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sambar without vegetables in instant pot

Onion Sambar Without Vegetables - Instant Pot & Stove Top Sambar

Simple onion sambar recipe without any other vegetables is easy, and makes a tasty sambar which can be enjoyed with rice, dosa or idli. I used a red onion in this sambar, biut if you do not have onions you may skip that too.
This sambar can be made in pressure cooker on stove top or made in instant pot (more easy!) using toor dal or masoor dal which can be used interchangeably.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Keyword onion sambar, plain sambar, sambar recipe, sambar without vegetables
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
pressure build up and release time estimate 22 minutes
Total Time 34 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 151kcal


  • 1.5 cups toor dal (yellow split pigeon peas) or masoor dal (red lentils)
  • 1 medium sized red onion (you may skip this if you don't have onions or you may use other kind of onions too)
  • 4 cups water
  • salt adjust to taste
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (or tamarind paste which is dissolved in water and filtered if there are fibers)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • asafoetida a pinch (optional)
  • ¼ fenugreek powder teaspoon
  • 2 teaspoons sambar powder (sambar masala)

For seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 dry red chilies broken
  • 1 string curry leaves make sure there is no water in the leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oil  
  • 1 tablespoon shallots or pearl onions (or minced onion) peeled and chopped finely (optional)

For garnishing (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves chopped


To prepare on stove top

  • In a pressure cooker (6 quart size or about 5 to 6 litres size at least), add the dal and sliced onions (if you do not have onions you can skip them).
  • Add the salt and spice powders and sambar powder and mix well.
  • Add the 4 cups of water and also tamarind and mix everything well.
  • Close the lid of the pressure cooker with the safety valve inside. Always make sure you follow the directions in the manual of the pressure cooker.
  • Cook the contents in medium heat for about 7 to 8 minutes after the steam starts coming or until 3 whistles come. Once this is done, switch off the stove and wait for the pressure cooker to cool down.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cooled enough, you can open the cooker and see if the dal is cooked enough and soft and blended with the spices nicely. Gently mash the contents and add more water & simmer for a couple of minutes more if needed for gravy based on your preference.

To prepare in instant pot

  • Add the dal and sliced onions to the inner pot of instant pot.
  • Add just 2 cups of water (we will add the remaining water later), stir well and close the instant pot with lid in sealing position.
  • Cook in high pressure for 7 minutes. Once the cooking is done, the pot beeps and you can press the 'keep warm/cancel' buttom. Let the pressure release naturally.
  • Once the pressure is all released, you can carefully open the lid. Stir and gently mash the contents inside.
  • Add the remaining 2 cups of water, tamarind, salt and all the spices and sambar masala, stir well and simmer for a couple of minutes (using saute function). Once done, cancel the saute function, unplug the instant pot and you can transfer the inner pot to a safe place away from heat.

To make the seasoning

  • In a pan on stove top, heat the oil and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the sliced shallots or small onions or dried minced onions and lightly fry until it starts to brown. Also add the broken dried red chilies and curry leaves and fry for few seconds.
  • Pour this prepared seasoning or tadka over the prepared sambar (instant pot or pressure cooker). Gently stir in. You can also garnish the prepared sambar with cilantro leaves if you like. Serve the delicious sambar with rice or idli or dosa as you wish!


You may also use just sambar powder instead of spices, just follow the instructions as mentioned in the package for sambar powder if you are not using other spice powders since you will need to use it more in that case.
Adding shallots or pearl onions (or you can finely chop the regular onions and use) will add much flavor but this is not necessary.
If you have onion powder, you may add it too which will increase the flavor (although its not the authentic way of doing), instead of using the onions, but you can add it while you add other spice powders.


Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 34mg | Potassium: 143mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 314IU | Vitamin C: 47mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg