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Monday, 30 September 2019

Vengaya Sambar / Onion Sambar Recipe

Vengaya Sambar is a flavorful sambar made with Toor dal (pigeon pea), pearl onions or shallots and freshly ground sambar masala. It is one of the popular sambar variety from the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. Vengaya Sambar is easy to make and usually served with steamed rice but also goes well with South Indian breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, medu vada, etc.

I love sambar to the core but I add many veggies to it like drumstick, pumpkin, onions etc. This Vengaya sambar is different from other sambar varieties as it has a distinct flavor coming from the pearl onions and no other veggies are added to this sambar. Also, fresh homemade sambar masala made by roasting and grinding the lentils and spices adds to the taste of this sambar. This sambar does not have coconut either. This Vengaya sambar is mildly tangy and spicy in taste and the little amount of added jaggery balances the tangy and spicy flavors very well.

Now you all must be wondering why am I posting an onion sambar recipe during Navratri festival. Actually, it is month-end again and the time to post a region Indian recipe for the gourmet facebook group, Shhhhh cooking Secretly Challenge. In this group, each month we select an Indian state depending upon the alphabetical order and partners are assigned for the challenge. The chosen partners then exchange a set of secret ingredients among themselves and cook a dish with those ingredients from the regional cuisine of that month. The other group members who are not aware of the secret ingredients, then take turns to guess the ingredients just by looking at the pic of the dish. Doesn't this all sound interesting! If you are interested in joining this exciting group, leave a message in the comment section below.

                         चित्र में ये शामिल हो सकता है: पाठ

For this month's challenge, we had to cook a dish from the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. I was so glad to be paired with Priya Iyer of Thephotowali . Priya is a versatile blogger and her blog is home to many traditional South Indian and Gujarati recipes. I love her writing style and crisp clear photography. If you love traveling, her travel blogs are worth reading. Priya gave me mustard seeds and tamarind as my two secret ingredients and i made this flavorful Vengaya sambar using the two secret ingredients. In return, i gave her chana dal and dry red chilies and she made Vendakkai More Kozhambu, ladyfinger in yogurt gravy, yet another flavorful dish from Tamil cuisine.


This post is also added to the 131 My legume Love Affair hosted by my dear friend and fellow blogger, Sasmita. Conceptualized by Susan and carried forward to date by Lisa.


Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-5

  • 1/2 cup Toor dal / Pigeon pea
  • 1 cup pearl onions/shallots
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon jaggery
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt to taste
For Sambar powder: (Roast and Powder)
  • 1 teaspoon ghee/ oil
  • 3-4 dry red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chana dal
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • a fat pinch of asafoetida
To temper:
  • 1 teaspoon ghee
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies slit (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  1. To begin with making the Vengaya sambar, at first rinse and soak the Toor day for 1/2 an hour. This step is optional but i would recommend it as it not only saves time and fuel but also ensures the dal cooks very well. Next, pressure cook the dal with 1 cup water,1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida for 3-4 whistles and then simmer for another 10 minutes.

2. On cooking, the dal should be soft and easily mashable. Once the dal is cooled, mash the dal with the back of a spoon and keep aside until use.

3. By the time the dal is getting cooked, soak the tamarind in hot water for 5-10 minutes to extract the pulp. Extract the tamarind juice in a cup of water and discard the fiber. Also, peel the pearl onions and keep aside in water until use.

4. Next, we will prepare the sambar powder. For that in a wok heat 1 teaspoon ghee and add the chana dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, broken dry red chilies, and fenugreek seeds. Roast well until aromatic on low flame. Add asafoetida in the end, give a toss and transfer this roasted masala to a plate to cool down. Once it has cooled down, transfer the ingredients to a grinder jar and pulse to get a fine powder without adding water.

5. In the same wok, add 1 teaspoon ghee and add mustard seeds to it. Once the seeds splutter add curry leaves, asafoetida and split green chilies. Next, add the pearl onions and fry them for 2-3 minutes on medium flame until they become translucent.

6. To this, add tamarind water followed by 1 more cup of water, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and salt and bring to a boil. Continue boiling the mixture for 3-4 minutes or until the onions become soft and tender.

7. To this, add the mashed cooked dal. Give a good stir and more water if required to adjust the desired consistency. Once it boils, add the freshly ground sambar masala to the sambar. Let it boil again.

8. Add crushed jaggery and cook for another 1 minute and put off the flame. Garnish the sambar with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed rice or breakfast items like idi, dosa or medu vada.

Recipe Notes:
  • I have referred the recipe from here.
  • You can make this sambar using normal onions if the pearl onions are not available.
  • Make sure you do not burn the lentils and spices while roasting as the flavor of the sambar depends on this podi.
  • The sambar thickens further after addition of freshly ground spice mix so adjust the consistency of sambar accordingly.
If you ever try this recipe, do share your feedback with us in the comment section below. Follow us on #Facebook, #Instagram, #Twitter#Pinterest and #Google+ for more recipes and new updates. 

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  1. This sambar is surely my favorite. The slight sweetness that pearl onions provide is the star of this dish... so well made...

  2. The fresh sambar powder is the star of this preparation along with the flavorful small onions.. your sambar looks simply wow !!!

  3. Thank you poonam, i cooked your sambhar recipe and here is how my sambar looked like. I have tried tweking little bit in south indian manner but it tasted great. Thanks.

  4. Delicious Sambhar with freshly ground masala pearl onions and .. looks so inviting with idlis and rice!!

  5. Thank you for that sweet introduction to my blog! :)

    The sambar looks just perfect! The freshly ground spice mix takes the flavour of the sambar up by several notches.

  6. Onion sambar looks very yummy,vengayam floating on top looks super delicious. Love to have it with idli and dosa with Milagai podi nd ghee 😋. Awsome recipe Poonam!!

  7. Just love those pearly onions peeking out of the sambhar. Makes it look so tempting. I usually have sambhar with idli or dosa. However, would love to try vengaya sambhar with steaming rice.

  8. I just could not take my eyes of the pics. The sambar, the soft Idli's and the rice , all is making me drool. So beautifully presented and I am loving the sambar made with fresh masala and pearl onions Poonam

  9. we love this sambar for our sunday meal ritual, paired with Aloo-roast or chettinad aloo, its a drool worthy combo ! u have made it and presented it so beautifully, Poonam !! I love that cute prop basket containing the pearl onions...

  10. The vengaya sambar is one of my favorite. You made it perfectly and the step wise pictures are truly guiding.

  11. My all time favourite sambar..love it with rice or idli or dosai..yumm

  12. I love sambhar. And this sambhar with shallot looks so tempting. I would love to have it with steamed rice. Lovely share.

  13. The sambar with pearl onions looks flavoursome, liked your step by step detailed recipe.

  14. Since I have run out of sambhar masala I want to try this simple recipe here. Love sambhar n can live on it for days. :D
    Small onion sambhar is kiddos favorite. Looks yummy

  15. Pearl onions make the dish so tasty and you have added freshly grounded sambhar powder which make it more flavorful and delicious. Lovely presentation as usual

  16. Love the authenicity of the sambhar, Mil adds jaggery and mom adds none so I have had both and love both. just remembered tht when i saw the step by step

  17. I am a food lover. Infact I also do travel blogging.
    I found your recipe very useful and I will try this for my grandMaa.
    Well written and thanks for this recipe..!
    Hope my grandMaa will love this.

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