Instant Pot Sambar

Instant Pot Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable stew from South India made using Instant Pot. It takes less than an hour to cook and fits vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free lifestyle.

So I finally bought an Instant Pot! In case you are not familiar with it, it is an electric pressure cooker that provides a lot of functionality. Think rice cooker + slow cooker + pressure cooker + steamer + sauté pan combined into one. I love it so much that I have donated my all other appliances, so definitely check instant pot if you are considering to downsize to one just appliance. One of the first things I made in my instant pot is sambar, a lentil-based vegetable stew from South India. This simple instant pot sambar recipe comes from my friend Lavanya who spoils me with her delicious homemade dosa , pickles, and sambar.



If you know South Indian food, you probably already know how delicious and nutritious sambar is.  It is a staple dish that is enjoyed with dosa, idli, or plain white rice. I didn’t grow up eating sambar but I have always liked it’s spicy, tangy taste at restaurants. When Lavanya told me she makes it weekly at home, I just had to know how to get that ‘sambar’ taste that is different than your regular lentil-vegetable soup.



 Making sambar is a two step process, it requires few key ingredients and just one pot. Lentil is first cooked then mixed with vegetables later. The spice mix – sambar powder and tamarind are two essential ingredients that cannot be skipped while making sambar. I purchase both ingredients at the Indian grocery store and would be happy to share the brand/type if you are interested.

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I don’t think the internet needs more sambar recipe but the Instant Pot Sambar I am sharing shows how versatile, flexible, and forgiving this dish is. Traditionally, toor dal (split pigeon peas) is used for sambar but I have experimented with orange split lentils, French lentil, and green lentil and they all work great or you can do a combination if you’d like. You can use different vegetables of your liking or what you have on hand – fresh, frozen, canned all works. Make it thin or thick, just change the amount of water. To make it extra special, temper sambar right before serving as shown here. 

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I am not claiming Instant Pot Sambar to be authentic or anything. It’s a simple, extremely flavorful vegetable lentil stew I find to be so delicious and wholesome I just had to share with you all. Also, you don’t have to have an instant pot to make this sambar. You can cook lentils and vegetables in a pressure cooker or stove top.

Instant Pot Sambar

Author: Dixya @Food, Pleasure, and Health
Serves: 6


  • 1 cup green lentils

  • 3 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 small knob of ginger, minced

  • 1 zucchini, chopped

  • 2 potatoes, chopped

  • 1 bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped

  • handful of spinach

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

  • 1-1.5 tablespoon sambar powder (may use more or less depending upon the spice level)

  • 6 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate

  • salt, to taste


  1. Rinse lentils and add to the instant pot with 3 cups of water.

  2. Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes and let it sit for 5 minutes before removing lentils from the pot.

  3. Transfer lentils to a bowl and mush it.

  4. Change the setting to saute and add canola oil to the pot.

  5. Fry cumin seeds until fragrant.

  6. Add onion, garlic, and ginger to the pot and let it saute for 3 minutes.

  7. Add all the vegetable to the pot and sautee for 4-6 minutes.

  8. Add turmeric powder and sambar powder to vegetables and gently stir them together.

  9. Add 6 cups of water and tamarind concentrate.

  10. Change the setting to pressure cook – high for 10 minutes and let it sit for 5 minutes.

  11. Open the instant pot and mix lentils with vegetables. Add salt and adjust seasoning as necessary.

  12. Change the setting to keep warm for few minutes and serve it hot.

If you make Instant Pot Sambar, I’d love to hear from you or tag @foodpleasurehealth


Dixya Bhattarai

Dixya Bhattarai

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