Sambhar Masala

Tamil Cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, exudes simplicity and the flavors are clean and fresh. Meals are served on green banana leaves and the fragrance of food permeates every house. The special spice blend of this region is Sambhar powder, used to flavor the dal of the same name “Sambhar” and even various other vegetable dishes. The powder is a blend of both spices and lentils; it acts a flavoring and a thickening agent. It is best added before the lentils or vegetables so that it has a chance to develop its flavor.

After a lot of experimentation and research I got this basic recipe from a South Indian friend and since then my South Indian dishes have never tasted better.


  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 dried red chilies (adjust according to taste), stalks removed and deseeded
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp asafetida               
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 3 tsp chana dal (split gram lentils)
  • 3 tsp urad dal (split black lentils)
  • 3 tsp toor dal (split yellow lentils)

Heat a heavy pan and dry roast all the whole spices and curry leaves. Keep heat on low to prevent burning. Add turmeric and asafetida, give mixture a good stir and remove from heat. Transfer in a dry bowl and in the same pan, heat the oil and sauté the lentils. When they turn dark, add the roasted spices. Cool the mixture and grind in a blender until fine. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place.