October 05, 2020

Tiffin Sambar | Idli Sambar - Restaurant style

Share with friends and family

 Idli Sambar & Medhu Vada Sambar are two such delicacies which are made for each other.  Dunk the soft spongy idlis or crisp vadas in sambar by pouring sambar over it or sophisticatedly  cut a slice of idli or vada using a knife and fork and then dip the fork pricked piece  into sambar , the taste is absolutely heavenly.  The way you eat is purely your choice , but the hero is always the piping hot flavorful sambar commonly called as Tiffin Sambar and there is no other much to this delectable combination. 

Click here to make the perfect batter for Idli

➡️ Idli Batter Using Wet Grinder

➡️ Idli Batter in a Mixie /Blender 

You may ask, what is so special about this tiffin sambar and in what way is it different from the regular sambar ?

There's not one,but many answers  to this question ; interesting isn't it ??

  • This sambar is called Tiffin Sambar as it is generally served with all South indian breakfast items like Idli, Vada, Dosa , Upma , Oothappam  ,Pongal etc. which are referred to as "Tiffin" in Tamil.
  • Tiffin sambar is made using a freshly ground sambar masala .
  • Lots of fresh tomatoes are used along with cooked thoor dhall + moong dhall and simmered in tamarind extract  to prepare this delicious sambar .
  • Vegetables like drumstick, red pumpkin and small onions are used for added flavor and taste. Onion can be skipped if preparing the saatvik or jain version. 
  • Unlike the regular sambar , tiffin sambar will not be very thick and little diluted as we need to pour ladles over ladles  on the idlis and vadas to immerse them well until they seem floating.

Tiffin Sambar  is generally served with all South indian breakfast items like Idli, Vada, Dosa , Upma , Oothappam  ,Pongal etc. which are referred to as "Tiffin" in Tamil.,Tiffin sambar , how to prepare hotel style idli sambar , sambar idli, restaurant style sambar , होटल जैसे इडली सांभर  , घर पर बनाइए होटल जैसा सांभर इडली,

All of us at home love this yummy sambar and the idlis just vanish off when served with this piping hot sambar . Hubby loves to have some coconut chutney also poured over the sambar and says it is just wow and one must eat it to understand the emotion behind it 😀. I personally like Rava Idli with this sambar . The other day I had prepared variety idlis , Ghee roast Dosa and Podi Oothappam and we all enjoyed with piping hot sambar and fresh coconut chutney. 

I must thank Poonam , who suggested we share any lentil based recipe (Luscious Lentils) for the 267th week's  Foodie Monday Bloghop and this gave me a chance to blog our favorite sambar.  Poonam's blog Annapurna has so many recipes but her thaali collection is amazing . She celebrates every festival with so much devotion and dedication ; prepares traditional recipes as per customs and offers it to the God as prasad for pooja . You must check out her Sarva Pithru Amavasya thaali to understand how devoted she is .

Lentils, as we all know are a rich source of protein and we need to include them in our diet to get the daily dose of protein for our metabolic activities. As vegetarians , we have to solely rely on lentils , pulses and legumes for dietary protein .Hence, it is important to use them while judiciously while planning our menu . I wouldn't get into the depths of Nutrition facts as most of us know the benefits of eating protein rich food .  

We shall now see how to prepare this yummy tiffin sambar and dunk piping hot vadas and idlis into them and savor the taste .

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Cooking Time - 30 to 40 mins

Serves- 3 to 4 

Complexity - medium

Tiffin Sambar is generally served with all South indian breakfast items like Idli, Vada, Dosa , Upma , Oothappam  ,Pongal etc. which are referred to as "Tiffin" in Tamil.Tiffin sambar , how to prepare hotel style idli sambar , sambar idli, restaurant style sambar , होटल जैसे इडली सांभर  , घर पर बनाइए होटल जैसा सांभर इडली,

For the sambar powder  (roast and grind)
2 tsp channa dhall /bengal gram 
2 tbsp dhaniya seeds /corriander seeds
1/4 tsp jeera/cumin
1/4 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
4 to 5 byadgi /kashmiri red chillies
3 to 4 dry red chillies (gunturu /paandi variety)
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Few fresh curry leaves 

For the sambar 
1/4 cup moongdhall /split gram 
1/4 cup thoor dhall / pigeon peas 
2 green chillies slit length wise 
Lemon sized tamarind soaked in hot water 
2 to 4 tomatoes roughly chopped
1 small piece red pumpkin cut into cubes
1 medium onion chopped roughly (optional)
2 tsp oil 
1/2 tsp mustard seeds 
Few curry leaves /karvepillai
Fresh corriander/kothmir chopped 


  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok/kadai and start roasting the ingredients mentioned under Sambar powder one by one .
  • Start roasting the channa dhall first, when it turns light brown add in the methi seeds followed by dhaniya and jeera and continue roasting till the dhall turns golden brown and crisp . Let it cool on a plate.
  • In the same kadai add a few drops of oil and roast the curry leaves and red chillies till they turn crisp .
  • Blend all these roasted ingredients in a blender along with the asafoetida and turmeric powder to a fine powder .

Sambar Preparation 

Tiffin sambar , how to prepare hotel style idli sambar , sambar idli, restaurant style sambar , होटल जैसे इडली सांभर  , घर पर बनाइए होटल जैसा सांभर इडली,

  • Wash the thoor dhall & moong dhall to clean all the impurities and pressure cook with enough water till the dhall turns soft and mushy.
  • Squeeze the soaked tamarind and prepare the extract . Filter the tamarind extract through a strainer to keep it clean.  
  • In a deep thick bottom vessel , heat oil and splutter the mustard seeds , curry leaves and the green chillies 
  • Saute the onions till they turn pink .Skip if not using onions and proceed to next step.
  • Saute the tomatoes with turmeric and asafoetida followed by the red pumpkin cubes . If using drumstick you can add them at this stage.
  • Add 1 cup (200ml) water with a little salt and cook till the tomatoes turn soft and the pumpkin cubes are 3/4th done.
  • Add the tamarind extract with 1.5 cups (300ml) water and boil till the raw flavor of tamarind is lost . 
  • Add 1.5 tbsp fresh sambar powder , the cooked and mashed dhall and stir the sambar without any dhal lumps . Adjust water if the sambar appears too thick.
  • Adjust salt if needed , add a tsp of jaggery powder for added taste and turn off when the sambar reaches a rolling boil stage .
  • Add a few drops of fresh ghee and garnish with lots of fresh corriander. Donot add the ghee if you are  vegan.
Tips to keep in mind
  1. Ensure that the sambar is piping hot before you pour it on the idlis/ vadas . 
  2. If you are going to have vada sambar , the vadas have to be crisp and hot to absorb the sambar into the vada ,only then can you relish . Never attempt preparing vada sambar with vadas that are cold or have been fried long time ago.  
  3. The idlis too have to be warm , so prepare the idlis just before serving so they remain fresh, spongy and soft .

Some special and authentic South Indian Breakfast delights on my blog . 

Click the images for detailed recipe.


  1. I love the tiffin sambar served in udupi restaurants to the core. Now thanks to your detailed recipe, I can make it at home. Adding moong dal to sambar is new to me though.

    1. Thanks Poonam . The normal sambar which we make for regular meals doesn't have moong dhall but here we use both the dhalls for the consistency and added taste . Do try it

  2. Heard of tiffin sambhar and now I have a full proof recipe. Sambhar looks so inviting. Never use moong dal in sambhar. I would love to have this delicious hot sambhar bowlful as soup. Saving the recipe to try something.

    1. pls do try Sujata ji ... will be glad to hear ur feedback

  3. Initially I always thought that tiffin sambar meant sambar carried in a tiffin. Now that you've cleared the air, I have a much better understanding why he sambar we get in the restaurants is a bit watery. Will have to try your version of the tiffin sambar as its got the homemade masala recipe too. Does idlis floating in the sambar is making my mouth water.

    1. I am glad my recipe cleared your misconception. Yes this sambar is as much diluted as a soup unlike the regular sambar which is thick and has more veggies

  4. We're all big fans of tiffin sambar at home! We love dunking our idlis and dosas in it. :) Yours looks so utterly delicious and inviting!

  5. I love tiffin sambar . The idli dunked in tiffin sambar looks scrumptious. I remember having these delicious breakfast at darshini. I love this nutritious and wholesome breakfast. Tiffin sambar with freshly ground masala is flavorful.

    1. :-) thanks preethi . Indeed the flavor from fresh masala is what eludes us even more to have another serving isn't it ??

  6. you know I am big fan of south indian cooking particularly idli dosa sambar.. your post is simply tempting me to knock your door and have right away. those idlis dunked in tiffin sambar looks irresistible.

    1. glad to know you love SI food . Pls do be my guest if and when you are in Bangalore next.

  7. Idli sambar prepared with fresh sambar powder looking super tempting. Please pass that podi uttapam, it's very inviting. Perfect South Indian breakfast, i just love to have it anytime.

  8. Idli dunked in sambar makes me hungry Priya. I love tiffin sambar to the core with freshly grounded masala and this looks too tempting. Love the entire platter.


If you feel your search for the recipe ends here and this blog has helped you with that,please do drop in a word / suggestion ,which will motivate me further to help you guys !!