Instant Pot

Instant Pot Sambhar Lentils With Tamarind Paste

December  2, 2018
5 Ratings
Photo by Ghazalle Badiozamani
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

The original recipe for this dish came to me from my friend Shubha Iyengar. Her family has been making it for generations for the temple where her maternal grandfather served as a priest. She was generous enough to coach me through making my own sambhar spice blend and then tolerated my tinkering with her recipe as I searched for ways to make it more efficient. You’re the lucky recipient of all this work, so I hope you enjoy this—along with lots of rice and ghee.

Excerpted from INSTANT POT FAST & EASY © 2019 by Urvashi Pitre. Photography © 2019 by Ghazalle Badiozamani. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. —Urvashi Pitre

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 9 Instant Pot Indian Recipes for Rich, Comforting Flavor Fast. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Lentils
  • For the first cooking cycle
  • 1/2 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • Sambhar spice mix, recipe follows
  • For the second cooking cycle
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup cut frozen green beans
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
  • For the tadka
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 dried red chiles
  • 4 or 5 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sambhar spice mix
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal (split brown chickpeas)
  • 1 tablespoon urad dal (split black lentils)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 5 to 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 to 5 dried red chiles
  1. Lentils
  2. For the first cooking cycle: In the Instant Pot, combine the toor dal, water, tomatoes, onion, sugar, salt, turmeric, cayenne, and spice mix. Stir to combine.
  3. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select MANUAL and set the pot at HIGH pressure for 10 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, allow the pot to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture directly in the pot until smooth.
  4. For the second cooking cycle: Add the water, pearl onions, green beans, and tamarind concentrate to the pot.
  5. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select MANUAL and set the pot at HIGH pressure for 2 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, quick release the pressure.
  6. For the tadka: In a small skillet, melt the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, chiles, and curry leaves. Stand back and allow the mustard seeds to sizzle and spatter for about 30 seconds. Pour the hot flavored ghee into the sambhar and mix well.
  7. Divide sambhar among four serving bowls and garnish with cilantro.
  1. Sambhar spice mix
  2. In a small dry skillet, combine all the ingredients. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the coconut starts to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely.
  3. When the spices are cool, transfer to a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind to a fine consistency.
  4. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month. Shake or stir before using.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cindy Raspiller
    Cindy Raspiller
  • Urvashi Pitre
    Urvashi Pitre
  • Hilary G.
    Hilary G.
  • Rob
Dr. Urvashi Pitre is the President of a global marketing consulting firm, as well as the author of several best-selling cookbooks.

6 Reviews

Hilary G. November 21, 2023
Really delicious! A complex tasting stew despite how easy it was to assemble. I was happy to find that I could grind the spice mixture in my large mortar and pestle. Can't wait for the leftovers!!
Cindy R. January 4, 2020
Just made this for dinner tonight. It's fantastic. There are a lot of steps but if you have everything on hand it comes together quickly. Thank you!
Urvashi P. January 5, 2020
Yay! Thanks for leaving a comment and so glad It worked out well for your tastebuds.
Rob December 15, 2018
Making this one, Lentils With Tamarind Paste, right now. It's not clear how much sambahar spice to use. Is this a "to taste" thing?
Rob December 16, 2018
Used about 1 1/2 tsp of the sambhar spice and opted for fresh green beans and pearl onions rather than frozen. Served over rice, and naan of course. DELICIOUS!!!
Urvashi P. December 17, 2018
Hi there, I use the whole batch of sambhar spice for it, but of course, it's easy to adjust to taste as you suggest. Glad you liked it!