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Tiffin Sambar – Instant Pot, Stove Top

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Tiffin sambar, a quick and easy restaurant style sambar perfect accompaniment to many South Indian dishes. Sambar is a lentil-based curry, with a stew like consistency, made with lentils, blend of vegetables and aromatic spices.

Serve this Tiffin sambar with some Dosa, Instant Rava idli, or medu vada for a perfect weekend brunch or for a company. This Tiffin sambar is easy to make, and tastes amazing. Enjoy this VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, NUT-FREE recipe.

 

 

 

SAMBAR

Sambar is a South Indian dish made with split pigeon peas, mixed vegetables, tamarind, flavored a special spice mix known as Sambar masala (spice mix), adds soul to this dish. Tempered with some aromatic curry leaves, mustard seeds, adds a ton of flavors and aroma to this dish.

Sambar masala is a blend of various spices and lentils, dry roasted and grind to powder. A good sambar masala is a key to making this aromatic, flavorful sambar. You can use homemade sambar masala or a good quality store bought. 

Sambar is typically served with dosa, Rava idli, or over rice, thus making it a complete, well-balanced meal. 

TIFFIN SAMBAR

Tiffin also known as dabba in India, is a stackable steel containers, used to pack lunches or mid day snacks. I remember, my mom used to pack me lunch in these small tiffin, that had 2-3 stacked containers. Tiffin comes in so handy to pack multiple food items.

In India, tiffin or dabba, are referred to lunch delivered at work places. The tiffin could contain home cooked food or food from the restaurants.

Tiffin sambar is mildly sour and sweet as compared to sambar. The consistency of tiffin sambar is quite thick, as compared to sambar. Tiffin sambar is mainly served with Idli, Dosa, Mendu Vada, wheres sambar can be served with rice too.

There are many ways this tiffin sambar is made throughout India. Today, I am sharing my recipe for Tiffin Sambar, I learnt from my aunt. She makes the best Tiffin Sambar!!

Pic Shown: Instant Pot Tiffin Sambar

 

 

WHAT LENTILS ARE USED FOR MAKING TIFFIN SAMBAR

Traditionally, sambar is made with tuvar (toor) dal, also known as arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils. However, moong dal (split yellow petite lentils) or masoor dal (red lentils), may also be used for making the sambar.

Sambar can be made with just one or combinations of dal, like tuvar and moong dal, or tuvar and masoor dal.

Occasionally, I also add some chickpeas or black eyed peas for extra flavor and added nutrients.

WHAT VEGETABLES ARE USED FOR MAKING TIFFIN SAMBAR

Tiffin Sambar uses variety of vegetables. Depending upon the availability, feel free to add veggies of your choice. Some of the vegetables we like in our Tiffin sambar are as follows:

LAUKI (BOTTLE GOURD)

ONIONS

TOMATOES

POTATOES

CARROTS

PEAS

GREEN BEANS

PUMPKIN

INGREDIENTS FOR TIFFIN SAMBAR

1-1/2 cup TOOR DAL (SPLIT PIGEON PEAS) – lentils for the base of the sambar

4 cups WATER – for pressure cooking, plus as needed to adjust the consistency

1/2 cup LAUKI (BOTTLE GOURD) – peeled and cut into small pieces

1 small ONION – chopped or sliced. You can also use small pearl onions for this recipe.

1 small TOMATO – chopped into small pieces

8-10 GREEN BEANS – chopped

1 small CARROT – diced

1-2 GREEN CHILI – green chili, increase or decrease to suit your taste.

1/2  INCH GINGER – chopped or grated

2-1/2 tablespoon SAMBAR MASALA POWDER – homemade or store bought, adjust to taste. I prefer MTR brand store bought sambar masala. 

1/4 teaspoon TURMERIC POWDER

1/2 tablespoon TAMARIND PULP – adjust to taste

1-2 teaspoon JAGGERY POWDER – adjust to taste

SALT TO TASTE

NOTE: The veggies should be around 2 cups – lauki, onion, tomato, green beans, carrots.

FOR TEMPERING

4 tablespoon OIL

1 teaspoon MUSTARD SEEDS

1/4 teaspoon FENUGREEK SEEDS

1/4 teaspoon HING  (asafoetida)

2-3 WHOLE RED DRIED CHILI

1-2 sprigs CURRY LEAVES  

FOR GARNISH

Handful of fresh CILANTRO 

Pic Shown: Instant Pot Tiffin Sambar

 

 

 

HOW TO MAKE TIFFIN SAMBAR

Traditionally, Tiffin sambar is made by cooking lentils and vegetables separately. First the lentils are cooked until they are mushy. Followed by, vegetables, sambar masala, some tamarind pulp and is simmered until veggies are cooked. Finally, tempered with some mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, dry whole red chili and curry leaves. Garnish with some handful of fresh cilantro. 

I like to make this tiffin sambar as a one pot dish. I cook the lentils and vegetables together until lentils are cooked and veggies are soft. You can add the tempering in the pot, just before adding the lentils and veggies or do it later, once the lentils and veggies are cooked. Both work just fine. I prefer to temper the sambar later, use whichever method works best for you.

I love to make this tiffin sambar in Instant Pot, its hands down the easiest method of making restaurant style sambar. Perfect every single time! Here I am sharing both Instant Pot and Stove top pressure cooker recipe. Enjoy!

INSTANT POT TIFFIN SAMBAR

Rinse the tuvar dal few times, until water runs clear.

Add the rinsed dal into the inner pot of Instant Pot, add all the veggies.

 

Add sambar masala, turmeric powder, salt to taste. Add water, mix well. 

Close the Instant pot, vent on sealing position. Select Manual / Pressure cook mode for 15 minutes.

 

Pic Shown: Instant pot cooked lentils and veggies.

 

 

Let pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, and then release the remaining pressure manually.

Turn ON Saute mode (more), add tamarind pulp, mix well.

 

PREPARE TEMPERING – On a stove top, heat some oil in a pan, when oil is hot, add mustard seeds, let the seeds splutter. Reduce the heat to low, add methi seeds, asafoetida, whole dry red chili, curry leaves, turn OFF the heat. 

Pour this tempering over the sambar. Mix well, bring it to a boil. Turn OFF saute mode.

Garnish with some fresh cilantro and enjoy!

Pic Shown: Instant pot Tiffin Sambar

 

 

STOVE TOP TIFFIN SAMBAR

Follow the recipe as discussed earlier, after the first whistle reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until lentils and veggies are cooked. Follow rest of the recipe as Instant Pot.

TIPS FOR BEST TIFFIN SAMBAR

A good quality sambar masala is a key for making this delicious sambar. You can use homemade sambar masala or a good quality store bought masala. I use MTR brand sambar masala. It tastes good and is easily available in most Asian / Indian grocery stores. 

Combination of vegetables add a nice flavor to the sambar. The taste of the sambar will depend on the vegetables used in the sambar. We love the combination of lauki, onion, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and pumpkin. However, you can add veggies of your choice.

I prefer tempering the sambar at the end, gives nice aroma to the sambar. You can also do the tempering in the Instant pot, before adding the lentils, thus making it a one-pot meal. If doing the tempering first in the IP, skip the curry leaves in the tempering, you can add these later at the end while simmering the sambar. 

Fresh curry leaves add a nice flavor to the sambar. You can also use dry curry leaves instead, will work fine. Can’t find curry leaves where you live, feel free to skip the curry leaves, the sambar will still taste good.

We like medium consistency sambar. Adjust the consistency of the sambar by adding less or more water to suit your taste. If adding more water, adjust the seasoning as well. 

You can adjust the sour or tanginess in the sambar by adding little jaggery or brown sugar to balance the flavors.

Sambar thickens over the period of time, feel free to add water to adjust the consistency as per your liking.

Sambar tastes better after couple of hours as all the flavors blend in so well.

Pic Shown: Mixed Lentils Dosa served with some Tiffin Sambar and Coconut Chutney

 

 

 

FAQ ABOUT TIFFIN SAMBAR

CAN I USE ANY OTHER LENTILS – Typically, Tiffin sambar is made using split pigeon peas. However, you can use split petite yellow lentils (moong dal), or red lentils (masoor dal). A combination of lentils works fine as well.

Note: Depending upon the type of lentils used, the taste and texture of sambar will vary.

CAN I SKIP JAGGERY – jaggery adds a hint of sweetness to the sambar. Jaggery is added in a very less quantity, just to balance all the flavors. However, if you don’t like jaggery you can skip it, the sambar will still taste good.

ALTERNATIVE TO JAGGERY – brown sugar or honey would work just fine.

CAN I ADD GARAM MASALA – I personally, don’t prefer any other spice, other than sambar masala in this recipe. However, if you like to add some additional flavor, feel free to use garam masala. 

Please be advised that sambar masala and garam masala both havea very distinct flavors. 

ALTERNATIVE TO TAMARIND – You can use some lemon or lime juice, fresh cranberries to add the tanginess to the sambar. Green mango (unripe mango) may also be used for tangy flavor.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS FOR TIFFIN SAMBAR

We love Tiffin sambar with Dosa, Idli, or Mendu Vada. Serve it with some Coconut chutney and enjoy!

HOW TO STORE TIFFIN SAMBAR

Tiffin sambar stays fresh for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Store it in a air-tight, glass container. Avoid storing the sambar in a metal container.

Tiffin sambar can be frozen for up to a month. Freeze it in a freezer safe container. Defrost it in the refrigerator, heat and serve.

 

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Tiffin Sambar / Restaurant Style Sambar

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, South Indian
Keyword sambar, tiffin sambar,restaurant style sambar,hotel sambar,instant pot sambar,instant pot tiffin sambar
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8
Author Jyoti Behrani

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS FOR TIFFIN SAMBAR

  • 1-1/2 cup TOOR DAL SPLIT PIGEON PEAS
  • 4 cups WATER for pressure cooking, plus as needed to adjust the consistency
  • 1/2 cup LAUKI BOTTLE GOURD, peeled, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small ONION chopped or sliced
  • 1 small TOMATO chopped
  • 8-10 GREEN BEANS chopped
  • 1 small CARROT diced
  • 1-2 GREEN CHILI green chili, increase or decrease to suit your taste
  • 1/2 INCH GINGER chopped or grated
  • 2-1/2 tablespoon SAMBAR MASALA POWDER
  • 1/4 teaspoon TURMERIC POWDER
  • 1/2 tablespoon TAMARIND PULP adjust to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoon JAGGERY POWDER adjust to taste
  • salt to taste

FOR TEMPERING

  • 4 tablespoon OIL
  • 1 teaspoon MUSTARD SEEDS
  • 1/4 teaspoon FENUGREEK SEEDS
  • 1/4 teaspoon HING asafoetida
  • 2-3 WHOLE RED DRIED CHILI
  • 1-2 sprigs CURRY LEAVES

FOR GARNISH

  • Handful of fresh CILANTRO

Instructions

INSTANT POT TIFFIN SAMBAR

  • Rinse the tuvar dal few times, until water runs clear.
  • Add the rinsed dal into the inner pot of Instant Pot, add all the veggies.
  • Add sambar masala, turmeric powder, salt to taste. Add water, mix well.
  • Close the Instant pot, vent on sealing position. Select Manual / Pressure cook mode for 15 minutes.
  • Let pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, and then release the remaining pressure manually.
  • Turn ON Saute mode (more), add tamarind pulp, mix well.
  • PREPARE TEMPERING – On a stove top, heat some oil in a pan, when oil is hot, add mustard seeds, let the seeds splutter. Reduce the heat to low, add methi seeds, asafoetida, whole dry red chili, curry leaves, turn OFF the heat.
  • Pour this tempering over the sambar. Mix well, bring it to a boil. Turn OFF saute mode.
  • Garnish with some fresh cilantro and enjoy!

STOVE TOP TIFFIN SAMBAR

  • Follow the recipe as discussed earlier, after the first whistle reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until lentils and veggies are cooked. Follow rest of the recipe as Instant Pot.

Notes

The veggies should be around 2 cups – lauki, onion, tomato, green beans, carrots.
Please refer to the post for the following: 
  1. TIPS FOR BEST TIFFIN SAMBAR
  2. FAQ ABOUT TIFFIN SAMBAR
  3. SERVING SUGGESTIONS FOR TIFFIN SAMBAR
  4. HOW TO STORE TIFFIN SAMBAR

 

Jyoti Behrani

Hello!! Welcome to my blog, my journey Living Smart and Healthy! Cook with me easy and authentic Indian food and around the globe. Will be sharing tips and tricks on easy authentic cooking, without spending hours in the kitchen or comprising on authentic flavors. Keeping things simple and healthy is what I am all about. Life is simple, so lets keep cooking simple too!!

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