Simple Saambar Dal

IMG_5162And just like that, I’m going to pretend like it hasn’t been over a year since my last post and casually throw down a recipe. I had a beautiful healthy baby in March of this year. He is everything and has kept me busy. Rajat’s parents were here for the birth and through the summer as well as two weddings and a family reunion in my family this past summer. Needless to say, it was a wild spring and summer in 2017. However, now we are settled into our routine and normal life, and I keep hearing a small voice tell me “Blog post! Blog post!!” Also, I seriously depend on my own blog for recipes, and I have had to scramble a few times to find recipes again that I hadn’t posted. And now I actually have the baby for whom this whole project is supposed to be for some day- so that he can see what life was like in these first years and what we were eating. Someday, maybe, this will be meaningful to him. 


So. Recipes. Many of my favorite Indian dishes are South Indian. I love dosas, uttapams, idlis, and saambar. I have always felt pretty intimidated to try making saambar on my own though. Recently, my husband has been casually making this fast saambar style dal that I absolutely love. It is tangy and spicy in all of the right places and just down right comforting. (PS- IDK when dal became a comfort food for me, but it did. #lifewithanindian). He finally explained to me how to do it, and I tried making it yesterday. It was so easy. It’s the new staple dal around here. Eat it with idli, roti, or rice. Or, if you’re like me, eat just the dal as soup. Nothing else required.

Simple Saambar Dal 

Makes enough for 2 and a baby


  • 1/2 cup Toor/Arhar Dal (These are the same thing…I only recently figured that out. Don’t judge me).
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, pureed or grated
  • 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 15-20 curry leaves
  • 2 dried red chilies, broken in half
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp saambar powder (if you don’t have this, just add the normal trio of ground coriander, red chili powder, turmeric)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Rinse dal
  2. Place dal and water in pressure cooker. Add salt and turmeric. Closer cooker and cook on high for two whistles. Turn off the stove and let the cooker sit on hot stove until pressure has completely gone down (about 20-30 mins).
  3. Open the cooker and add tamarind paste and saambar powder.
  4. In a small pan, heat oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and let them pop.
  5. Add onion, curry leaves, and red chilies. Cook until onion is browning.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Cook for 1-2 minutes more. No need to wait for oil to separate.
  7. Add a pinch more of salt to the tomato mixture.
  8. Pour tomato mixture into the cooked dal. Mix all together.
  9. Serve warm with idli, roti, or rice.

3 thoughts on “Simple Saambar Dal

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