Red pumpkin sambar recipe (poosanikai sambar) – How to make red pumpkin sambar recipe

Sambar is a lentil, tamarind and vegetable based curry or stew and very popular in South India. The story is that it got originated in the kitchen of  Thanjavur.  Maratha ruler, Shahuji during the 17th century from the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu tried to make a dish called amti (Maharashtrian curry) and experimented with toor dal or pigeon peas  instead of mung bean, and tamarind pulp for  kokum and the court named it sambhar after the guest of the day, Sambhaji, second emperor of the Maratha empire. (adapted from Wikipedia).

Sambar is prepared either with single vegetable or a combination of various vegetables like brinjal, ladies finger, radish, pumpkin, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and drumstick.  In coastal Karnataka and Tamil nadu, where coconuts are grown in plenty, sambar is prepared with a paste of freshly ground spices and grated coconut instead of sambar powder.  It gives more taste to the sambar.  Sambar is usually served with steamed rice in south indian cuisine. But it is also served as an accompaniment for idlis, dosas and vadas.

Red pumpkin, also known as Bhopla or Kaddu in India, is a nutrient dense, low calorie vegetable. It  is low in calories but rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Red pumpkin sambar is a very popular South Indian sambar recipe made with red pumpkin, toor dal and spices.  This sambar goes well with rice, idlis and dosas.  Since red pumpkin is little sweet,  this sambar has a mild sweet taste in it.  Do try this nutritious sambar and enjoy!!

Prep Time : 25 mins
Cook Time : 20 mins
Servings : 4 persons

South Indian cuisine


Red pumpkin – 1 cup (chopped into cubes)

Tur dal – 1/2 cup

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Tamarind – 2 tablespoons

Sambar powder – 2 tablespoons

Jaggery powder  – 2 tablespoons

Few curry leaves

Salt to taste


Oil – 2 tablespoons

A pinch of asafoetida or hing

Mustard seeds or rai – 1/2 teaspoon

Chana dal – 1 tablespoon

Red chillies – 4 nos

Methi seeds – 1/2 tsp

Cumin seeds or jeera – 1/2 tsp


Rinse 1/2 cup of toor dal 2-3 times with water.  Then soak the tur dal with 2 cups of water for 1/2 an hour.  Add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 1 cup of water.  Cover the vessel with a lid and place the vessel in a pressure cooker.

Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Once the pressure is cooled down, mash the dal with a spoon and keep it aside.  The dal should be slightly mushy.

Meanwhile soak 2 tablespoons of tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water for 1/2 an hour.

Then squeeze the soaked tamarind pulp in water and make 1 cup of tamarind water.  Keep it aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a kadai or a pan on medium flame.  Add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 4 red chillies, a pinch of asafoetida, 1/2 tsp methi seeds, 1 tablespoon chana dal.  Saute for a minute on low flame.

Once the seeds stops spluttering and chana dal turns light brown in colour, add 1 cup of chopped red pumpkin pieces and 1 cup of water.  Mix well.

Add salt and cover the pan with its lid.  Cook on a medium flame for 10-15 minutes till the pumpkin pieces are well cooked.  Do not overcook or else they become mushy.

Then add 1 cup of tamarind water and 2 tablespoons of sambar powder.

Add 2 tablespoons of jaggery and few curry leaves.  Mix well.  Cover the pan with its lid and cook again for 5-6 minutes on a low flame till the raw smell of the tamarind water goes away.

Finally add the mashed dal and mix well.  Add water as required and bring the sambar to a desired consistency.

Simmer the sambar for 2 minutes on medium flame.  Then switch off the flame.  Delicious red pumpkin is ready to be served.

Serve red pumpkin sambar hot with steamed rice, idlis or dals.


Adjust the consistency of sambar by adding little water along with the dal.

Add the mashed dal only after the tamarind water comes to a nice boil and raw smell of tamarind goes away.

You can also use ghee instead of oil for seasoning.

Add jaggery only if you prefer a sweet taste of sambar.

Soak the lentils for 30-40 minutes for faster cooking.

Sambar stays good for upto 2 days when refrigerated.


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