Instant Pot Sambar (Indian Split Pigeon Pea and Vegetable Soup)


You are going to absolutely love this recipe for sambar, a tamarind flavored lentil and vegetable soup!

Instant Pot Sambar

Instant pot sambar is the perfect soup to make any time of the year because it’s fresh and light and filling all at the same time. This south Indian soup also happens to be naturally gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan.

What is sambar?

Sambar is a popular south Indian soup that calls for Indian vegetables and toor dal (also known as split pigeon peas). It has a slightly tangy tamarind flavor and is often served for breakfast or brunch alongside idli or dosa.

Instant Pot Sambar and Idli

I love eating sambar on its own, but when you combine it with soft and fluffy idli? Oh my goodness. It’s the absolute perfect meal.

Okay well actually…

Maybe sambar and dosa is the absolute perfect meal…

I mean, both are amazing, but if I had to choose between idli and dosa… I’d choose dosa. Thoughts?

Here’s the thing. While I really love soft and fluffy idli, you can’t beat the crunch you get from dosa. I’m not sure there is anything better than dipping pieces of crispy dosa in a bowl of hot sambar. Some of the dosa gets soft, and then some parts stay crisp. It’s just so, so good.

When it comes to serving sambar, you really can’t go wrong with either idli or dosa. And if you can’t choose between the two, then I guess you can eat sambar like soup. Or you make both, lol.

What vegetables are in sambar?

Sambar is typically made with mixed vegetables like eggplant, carrots, green beans, potatoes, okra, and drumsticks. You can use any vegetables you’d like, though.

Have you heard of drumsticks? Not like actual drumsticks, silly. I’m talking about the Indian vegetable – it’s apparently also known as moringa (though I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to this vegetable as moringa… like ever). Anyway, drumsticks are one of my favorite Indian vegetables in sambar – it’s the thick green looking thing on the left side of the picture below.

When eating drumsticks, eat the pulpy inside and then discard the fibrous exterior (it’s similar to eating artichoke leaves – use your teeth to eat the pulpy portion, then toss out the rest). I have to use my fingers to eat this vegetable, but my (south Indian) husband somehow removes the pulpy part in his mouth, which for some reason absolutely fascinates me. I weirdly enjoy watching him eat drumsticks. I’m also (very) easily amused… Anyway, try it out – go to any Indian grocery store, and you’ll see it in the frozen aisle. 

Instant Pot Sambar

Can I use pre-made or store-bought sambar masala instead of individual spices?

Yes! If you’d like to use your own sambar blend or store-bought sambar masala, then leave out my spices and add the masala to taste.

I’ve listed individual spices for this recipe for those who don’t want to buy masala or for those who are like me and prefer to control the amount of spices used.

You’ll notice that in most of my recipes, I prefer to use individual spices rather than store-bought pre-made masalas (store-bought garam masala being the exception).

There are two main reasons that I prefer to use individual spices: I can flavor the dish to my taste, and also, this way, I can offer my blog readers consistent results. Not all spice mixes are created the same, and so if you use a masala mix, there’s a chance you may not like the outcome, whereas I have tested my recipe using the exact amount of spices listed.

That said, you can absolutely use sambar masala if you prefer to do it that way. Just make sure you like the masala mix, so you’re happy with the end result. If you do try it as written, though, let me know!

Instant Pot Sambar

Instant Pot Sambar (Indian Split Pigeon Pea and Vegetable Soup)

Instant Pot Sambar

Instant Pot Sambar (Indian Split Pigeon Pea and Vegetable Soup)

This tamarind flavored lentil and vegetable stew is a very popular South Indian dish. It almost always accompanies idli or dosa.
5 from 7 reviews
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  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt adjust to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon roasted cumin powder*
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups chopped mixed vegetables* see notes below
  • 1 to mato chopped
  • ½ onion chopped into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste


  • Soak the split pigeon peas (toor dal) in cold water for 1 hour. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  • Press the sauté button, add the oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add the curry leaves, garlic, ginger and spices. Stir, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 10 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure for 15 minutes. Open the valve to release any remaining pressure.
  • Serve over rice or with idli or dosa.


  • *This dish is typically made with mixed vegetables like okra, eggplant, carrots, green beans, potatoes and drumsticks. You can find drumsticks, also known as moringa, in the frozen aisle of any Indian grocery store. When eating drumsticks, eat the pulpy inside and then discard the fibrous exterior (it’s kind of like eating artichoke leaves).
  • To make roasted cumin powder: heat a skillet over low heat and dry roast cumin seeds (I usually do 1 cup) for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the color of the cumin changes to a dark brown. Turn off the heat and allow the cumin seeds to cool down. Place the cumin into a spice grinder and blend until smooth. Store in an airtight jar and use within 6-8 months for the most flavor.
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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. sandy says

    Liked the receipe, going to make it first time without readymade sambar powder. I also want to add lots of vegetables so that i dont have to make separate sabji. Pleased advise on what time i should be adding vegetables. I am using instant pot

  2. Nalini Raj says

    5 stars
    Ashley!! Can’t say enough Thank you’s for this amazing recipe for Sambar. This was the one thing I hated to make, because of the time it took and somehow it would just never taste good enough. Your recipe was such a hit with my Family (we are from Chennai so you know how Sambar is a staple with us), and is now my go to recipe for sure. I especially love that we don’t use Sambar masala at all. I am new to the IP as well. Was inspired after seeing your blog, FB page and videos.

    I had a question. When you say 1 cup in your recipes, do you mean the actual 1 cup in a measurement cup, or the cup that comes with the IP?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Nalini, that’s so awesome to hear! Thank you for letting me know how much you and your family liked the sambar 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what you think of any other recipes that you try! As for measurements, I use standard US measuring cups (not the cup that came with the IP).

  3. Ginger Bingham says

    5 stars
    Just finished a big bowl. My stomach is full and content, but my mouth wants more! Delicious! And my husband really liked it. I am trying to get him to eat more plant based meals, and that worries him, but he proclaimed this filling and satisfying. And I doubled the recipe, so I get to have this for lunch at work😋. Thanks for another outstanding recipe.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Ginger, that’s so great to hear! I’m so glad you liked this sambar recipe 🙂 And love that you’re looking for more plant based meals – I have plenty on the site and there are plenty more coming!

  4. Raja Nageswaran says

    5 stars
    I love your recipes and being a South Indian , I had to make Sambar in an easy and delicious way to eat with dosa . This recipe was perfect – Easy ingredients, simple steps and a decent quantity . Love it . Keep posting easy and great recipes . Instant pot coupled with your recipes is a life changer . Thank you.

  5. Nandini says

    5 stars
    How did you decide on the water quantity? Was it 3 cups for lentils and 1 cup for veggies? Or 2.5 for lentils and 1.5 for veggies. Asking because my husband loves more veggies in sambar so I’d need to scale up accordingly. Amazing recipe btw! Everything’s perfectly cooked. Nothing over or underdone 🙂

  6. Karen says

    5 stars
    I cheated and used the Sambar powder, but the recipe was a huge hit in my house. I planned for leftovers and the teenagers ate the whole thing. Definitely making its way into our regular rotation. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Amit says

    5 stars
    Damn! This recipe turned out amazing! You’re terrific! Although, I am not because I told my wife the sambar turned out good because of the love I put in..

      • Amit says

        5 stars
        Before I tried out your recipe, I was under the impression that cooking Sambar is a very difficult and long process. I have now cooked it twice in two weeks and it could not be easier! My wife has always made sambar with sambar powder but it never tasted like that from a restaurant. And the sambar from your recipe is professional grade sambar! I am just in awe of the revelation.

  8. Ammu says

    Add a small piece of Jaggery/1 tsp of sugar. Also if we add a tomato and grated coconut paste before cooking will enhance the taste.