Tiffin sambar recipe

Tiffin sambar recipe – one of the best sambar recipes for tiffins like idli, dosa, pongal

tiffin sambar
best tiffin sambar

I am surprised that it took me so long to blog tiffin sambar recipe. Sambar is an integral part of South Indian cuisine and there are innumberable variations with some of the best sambar recipes out there based on the state/region and community they are prepared. I have already blogged sambar recipe as well as an authentic sambar powder recipe. The sambar that I have blogged earlier is best served with rice but it can also be served with tiffins like idli or dosa. The aromatic sambar powder is an essential part of the sambar which is served with rice and is slightly thicker and tangier than tiffin sambar.

tiffin sambar recipe
tiffin sambar for idli, dosa and pongal

For today’s tiffin sambar recipe, jaggery or red pumpkin, asafoetida, shallots and tomatoes are essential. In many homes, tiffin sambar is made with only moong dal while few others use a combination of two to three types of dals. I have used both tur dal and moong dal. Quite a few do not use sambar powder and tamarind but I have added tamarind as the tomatoes I had on hand were more on the sweeter side. I usually add a carrot or drumstick to increase the nutrition profile of the sambar. Vegetables are not essential for tiffin sambar except for shallots and tomatoes.

If you are looking for a good recipe of idli sambar, then look no further. It tastes awesome with mini idlis when drizzled with hot ghee. While serving mini idlis, place them in a slightly deep serving bowl, dunk them in a liberal amount tiffin sambar, drizzle melted ghee and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Your kids will relish it and so will you. 🙂

Tiffin Sambar

  Prepare time:
 Serves: 5

 Main Ingredients:

  •  moong dal
  •   tur dal
  •   tamarind


  •   Tur dal - 1/2 cup
  •   Yellow moong dal - 1/4
  •   Shallots - 12-15 (small onions) - peel and cut the tops
  •   Tomatoes - 3, medium size, roughly chopped
  •   Pumpkin - 2" pieces (1/2 cup)
  •   Vegetable - 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (cubed) carrot/potato/beans/brinjal/drumstick - optional
  •   Green chilies - 2, slit length wise
  •   Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  •   Curry leaves - a sprig
  •   Coriander leaves - 2 tbsps, finely chopped
  •   Thick tamarind extract - 1 1/2 tsps (optional)
  •   Jaggery or sugar - 3/4 tsp
  •   Salt to taste
  •   Roast and powder:
  •   Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  •   Channa dal – 3/4 tbsp
  •   Red chillies – 5 nos
  •   Methi seeds – 1/2 tsp
  •   Raw rice - 1 1/2 tsps
  •   Oil - 1 tsp
  •   For tempering:
  •   Oil - 1 tbsp (ghee is recommended - vegans can avoid ghee)
  •   Red chilis - 1 or 2
  •   Asafoetida - 1/2 tsp
  •   Curry leaves - a sprig

Method for making Tiffin Sambar

Wash dals and soak in 1 1/2 cups water for 10-15 mts. Soaking helps to cook dal faster. You can skip the step of soaking dal if you are rushed for time.
Peel shallots/small onions, slit green chilies and chop tomatoes. If using any vegetable, peel and cube it.
In a pressure cooker, add the dal along with the water, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp oil and pumpkin pieces. Pressure cook upto 3 whistles or till the dals turn soft. Turn off flame and allow the pressure to ease before opening the lid.
While the dal cooks, prepare the sambar powder. In a small pan, add 1/2 tsp oil, add methi seeds and allow to turn dark brown on low to medium flame. Remove from pan and set aside in a plate. In the same pan, add chana dal and roast on low flame till it turns red. Remove from pan and add to the roasted methi seeds. Next add coriander seeds, raw rice and red chilis and roast for 3-4 mts. Remove from pan and add to the rest of the roasted ingredients. Cool and grind to a slightly coarse powder. Set aside.
Remove lid of pressure cooker, mash the pumpkin pieces in the dal and add four cups of water, shallots, green chilies, few curry leaves, chopped stems of coriander leaves and vegetable pieces (if using any vegetables). Bring to a boil and simmer for 8-10 mts. Constantly stir the sambar so that the bottom does not burn.
Add tamarind extract and salt. Continue to simmer on medium flame for 10 mts or till the raw smell of tamarind disappears. Stir the sambar once in a while while it simmers.
Add the chopped tomatoes, jaggery and a heaped tbsp of the ground sambar powder and mix well. Continue to simmer for 7-8 mts on medium flame.
For tempering, heat ghee or oil in a small pan, add mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add red chilis, curry leaves and asafoetida and saute for a few secs. Turn off flame and add the tempering to the simmering sambar and mix well.
Turn off flame, add coriander leaves and place lid. Do not open lid for at least 15-30 mts. Remove to a serving bowl and serve with tiffins like idli, dosa, vada or pongal.


  •   You can use either tur dal or yellow moong dal or a combination of both the dals. I generally use both the dals.
  •   Vegetables are optional. The sambar is excellent with just shallots and tomatoes but I add vegetables like carrot or drumstick for added nutrition.
  •   Asafoetida is essential. It gives a unique flavor to the sambar.
  •   If pumpkin is not available, add more jaggery. Pumpkin adds sweetness to the sambar.
  •   For a liquidy sambar, add another cup of water. Adjust water according to the consisteny required.
  •   Vegans can omit ghee.
  •   Tamarind is optional as tomatoes provide the necessary tang. I usually add a bit of tamarind if the tomato variety is not tangy.


The best tiffin sambar recipe hotel style for idli, dosa, pongal. Learn how to make recipe of idli sambar, that's easy and tasty. Sambar recipes for tiffins
  • Vignesh Dhakshinamoorthy

    I made this today and it came out great. It takes almost two hours to make compared to the shorter versions that I usually go with. This post comes up in top 5 of google search when looking up “hotel tiffin sambar”. I slightly messed up salt by adding little too much. And I added only 2 cups of water instead of 4, as I added more while cooking dal. The amount of salt and water can be highlighted in the post (as every other ingredient has exact measurements) mentioned. Novicers will find it helpful.

    Made idlies and had this lovely sambar on a good nice weekend breakfast. Thank you!

  • D D Prasad

    I am D D Prasad from Hyd’bad. Retd. from service. I like ur recipes. now I noted down sambar for IDLI/dosa/Pongal. Let me try and I hope I could definaely succeed.
    bcause, I have enthusiasim to cook. Than Q. meet U after mission completes