Dal Palak (Spinach with Lentils)

By DK on Sep 27, 2012
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
I think its a blessing indeed when one's comfort food is actually healthy. I say this because in the recent years, in my current boarding, this term seems to mean something rich, heavy, cheesy and basically a food that's really not relished by our body. More so by our palate and mind, but definitely not by our system. We start assuming "healthy" to be bland, tasteless and something not worth subjecting ourselves too. Its a sad state indeed, which is why the number of health issues in the world over is increasing every other day.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
On a personal front, I think myself blessed (and extremely lucky)  'cos among the different foods that give me absolute comfort and warmth is this dish of Spinach and lentils. It reminds me of home, my mom's kitchen, of eating it with plain rice, rasam and papads, of dad's anecdotes and in general everything that means something special to me. Growing up years were filled with mom's cooking, occasional dinner get togethers in relative/friend's houses and very rarely restaurants. I did not know the value of home cooking then - in fact I thought it was plain boring. But today, given the responsibility myself, I know better. I cannot thank my mom enough today for insisting on consuming greens, in some form or the other, at least 3-4 times per week. I cherish her for spending time and effort in cooking fresh meals 3 times a day, all the 7 days of the week.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
Eating out, buying convenience food has become more than a convenience, I think. It has become a fashion statement with some people. You are thought "outdated", "oh so uncool" if you spend time cooking for your own family. You are called old fashioned.  I am willing to be all that and more, if me being that turns out to be nourishing and healthy for my family. Just like this simple dish made from pigeon peas, spinach and mild spices. It will not blossom in your palate or burst with myriad flavors in your mouth. But it will be what a food should be - extremely fulfilling, hearty and give your body the warmth it craves for.
References

from my kitchen notes

Basic Information
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 15 min
Serves: 2 people
Yield: It serves 2-4 people depending on the number of courses.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups, tightly packed (1 bunch/300 grams/11oz) Spinach, see Tips
  • 1 cup Pigeon Peas (Tuvar/Toor dal)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp Sambar Powder,or as per taste- optional
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly squeezed Lemon juice to taste - optional
    For Tempering
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 2 tsp Urad dal, split and skinned (black gram lentil)
  • 1-2 dried Red Chilli
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • Large pinch of Asafoetida Powder
Tips
1. Spinach : The fresh spinach have stems that are tender and perfectly edible. The older spinach tends to have tougher and woody stems. If the one you have fall into the latter category, de-stem your spinach. Not worth it. The one I buy from my Farmer's market is all tender and hence I have opted to use in this recipe. I weighed my spinach bunch along with the stems (and the little roots - see 2nd picture from top)
Method
1
While you can cook your lentils on stove top, I do mine with the aid of pressure cooker. Add 2-1/2 cups water to the pigeon peas along with turmeric and cook for 8-10 minutes (3 whistles).
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
2
While that's cooking, chop off the ends/roots from the spinach (and/or any old yellowing leaves!).
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
3
Fill your basin with water and drop the leaves until submerged and you notice all the sand/mud/dirt deposited at the bottom. While its not necessary to clean this way, I opt for this method 'cos I find that it gets the spinach completely debris free.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
4
Now chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
5
Heat a large skillet and add 1 tsp of oil ( I use Extra Virgin coconut oil) and saute the spinach.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
6
until slightly wilted.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
7
Remove the cooked pigeon peas from the pressure cooker.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
8
Mash it lightly with the a spatula/spoon.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
9
Add it to the spinach.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
10
Mix until combined.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
11
You can choose to leave it like this or blend it into a slightly smoother with the help of a hand blender.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
12
I started doing this after my little one was born since its easier for feeding. I don't make it completely smooth but into a coarse puree with bits of spinach instead of long ones. Add little bit of salt (Spinach has salt in it already and hence wee little salt is usually sufficient) and Sambar powder if using. Mix to combine.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
13
In another skillet, add another tsp oil (I use the same as mentioned above) and add the tempering ingredients. Saute until the black gram gets reddish brown.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
14
Add it to the spinach mixture.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
15

Combine. Taste and add any seasoning if required. Reduce heat to simmer. Make sure not to cook any spinach based food for longer hours since the spinach loses its beautiful bright green color and starts looking murky brown.Also you can add more water to the consistency you like. We prefer it little thick.

Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
16
Add the lemon juice. While my mother never added any, I realize that citric acid helps our body to absorb iron from lentils (& spinach) and hence opt to add in some lemon juice to all my lentil preparations.
Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
Serve hot/warm with flatbreads and/or steamed rice. Indian Spinach Recipes | Spinach Lentil Curry Recipe | Indian Curry Recipes
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15 Responses to “Dal Palak (Spinach with Lentils)”
  1. I am in total agreement with Michele (July 8, 2013). I too have just discovered your website. Of all the good Indian food websites, yours is by far the best. The recipes are kept simple, “homey”, and inviting to actually prepare and consume. Simplicity is a wonderful thing.

    Thank you so much Carol. Means a lot :) –DK

  2. Anna

    We loved this recipe. Mild flavors, but tasty and satisfying.

  3. Suruchi

    Hey i have tried dal palak recipes so many times ….this sambhar powder version seemed new to me. I tried it last night and it turned out great! i also added a little chopped garlic in the tadka since my husband and i both love garlic! it just adds to the wonderful flavor! Cheers!! :D

  4. Michele

    Just stumbled onto your website, and though I haven’t tried cooking anything yet, I’m loving the lay-out and easy way you write up your recipes, and can’t wait to try some- (clipping like crazy)! I’m an American living in South Asia and trying to learn how to cook here! My question is about ‘spinach’- Every kind of saag is translated ‘spinach’- I can’t yet tell them apart, and have no idea which to pick for which recipes. What works best for this?

    Technically, Saag means a green gravy. You can use any kind of green you like – a mix of mustard greens, spinach, chard, mint, fenugreek etc etc. Pls refer this post: Saag Paneer Recipe. But in restaurants here in the US as well as many websites, they tend to use just Spinach to make the gravy. This dish is “Palak” paneer where Palak means “Spinach”, hence have used just that. –DK

  5. this sounds like a yummy dish…it looks like it would make me feel better (little under the weather)..I will be making it for my dinner tonight…thank you so much for another wonderful recipe… everyone of your recipes I have tried have turned out great..at least my Indian daughter in law tells me and shows me by eating with such gusto…thanks

  6. Pat Chao

    :) Just wondering, when do you add the pinch of Asafoetida Powder and Sambar….just before cooking the dal or afterwards?

    Sambar powder, as mentioned” is at step 12. As for the asafoetida powder, I realised that I have mentioned it outside the “tempering” section in the Ingredients. Have updated the recipe likewise. Pls add it when you are tempering ( in step 13) right in the hot oil. Thanks for pointing the lapse :) –DK

  7. Nish

    Hi there … your recipe looks yummy … just wanted to check if you add water to the pressure cooker before you put in the small dekchi … also do you cover the smaller dekchi while it is being cooked in the pressure cooker. How long do u pressure cook the dal for??

    Thanks!!

    Yes, I add water to the pressure cooker before I place the smaller container. And no, I usually don’t cover it, but you can if you prefer it. As for the cook time I do mention that in my step 1 –DK

  8. Beautiful recipe! I added tomatoes too. They went so well. Boiled or pressure-cooked everything together – lentil, tomatoes and spinach. Couldn’t tell the diff. Spinach has it color. Saved lots of time and effort. Also made the sambar too. Delicious. Thanks.

  9. rashmi

    Thank You so much for this good Palak recipe..i was trying to get some palak recipes..I request u to post palak paneer’s recipe too.

  10. Veronica

    I too make daal palak but different method – kids love it n its 2in1 nutritious food – plain palak they won’t touch -now I’ll try this recipe – my hubby will surely love it – it is simple, easy and looks good to the eyes

  11. Just read that for you too, so I am not alone. :)

    Oh yes, its for me too :) –DK

  12. Believe me or not, this is a comfort food for me, when I am sad I need this, when I am sick I need this. It is so comforting, probably for me only! :P
    And, I have one question.. You have put a bhagoni (bowl) inside the pressure cooker while cooking dal.. any specific reason?

    mm..guess no real reason. My mom did it and I sort of just do the same. To me, I think, ‘cos of the habit, it seems weird to cook directly in the pressure cooker! But apart from that there’s no specific motive as such for such a procedure..:) –DK

  13. veni

    Hi
    I made this recipe. It was good.
    I want to tell one thing that while u cook dall can add 2piece of garlic little jeera
    And a pinch of numeric powder. It will give gud t.fragrance and also
    Looks gud.

  14. Archena

    This seems nice we always do Palak Moong Dal with Garlic tempering and that is really yummy, will be sure to give this one a try

    We do that too – but we call it “Kootu” in Tamil. –DK

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