Udupi Tomato Sambhar

By Published On: 6 Feb '21Last Updated: 18 Nov '22

A delicious, slightly sweet and savoury Udupi Tomato Sambhar or lentil stew to have with masala dosa or a quick vegetarian meal option with plain rice, papads and pickle.

Udupi Tomato Sambhbar

This Sambhar (lentil stew) takes me back to my school days and a recipe that my mother mastered through many conversations around the corner of a common wall between two homes or just during a casual visit to one of her Brahmin friends living two doors from my house.

Back then recipes were shared in a very informal way. There was never a written recipe, at the most the quantities were demonstrated in terms of a ‘pinch’, a katori (a small stainless steel bowl) or ‘chamacha’ (meaning teaspoon) and everything was demonstrated with the thumb pointing to the tip of your fingers and then right back to the palm to describe varying quantities. For the dry ingredients such as rice and lentils, it was a ‘pao’ or ‘pav’ where one ‘pao’ or ‘pav’ is equal or close to 250g and four ‘pao’ or ‘pav’ is equal to or close to 1kg (or one ser). A ‘pao’ or ‘pav’ is an unit of measurement that became obsolete after metrication in the mid-20th century.

The interesting thing is, the older generation still measure their dry ingredients such as grains and lentils this way even as of today. The older generation do not like changes and they certainly do not like redefining the way things have to be done!!

Continuing about sambhar, once my mum got a demonstration of a recipe, she followed the instructions to a T (mind boggling if you asked me). She would memorise these ingredients, come home and lay the ingredients on a plate. Within a couple of trials, she would perfect the recipe and then she would always remember it except as she grew older, she lost this skill. That is to be accepted. Luckily, I got a hang of this recipe on many of my visits to India and wrote it down as I loved this Sambhar so much. Unfortunately, my mother never really wrote down this recipe or any other recipe for that matter unless I specifically asked her for it.

There are many versions to this Sambhar but I am thrilled to share my mum's version with all of you. This version of Sambhar is also called as 'Saar' or 'Saaru" and uses only tomatoes as the base unlike other Sambhars which use a combination of vegetables such as drumsticks, brinjal, okra, carrots etc.,

Hope you enjoy cooking this Sambhar and please do not hesitate to leave a comment as we would love to hear from you!

Udupi Tomato Sambhbar

Udupi Tomato Sambhar

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
Whip up a taste of Udupi for your lunch or dinner with this slightly sweet and savoury Sambhar or lentil stew.  The depth of flavour of this Sambhar will take you to the kitchens of many Brahmins from Udupi who dry roast their whole spices to create an aromatic yet delicious vegetarian meal in no time at all.  This Sambhar pairs brilliantly with plain rice, papads and pickle for a complete meal or you can serve it with idli, vada, masala dosa or dosas with your favourite coriander and coconut chutney for a snack, lunch or dinner.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Breakfast, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6


  • 1 cup Toovar Dhal or pigeon pea lentils, washed and drained
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 12 g coriander seeds approx. 3 level tbsp.
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 7 Kashmiri dry chillies or to taste
  • 1 sprig curry leaves plus 1 sprig extra
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. asafoetida
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 3 green chillies slit into two
  • 3 tsp. powdered jaggery or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind pulp (SEE NOTES 3) or to taste
  • tsp. salt or to taste
  • 2 tsp. vegetable stock powder
  • 1 cup coriander leaves chopped


  • In a pressure cooker, place dhal, turmeric powder and 2½ cups water. Close lid and wait till you get a steady steam through the spout. Place the weight on and pressure cook for 4 whistles or in accordance with the instructions of your own pressure cooker. The dhal should be cooked but not mushy.
  • To make the Sambhar powder, while the dhal is cooking, heat a small non-stick fry pan on medium. Dry roast the whole spices individually beginning with fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds (SEE NOTES 2). The spices get done in a minute or two. Do not burn the spices as they will impart a bitter taste into the Sambhar. Now dry roast the Kashmiri chillies only for one minute as you do not want them to burn. Lastly, dry roast one sprig of curry leaves. Set aside to cool. Once completely cooled, powder all the dry roasted ingredients to a fine powder in the dry grinder attachment of the blender.
  • Heat a deep saucepan with a lid on medium. Add coconut oil/olive oil and then add asafoetida. Let it sizzle for a couple of seconds. Add tomatoes, green chillies, jaggery, the reserved sprig of curry leaves (leaves only), tamarind pulp (SEE NOTES 3), salt and vegetable stock powder. Combine and stir fry this mix for 3-4 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened slightly. Add 2½ - 3 cups water and stir to combine. Close lid and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add 2-3 tbsp. ground powder and give it good stir. Add cooked dhal and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes stirring from time to time. Season to taste with salt and jaggery, if required.
  • Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves with plain white rice, Field Marrow Foogath (mogem), pickle and papads for lunch or dinner. This Sambhar can be paired with idli or any variety of savoury vadas, masala dosas or dosas with coconut chutney on the side.


  1. This is an Udupi Sambhar and traditionally in the Udupi Tomato Sambhar no onion or garlic is used.
  2. The roasting time varies from spice to spice. Watch your spices carefully while dry roasting. Use a wooden spoon to stir your spices around as you are dry roasting in order to roast them evenly. If the spice you are roasting begins to let out fine tendrils of smoke, then the spice is ready to remove from flame.
  3. For the tamarind pulp, soak lemon size tamarind ball in ¼ cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind with your fingers until it is pulpy. Discard any seeds and fibre.  Add two tbsp. of this pulp in step 3 as called for in the recipe. You may wish to add as much pulp as per your taste. Some people like the sambhar to be a little tangy than others. Add tamarind pulp according to your own taste.
  4. The dry spices used to make this Sambhar Powder, yield enough powder to make sambhar once and a little left over. You may add as much sambhar powder as you prefer and if you have any leftover, you may use it when cooking vegetable dishes such as white pumpkin, beans or cauliflower. The addition of this sambhar powder to vegetables makes the dish very aromatic and a perfect accompaniment to have with dhal as a complete vegetarian meal.
Keyword Lentil Stew, Sambhar
Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

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  1. Astria March 26, 2021 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Super tasty and quick – my kids who dislike sambhar ended up asking for more. Must try and highly recommended.

    • Catherine Lavina Mendonsa March 26, 2021 at 6:24 pm - Reply


      I am happy that you found the recipe tasty and quick. It is wonderful to hear that your kids enjoyed this Sambhar and asked for more. Thank you for trying my recipe and your feedback.

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