Onion Sambar is a very popular South Indian and Sri Lankan sambar. It goes well with rice, idli, dosa, vada, pongal, upma and most other South Indian breakfast dishes.
This dish can be made with small onions (pearl onions or pickling onions) or with chopped, big onions. It will taste wonderful whatever onion you use. I like to use golden shallots as well – they add a slight sweetness to the dish.
You can see all of our Sambar recipes here, and our collection of Indian recipes here. Specifically, out South Indian dishes are here and Sri Lankan are here. Perhaps you want Onion Recipes. Or try our collection of easy Mid Summer recipes.
0.5 cup toor dal
a pinch Turmeric powder
1 tspn salt, to taste
0.5 Tblspn tamarind, or to taste
1 tspn coriander seed
0.75 tspn channa dal
1 – 2 dried red chillies, or more to taste
2.5 Tblspn grated coconut
1 tspn ghee
0.5 tspn black mustard seeds
0.25 tspn fenugreek seeds
1 stalk curry leaves
1 large onion, chopped, or several small pickling onions, or several shallots
coriander leaves (cilantro), optional
Soak the toor dal in water for 15 mins – 2 hours (or overnight). Strain and cook the toor dal with the turmeric powder in 1.5 – 2 cups water until soft and disintegrating. It has to be mushy. Add the salt and mix in well.
Soak the tamarind in 1.25 cup of hot water for 20 mins, then strain, reserving the liquid and pushing the pulp through the sieve. Discard the seeds and fibres.
Dry roast the coriander seed, channa dal, red chillies and coconut, in that order, until the spices brown a little. The coconut will not take long, so add last of all, turn off the heat and saute in the residual heat of the pan.
Grind the spices and coconut until a powder, then add 0.5 cups water and grind to make a smooth paste.
Melt the ghee and saute the mustard seeds until they pop, then add the fenugreek seeds. As they go golden, add the curry leaves. Then add the onion and saute until golden brown. Then add the tamarind juice and salt. Cook until the onion is soft and the tamarind has lost its raw taste.
Add the spice paste to the onions and cook for 5 – 10 mins more.
Now add the cooked dal, bring back to the boil and remove fro the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves if desired.
Enjoy with rice, dosa, idli or chapatis.
recipe notes and alternatives
For quick cooking, replace the roasted and ground spices with 2 – 3 tspn sambar powder.