'Vibrant India' Red Lentil Sambar

This recipe makes about 4 servings (serves 2 with seconds or leftovers!)


  • 1 cup (250g) red lentils / masoor dal
  • Grated coconut (frozen + thawed, fresh or dried*) 
  • Ghee, butter or canola or rapeseed oil
  • Black mustard seeds
  • HING / Asafetida (worth finding and buying for all your Indian cooking!)
  • Fresh curry leaves (use dried if fresh cannot be acquired)
  • 1 dried red chilli (or about a tablespoon of chilli flakes)
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • Turmeric 
  • 1 Large carrot, peeled and cut into small discs or chunks
  • 1 medium potato peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • Fresh coriander 
  • 2 tablespoons of Huli or Sambar powder TIP: Make some yourself! 

Rinse the lentils thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear. 
If you're using frozen grated coconut, thaw some out right now (a couple tablespoons worth).

Put about one tbsp of ghee, butter or oil into a frying pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to sizzle throw in the a pinch of hing. Lower the heat a bit and throw in the curry leaves and red chilli.

Briefly turn off the heat completely and throw in the diced onion, sautee for a couple minutes until it softens a bit. Mix in the carrot, potato, a bit of salt and the lentils. Stir so that the oil coats everything. Add about 6 cups of water and bring everything to a boil. Skim off any foam that builds at the top (it won't be possible to remove it all but give it your best try). 

Simmer everything at medium-low heat --a gentle simmer-- partially covered for about 30 minutes. 

Add 2 tablespoons of sambar powder and mix well. Add the tsp of tamarind paste and a bit more salt and bring back to a boil.  Lower the heat again to a simmer and for a further 10 minutes (adding more water if it's getting thicker than you desire.). 

Finally, stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and serve up with some fresh coriander leaves! 

Ideally this sambar is served with delicious dosa but since that's near impossible to make at home (I'm working on it) try this recipe with chapatis, rotis, some turmeric rice or plain basmati and a crunchy pickled cabbage salad!