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Onion Sambar
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5 from 1 vote

Onion Sambar or Vengaya Sambar

Vengaya Sambar is a south Indian onion dal, made with pearl onions and lentils. A fragrant spice mix infuses the dal with flavor. Serve with rice, poppadums and a potato curry. A gluten-free, soy-free and nut-free recipe.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Curry
Cuisine: Tamil
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: Onion Sambar, Vengaya Sambar
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 115kcal


  • 1 cup tuvar dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 2 teaspoon tamarind paste (or use a 1-inch ball of tamarind pods. Soak the pods in ½ cup warm water for 30 minutes, then extract the pulp by squeezing with your fingers. Discard the solids.)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi, venthayam)
  • 2 cups red pearl onions (or use shallots. Trim the ends and papery skins and if using shallots chop them into large pieces. Tamil cooks sometimes soak the onions overnight which makes it easier to slip the skins off.)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon asafetida (hing)
  • Salt to taste


  • Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until tender in a pressure cooker. Or cover the peas with an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil, then slap on a lid, lower to simmer, and boil for 30-45 minutes or until the peas are tender enough to mash. Add more water if needed as they cook.
  • Prepare the ground masala by heating 1 teaspoon of oil. Add to it the coriander seeds, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and chillies and saute until the coriander seeds and dal turn a few shades darker and are lightly golden-brown. Remove to a blender, add enough water to keep the blades moving, and process to a smooth paste.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil, add the pearl onions and stir-fry until the start to turn golden. Add the tamarind extract and let the mixture cook about 8 minutes.
  • Add the ground masala and stir well to mix. Add the cooked tuvar dal and bring everything to a boil.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer, add salt to taste, and let the sambar cook for 10 minutes so all the flavors have a chance to meld together.
  • To temper the sambar-- an important flavor-building step-- heat the last teaspoon of oil in a small saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafetida and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds, turn off the heat, and pour over the sambar. Mix well.


Calories: 115kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Potassium: 123mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 45IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg