National Soup Month

One of our Banister Nutrition team members, Ruth, is blessed with a wonderful South Indian family heritage.  As January is National Soup Month, she’d like to share a favorite soup her parents make: South Indian Sambar. Ruth says, “We usually eat this soup along with another dish called Idli, which is a steamed rice cake.” 

Even though the origin of Sambar is not known, it has become an integral part of South Indian cuisine and is enjoyed in various forms across the country. These various forms can be seen as a soup (more liquid based) or stew (thick, hearty texture). Sambar is a tangy and spicy lentil-based stew, typically made with tamarind, pigeon peas (toor dal), and a mix of vegetables, and it is seasoned with a unique blend of spices.

South Indian Sambar Recipe:



-6 baby carrots

-5-6 frozen moringa pods

-2 red potatoes 

-½ snake gourd (padavalanga)

-1 green hot pepper (adjust to spice preference)

-¾ red onion

-3 or 4 cloves garlic

-1 small ginger root

-1 cup lentil (toor dal)

-1 yam

-2 tomatoes (such as Roma)


-2-3 tbsp Sambar seasoning

-½ tbsp turmeric powder

-Salt (to taste)

-¼ tsp asafoetida

-1 tsp mustard seeds

-½ tbsp coconut oil


Prepare Lentils:

  1. Wash lentils then soak in 1 ½ cup water for 10-15 minutes. 

Prepare Vegetables:

  1. Thaw 5-6 frozen moringa pods in cold water.
  2. Remove skin from yam, ginger, and snake gourd (remove seeds as well).
  3. Cut red potatoes, yam, snake gourd, ½ red onion, and tomatoes into medium-size pieces (approximately 1-inch cubes). 
  4. Cut ginger into small size pieces (approximately ½ inch or less).
  5. Wash all vegetables (except tomatoes) after cutting.

Cooking in Stovetop Pressure Cooker:

  1. In a pressure cooker, add soaked lentils, all vegetables, sambar seasoning, turmeric powder, asafoetida, thawed moringa pods, and salt.
  2. Ensure the above ingredients are covered with water (DO NOT add coconut oil or mustard seeds until tempering step – see below).
  3. Start cooking in the pressure cooker. 
  4. After two-three whistles (or after 25-30 mins) take the pot off the heat. Wait for all the pressure to come out before opening the lid. The lentils and vegetables should appear cooked and have a soft texture.

Tempering (Tadka):

  1. Cut ¼ red onion into small pieces.
  2. In a fry pan, heat ½ tbsp coconut oil, then add 1 tsp mustard seeds, and cut onion.
  3. Cook until golden brown.
  4. Place on top of the cooked Sambar.


Enjoy this delicious South Indian soup by itself or with your favorite accompaniment, such as steamed rice cakes (Idli).