Made with a blend of lentils, spinach, and aromatic spices, spinach dal is a comforting and satisfying dish that packs a plant-based protein punch. Also called palak dal, it is gluten-free, vegan, and made using minimal spices.
For the ultimate comfort food experience, pair this delectable spinach dal with either basmati rice or jeera rice and a side of aloo curry. Alternatively, you can enjoy it as a warm and comforting lentil soup. This lightly spiced dal palak curry is easy to prepare and burst with flavors.
Give this healthy, comforting, and easy Indian dal recipe a try, and it's guaranteed to be a hit with the whole family. Keep reading for the complete list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and variations to elevate your spinach dal experience.
Why you will love this recipe?
- Quick and Easy: Using an Instant Pot means you can have your spinach dhal ready in just 20 minutes, with minimal prep time. Plus, since I use frozen spinach in this recipe, there's no need to spend time cleaning and chopping fresh spinach.
- Healthy and Nutritious: Spinach is packed with vitamins and minerals, and this recipe is an excellent way to incorporate more greens into your diet. The lentils provide a good source of plant-based protein, making this dish both healthy and satisfying.
- Versatile: This Instant Pot spinach dal can be served as a main dish with rice or bread, or as a side dish to a larger meal. It's also a great option for meal prep, as it can be stored in the refrigerator for up ro 5 days and reheated when needed.
- Suitable for Vegans: This recipe is entirely plant-based and vegan-friendly, making it an excellent option for those following a plant-based diet.
Although not as popular as dal makhani, it remains a common dal in South Indian states such as Karnataka, Andhra, and Tamil Nadu. As a staple in Indian homes, dal is an essential part of Indian cuisine with numerous delicious versions and recipes to choose from. This easy-to-make recipe is one of the best dal dishes that you can prepare and a fantastic way to incorporate greens into your diet.
If you're using an Instant Pot, you can have your spinach dal ready in just 20 minutes with less than 5 minutes of hands-on time. Alternatively, I'm including instructions for those who prefer to use a stovetop pressure cooker in this recipe.
Traditionally, fresh spinach is used to make this dish but using frozen spinach is very convenient. It takes out all the hassles of cleaning, blanching, and pureeing the spinach. In this recipe, you can use frozen spinach straight from the freezer, without the need to defrost it.
Palak: (Spinach leaves) I used frozen spinach in this recipe. See the tips section below to see how to use fresh spinach.
Toor dal: I make this dish with toor dal or pigeon peas lentil. Moong dal (yellow lentils can also be used).
Onion and garlic: I use pink or red onions here. Brown onions can also be used. Garlic is optional and can be skipped.
Spices: The spices I use here are mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, and turmeric powder.
Other ingredients: Tomatoes, green chili, curry leaves, and lemon juice (or lime juice). Adjust the green chillies as per your preference.
Step 1: Set the Instant Pot in saute mode and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add cumin seeds, hing, curry leaves, and garlic. Saute for a few seconds (image 1).
Step 2: Add chopped onions and saute for 3-4 minutes (images 2 and 3). Add tuvar dal, frozen spinach, tomatoes, turmeric powder, salt, and green chili (image 4).
Step 3: Add 6 cups of water and give it a good stir. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode on high pressure. Pressure cook for 8 minutes (images 5 and 6).
Step 4: Do a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then do a quick release. Open the lid and add the lemon juice (images 7 and 8).
Stovetop Pressure Cooker Instructions
To make this palak dal recipe using a stovetop pressure cooker:
1. Heat ghee in a stovetop pressure cooker and add mustard seeds.
2. Once they splutter, add cumin seeds, hing, curry leaves, and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes on high heat.
4. Add the tuvar dal, frozen spinach leaves, tomatoes, green chilies (or red chilies), turmeric powder, and salt.
5. Add 6 cups water and mix well.
6. Close the lid and pressure cook for 3 whistles.
7. Open the lid once the pressure drops and mix the cooked lentils well.
8. Add lemon juice and serve hot dal with rice.
If you are using fresh spinach, add it after pressure cooking. Place the cooker back on medium heat and add spinach leaves to the cooked dal.
I am using frozen spinach leaves; however, regular spinach or baby spinach leaves also can be used. For every cup of frozen greens, replace it with 2 cups of fresh greens.
I am using 4 cups of water in one cup toor dal. Adjust the amount of water to get the desired consistency of dal.
For fresh spinach, clean the leaves and roughly chop the leaves. Add the fresh spinach only after pressure cooking the dal. Follow this recipe but do not add the fresh spinach along with the dal. Once the pressure is released from the Instant Pot, set it to saute mode and add the chopped spinach. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. The rest of the recipe remains the same.
You can store any leftover dal in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It also freezes well and can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat the next day, add some hot water to the dal and simmer on the stovetop for a few minutes.
In this recipe, I show you the easy way to make this dish. Here are some variations to this simple dal palak recipe:
Use ghee: The recipe I am sharing here is vegan. However, you can replace oil with ghee to make the dal.
Use different dal: You can use urad dal, yellow moong dal, or masoor dal (red lentils) instead of arhar dal. Make palak chana dal by using Bengal gram (chana dal) or moong dal palak using petite yellow lentils. You can also use a mix of different dal.
Change the spices: This South Indian recipe is popularly called palakura pappu and uses curry leaves and mustard seeds. In North India, spices like red chili powder (or cayenne pepper), coriander powder, garam masala powder, and kasuri methi instead.
Use other leafy greens: Apart from spinach, you can use fenugreek leaves, mustard greens, kale, or collard greens in this recipe.
You may also like:
1. Methi dal.
2. Dal fry.
3. Dal tadka.
4. Mysore rasam.
More recipes using frozen spinach
Yes. You can use frozen greens to make the dal and they can be used directly without defrosting. Add them along with the rest of the ingredients and pressure cook.
To use regular spinach, wash them thoroughly and roughly chop them. Do not add them to the pressure cooker. Once the dal is cooked, add the spinach leaves and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until they are cooked.
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Spinach Dal (Dal Palak)
- 1½ cups toor dal (pigeon pea lentils)
- 10 oz frozen spinach
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon hing asafetida
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 green chili slit
- 1½ teaspoon salt (adjust as per taste)
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 6 cups water
- Rinse the toor dal thoroughly in water and set it aside.
- Set the Instant Pot in saute mode and add oil.
- Add mustard seeds and let it splutter.
- Add cumin seeds, hing, curry leaves, and garlic. Saute for a few seconds.
- Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes.
- Add toor dal, frozen spinach, tomatoes, turmeric powder, salt, and green chili.
- Add 6 cups of water. Mix well and deglaze the pot.
- Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode for 8 minutes.
- Do a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then do a quick release.
- Open the lid and squeeze in the lemon juice or lime juice.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.
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