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12 Authentic South Indian Sambar Masala Powder Recipes

Mallika a content writer and a foodie who loves her native Indian cuisine. She enjoys exploring the cuisine and sharing it with others.

Traditional sambar masala powder

Traditional sambar masala powder

What Is Sambar?

Sambar is a very popular and traditional dish in South Indian cuisine. It is a lentil and vegetable–based stew that is made with a special spice mix called sambar masala powder. Without this special spice mix, it is not true sambar.

According to legend, sambar originated in the royal kitchens of a Tanjavore Maratha ruler. Today, the dish is characteristic of South Indian cuisine in general, though it is most famously associated with the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well as Telugu and Kerala. In the Kannada language, sambar simply means a combination of spices and condiments.

Each region has its own variations of sambar. In this article, we'll explore 12 different recipes—each one unique but equally delicious.

Main Spices of Sambar

The main spices are coriander seeds, chana dal (split Bengal gram), cumin seeds, dry red chillis, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida (hing), and black pepper. Various regional recipes incorporate other spices, as well.

Note About Asafoetida

When preparing traditional sambar powder, solid (or compound) asafoetida is used rather than asafoetida powder. The solid form has a stronger aroma and flavour. In the Sattvik or pure vegetarian diet followed by the Brahmin communities, asafoetida is commonly used as a substitute for onion and garlic.

How to Prepare Sambar Powder: General Procedure

  1. The spices are either dry roasted or roasted in a few drops of oil in a frying pan and cooled.
  2. After the spices are cooled, they are ground into a powder in a blender or mixer jar. Traditionally they were ground in a mortar and pestle.
  3. The sambar powder is stored in a spice container with an airtight lid. Homemade sambar powder has the shelf life of 15 to 25 days.

Necessary Tools

  • Dry measuring cups
  • Tablespoon measure
  • Teaspoon measure
  • Frying pan
  • Blender or mixer jar
  • Airtight container

State: Karnataka

Karnataka cuisine features two versions of sambar powder, both of which call for coconut.

1. Madhwa Brahmin Sambar Powder

The Madhwa Brahmins are one of the Brahmin communities of South India.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coriander seeds
  • 100 grams byadagi dry red chillis
  • 50 grams Guntur dry red chillis
  • 1/2 cup chana dal (split Bengal gram)
  • 1/2 cup urad dal (split black gram)
  • 1 tablespoon grated dry coconut
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. No oil is required. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a powder, and store in an airtight container.

Notes

  • Of all the sambar powders, this is the only one that incorporates cloves and cinnamon.
  • Two types of red chillis are used here: byadagi and Guntur. Guntur chillies are famous for their spiciness.

2. Udupi-Style Sambar Powder

The Udupi cuisine is famous for South Indian breakfasts like idli, mysore masala dosa, vada, and mangalore bajji (mysore bajji). Udupi-style sambar is also very famous.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coriander
  • 1 1/4 cups byadagi dry red chillis
  • 1/4 cup chana dal
  • 1/4 cup urad dal
  • 1/4 cup cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dry coconut, grated
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 3 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Instructions: Roast all of the spices in coconut oil. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a smooth powder, and store in an airtight container.

Note: This sambar powder is similar to the Jain version.

State: Tamil Nadu

Sambar is one of the staple dishes of Tamil cuisine; thus it is not surprising that there many variations have evolved. One notable feature of Tamil sambar powders is the usage of toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas), tuvar dal, urad dal, black mustard seeds, and raw dry turmeric root.

3. Simple Tamil Sambar Powder

There are two versions of this basic Tamil sambar mix. The first contains only four ingredients.

Four-Ingredient Version

  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 3 to 4 dry red chillis
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

Simple Tamil-Style Powder

  • 1 1/2 cups coriander
  • 1 cup dry red chillis
  • 1/2 cup toor dal
  • 1/4 cup chana dal
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon black mustard seeds

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a powder, and store in an airtight container.

4. Agrahara-Style Sambar Powder

In ancient India, an Agrahara referred to a village or part of a village that was granted to Brāhmaṇas (Brahmins) by kings for their maintenance.

This recipe comes from the Tamil Brahmins. It does not incorporate asafoetida, urad dal, or oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coriander
  • 1 cup dry red chillis
  • 1/3 cup chana dal
  • 1/3 cup toor dal
  • 2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 to 2 dry turmeric roots

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a fine powder, and store in an airtight container.

5. Madras-Style/Ayyengar Sambar Powder

The Ayyengars are a group of Tamil Brahmins. This recipe is also known as Madras-style sambar powder. Black peppercorns are not used in this version.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups coriander
  • 1 1/3 cups dry red chillis
  • 4 teaspoons chana dal
  • 4 teaspoons toor dal
  • 4 teaspoons urad dal (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons raw rice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
  • 1 to 2 dry turmeric roots

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a smooth powder, and store in an airtight container.

6. Tanjavore Sambar Powder

This is an ancient recipe that evokes much nostalgia in South India. The spice mix has a distinct aroma and flavour due to a special two-step roasting technique.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams coriander
  • 500 grams dry red chillis
  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 3/4 cup cumin
  • 1/2 cup black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup fenugreek seeds
  • 5 to 20 small pieces solid asafoetida
  • 4 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon ghee

Instructions: In a frying pan dry roast all of the ingredients except for the black peppercorns and asafoetida. In a separate pan, roast the black peppercorns and asafoetida in the sesame oil and ghee. Allow all of the spices to cool, combine, grind to a powder, and store in an airtight container.

7. Chettinad Sambar Powder

The Chettinad region is famous for its masala powder as well as its sambar powder.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams coriander
  • 250 grams dry red chillis
  • 100 grams raw rice
  • 50 grams toor dal
  • 50 grams chana dal
  • 50 grams cumin
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 to 2 raw turmeric root
  • 3 to 4 sprigs curry leaves

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a slightly coarse (not smooth) powder, and store in an airtight container.

8. Hotel-Style Sambar Powder

This version is generally used in the hotels of South India. As such, it tends to be made in bulk quantities.

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram coriander
  • 1 1/2 kilograms dry red chillis
  • 200 grams toor dal
  • 200 grams chana dal
  • 200 grams urad dal
  • 200 grams cumin
  • 200 grams black peppercorns
  • 159 grams raw rice
  • 100 grams black mustard
  • 100 grams fenugreek seeds
  • 100 grams asafoetida powder
  • 100 grams crystal salt
  • 100 grams dry turmeric root
  • 250 grams curry leaves

Instructions: Dry roast all of the ingredients individually except for the asafoetida powder. Allow the spices to cool completely. Grind into a smooth powder and store in an airtight container.

9. Complete Sambar Powder

This recipe combines almost all of the spices used in traditional South Indian cuisine.

Ingredients

  • All ingredients in the hotel-style sambar powder (above)
  • 100 grams dry coconut powder
  • 100 grams fennel seeds
  • 3 to 5 cloves
  • 2 inches cinnamon stick

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a smooth powder, and store in an airtight container.

State: Kerala

Kerala has two versions of sambar powders.

10. Onam-Style Sambar Powder

This sambar powder is used during the Onam Sadhya, a traditional feast during the Onam festival.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons coriander
  • 5 dry red chillis
  • 2 tablespoons chana dal
  • 1 tablespoon urad dal
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 4 sprigs curry leaves

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a powder, and store in an airtight container.

11. Malabar Sambar Powder

Malabar-style sambar powder calls for coconut and onions.

Ingredients

  • All ingredients in Onam-style sambar powder (above)
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh or dry coconut
  • 4 shallots or sambar onions
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil (additional)

Instructions: Roast the extra ingredients in the additional coconut oil and then allow it to cool. Grind all the ingredients together into a coarse powder. Due to onions, it will not be a smooth powder.

States: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

This sambar powder is known as Andhra sambar powder. The recipe calls for fewer spices than many of the others above, but the spice level is more intense due to the inclusion of more red chillis.

12. Andhra Sambar Powder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 4 to 5 dry red chillis, or 3 tablespoons red chilli powder (for more spice use 10 to 12 dry red chillis)
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dry coconut powder (optional)

Instructions: Combine and dry roast all of the ingredients in a frying pan. Allow the spices to cool, grind to a coarse (not smooth) powder, and store in an airtight container.

Maharashtrian sambar variation: Roast the dry red chillis in 1 teaspoon oil before combining with the other ingredients and grinding.

Sambar

Sambar

Happy Cooking!

Whichever sambar recipe you choose, you're guaranteed to have a deliciously satisfying meal. Cook your spice mix with your favourite vegetables and enjoy!

© 2021 Mallika Lotus

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