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Regional Variations of Sambar Mix: Exploring Flavorful Twists from Different Indian States

Updated on June 9, 2024

Sambar mix is a skillfully crafted blend of spices for making the popular South Indian dish, sambar. This lentil-based stew incorporates Indian lentils like black gram, vegetables, tamarind, and the unique spice mix, including coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chilli powder, ground turmeric, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, and asafetida. The mix can be bought ready made as an instant sambar mix or prepared from scratch using sambar powder recipes. It is roasted, ground, and expertly blended for easy preparation of delicious gluten-free sambar whenever you want.

Importance of Sambar in Indian cuisine

Sambar, an essential part of South Indian food, complements dishes like idli, dosa, vada, and rice, combining lentils and fresh vegetables for a nutritious blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Its flavours differ across regions, from Tamil Nadu’s tangy and spicy hot sambar to Kerala’s coconut-based variation, showcasing diverse culinary traditions. Exploring regional sambar mixes unveils a range of rich flavours, from bold and fiery to milder and subtly nuanced versions, catering to varied taste preferences in different Indian states. The popular Idli Sambar combination is cherished for breakfast across India.

South Indian Sambar Mix

Ingredients Traditional South Indian Sambar recipe

  • Toor dal, also known as split pigeon peas, forms the base of this flavorful dish, which is further enhanced by the addition of tangy tamarind pulp.
  • Complemented by a delightful medley of fresh vegetables such as drumsticks, carrots, tomatoes, and onions, this South Indian delicacy is seasoned with the aromatic sambar powder—a delightful blend of spices and lentils.
  • The warm hues of ground turmeric and the fiery kick of red chilli powder lend depth and spice to the dish.
  • The tempering of black mustard seeds, fragrant curry leaves, and asafetida further elevates the taste profile.
  • Of course, the quintessential seasoning of salt adds the perfect balance to the sambar’s flavours.
    Prepared with care in hot water and oil, this sambar emerges as a delectable and nourishing treat, cherished by many.

Instructions of south indians sambar recipe

  • In a pressure cooker, cook the Toor dal until soft.
  • In a separate pan, heat oil and add black mustard seeds, allowing them to splutter before adding curry leaves and asafoetida.
  • Sauté the vegetables for a few minutes and then add ground turmeric, red chilli powder, and sambar powder, ensuring everything is mixed well.
  • Pour in the tamarind pulp and 2 cups of water, bringing it to a boil.
  • Finally, incorporate the cooked toor dal and salt, mixing thoroughly and simmering for a few more minutes.
  • Serve the delicious dish hot alongside steamed rice or idli for a satisfying South Indian meal.

North Indian Sambar Mix

Variation in spices and ingredients

North Indian sambar features aromatics like garam masala, asafoetida and fennel seeds, infusing the dish with richness and umami. Ginger-garlic adds depth and aroma. It emerges as a flavorful lentil stew using sambar powder, turmeric, chilli, and tamarind.

North Indian Sambar recipe

  • To make North Indian Sambar, heat oil and splutter mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and a pinch of asafoetida.
  • Sauté onions, ginger, garlic until translucent, then add tomatoes and cook till soft.
  • Add the choice of vegetables, Sambar powder, turmeric, red chilli powder, and salt.
  • Pour tamarind pulp, water, and bring to a boil.
  • Cook the vegetables until they are done, then add ghee, curry leaves, dried red chilies, and mustard seeds.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or idli. Enjoy the flavorful dish representing North India’s culinary heritage.

East Indian Sambar Mix

Unique flavours and ingredients of sambar mix

The East Indian sambar offers a unique coconut-based twist featuring jaggery and sweet vegetables like pumpkin. Regional spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and black pepper create an unparalleled taste.

East India Sambar recipe

  • To make east indian sambar, cook 1 cup of toor dal with mixed vegetables (pumpkin, drumstick, carrot), 1 chopped onion, and 2 tomatoes.
  • Add 1 tbsp of east indian sambar mix, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, and salt.
  • Enhance the flavour with 2 tbsp grated coconut and 1 tbsp jaggery (optional).
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and temper with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and oil.
  • Enjoy this aromatic South Indian dish with rice or idli.

Instruction of sambar recipe

  • To prepare East Indian sambar, pressure cook toor dal until soft, set aside.
  • Heat oil, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, then onions and saute till translucent.
  • Cook the tomatoes until they become soft.
  • Include vegetables, turmeric, East Indian sambar mix, salt, and cook.
  • Dry roast grated coconut till golden, add to sambar, mix.
  • Optionally, add jaggery.
  • Garnish with coriander, serve hot with rice or idli.

West Indian Sambar Mix

Distinctive spices and flavours

The West Indian Sambar mix is distinguished by its unique blend of flavours and spices, featuring earthy cinnamon, cloves, and black cardamom for a rich taste. Red chilies add bold spiciness, while tamarind infuses tanginess, balancing the dish. The coconut-based mix provides a creamy and slightly sweet undertone, creating a flavorful and distinctive Sambar that embodies West Indian cuisine’s delights.

West Indian Sambar Ingredients

  • 1 cup of toor dal
  • West Indian Sambar mix
  • Small chopped onion
  • Chopped tomato
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Tamarind pulp
  • Salt
  • Fresh coriander leaves

Instructions of sambar recipe

  • To prepare the sambar, start by pressure cooking the toor dal until it becomes soft, then set it aside.
  • In a separate pan, heat oil and saute the chopped onions until they turn translucent.
  • Next, add the West Indian Sambar mix and stir for a few seconds to release the flavours.
  • Now, introduce the tomatoes and cook them until they become mushy.
  • Add the mixed vegetables, tamarind pulp, and salt, ensuring everything is well mixed, and cook for a few minutes.
  • Incorporate the cooked dal and mix it together with the other ingredients.
  • If needed, adjust the consistency by adding water. Allow the sambar to simmer for 10-15 minutes, giving time for the flavours to meld together.
  • Finally, garnish with fresh coriander leaves before serving.

Central Indian Sambar Mix

Regional variations and influences

Central Indian sambar mix is celebrated for its exceptional flavours, infused with local spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. This unique dish features toor dal for a creamy texture, while tamarind adds a tangy and sour element to balance the aromatic spices. Locally sourced vegetables, including bottle gourd, pumpkin, and drumstick, provide freshness and nutritional benefits. This twist on the traditional sambar recipe creates an unforgettable culinary experience in Central India.

Central Indian Sambar Recipe ingredients

  • 1 cup of toor dal (pigeon pea lentils)
  • small onion finely chopped
  • one chopped tomato
  • 1 cup of mixed vegetables such as bottle gourd, pumpkin, and drumstick
  • 2 tablespoons of sambar mix
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp for flavour
  • Don’t forget to add salt to taste
  • use water as needed for cooking
  • Finally, garnish the dish with cilantro

Instructions of sambar recipe

  • To prepare a delicious toor dal sambar, start by cooking the toor dal in a pressure cooker until it becomes soft.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate pot, heat some oil and saute onions until they turn golden brown.
  • Next, add tomatoes and cook them until they soften.
  • Now, introduce the mixed vegetables to the pot and cook for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the sambar mix, tamarind pulp, salt, and water, ensuring everything is mixed well.
  • Allow the vegetables to cook until they become tender.
  • Once the toor dal is ready, mash it and add it to the pot, stirring it in thoroughly.
  • Adjust the consistency by adding more water if necessary.
  • Simmer the mixture for a few minutes to let the flavours blend.
  • Finally, garnish the dish with cilantro and serve it hot, complementing it with rice or idli. Enjoy your flavorful toor dal sambar!

Northeast Indian Sambar Mix

Indigenous ingredients and techniques

Northeast Indian cuisine’s renowned sambar mix stands out with its distinctive flavours and ingredients, featuring indigenous elements like bamboo shoots for a delightful crunch. Fermented fish acts as a flavouring agent, infusing the dish with a rich umami taste. Local spices like black cardamom, Sichuan pepper, and galangal provide a spicy kick. The traditional slow-cooking process allows flavours to blend, resulting in a flavorful final product.

Northeast Indian Sambar recipe ingredients:

  • 1 cup of toor dal (split pigeon peas) with 2 cups of water.
  • Add in the chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, sliced bamboo shoots
  • optionally 2 tablespoons of fermented fish paste for extra flavour.
  • Season the mixture with 1 tablespoon of Northeast Indian spice blend, which is made using black cardamom, Sichuan pepper, and galangal.
  • Adjust the taste with salt as needed.
  • Bring the ingredients to a boil and allow them to simmer until the dal is fully cooked and the flavours blend.
  • Once ready, garnish with fresh coriander leaves for added freshness and presentation.

Instructions of sambar recipe

  • Rinse the toor dal and soak it in water for 30 minutes, then drain the water and transfer the dal to a pressure cooker.
  • Add 2 cups of water, chopped onion, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, fermented fish paste (if using), and the Northeast Indian spice blend to the pressure cooker.
  • Close the pressure cooker and cook the ingredients on high heat until you hear three whistles.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally.
  • After releasing the pressure, open the cooker and use a spoon to mash the dal mixture.
  • Bring the sambar mix to a gentle simmer, add salt to taste, and cook for 10 more minutes to allow the flavours to meld together.
  • Serve the Northeast Indian sambar mix hot, garnished with fresh coriander leaves.


Exploring the regional variations of Sambar Mix is a delightful culinary journey in India.

  • Tamil Nadu offers a tangy and spicy flavour with tamarind, coriander, fenugreek, and cumin.
  • Kerala’s version is rich, featuring coconut, black pepper, mustard seeds, and curry leaves.
  • Karnataka’s Sambar Mix is hearty with lentils, mixed vegetables, fennel, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s renowned fiery and spicy flavour comes from red chilli powder and tamarind, perfect for those who enjoy bold and robust tastes.

Experience the diverse flavours of Sambar Mix from different Indian states.

  • Tamil Nadu’s spicy version pairs perfectly with idli or dosa, while Kerala’s creamy coconut-based mix complements steamed rice or appam.
  • Karnataka’s lentil-based Sambar Mix offers versatility, great with rice or popular snacks like vada and bonda.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s fiery Sambar Mix promises an intense experience, especially when enjoyed with vegetables and hot steamed rice or ghee rice.

Embrace the rich tapestry of South Indian flavours with these delightful Sambar Mix variations from different states.


Which state has sweet Sambar?

There is no specific state in India that is universally known for having sweet Sambar. However, some variations of Sambar in certain regions may be prepared with a slightly sweet taste.

Where is idli and sambar from?

Idli and sambar originated in South India, particularly in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Idli is a steamed rice cake, while sambar is a spicy and tangy lentil-based vegetable stew, and they are often served together as a popular breakfast or snack.

What is Karnataka's famous food?

Karnataka is famous for its Bisi Bele Bath, a traditional dish that combines rice, lentils, vegetables, and a special spice blend, often served with a dollop of ghee.

What is Sri Lankan sambar?

Sri Lankan Sambar is a spicy and tangy vegetable stew made with tamarind and various vegetables, similar to the South Indian version but with some regional variations.

Which state is famous for dosa sambar?

The state of Tamil Nadu is particularly famous for its dosa sambar, where dosa, a thin crispy pancake made from fermented rice and lentil batter, is commonly served with flavorful sambar.

Which state has the best sambar?

It is subjective to determine which state has the "best" sambar, as tastes and preferences vary among individuals. Each state in South India has its own unique version of sambar, and people often have personal preferences based on their culinary experiences and regional influences.

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