumpkin are a few to name. Sambar is served both with rice as a part of lunch/dinner and with idli or dosa as a part of breakfast.
What is sambar powder
What sets sambar apart from a regular dal is the unique blend of freshly ground spices, known as sambar powder (or huli pudi in Kannada) that is added while making sambar.
The way sambar powder is made varies from state to state in south India. Not just within states, there are different versions of sambar powders in different regions of a state. Let us not forget that every household has their own favourite version of sambar powder. The sambar powder recipes are passed down from generation to generation. This is my version of sambar powder, passed down to me. I can classify it as Karnatak-style (state) or Mysore-style (region) but is our family favourite.
Even though the main spices used to make sambar powder are same, they are subtly different in the quantities. Also, some versions call for adding more spices like cinnamon or cloves; some have coconut in them and some don't - here is my version.
Chana dal: Although chana dal or split Bengal gram is a lentil, it is used in several spice mixes in south India. It is closely related to the chickpea family and is used in making tempering for various south Indian dishes
Urad dal: Urad dal or black gram is also used in south Indian spice blends, despite being a lentil. It is used alongside chana dal for making temperings for various south Indian dishes.
Coriander seeds: Coriander seeds are dried fruit of the coriander plant. While fresh coriander leaves are used as a garnish in most Indian dishes, the seeds are used as a spice.
Curry leaves: Curry leaves are an aromatic herb that is an essential part of south Indian dishes and is added in temperings. They are dry-roasted and used in spice blends. They are also infused in coconut oil and used as a hair product.
Dried red chilli: Dried red chilli are ripe chillies that are sun-dried and stored. Usually, in my spice blends, I use two varieties of dried red chilli – one mild and adds a bright red colour (either Byadagi chilli or Kashmiri chilli) and the other hot chilli (Guntur chilli). Both these chillies are named after the places they are grown in.
Coconut: Coconut is an integral part of any south Indian kitchen and both fresh and dried forms are used extensively. Dried coconut is added along with spice blends which adds a nice nutty flavour to the dish it is being used in.
Cumin seeds: Cumin seeds are dried seeds of the herb Cuminum cyminum, which belongs to the parsley family.
Fenugreek seeds: Fenugreek is used as both herb and spice. Fresh fenugreek leaves are used as a herb and the fenugreek seeds are used as a dried spice. Here, I use fenugreek seeds. They have a slightly bitter and pungent taste.
Asafoetida: Asafoetida or hing is one of the lesser-known spices in Indian cooking. It is the dried gum extracted from giant fennel plants. Hing is an age-old medicine used for healing stomach problems including bloating, indigestion, and gas.
Turmeric: Turmeric is one of the most commonly used spices in Indian cooking. Turmeric root is used both in fresh and dried form. These days, turmeric is easily available in powdered form. Traditionally, dried turmeric roots are used to make sambar powder but since they are not easily available here, I use turmeric powder.
Storing homemade sambar powder
Sambar powder stays fresh when stored in an air-tight container in a refrigerator. In fact, I prefer to store all my spice blends in either the refrigerator or the freezer as they stay fresh for longer. They can be used straight from both the fridge and the freezer. This recipe here gives me 400 grams of sambar masala powder. You may choose to half or double the recipe as per your need.
Tips for making the best sambar powder
Do all the dry-roasting on low flame. Heat the frying pan initially and then turn the flame to low before you start dry-roasting.
It is important to dry-roast the chana dal and urad dal well, taking care it does not burn. Both the dal has to be roasted until they are lightly golden. This is the most time-consuming part of roasting. The rest of the ingredients will be done very quickly.
After adding hing and turmeric powder, mix only for a few seconds (not more than 10 seconds). If not, it will burn.
Sambar powder stays fresh when stored in an air-tight container in a refrigerator. In fact, I prefer to store all my spice blends in either the refrigerator or the freezer as they stay fresh for longer. They can be used straight from both the fridge and the freezer.
This recipe here gives me 400 grams of sambar powder. You may choose to half or double the recipe as per your need.
Dry coconut tends to burn very quickly so dry-roast it with the flame turned off. It only needs to be heated up for a few seconds before grinding
For more spice blend recipes, click here.
Homemade sambar powder recipe video
Homemade sambar powder step-by-step recipe with photos
1. Dry-roast chana dal until it is golden, taking care not to burn it. Set aside
2. Dry-roast urad dal until it is golden. Set aside
3. Dry-roast coriander seeds until they are aromatic. Set aside
4. Dry-roast curry leaves until they are dried and crispy. Set aside
5. Dry-roast both Byadagi and Guntur chilli until they are crispy. Set aside
6. Dry-roast fenugreek seeds until they are lightly golden. Set aside
7. Dry-roast cumin seeds until they are aromatic. Add hing and turmeric and fry for a few seconds (not more than 10 seconds). Set everything aside
8. Dry-roast the coconut for a few seconds. Set aside
9. Let all the ingredients cool down completely
10. Place the ingredients in a spice grinder/coffee grinder or mixie
11. Grind into a fine powder
12. This recipe gives 400 grams of sambar powder
How to make sambar powder
Watch sambar powder web story here.