Instant Pot: Sambhar

March 30, 2021

Instant Pot: Sambhar - Indian As Apple Pie

This South Indian stew is so perfect when you have a ton of veggies around and you don't quite know what to do with all of them. I throw them all in and create magic. Sambhar Powder is key to this dish. Head to any Indian grocer, buy ours (the link is below), or make your own. While I grew up in a North Indian home, we had a larger group of very good South Indian friends. It was those aunties that I thank for teaching me how to cook and appreciate delicious South Indian dishes. 

This recipe has been converted to the Instant Pot from my book, The Indian Slow Cooker, page 74. You'll find a recipe on the opposite page for Sambhar Powder. 


Pressure Cooker Size: 3 quart or larger
Warm Up: 19 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Cool Down: Natural release
TOTAL: 27 minutes plus natural release time
Makes: 8 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1-4 Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and sliced lengthwise
1 small tomato, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced into 2-inch rounds
1 medium daikon, cut into 2 ½-inch strips
1 small turnip, roughly chopped
1 small russet, Yukon Gold, or red potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup duhli toor dal (dried, split, and skinned pigeon peas), picked over and washed
2 tablespoons Sambhar powder (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
5 cups water
2 whole dried red chiles, broken in pieces

For Tarka (Tempering)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch hing (asafoetida) (optional)
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 whole dried red chiles, broken in pieces
10 fresh curry leaves

1. Place the inner cooking pot in your Instant Pot. Select the SAUTE setting and adjust to MORE. When the indicator flashes HOT, add the oil.

2. Once hot, add the onion and fresh chiles. Stir and cook 1 minute.

3. Add the tomato and cook 1 minute.

4. Add the carrot, daikon, turnip, and potato. Stir and cook 1 minute. Try any combination of vegetables, as long as together they measure out to about 3 cups. Try string beans, okra, eggplant, parsnips, small pearl onions, and/or squash. You can also use a traditional long, green vegetable called a drumstick, which is not often found fresh in the United States but can be found in cans in well-stocked Indian grocers.

5. Press CANCEL. Add the dal, Sambhar powder, salt, tamarind, water, and red chiles. Stir.

6. Lock the lid into place and make sure the pressure release valve is set to the sealing position (upwards). Press the PRESSURE COOK button until the panel indicates MORE and adjust the time to pressure cook on HIGH for 8 minutes.

7. Once the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally. Once this is done, press CANCEL and open the lid.

8. While waiting for the pressure to release prepare the tarka. On your stovetop, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a small pan. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the hing and mustard seeds. Cook until the seeds pop and turn grey. Add the red chiles and curry leaves. Cook about 1 minute until the leaves wilt, stirring to prevent burning.

9. Carefully add this mixture to the Instant Pot. The hot oil may splash once it hits the liquid. Serve with idli, dosa, or plain rice. Or, serve on its own as a hearty stew.




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