Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Sambar Powder

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Homemade Sambar Powder (Sambar Masala)

As I have noted many times in this space, I always do prefer to make my own spice blends, time permitting. Although there are plenty of good ready-made blends to be had from Indian grocery stores, there is just no comparison between the homemade versions. Sambar powder — or sambhar masala — is the base for a wide range of spicy south Indian vegetable or dal curries known as sambars or sambhars, and I prepared this mixture in preparation for a black-eyed pea sambar dish that I made for a dear friend of mine. The addition of chana dal was a welcome addition to the mixture and it thickened it out to suit my preferences. Chana dal as well as the other ingredients in this recipe are easily found in Indian and most Asian grocers.

I am going a bit crazy at the moment, as the city is digging up the street to repair water mains and such right out front of the house. Crash, bang, boom, beep, beep, beep, and they start making racket around 7 in the morning and continue throughout the day. The street is now a mud pit and cars are getting stuck. I don't like noise — my preference being ambient music — but what can I do? Take refuge in the kitchen I guess, despite the heat.

Homemade Sambar Powder (Sambar Masala)Homemade Sambar Powder
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on July 24, 2010

A hot and fragrant spice blend used as the base for south Indian sambar dishes

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

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  • 1/2 cup dried curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup whole dried red chilies
  • 1/4 cup chana dal
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 1-inch sticks cinnamon, broken into bits
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the spice mixture and roast, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the spices and chilies darken a few shades.

  • Let the spices cool and then grind in batches into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. Transfer the mixture to tightly-sealed jar and store in a cool place. The sambar powder should keep for a few months.

Makes about 2 cups — reduce the quantities to make a smaller amount

Other spice blends from Lisa's Kitchen:
Homemade Massaman Paste
Homemade Harissa
Homemade Chana Masala Powder
Homemade Garam Masala


Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Fraggle rock was brilliant. I bet you would prefer to have the doozers working outside your door! Hope all the work is finished soon.

Sweet Artichoke said...

I totally agree on making the spices mix at home. To me, most of the ready-made ones end up tasting the same... Your sambar masala sounds delicious! I've never tried with sesame oil and will do soon :-)
P.S. Thanks for Fraggle Rock, sent me back to some happy memories :-)

eatme_delicious said...

Hope the road work is finished soon!

Johanna GGG said...

your roadwork sounds awful - glad you can find some peace in your kitchen - maybe you should make some curry with an absurd amount of chili peppers and offer it to the workers :-)