Instant Pot Sambar / Instant Pot Tangy South Indian Lentil Soup

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  1. What is Sambar?

Sambar is a stew made with vegetables and lentils. It is cooked with spices and tamarind. Sambar is a popular dish in Southern India.

Sambar contains multiple vegetables, like okra, bottle gourd, drumsticks, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkins, and several others.

Sambar is a protein packed stew because it is made from lentils. It is high on fiber due to the variety of vegetables it contains. Sambar is usually served with steamed rice or idli (a savory rice cake), dosa (a type of pancake or crèpe) or vada (a savory fried snack).

How is Sambar made?

In the traditional recipe, toor dal (pigeon pea lentil) is pressure cooked with turmeric, salt, and water. The vegetables are sautéed separately and then added to the cooked dal along with tamarind water or tamarind pulp. The spices are then tempered and added to the boiling dal.

Traditionally sambar is made with toor dal. However, some people also use a mix of tuvar/toor dal, moong (yellow mung lentils), or masoor dal (orange lentils).

I have attempted to make sambar in the instant pot and it turned out great. Again, my whole purpose is to simplify the cooking process. In this recipe, I have sautéed the whole spices and vegetables in the pot. Then, I have added the lentils and pressure cooked everything together in one pot. It is quick, convenient, and easy. Sambar has become a staple food in our home ever since I started incorporating this recipe.

It is very easy to put together in a short period of time. The kids love it too. It is packed with vegetables and protein… a full meal.

Vegetables: I use frozen diced okra, frozen drumsticks, frozen green beans, baby eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and carrots. I always stock up on frozen vegetables in my freezer. They come to my rescue in recipes like this one.

Sambar masala: I use ready-made store bought sambar powder/masala (MDH, Badshah, Everest..any one of them work perfectly well).

Tamarind concentrate: After trying tamarind paste, tamarind concentrate, and tamarind pulp, I firmed up on tamarind concentrate. Tamarind concentrate is easy to use and is convenient. It is a thick dark paste sold in small plastic tubs in most Indian stores. I normally use this for the convenience aspect. Additionally,  I like the way it tastes in sambar. I also use it in other dishes that require tamarind.

Here is the detailed recipe. It is easy to make and very delicious. I personally prefer this to the sambar that I eat in restaurants. Please let me know how it turns out once you make it.

Instant Pot Sambar / Instant Pot Tangy South Indian Lentil Soup

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, South Indian
Keyword: Instant Pot Lentil Soup, Instant Pot Lentil Stew, Instant Pot Sambar

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
  • 5 fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
  • 8 curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • 2 whole dried red chili peppers

  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (heeng)
  • 1 finely chopped small red onion (roughly 1.5 cups chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste (freshly minced or packaged)
  • 2 small diced tomatoes
  • 3 baby eggplants diced into 4 pieces each longitudinally
  • 4 frozen drumsticks about 4 to 5 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup frozen okra diced
  • 4 baby carrots chopped (I used baby carrots and chopped them in 2 pieces each)
  • 3 frozen green beans chopped into 2 halves
  • 4.5 tsp sambar powder

    (store bought)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder

    (ground cayenne pepper)
    (optional)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 2 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
  • 1 tbsp dried coconut powder (for garnish) (desiccated)

Instructions

Prep

  • Rinse the dal a few times and discard the water.
  • Wash and finely chop the onion and cilantro.
  • Wash, dice, and chop the tomatoes and vegetables.

Cook

  • Select sauté on the instant pot and adjust to normal. 
  • Add oil to the pot.
  • When the oil is hot add the cumin seeds, mustard, and fenugreek seeds.
  • When the seeds begin to splutter, add curry leaves, whole dried red chili peppers, and asafoetida.
  • In 30 seconds, add the chopped onions and sauté. Stir to prevent the onions from burning.
  • When the onions turn golden in roughly 2 to 4 minutes add the ginger garlic paste. Stir 
  • Add the diced tomatoes and sauté for a minute until they get mushy.
  • Add the chopped vegetables and stir.
  • Add the sambar powder, red chili powder, 1/2 cup water, and salt. Give it a good stir.
  • Then add the toor dal, and remaining 3.5 cups water and stir well. Make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot and scrape the bottom of the pot well.
  • Press cancel.
  • Secure the lid on the pot.
  • Select manual and cook at high pressure for 7 minutes.
  • Use natural pressure release. The natural pressure release should take about 10 minutes.
  • Open the lid.
  • Add the tamarind concentrate. Stir well.
  • Transfer in a serving bowl immediately.

Serve

  • Garnish with cilantro and dried coconut. Serve with steamed rice, idli (savory rice cake) or dosa (type of pancake or crèpe originating from southern India)

Notes

  • This recipe has been tried on a 6-quart instant pot. The proportions may vary depending on the size of the instant pot you choose to use.
  • If you don’t eat very spicy food you can choose not to add the red chili powder.
  • All the ingredients can be easily found in an Indian grocery store.
  • Ground cayenne pepper and red chili powder can be used interchangeably as both of them make the dish spicy. So if you don’t have red chili powder you can use cayenne pepper instead.
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