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Sweet Potato and Green Pepper Tamarind Stew (“Sambar”)


What do you make when it’s really cold outside, you are stuck at home and you want something comforting but healthy- sambar! Assuming you keep a pantry well stocked with lentils and spices, you can easily make this dish.

sweetpotatosambar_0013My pantry had all the requisite ingredients but sambar, like most homemade Indian cuisine, is very forgiving. Don’t have curry leaves or coconut, no problem (that happens to me a lot). It still tastes great.


One of the key ingredients of sambar is tamarind, or more specifically, the pulp from the fruits of the tamarind tree. The tamarind tree is native to Africa and India. The fruit is rich in vitamin c and calcium.

To complement the inherent sourness of the tamarind pulp, I used sweet potatoes in my sambar. Adding green peppers too ensures that the sambar has the right blend of sweet, sour and spicy!


Sweet Potato and Green Pepper Tamarind Stew (“Sambar”)


  1. 1 cup toor dal (or red lentils, if you do not have a pressure cooker)
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  4. ~1 pound of vegetables, chopped (1 sweet potato, 2 green peppers- weight does not have to be exact)
  5. 1 tablespoon sesame oil (use olive or coconut oil alternatively)
  6. 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  7. 1/4 teaspoon ground asafoetida
  8. 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  9. 4-5 fresh curry leaves, chopped
  10. 1/2 cup tamarind paste (Swad brand works well)
  11. 3 1/2 cups water
  12. 1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
  13. Spice Blend
  14. 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  15. 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  16. 2 teaspoons bengal gram dal
  17. 1/4 teaspoon of ground asafoetida
  18. 2-3 dried red chiles (depending on your spice tolerance)
  19. 2 teaspoons grated coconut (unsweetened, dry is fine if you don’t have fresh)
  20. Garnish
  21. a handful of roughly chopped cilantro (about 4 tablespoons)
  22. 4-5 fresh curry leaves, chopped


    Cook the Lentils
  1. Start by cooking the toor dal in a pressure cooker- wash the dal well, add 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Mix well and cook until soft. If you do not have a pressure cooker, use red lentils and cook with 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon of turmeric in a heavy pot on the stovetop until the lentils are soft. Set aside when soft.
  2. Prepare the Spice Blend
  3. Saute all the spices for the spice blend (not coconut) in 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil in a small skillet on the stovetop.
  4. Once they are golden add to a spice blender with 2 teaspoons of coconut and blend well. Set aside.
  5. Make the Sambar
  6. In a large, heavy pot heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.
  7. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground asafoetida and 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds. Keep the heat on a medium-low.
  8. When the mustard starts popping, add the chopped curry leaves. (Don't worry if you don't have any curry leaves.)
  9. Add the vegetables and mix well.
  10. Let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes.
  11. In the meantime, prepare the tamarind. Mix 1/2 cup of the paste into about 1 1/2 cups water.
  12. Add the spice blend and one teaspoon of salt to the vegetables, followed by the tamarind paste. Mix well and add two more cups of water.
  13. Cook covered (with a slight opening so there is no bubbling over) on medium-low.
  14. Once the vegetables are cooked and the sambar has been simmering for about 30 minutes (the vegetables should be cooked), add the cooked dal.
  15. Add salt to taste. Mix well.
  16. Garnish with cilantro and more fresh curry leaves if available.
  17. Serve over rice.

  • Elizabeth Vardadan - Yum, this sounds so delicious. I love sambar, and sometimes Rajan makes bell pepper sambar, but the addition of sweet potato sounds great!ReplyCancel

    • Vidhya - Thanks! Sambar with bell peppers is always good. I usually add bell peppers as the complementary vegetable in whatever sambar I make- ie bell peppers + radishes or bell peppers+ onions, etc.ReplyCancel

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