One seasonal favorite, another a classic source of plant-based proteins, especially in the diets of vegetarians and vegans. When both these come together in a dish, it is just a celebration of flavors for the palate! Yes, that’s what is happening in this easy-peasy and simple, yet tasty and comforting Dal Palak recipe. This Spinach Dal made with pigeon pea lentils or yellow lentils (tuvar dal), red lentils (masoor dal) and winter special fresh spinach (palak) is both a different and nutritious way of including dal in your diet.
Dal Palak or Spinach Dal
Cooking various lentils or dals with fresh seasonal greens is a common practice in Indian households. This Dal Palak is one of the most popular Lentil Recipes in Indian cuisine. It combines the goodness of arhar or tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils), masoor dal (red lentils) and fresh palak (spinach leaves) that the winter season brings.
There are many ways of making Dal Palak. In this post, I have shared the no onion, no garlic variation of the Dal Palak. This delicious recipe without onion and garlic added to it, is a very simple and easy one and won’t take much of your time.
Like I mentioned earlier, in India, we do add vegetables and leafy greens to our lentil or dal-based dishes. This wholesome Dal Palak is one of those prominent ones, especially during the winters as this is the season of fresh spinach.
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Many people and most of the kids are not really fond of greens like spinach, fenugreek leaves, amaranth leaves, etc. But when we mix these greens with dals or legumes, then the dish not only becomes tasty but also healthy.
This Dal Palak is a great way of getting your fussy kids to consume their share of these lovely greens of the season. In this particular recipe, you can substitute the spinach (palak) with amaranth leaves (chaulai) or fenugreek leaves (methi) and even kale. I have made a kale dal too.
Spinach and dal a.k.a lentils go very well together. I have adapted this Dal Palak recipe from a friend, who is as enthusiastic as me, when it comes to cooking, eating and feeding sumptuous food.
Being a meditator, he would never add onion, garlic and chilies to his food. Once at his home, he made this dal for us. I thought it would taste bland without onions and garlic, but I was wrong.
The Dal Palak was so good. It had the subtle aroma of the ghee, cumin and ginger tempering plus was creamy and soft. You can use oil too, for the tempering. However, for a better taste, use ghee.
Onions and garlic have a strong flavor. I am sure this dal would also taste great with onions and garlic added to it. There are no heavy spices like garam masala added in this preparation.
Our friend also used 2 lentils in the Dal Palak recipe – tuvar or arhar dal (split pigeon peas/yellow lentils) and masoor dal (red lentils/orange lentils). You can use both these lentils or make it just with tuvar dal as well.
I have also added some chopped green chilies and red chili powder. The chilies just enhance the taste of the dal without making it spicy or hot.
How to make Dal Palak
Pressure Cook Lentils and Prep Spinach
1. Pick and rinse ¼ cup tuvar dal (yellow lentils) and ¼ cup masoor dal (orange lentils) a few times in water.
Add the rinsed lentils to a 2-liter stovetop pressure cooker. Also, add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder and 1.5 cups water.
2. On medium heat, pressure cook the lentils for 10 to 11 minutes or 7 to 8 whistles or until the lentils become soft and mushy.
Open the lid only when the pressure settles naturally and check the cooked lentils. Mash lightly with a spoon.
3. While the lentils are cooking, prep the spinach. First rinse some spinach leaves thoroughly in water a few times. Drain all the water and set it aside.
Chop the rinsed spinach finely and measure. You will need 2 cups of chopped spinach leaves.
Set the chopped palak aside. You can choose to add more quantities of spinach if you prefer.
Make Dal Palak
4. In a pan or kadai, heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil. Fry 1 teaspoon cumin seeds on low heat until they splutter.
For a vegan spinach dal, use oil. You can use any neutral tasting oil.
5. When the cumin seeds are spluttering, add 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger and ½ to ½ to 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies.
Fry for some seconds or till the raw aroma of the ginger goes away.
6. Add the 2 cups of finely chopped spinach and mix it with the rest of the fried ingredients.
Apart from spinach, you can also add amaranth leaves or fenugreek leaves and even kale.
7. Sauté the spinach for 4 to 5 minutes on low heat, stirring in between, till the spinach leaves soften and wilt.
8. Now, add ¼ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder and ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing). Mix these spices with the spinach and sauté for half a minute.
Skip asafoetida, if you don’t have it. But note that there will be a difference in the taste and flavor of the dal without asafoetida.
9. Now, add the mashed lentils. Season with salt as needed.
10. Add ½ to 1 cup water to the spinach dal. Mix thoroughly.
The quantity of water will depend on how much thick or thin you want the consistency to be. I added 1 cup water for a medium flowing consistency.
For a thicker consistency skip adding water or add ¼ to ½ cup water. If you want a slightly thinner dal, add more water.
11. Simmer the dal for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir often, so that the lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
12. Turn off the heat and serve Dal Palak hot with rice or roti and a side vegetable dish, salad or raita. To make a bigger batch you can easily double or triple this recipe.
Expert Tips for Best Dal Palak Recipe
- Spinach: You can use the stems if they are tender. If the spinach leaves are too large and the stems are fibrous and dense, then only use the leaves and do not add the stems.
- Frozen spinach: In off season or when you don’t have access to fresh spinach, you can prepare these recipes with frozen spinach. Remember to thaw the frozen spinach and then squeeze to remove all of the water from it.
- Other leafy greens: In addition to spinach leaves, you can also add fresh fenugreek leaves (methi), fresh amaranth leaves (chaulai) or even kale in these recipes.
- Lentils: The same recipe can be made wholly or in a half-half ratio with lentils like – moong lentils, red lentils and chana dal. For chana dal if using them with other lentils, soak them in water for 30 minutes, before pressure cooking. Also add some more water when using chana dal.
- Cooking lentils: When cooking lentils, always use lentils which are fresh and in their shelf period. The cooking time is increased with aged or old lentils. In this case, if the lentils are undercooked, then add some more water and continue to pressure cook till done well.
- Fats: Dal Palak can be cooked with ghee (clarified butter) or any neutral tasting oil. Of course, for a better and more authentic flavor, use ghee.
- Flavor: Increase the green chilies and red chili powder for a spicy dal. For a less spicy version, you can decrease these spices. A bit of lemon juice added to the dal gives a nice tang.
- Consistency: You can make the dal thin or thick by adding less or more water once it is cooked.
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
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Dal Palak Recipe | Easy Spinach Dal
For cooking lentils
- ¼ cup tuvar dal (hulled and split pigeon pea lentils or arhar dal)
- ¼ cup masoor dal (hulled and split red lentils)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1.5 cups water – for pressure cooking lentils
- 2 tablespoons Ghee or oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ginger – finely chopped or 1 inch peeled ginger
- ½ to 1 teaspoon green chilies – chopped or 1 green chilli
- 2 cups spinach – finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder or paprika
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
- ½ to 1 cup water or add as needed
- salt as required
Pressure cooking lentils
- Pick and rinse the lentils a few times in water. Take the lentils in a 2 litre stovetop pressure cooker. Also add turmeric powder and 1.5 cups of water.
- Pressure cook on medium heat for 10 to 11 minutes or 7 to 8 whistles or until the lentils become soft and mushy.
- Open the lid only when the pressure drops naturally in the cooker. Check the lentils.
- They should be cooked well and softened. Mash the lentils lightly with a spoon and set aside.
Making dal palak
- In a pan, heat ghee. Keep the heat to a low and fry the cumin seeds first.
- When they crackle, add the finely chopped ginger and green chillies. Fry for a few seconds or until the raw aroma of ginger goes away.
- Now add the finely chopped spinach. Mix the spinach with the rest of the fried spices.
- Sauté spinach for some minutes until the leaves becomes soft and stops releasing water on a low to medium-low heat.
- When the spinach leaves are softened, add the kashmiri red chili powder and asafoetida.
- Mix well and sauté for half a minute on low heat.
- Add the mashed lentils and salt according to taste. Mix the lentils with the sautéed and softened spinach.
- Add water around ½ to 1 cup depending on how thick or thin you want the dal to be.
- Stir to combine and simmer the dal for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Serve Dal Palak hot with rice and a side vegetable dish or salad or raita.
- The recipe is made with two kinds of lentils. You could make it only with tur dal or masoor dal. You can also make Dal Palak with only chana dal. For cooking with chana dal add more water and pressure cook for more time.
- Use tender, green, fresh spinach. If the stems are tender, you can add them. If they are fibrous or dense, then do not add them.
- Instead of green chillies, you could also 1 dry red chilli. Remove the seeds and then fry it after the cumin seeds crackle, so that its flavors are released in the dal.
- Add water as needed to make a thicker dal or a soupy thin dal depending on the consistency to prefer.
- This recipe make for four servings. But you can scale it to make for 2 servings or 8 servings.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Dal Palak recipe post from the archives first published in Feb 2012 has been republished and updated on December 2022.