South Indian Tiffin Sambar - Let's Taco Bout it Blog

South Indian Tiffin Sambar

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Life of Pi, Vegan
Servings 6


  • 1 cup red lentil (dal)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp ghee or melted butter
  • 1 large onion medium chopped
  • 1 thai chili or 1/2 jalepeno
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes not drained
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp tamrind juice or thick store bought pulp 1/4 tsp
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups 1 inch cubes pumpkin or butternut squash roasted or steamed until just tender*
  • 2 tsp sambar powder optional because it is a bit hard to find
  • 1 tbsp cilantro chopped


  1. Cook the dal until very tender and a bit mushy by heating up the dal, 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt in a medium saucepan for about 40 minutes.

  2. While that is cooking, heat the oil in a deep sauce pan on medium and add mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and dried coconut. Cook for about 5 minutes until the house smells spicy.

  3. To the large saute pan, add the ghee, chopped onion, chili, and garlic and saute them for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Now add in tomatoes, red chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt.  Again saute for 2-3 minutes.

  5. Finally, add in the tamarind juice, water, brown sugar, pumpkin, and sambar powder and bring to a low boil for 4-5 minutes.

  6. Stir in the dal and garnish with cilantro.

Recipe Notes

*You roast the pumpkin using the method in one of our other posts: