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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Onion Sambar Recipe-Vengaya Sambar-Arachuvitta Onion Sambar

Onion Sambar is a very popular South Indian sambar. It goes well with rice and most South Indian tiffen (breakfast) items like idli, dosa, vada, pongal, upma etc. It is one of my family's favorite sambar. Onion sambar and potato roast are made for each other. If you have not tried this combination, I recommend that you try and enjoy it. You can prepare this sambar with small onions/pearl onion or big onions. It taste heavenly whichever onion you use. Today we will learn how to make Onion arachu vitta sambar following this easy recipe.

Onion Sambar
Onion sambar with potato roast
How to make Onion Sambar

Prep time -under 15 mins
Cook time -under 30 mins
Yields - 3 -3 1/2 cups of sambar

Ingredients needed

Pearl Onions -1/2 cup (cut it into 2 if they are big)
Tur dal - 1/3 cup
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Tamarind - small gooseberry sized ball
Salt -1 tbsp flat rock salt (use less if  using table salt or iodized salt)

For the paste

Oil - 1 tsp
Coriander seeds - 2 1/2 tsp
Bengal gram dal/ channa dal/kadalai paruppu - 1 1/2 tsp
Red chillies -4
Raw rice - 1 tsp
Grated Coconut -2 1/2 tbsp

For the seasoning

Oil - 2 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - few


First we will keep the main things ready for the sambar - 1.Cooked dal  2. Tamarind water 3. Ground paste

1.Soak tur dal in hot water for 15 minutes. By doing this, the tur dal will get cooked well and also faster. You can save fuel and time. Pressure cook tur dal with water (just enough to soak the dal) and a pinch of turmeric powder for 3 whistles. Once the pressure subsides, open the cooker, mash the dal well and keep it aside. 

2. Soak tamarind in 1 1/4 cup of hot water for 15-20 minutes. Extract tamarind juice and discard the pulp. We need 1 - 1 1/4 cup of tamarind water. Tips -Just soak a small gooseberry or marble sized ball. If you take too much tamarind, the sambar will be sour and will not taste good.

3. Heat a tsp of oil, add coriander seeds, channa dal, red chillies and raw rice. Saute until dal turns golden brown. Switch off the flame, add grated coconut and saute the coconut in the heat of the pan itself. Leave it to cool. Grind it to a smooth paste adding little water.

So now all the 3 things are kept ready. We will start preparing the Arachu vitta onion sambar.


Heat oil in a kadai/ pan, add mustard seeds, when it splutters, add fenugreek seeds, saute for a second and add onions and curry leaves.

preparation for making onion sambar

Saute the onions on medium flame until they turn translucent. Then add tamarind water, a pinch of turmeric powder and salt.

sauteing onions

Cook on medium flame until  it reduces a little and the raw flavor of the tamarind goes. (compare the picture above and below- can you see the tamarind water has reduced now)

At this stage, add the ground paste and the cooked dal. (See how the dal is cooked. Dal has to be mushy).

vengaya sambar

Add approximately 1 -1 1/4 cup of water and cook on medium low flame until the sambar thickens slightly. The sambar should not be too thick nor too thin, so adjust the quantity of water accordingly. (If you are preparing sambar for idli, dosa, it should be thin, if it is for rice, it should be a little thick). I made it for rice.

how to make onion arachuvitta sambar

Once it thickens, switch off the flame and  garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with hot steamed rice and potato roast. It will take your taste buds on a trip to heaven.

You can serve with any vegetable curry but personally we love onion arachuvitta sambar with potato roast.

Note - you can use any onions.(big ones or shallots). If using big onions, thinly slice lengthwise.

Raw rice is used for thickening.

Suppose if you do not want to prepare arachu vitta sambar but want plain onion sambar, you need not prepare the paste. Instead you should add 2 tsp sambar powder along with salt to the tamarind water and boil the tamarind water. Once the raw flavor goes, add dal, needed water and cook. That's it. But I strongly recommend preparing arachu vitta sambar with onions.

If you want to keep the sambar for dinner also, reheat the sambar after 3-4 hours of preparing. In that case, it will not get spoiled.

Check out more South Indian Sambar Recipes 

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  1. Delicious and lovely looking sambar. Excellent preparation.

  2. Delicious Sambar looks so tempting.

  3. Yummy sambhar!! Tried it out came out perfect:)

  4. Hi, can we also add tomatoes before putting onions?

    1. If needed, you can add 1 small tomato after sauteing the onions well- not before that.

  5. Padhu - I am a North Indian but a big big fan of South Indian cuisine. Love your recipes, they turn out great in my kitchen!

  6. Hi, Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. Tried it today and was absolutely delicious !

  7. heavenly for old people like me who are starved of tasty food . Thank you

  8. Love this sambhar. . Thank you b for sharing the recipe. ..

  9. Thanks for the recipe! I am doing this today, only difference is I am adding half a tomato.

  10. yummy recipe. can you also post recipe for potato roast that you mentioned here? could not find it on your blog. thanks.

  11. Hi Padhu,

    Your sambhar recipes have become the "go-to" recipes in my kitchen. They never fail to draw praise :) I have a doubt; I don't get pearl onions where I live so can I replace them with shallots?

  12. Tried this recipe it came out lovely. I also added half a tomato and some drumstick pieces.

  13. I add a few fried pearl onions to the paste...adds a good flavour! Thnx very much

  14. Looks yummmy! Can we add drumstick to this recipe or would it spoil the taste?

  15. Hi padhu..am new to this place and likes ur posting..you are rocking..

  16. Your recipes have always been very helpful.. Truly a guide for the beginners.. Thanks a ton..!!

  17. Yummy!!! Made this today for Pongal.. i love freshly ground masala for sambars as opposed to readymade..

  18. Can we use any vegetables along with that

    1. Of course, you can add other vegetables also. With onions alone the taste is different.

  19. I was thinking that Arachu vitta sambar is very complicated. But today I just tried these instructions exactly. Surprisingly, it came out very well and tasted great. Thanks

  20. Thank you for this wondeful reciepe. I cooked sambar for the first time. It came out very well. It taste really heavently!


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