Aunty Prema is my mum’s friend – she isn’t my mum’s sister though – we call everyone aunty in India! Everyone is like family.

Every time we visited her, she would cook us some amazing food. I distinctly remember her bisi-bele-bath. This is a lentil, veggie and rice soup kinda dish. Uh-ma-zing!!!

Anyway, she made a mean sambar. Sambar is a vegetable curry famous in the South of India. I got my mum to get her recipe and I have never bought the store bought powder again.

This is the best sambar powder recipe ever!

This powder can be added to lentil and veggie dishes, to vegetable side dishes, etc. It’s mainly a curry powder to add to vegetarian dishes.

Spices are fat soluble and will bloom only in oil, so make sure you lightly fry these spices in oil or add a bit of oil in your dish.

Let’s look at the nutrient profiles of these awesome spices that are used to make this powder.

Fenugreek seeds – These are a little known brown seed that are used extensively in Indian cooking, ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Also known as ‘methi’, the leaves from this herb are also used in Indian dishes. It has a somewhat bitter taste – and bitter foods, we all know, are very good for your health.

These seeds can be used topically or eaten. In India, a poultice is used to reduce boils, ulcers, etc. It is anti-inflammatory.

It helps with Tuberculosis, chronic coughs, diabetes and arthritis. It is used as an anti-cancer food. Fenugreek seeds are 50% fibre! So it’s a great spice to add to your food if you are experiencing constipation.

This also helps with breastfeeding, increasing milk flow. It is anti-‘a lot of things’: anticancer, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, etc. These seeds help to reduce cholesterol, lose weight and can help with reducing menopause symptoms.

Peppercorns – It is paired with turmeric as the piperine in pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric.

Black peppercorns are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, it helps with diabetes and reduces high blood pressure.

Use peppercorns/pepper if you want to lose weight!

Curry leaves – This little known leaf is amazing in it’s nutrient profile, taken both internally and used externally.

These leaves contain calcium, phosphorus, niacin, Vitamin C and iron.

They help to reduce cholesterol levels and manage type 2 diabetes. They help to reduce the effects of chemotherapy, is good for the eyes, it protects your liver, is anti bacterial, anti fungal, an antioxidant, helps to prevent cancer and is good for your hair and skin.

Got a burn? Reach for the curry leaves. The paste, if applied topically, can help with burns, stings and bites.

Thanks to my big girl for styling some of these images!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Aunty Prema's Sambar Powder

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: condiments, curry powder, spices
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dairy free, easy, gluten free, quick, vegan, vegetarian


  • 10 gms coriander seeds dhania
  • 3 gms cumin seeds jeera
  • 7-11 dried red chillies or less if you want it less spicy
  • 3 gms fenugreek seeds methi
  • 2 gms black mustard seeds
  • 1 gm whole black peppercorns
  • 10 curry leaves kadipatta
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
  • Pinch of asafoetida hing


  • In a hot pan kept over low heat, add the coriander seeds and fry them till they are aromatic (approximately 30-60 seconds), stirring constantly. Remove the seeds and set them aside on a plate to cool.
  • Add cumin seeds to the pan, fry them for 10 seconds or so before taking them out of the pan & adding it to the plate to cool.
  • Next roast the fenugreek seeds very lightly – take it out of the pan & add it to the plate to cool
  • Lastly, add the mustard seeds and peppercorns. Roast for about 30 seconds before adding the curry leaves. Stir constantly till the curry leaves are dry.
  • Add the turmeric & asafoetida, give it a quick stir
  • Turn the stove off
  • Transfer spices from pan onto a plate & let it cool down for 3-5 minutes before grinding them to a fine powder in a spice grinder
  • If the mixture is warm after being ground, transfer it to a plate and once it cools down, transfer the powder to an air-tight container and store it in a cool place. Stores well for 3-6 months.
  •  While making sambar, add 1 tsp per person to the sambar mix if you want it mild. Add around 2-3 tsps per person if you want it more spicy


Khan TM, Wu DB, Dolzhenko AV. Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2018;32(3):402–412. doi:10.1002/ptr.5972

Nagulapalli Venkata KC, Swaroop A, Bagchi D, Bishayee A. A small plant with big benefits: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn.) for disease prevention and health promotion. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017;61(6):10.1002/mnfr.201600950. doi:10.1002/mnfr.20160095

Kargozar R, Azizi H, Salari R. A review of effective herbal medicines in controlling menopausal symptoms. Electron Physician. 2017;9(11):5826–5833. Published 2017 Nov 25. doi:10.19082/5826

Zheng J, Zhou Y, Li Y, Xu DP, Li S, Li HB. Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers. Nutrients. 2016;8(8):495. Published 2016 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu8080495

Sriwiriyajan S, Sukpondma Y, Srisawat T, Madla S, Graidist P. (-)-Kusunokinin and piperloguminine from Piper nigrum: An alternative option to treat breast cancer. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;92:732–743. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.05.130

Ngo QM, Tran PT, Tran MH, et al. Alkaloids from Piper nigrum Exhibit Antiinflammatory Activity via Activating the Nrf2/HO-1 Pathway. Phytother Res. 2017;31(4):663–670. doi:10.1002/ptr.5780

Shah SS, Shah GB, Singh SD, et al. Effect of piperine in the regulation of obesity-induced dyslipidemia in high-fat diet rats. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011;43(3):296–299. doi:10.4103/0253-7613.81516

Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii Spreng.) reduces blood cholesterol and glucose levels in ob/ob mice. Xie JT1Chang WTWang CZMehendale SRLi JAmbihaipahar RAmbihaipahar UFong HHYuan CS. PMID:16552838 DOI: 10.1142/S0192415X06003825

Khedkar, Renu. (2015). Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii L. Spreng) as a functional

food. FOOD SCIENCE RESEARCH JOURNAL. 6. 135-141. 10.15740/HAS/FSRJ/6.1/135-141.

Anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities of girinimbine isolated from Murraya koenigii. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2017 ;11:103-121. Epub 2016 Dec 28. PMID: 28096658

1 Comment

  1. Ashley

    5 stars
    I loved reading this recipe and the story behind it. I have made it and it is delightful!

    I planted a Curry tree in our garden this month so I will always have fresh Curry leaves.


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