If you are from India, especially South India, you would already know how good Tiffin Sambar tastes. This is an Authentic, Delicious Restaurant Style Sambar Recipe. Also, a perfect accompaniment for Idli, Dosa , Pongal & Medhu Vada. Let’s see how to make this Sambar in Instant Pot & Stovetop.

What is Tiffin

Tiffin is an Indian English word for a light tea-time meal at about 3 pm, or to a light breakfast consisting of typical tea-time food. It is derived from “tiffing”, an English term meaning to take a little drink.

In the Southern Part of India and in Nepal, a tiffin is generally a snack between meals. Mostly Idli, Dosa, Vada etc.  In other parts of India, such as Mumbai, the word mostly refers to a packed lunch. In Mumbai, it is often delivered to them by dabbawalas, who use a delivery system to get thousands of tiffin carriers to their destinations. in Most Parts of India, a school-going child’s lunch box is fondly called a tiffin box.

Tiffin Sambar

If you are curious to see how tiffin carriers look, click here. There was a time when I was a huge fan of carrying this box to school. Compared to those fancy boxes that we carry today, these give a very traditional and comfortable feel.

Tiffin Sambar

If you are familiar with South Indian recipes, then you know Sambar is one staple dish. Most households make Sambar minimum twice or thrice a week. While there are different Sambar Recipes out there, Tiffin Sambar tastes a little different than the regular Sambar Recipe. Almost similar to Araichuvitta Sambar, if you are aware of it.

The core ingredients of Sambar are Lentil/Dal, Vegetables, Tamarind & Sambar Powder. This healthy Sambar is packed with goodness from lentils and vegetables in one dish. I love sambar with ghee so I never miss adding some ghee to it while serving. The main taste, flavour and aroma of the Sambar come from the freshly ground sambar powder. No store-bought powder can come close to it.

Every House has their own way of making Sambar. I make Sambar in few different ways. This is one variation that tastes close to the Sambar that we get in restaurants back home. My favourite picks are Ratna Cafe & Saravana Bhavan. The Sambar Vada and Mini idli sambar that you get in these restaurants are a must-try. There is a mild sweet tinge with a little bit of sourness in this Sambar. That’s exactly what I have tried to replicate here.

Tiffin Sambar

Difference between Regular Sambar & Tiffin Sambar

Well, the way I make my regular sambar is a lot different. I do not add onion or tomato to my regular Sambar. Also, I always have huge packets of homemade Sambar Powder sent by my mom, in stock. I use a few teaspoons of it in Sambar. I add toor dal, vegetables & tamarind extract along with sambar powder.

For Tiffin Sambar, I avoid adding any extra vegetables. Just pumpkin, small onion(shallots) & tomato. I prepare fresh Sambar Powder for Tiffin Sambar. Also, I make it a little thinner than the usual sambar. Sambar in general thickens as it cools. This is because of the addition of dal. Hence if you make it thicker than the regular sambar, when you pour it on top of idlis, sambar gets absorbed very fast. So, I prefer a thinner version for Tiffin.

Tiffin Sambar


Sometimes I make Tiffin Sambar with Moong Dal. But Regular Sambar is always done with Toor Dal.

Reasons I love Instant Pot Tiffin Sambar

The dal and vegetables are cooked to perfection!

No need to babysit. I hate standing around and waiting for the Sambar to be done usually. With Instant Pot, this job is easier.

Dump it all in one go!

How to make fresh tamarind extract

I prepare fresh tamarind extract every time I need some for my cooking. You can easily find Seedless Tamarind in Indian grocery stores. Take just a small lime size tamarind and soak it in hot water. After few minutes, just mix it up so that the tamarind dissolves. Now, filter it with the help of a kitchen strainer. Press to get as maximum extract as possible. Discard the tamarind fiber.

How to make Tiffin Sambar in Instant Pot

Wash toor dal multiple times in water and soak it in water for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, in the inner pot of an IP, add a tsp of oil. Once it becomes hot, on saute mode, add coriander seeds, chana dal, red chillies. Saute until colour changes slightly and a nice aroma comes. Cancel Saute mode. Add asafoetida, cumin seeds & fenugreek seeds. Just saute for a minute in the heat of the pan. Keep it aside. Once the ingredients come to room temperature, powder them.

How to make tiffin sambar



In the same pot, add ghee /oil. Once hot add mustard seeds, red chilli, curry leaves. Once mustard splutters, add green chilli followed by small onions. Saute for a minute. Add tomato. Saute again for a minute. Now, add turmeric powder, salt, freshly ground Sambar Powder.

How to make Tiffin Sambar

Saute for 30 seconds and add in the soaked & drained dal, followed by sliced pumpkin. Add tamarind extract & water. Add some more salt if needed. Now, close the pot.

How to make Tiffin Sambar



Cancel saute mode. Close the instant pot and cook the sambar for 10 minutes under high pressure on Pressure cook mode. Let pressure release naturally. Check for salt and some jaggery. Mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve.

Tiffin Sambar

Can I make this Sambar on Stovetop?

Yes of course. Pressure cook toor dal, pumpkin and tomato together. Cook for 4-5 whistles until mushy. Mash and keep it aside. In a pan, saute the ingredients for sambar powder. Cool it down to room temperature and make a powder. Now, in a pan, add ghee /oil. Once hot add mustard seeds, red chilli, curry leaves. Once mustard splutters, add green chilli followed by small onions. Saute for a minute. Now, add turmeric powder, salt, freshly ground Sambar Powder.

Saute for 30 seconds and add in the tamarind extract and water. Add some more salt if needed. Let it cook until the tamarind smell goes away. Finally, add the cooked dal, pumpkin& tomato mixture. Adjust consistency. Add a bit of jaggery and check for salt. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve.

Serving Suggestions

Tiffin sambar tastes amazing with Idli, Dosa, Pongal, Vada. We generally love immersing mini idlis in hot sambar and eating it. The same goes with Vada. In South India, Idli & sambar is one of the most eaten breakfast item. It is considered to be healthy as well. Do try these combinations.

Tiffin Sambar

Notes

Use moong dal or a mix of toor dal & moong dal if desired.

Add more veggies if you prefer. You can use drumstick, chayote, radish, carrot, brinjal, ladies finger, raw mango etc.

I use regular tamarind, soak it in water & take the extract. You can use homemade or store-bought tamarind paste.

Adding jaggery is optional. But I like adding a bit of it to Sambar cos it gives a nice balance to the taste.

If you prefer a thicker Sambar, let it boil for more time.

Sambar thickens with time. Adjust consistency by adding warm water to it.

If you prefer fresh tempering, do it separately on the stovetop and add it to the Sambar once done in Instant Pot.

For this recipe, I highly recommend freshly made Sambar Powder. If not able to make it, use any store bought Sambar Powder.

More Recipes to try

Sambar Rice

Rasam Rice

Ven Pongal

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Pinterest tiffin sambar

My Favourite Tiffin Sambar in Instant Pot & Stovetop

South Indian Sambar made with Lentils, Vegetables, Tamarind & Spices. Authentic, Delicious Restaurant Style Tiffin Sambar Recipe in Instant Pot & Stovetop. Perfect Accompaniment for Idli & Dosa.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Easy Sambar Recipe, Hotel Sambar, Instant Pot sambar, Instant Pot Tiffin Sambar, One Pot Sambar Recipe, Pressure cooker sambar, Restaurant Style Sambar, Tiffin Sambar
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Gayathri Vijayakumar

Ingredients

For Sambar Powder

  • 1 tsp Oil
  • 1 tbsp Chana Dal
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 5 Red Chillies Adjust according to spice level
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • Asafoetida a pinch

For Tempering

  • 1 tbsp Ghee/Oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • Curry leaves a handful
  • 1 small Green chilli
  • 15 Small onion/shallots

For Sambar

  • 1/3 cup Toor Dal
  • 1 cup Yellow Pumpkin Chopped
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 cups Tamarind Extract Extract tamarind extract with small lime size tamarind immersed in 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tbsp Jaggery Optional
  • Coriander Leaves/ Cilantro To Garnish

Instructions

  • Wash & Soak Dal in Enough Water
  • Soak tamarind in hot water and take 2 cups of extract.

To make Sambar in Instant Pot

  • Meanwhile, in the inner pot of an IP, add a tsp of oil. Once it becomes hot, on saute mode, add coriander seeds, chana dal, red chillies.
  • Saute until colour changes slightly and a nice aroma comes. Cancel Saute mode. Add asafoetida, cumin seeds & fenugreek seeds.
  • Just saute for a minute in the heat of the pan. Keep it aside. Once the ingredients come to room temperature, powder them.
  • In the same pot, add ghee /oil. Once hot add mustard seeds, red chilli, curry leaves. Once mustard splutters, add green chilli followed by small onions. Saute for a minute. Add tomato. Saute again for a minute. Now, add turmeric powder, salt, freshly ground Sambar Powder.
  • Saute for 30 seconds and add in the soaked & drained dal, followed by sliced pumpkin. Add tamarind extract & water. Add some more salt if needed. Now, close the pot.
  • Cancel saute mode. Close the instant pot and cook the sambar for 10 minutes under high pressure on Pressure cook mode. Let pressure release naturally. Check for salt and some jaggery. Mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve.

To make Sambar in Stovetop

  • Pressure cook toor dal, pumpkin and tomato together. Immerse them in just enough water and cook for 4-5 whistles.
  • Mash and keep it aside. In a pan, saute the ingredients for sambar powder. Cool it down to room temperature and make a powder.
  • Now, in a pan, add ghee /oil. Once hot add mustard seeds, red chilli, curry leaves. Once mustard splutters, add green chilli followed by small onions.
  • Saute for a minute. Now, add turmeric powder, salt, freshly ground Sambar Powder.
  • Saute for 30 seconds and add in the tamarind extract and water. Add some more salt if needed. Let it cook until the tamarind smell goes away.
  • Finally, add the cooked dal, pumpkin& tomato mixture. Adjust consistency. Add a little bit of jaggery and check for salt. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve.

Notes

Use moong dal or a mix of toor dal & moong dal if desired.
Add more veggies if you prefer. You can use drumstick, chayote, radish, carrot, brinjal, ladies finger, raw mango etc.
I use regular tamarind, soak it in water & take the extract. You can use homemade or store-bought tamarind paste.
Adding jaggery is optional. But I like adding a bit of it to Sambar cos it gives a nice balance to the taste.
If you prefer a thicker Sambar, let it boil for more time.
Sambar thickens with time. Adjust consistency by adding warm water to it. 
If you prefer fresh tempering, do it separately on the stovetop and add it to the Sambar once done in Instant Pot.
For this recipe, I highly recommend freshly made Sambar Powder. If not able to make it, use any store-bought Sambar Powder.