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Mixed Vegetable Sambar Stew - South Indian Curry

 For your next curry night try this mixed vegetable sambar stew. It's a tasty curry with a variety of vegetables and lentils.

South Indian Vegetable Sambar.

Mixed Vegetable Sambar Stew - South Indian Curry

A  vegetable sambar is a South Indian stew made with vegetables, lentils, tamarind paste, spices, and a sambar spice mix.

Usually quite a soupy stew, I make it a bit thicker, but you can add more water for a more authentic finish.

Try it next time you have a curry night at home. 

It's a great fakeaway curry.

Bo'ness Spice

I first tried this South Indian stew when I was invited to visit the award-winning Bo'ness Spice restaurant in Bo'ness, a small town on the outskirts of Edinburgh on the banks of the River Forth.

Bo'ness Spice restaurant.

It's a gorgeous, bijou restaurant that specialises in authentic Bangladeshi and Indian recipes, using traditional spices with fresh local produce.

Just a handful of tables and booths in this stylish wee restaurant, but everything is cooked fresh and the service is excellent.

The flavours are like nothing I've tried before in an Indian restaurant.

You could really taste they made their own spice blends and taste the quality of the food.

The focus was on taste and not heat, which is a mistake so many Indian restaurants, that cater for the British palate make. They seem to make about 3 different sauces and coat everything in it and everything swims in sauce.

This was much more authentic Indian food.

Each dish had its own individual flavour profile and was different to the next dish.

Dishes from Bo'ness Spice including vegetable sambar, mushroom bhaji and dal.

We ordered a few dishes to share. Sabzi Sambar (the recipe I'm sharing with you today), Sabzi Rogan Josh, Tarka Dal, Bombay Aloo, Mushroom Bhaji, Pilau Rice and Peshwari Naan.

It was such a treat!

We spent most of the meal taking a forkful and saying "This is so good!".

I highly recommend this restaurant if you're looking for a really authentic Indian dinner with lots of flavour at a reasonable price, with good service in a cosy intimate space.

If you are lucky to live close enough they also provide a takeaway service.

Thanks to Mohammad for inviting us along.

Bo'ness Spice
61 South Street
EH51 9HA

01506 826 777

Sambar Spice

Sambar spice is a unique spice blend and the main spice mix in this Indian stew, which is popular in South Indian Cuisine.

Good restaurants make their own spice blends, but you can make homemade sambar powder or buy it pre-made from an Indian grocery store, where you will find a large selection of spice powder.

Alternatively, you can buy it online.

This special spice mix is a red fine powder made from lentils, fresh curry leaves, coriander seeds, cumin and red chillies.

Of course, every recipe varies slightly, but you could try this recipe for Sambar Powder from Hebbar's Kirchen.

What can you use instead of sambar powder?

It's really worth making or buying a good quality sambar powder, but if you can't find it, you can substitute it with rasam powder which is similar and also used in South Indian recipes.

Alternatively, Mohammad, the owner of Bo'ness Spice said you could use curry powder instead.

Vegetable Sambar Stew as part of an Indian meal.

What other spices are in a vegetable sambar?

As well as sambar masala powder, this South Indian curry also includes turmeric powder, which the lentils are cooked with.

Also, there is garlic and fresh ginger, garam masala, chilli powder, chilli flakes (or dried chillies which were in the original recipe), fenugreek, tamarind and fresh coriander.

Ingredients to make vegetable sambar

Here are the ingredients you need to make this Indian vegetable stew. It's a fairly long list but nothing too unusual.

  1. Oil - vegetable or olive oil
  2. Onion - white onion
  3. Garlic
  4. Ginger - fresh ginger
  5. Tomato
  6. Red chilli powder
  7. Chilli flakes
  8. Sambar masala powder - or curry powder
  9. Garam masala
  10. Turmeric
  11. Fenugreek powder - or crushed fenugreek seeds
  12. Red lentils
  13. Potato
  14. Carrot
  15. Aubergine
  16. Cauliflower
  17. Cabbage - white cabbage
  18. Green beans - or French beans
  19. Tamarind paste
  20. Salt
  21. Fresh coriander leaves

Can you use other vegetables?

Yes, you can definitely use other fresh vegetables in this Indian vegetable curry.

It's a good one for using up veg you have in the fridge. 

You can use seasonal vegetables or a different mix of vegetables, whatever you prefer.

Why not add some courgette or mushrooms, if you have them?

Love a vegetable curry? Try my Quick Roasted Vegetable Balti.

tamarind paste.

What is tamarind paste?

Tamarind paste is a sour and slightly sweet paste made from the tamarind pulp from the seed pods of the tamarind tree.

It is used in curries to balance the flavour of the spices and add a sour element with a bit of sweetness. 

Ripe beef tomato.

Fresh tomato or tinned chopped tomatoes?

I use a large fresh tomato for this recipe.

On this occasion a ripe beef tomato.

However, you could use tinned tomatoes, but you would only need about a third of a 400g (14 oz) tin.

Vegetable Sambar Tips

Here are a few tips to make the best South Indian Vegetable Sambar or Sambhar.

  • Add more lentils for a thicker curry
  • More water for a more soupy stew
  • You can use a mix of red lentils (lal masoor dal) and yellow split lentils (also known as toor dal, arhar dal, tuvar dal) or use green split lentils (moong dal or mung dal) or pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • Use whichever vegetables you like
  • Use more chilli powder and sambar powder for a spicier curry
  • You can use extra tamarind extract, which balances the flavour of the spices
  • As with all curries and stews they taste better on day two, so make it ahead if you can

The 3 stages of making a veg sambar

  1. Cook the dal in a small pan with 2 cups of water (the original recipe called for 4 which makes more of a soupy stew), turmeric and salt
  2. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger , then add the spices.
  3. Add the vegetables, dal, water and tamarind paste, then simmer on a medium heat

Vegetable Sambar Curry served with dal, bombay potatoes and naan bread/

Low-calorie curry

This vegetable curry is a healthy option when you are choosing an Indian dish for curry night.

It is low fat and low calorie.

Great if you are watching your weight or following a low-calorie diet like the 5:2 diet.

It's also a great way to get lots of vegetables in one meal.


4 servings = 257 calories per serving

5 servings = 205 calories per serving

6 servings = 171 calories per serving

How to make a thicker Indian stew

For a thicker stew, you can either add more lentils or mash some of the vegetables at the end of the cooking time.

This will also help thicken the curry.

For a more authentic sambar, it should be a thinner sauce.

Make it a thinner stew

If you prefer it more authentic, soupy style stew, add 4 cups (950 ml) of water to the lentils instead of 2 cups.

This will then be added to the curry as it cooks.

Homemade Indian feast.

How to serve vegetable sambar stew

Sambar is probably served differently in South Indian homes, but here are a few ideas. 

Pick the ones that appeal to you most. I have included a few easy recipes.


Indian Side dishes


  • Pilau rice
  • Mushroom pilau rice
  • Boiled rice

Indian Breads

  • Naan bread
  • Peshwari naan bread - with coconut
  • Chapatis
  • Dosa

How long can you store vegetable sambar?

Once cool, store the sambar in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

The flavours will develop as it sits, so it will be even tastier after the first day.

It will thicken as it cools.

Can you freeze vegetable sambar?

Let the curry cool, then portion it up and store in labelled freezer bags or tubs for 3-4 months.

To defrost, pop a portion in the fridge overnight, then reheat.

You may need to add some hot water to thin it a little.

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How to make Mixed Vegetable Sambar

A step-by-step photo guide followed by a full printable recipe. 

Making vegetable sambar - step 1 - making the dal

Step 1

  • First, make the dal.
  • Add the washed lentils to a pot with water, turmeric and salt and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a gentle simmer and leave to cook until the lentils are mushy.
  • In a large pot add the chopped onions to a pot with oil on medium heat.

Making vegetable sambar - step 2 - cooking the tomato & onion base

Step 2

  • Add the garlic, ginger and chopped tomatoes.
  • Saute until soft and beginning to brown.
  • Add the spices, seasoning and a splash of water and cook for a few more minutes to develop the flavours.

Making vegetable sambar - step 3 - adding the veg

Step 3

  • Now it's time for the veg.
  • Add the chopped aubergine and carrots. potato and cauliflower.

Making vegetable sambar - step 4 - more vegetables.

Step 4

  • Keep going! There is more veg.
  • Next, add the cabbage and green beans.
  • Mix well to coat in the spices and cook for a few minutes. 
  • You will need to add a good splash of water.

Making vegetable sambar - step 5 - adding tamarind paste and dal.

Step 5

  • Now add the mushy lentils (dal) and the tamarind paste.
  • Season and add more water.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Making vegetable sambar - step 6 - finish cooking and serve.

Step 6

  • Once the curry is well cooked, the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened it is ready.
  • Taste to check the seasoning, then add fresh coriander (cilantro) and serve.
  • Enjoy!

Indian curry, South Indian curry, vegetable curry, vegetable sambar, vegetable sambar stew, vegetable sambar curry, vegan curry, low calorie curry, low fat curry
Yield: 4-6
Author: Jacqueline Meldrum
Mixed Vegetable Sambar Stew - South Indian Curry

Mixed Vegetable Sambar Stew - South Indian Curry

For your next curry night try this mixed vegetable sambar stew. It's a tasty curry with a variety of vegetables and lentils.
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 40 MinTotal time: 55 Min


  • 6 tablespoons red lentils, washed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups (475g) water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sambar masala powder (or curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 aubergine (or 2 baby aubergines), diced
  • 5 cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) slice of white cabbage, chopped
  • 50g (about 12) green beans, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup (237g) water
  • 1 handful fresh coriander


  1. Add the lentils to a small pan with the turmeric, 2 cups (475ml) water and salt and cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are mushy.
  2. While this is cooking, add the oil to a large pan and saute the onion, garlic and ginger until soft and starting to brown.
  3. Add the sambar masala, garam masala, fenugreek, chilli powder, chilli flakes, a pinch of salt and a good splash of water.
  4. Stir well to combine and cook for a few minutes to bring out the flavour of the spices.
  5. Add all the chopped vegetables (not the coriander) and stir well to coat.
  6. Now add another splash of water and cook for a few minutes.
  7. Add the 1 cup (237 ml water), tamarind paste and the cooked, soft lentils (dal) and mix well. You can add more water if you want a more soupy stew.
  8. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, then cook for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.
  9. Serve topped with fresh coriander and serve with rice and naan bread and any side dishes you fancy.
  10. Enjoy!


  • You can add different veg.
  • No ripe tomatoes? Add a third of a 400g (14 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
  • You can use other split lentils.
  • For a thicker curry add more lentils or for a thinner more soupy stew add more water.
  • If you can't find sambar powder, you can use curry powder instead.
  • Once cool, store the sambar in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The flavours will develop as it sits, so it will be even tastier after the first day. It will thicken as it cools, so you may want to add some water.
  • Let the curry cool, then portion it up and store in labelled freezer bags or tubs for 3-4 months. To defrost, pop a portion in the fridge overnight, then reheat. You may need to add some hot water to thin it a little.


4 servings = 257 calories per serving

5 servings = 205 calories per serving

6 servings = 171 calories per serving

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

4.72 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

0.77 g

Carbs (grams)

47.02 g

Fiber (grams)

14.73 g

Net carbs

32.35 g

Sugar (grams)

10.52 g

Protein (grams)

10.11 g

Sodium (milligrams)

93.53 mg

Cholesterol (grams)

0 mg

Disclosure: I was invited to review Bo'ness Spice restaurant. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Oh yes please. That looks right good.

  2. That looks really delicious Jaqs. I will definitely give it a go. Love that it is so low calorie too. Jill x

  3. I am.making an Indian spread for my mates tomorrow. Will make this too. cheers for the recipe.

  4. Love this flavorful and easy sambar stew. Thanks alot for sharing.

  5. I loved learning about this delicious dish! I'm glad to be able to enjoy a dish without traveling so far to that fun restaurant!

    1. Worth going to if you ever vist Edinburgh, but enjoy the sambar.

  6. Absolutely delicious vegetable sambar recipe! I appreciate the flexibility to adjust the consistency. It's now a must-have for our curry nights at home. A perfect fakeaway curry that's both authentic and comforting. Thanks for sharing this gem!

  7. I have actually been to that restaurant and it is very good. Now I will have to make the recipe. (Ginny 😍)

    1. What a coincidence and yes it is good. You definitely have to try the sambar Ginny.

  8. Enjoyed this for dinner last night and it was a savory success! Loved all the balance of flavors and textures; easily, a new favorite recipe!

  9. This sambar stew was such an easy, hearty dinner for our family!! It was packed with flavor and so delicious!

  10. Shadi HasanzadenematiSaturday, 21 October, 2023

    This was such a hit! My family loved it a lot and I know I’ll be making it again!


I love reading comments, so thank you for taking the time to leave one. Unfortunately, I'm bombarded with spam, so I've turned on comment moderation. I'll publish your comments as soon as I can and respond to them. Don't panic, they will disappear when you hit publish. Jac x