Hotel Tiffin Sambar Recipe – Side Dish for Idli/Dosa

Tiffin Sambar Recipe
This tiffin sambar recipe is the most loved side dish by the entire family and the most appreciated by the guests also. This recipe has been handed down by generations which I’m gonna share it with you all. This sambar is a must especially on the Diwali morning’s breakfast / tiffin spread. As I’m a die hard fan of Medhu vada, I love dunking them in this sambar and enjoying it. Hubby, being an ardent idli fan, whenever we go to any of the Saravan Bhavan Hotel outlet, 14 idlis or mini idlis dunked in sambar will always be his choice from their entire menu. This sambar comes very close to it taste wise. Though I have already posted the idli sambar using Moong dal, this sambar is much more tastier than that as we add a special spice powder that is freshly prepared.

My grandmother and mother used to make this sambar with tur dal only and I was also happily following the same. But one day while I was ordering rice from the shop, I saw them packing various bags with different proportions of dals mixed together. Upon asking they replied that they were for making sambar in hotels and that they use mixed dals for preparing sambar for rice and tiffin. As they were packing in Kgs, I asked for the proportion and scaled it down to cups so that I could follow it at home. It tastes so close to the tiffin sambar served in hotels, so do give it a try and see it for yourself.

Tiffin sambar recipe

Hotel Tiffin Sambar Recipe

Prep time: 10 mins  |  Cook time: 20 mins  |  Serves: 2
Cuisine: South Indian  |  Category: Side dish


  • Toor Dal – 1/2 cup
  • Masoor Dal – 1/8 cup
  • Yellow Moong dal – 1/8 cup
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Tamarind – 1 gooseberry size
  • Carrots – 1
  • Onion – 1
  • Tomato – 1
  • Red chili powder – 1 tsp
  • Green chilies – 2
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Asafetida – 1/8 tsp
  • Curry leaf – 1 sprig
  • Coriander leaves – 3 stalks
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 2 tbsp 

For Grinding to a powder:
  • Chana dal – 2 tbsp
  • Roasted gram dal – 2 tsp  (optional)
  • Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
  • Whole dry red chilies – 4
  • Grated coconut – 3 tbsp
  • Whole coriander seeds – 3 tsp
  • Curry leaf – 1 sprig
  • Oil – 1/2 tsp


  1. For the powder: Heat a pan with oil and add chana dal, fenugreek seeds, whole red chilies, coriander seeds and roast over low flame till the aroma arises. Make sure they do not change color. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add grated coconut and curry leaf and saute over low flame till the aroma arises and the color change slightly. Transfer to the plate and let it cool completely.
  3. In a mixer jar add the roasted ingredients, roasted gram dal (Pottu kadalai / Dalia) and grind to a fine powder and keep aside.
  4. For the Sambar: Wash and soak all the dals together for 10 minutes. Pressure cook in enough water with turmeric powder for 2-3 whistles. Mash well and keep aside. Soak the tamarind in warm water, extract pulp and keep it ready.
  5. Heat a pan with oil. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter, add asafetida, curry leaf, onion, slit green chilies, tomatoes, halved and sliced carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes or till the tomatoes turn mushy.
  6. Add 1/2 cup water and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add tamarind pulp, red chili powder, salt and let it cook for another 5 minutes over low flame till the raw smell disappears.
  7. Add the mashed dal, mix well. Add more water if needed to adjust the consistency. Sprinkle the ground spice powder and mix well. You can also mix the powder with water in a small bowl and add it to the sambar to avoid lumps.
  8. Let the sambar cook for 2-3 minutes till all the flavors merge together.
  9. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve piping hot with idlis/dosas, ven pongal and Medhu vadai.
  10. When serving with 14 idlis or mini idlis, place the idlis in a bowl, pour the sambar all over the idlis, let it sit for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle with finely chopped onions, coriander leaves and serve hot.
saravana bhavan tiffin sambar


  1. Instead of roasted gram dal, you can use poppy seeds (khus-khus) also. Roast it with the coconut if doing so.
  2. You can use shallots (sambar onions) if you do not wish to use carrots.
  3. Yellow pumpkin can also be used instead of carrots.
  4. The consistency should be a bit thin unlike the consistency of the sambar that we serve with rice. The thin consistency of the sambar will allow the idlis to soak well.
  5. Roast the ingredients over low flame taking care not to burn them.
  6. Adjust the spice level according to your taste.
14 idli sambar
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