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Beets Sambar with Rice

Along with coconut chutney, sambar is a part of a melodious ensemble that accompanies dosa and idli, the stars of South Indian restaurants. They have somehow come to represent the cuisine of the five Southern Indian states because of their popularity throughout India.

But if you ask me, sambar goes best with rice.

This recipe is unique because of two reasons, one is the use of beet as the main flavor-imparting produce and secondly because of the special sambar podi. Added at the end to shoot the flavor off the charts, mind you, the special sambar podi is optional. Something to do on a weekend or for party. Another lovely option Veena gives us is to make the sambar podi in advance. Store it in the fridge and it is good to be used for at least 6 months. And if must have sambar on a weekday and don’t have sambar podi at hand, skip the podi step completely and just use the store-bought sambar powder.

Ingredients – (For 4 people)

Special Sambar Podi – Advanced ingredient (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • 6-7 dry red chile peppers (like arbol)

  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds

  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 3 tablespoons chana dal

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

  • 1 pinch asafetida

Method for Sambar Podi

  •    Pour 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and turn the heat to medium.

  •   Add the 6 dry red chile peppers and saute till they darken and become crispy which will take about 7-8 minutes.

  • Turn the heat off and pour the peppers in a plate and let them cool.

  • In the same skillet, add the rest of the spices of the special sambar podi.   

  • Stir continuously and let the aroma take over the kitchen.

  • Let the spices turn golden brown and turn the heat off.

  • After this mixture cools down, blend it coarse in a blender.

  • Store in a glass bottle.

Ingredients - Beets Sambar


  • 1 medium red beet peeled and cut lengthwise into half moons

  • 15-18 mini red onions peeled or 1 large red onion diced into 1/2" pieces

  • 1 serrano pepper

  • 2 roma tomatoes diced into 1/2" pieces or 8-10 cherry tomatoes

  • 8 or 10 curry leaves

  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Other Ingredients

  • ½ cup toor dal or yellow split pigeon peas

  • 1 lemon-sized tamarind pulp or 1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Oils and Spices

  •   2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  •   2 tablespoons store-bought sambar powder (MTR or Everest brand)

  •   1 pinch asafetida

  •   1 teaspoon mustard seeds1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

  •  ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

  •   1 teaspoon turmeric powder

  •   1 pinch asafetida

  •   2 dry red chile peppers

  • 1 teaspoon table salt



  •   2 Thick-bottomed saucepans OR 1 saucepan and Pressure cooker or Instant Pot

  •   1 sauté pan

Tools and Equipment

  •   Cutting board

  •    Knife

  •    Peeler

Cooked toor dal - Advanced Ingredient

  • Take a thick-bottomed pot and pour 3/4 cup toor dal into it.

  • Wash it well several times till the drained water runs clear

  • Let it soak for 15 minutes

  • If using Instant Pot - Add 2.5 cups water to the washed dal and pressure cook on high - set to 20 minutes

  • If using stove-top cooking method - Add 2.5 cups water to the washed dal and place it on medium heat. Keep an eye on it and cook for about 30-40 min till the dal becomes soft and mushy.

  • You will stop here and let the cooked toor dal cool down if you are not planning to make use on that day. Store in the refrigerator in a clean glass container.

  • Please feel free to cook toor dal a day or two before too.

  • If you are planning on use on the same day, whisk the dal. You should not be able to see individual dal after whisking.

  • Set aside.

Method Beet sambar

  • Soak the tamarind pods for 5 mins in a hot water in a small bowl and microwave for 1 min . It will plump up so we can extract the pulp .

  • In a medium thick stainless steel sauce pot add the tamarind extract & add 3 1/2 cups of water .

  • Add teaspoon of turmeric powder , sambar powder and 1 teaspoon salt to taste . Mix well & keep on a medium heat .

  • Heat the sauté pan medium high heat . Add 2 teaspoons oil.

  • Follow with green chile peppers and onions till onion becomes translucent & add beetroot sauté for 2 mins.

  • Add tomatoes and stir for 2 mins and turn off the heat.

  • When the tamarind water comes to rolling boil like milk in the saucepan , time to add the sauté onion  and beets .

  • Cook for 15 -18 mins or till the beets are tender.

  • Now it’s time to add toor dal and sambar podi and mix well. Cook for 2 mins and turn the heat off. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

The Final Ta-da

  • The next step is an important – a step called chaunk, tadka, or tempering spices in oil. You can use the same skillet you used to stir fry spices for the sambar podi.Heat the skillet on medium heat . Add 2 teaspoons oil followed by 1 teaspoon mustard seeds , ½  teaspoon cumin seeds, and ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, whole red chilies & asafetida powder . Once all these seeds stop sizzling, pour the tempered oil over the sambar. Don’t mix, enjoy this accumulated pool of intensely flavored oil on the sambar by pairing with white rice .


The recipe below is for stovetop cooking of rice. Feel free to use a rice cooker, Instant Pot or any method of cooking rice of your choice.


  • 1 cup basmati rice

  • 1/2 tsp table salt


  • 1 Thick bottomed pot


  • Wash rice under running water 2-3 times or until water that you drain off runs clear. Set it aside.

  • Pour the washed rice and and 1 3/4 cup water.

  • Keep an eye on rice.

  • Once the water evaporates, cover the pot.

  • After 5 minutes, take a grain in between your thumb and index finger and squish. If you can crush easily, rice is ready. If not ready, check again in 2-3 minutes.


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