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This Lentil Dal with Spinach Sauce is one of the most delicious, soul-satisfying plant-based, Indian meals! This version is fragrant, flavorful and packed with nutrients- think of this like Saag Paneer, but substituting black lentils instead of the cheese! Super tasty and healthy. See 30-Second Video!
This recipe for Spinach Lentil Dal, which I’ve nicknamed “Emerald Dal” because of its beautiful rich color was such a comforting meal to make this week. Somehow it feels so grounding and nurturing. Not only is it wholesome and nutritious, but it is also bursting with authentic Indian flavor -and honestly, I can’t wait to make it again!
To make this Lentil Dal with Spinach Sauce you’ll need a full pound of spinach. You can use frozen spinach if you like but fresh spinach is in the season I am taking advantage of it.
How to make Emerald Dal | 30-second video
How to make Spinach Lentil Dal
Step 1: Chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chili pepper. If you like heat, add more chili pepper.
Step 2: Saute the onion garlic & chili pepper in ghee and add the spices. Feel free to use coconut oil, but ghee truly elevates this dish.
Here I’m using black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and garam masala which you can make at home.
Step 3: Then add the fresh spinach, a little water, cover, and wilt over low heat for just a few minutes.
A pound of spinach will wilt down into about 2 cups- if that.
Step 4: Blend the spinach sauce with a little water to form a spinach puree. It doesn’t need to be smooth unless you prefer it that way. Look how bright and green it is!
Step 5: Pour the spinach sauce back into the pan- and don’t overheat this or you will lose the gorgeous color!
Step 6: Then fold in the cooked lentils I add somewhere between 3-4 cups of cooked caviar lentils. And I love these little black lentils most of all because they cook so quickly!!!
TIP #1: I cook lentils using the pasta method. Cook in ample salted water until tender, then strain. That way you don’t have to have exact measurements with the water to lentil ratio. It is very forgiving!
TIP #2: Using 3 cups of cooked lentils (instead of 4) will lend a “saucier” (more flavorful) dal which I prefer. But if you have 4 people in your family, I’d just add another cup of lentils. 🙂
Step 7: Then stir in a little plain yogurt which will add creaminess and a touch of tanginess.
Step 8: Taste. Adjust salt and heat to your liking. You want this slightly salty if serving over rice. A little squeeze of lemon or lime juice is nice here too!
Tip #3: Remember, do not overheat the spinach lentil dal or you’ll lose that lovely vibrant emerald color!
Tip #4: At the same time as I’m making the dal- I’m also pan-searing naan bread, and cooking basmati rice to go with it.
Spinach Lentil Dal- lovingly called Emerald Dal here at home…a simple and tasty combo that can be made in 30 minutes if you cook the lentils ahead!
Yes, you can eat it like lentil soup if you prefer. 🙂
What to serve with Lentil Spinach Dal?
- Basmati rice
- Naan Bread
- Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower
- Instant Pot Tikka Masala
- Mint Chutney
- Indian Butter Chicken
- Rajasthani Potatoes
- Authentic Chai!
- Chai Cookies!
You may also like:
- Palak Paneer!
- Indian Fried Rice
- Indian Shepherds Pie
- Frankies (Bombay Burritos)
- Naan Bread
- Indian Basmati Rice
Enjoy the grounding, nourishing Spinach Lentil Dal this week and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Spinach Lentil Dal Recipe
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 3-4 1x
- Category: vegetarian, main, legumes
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegetarian
Spinach Lentil Dal Recipe- an Indian lentil recipe with a flavorful spinach sauce that is full of flavor and nutrients and that can be made in 30 minutes. Serve with Basmati Rice, and naan bread!
- 3 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil, but ghee will elevate)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
- 1 medium jalapeno, finely chopped (or 1 serrano) this is mildly spicy, add more if you like.
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 lb BABY spinach (fresh or frozen)
- 20 fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
- 2 tablespoons water (if using fresh spinach)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or vegan yogurt)
- 3 –4 cups cooked black lentils (or aka caviar lentils, beluga lentils or French green lentils) about 1 1/2 cups dry lentils.
- 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste!
- If cooking black lentils and basmati rice, start them first (see notes)
- Make the Spinach Sauce: Sautee the onion in ghee, in a large pan, over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add garlic, ginger and chilies. Saute until fragrant and golden. Add the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and garam masala and stir two minutes. Lower heat to low. Add the fresh spinach, fresh mint, fenugreek and 2 tablespoons water. Cover pan, 2-3 minutes, letting spinach wilt. Give a few stirs. Don’t overcook!
- Blend Spinach Sauce: Place the wilted spinach mixture in a blender and add the 3/4 cups of water. Pulse and few times (hold the lid down tight). If you want a smooth sauce, blend until smooth. I left a little texture here. Pour it back into the pan, set on low heat. Don’t overheat or you will lose the pretty color.
- Combine: Stir in the yogurt, lentils and salt. Taste. Adjust salt to your liking, adding more if necessary! You want this slightly more salty because you are serving over rice which will mellow it out a lot. For more heat add a pinch of cayenne or chili flakes. To “up” the flavor even more, add a bit more garam masala spice to taste. If you want a little acidity a tiny squeeze of lemon is nice.
- Serve with the basmati rice and naan bread!
- Emerald Dal will keep up to 4 days in the fridge.
Cook black lentils according to package or try the pasta cooking method: simply boil 1 1/4 cups dry lentils in 6 cups of salted water until just tender, strain. The size of lentil will determine cooking time. Little black lentils take 20-30 minutes. Feel free to sub other whole lentils for the black lentils.
SPINACH: If using fresh spinach, be sure to use baby spinach, as mature spinach and their stems can be bitter.
Yes, you can sub coconut oil or butter for the ghee– but in my opinion, the ghee really elevates and adds so much flavor.
Feel free to bump up the spices and heat (add more chilies and spices).
- Serving Size: 1 ¼ cup
- Calories: 360
- Sugar: 5.1 g
- Sodium: 694.7 mg
- Fat: 9.1 g
- Saturated Fat: 4.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.7 g
- Fiber: 10 g
- Protein: 22.3 g
- Cholesterol: 19.9 mg
Keywords: lentil dal, black lentil dal, Indian dal recipe, dal with spinach, saag dal, saag dal recipe, spinach dal, lentil dahl
Can I freeze spinach lentil dal recipe?
Yes, it should freeze fine but it may not stay as green. 😉
Can you freeze most of your wonderful recipes, there are only two of us.
Hi, most recipes can be frozen- but if you have a particular one in mind, ask the question there and I can be more specific. YOu can always halve the recipes as well. 🙂
Made with a Thai chili and a little extra mint….delicious. Without ghee it was okay, but the ghee elevated to a fantastic meal!
Great to hear Amanda. The ghee really does make a difference, doesn’t it!
Delicious. Made it with your recipe for coconut/curry rice , crispy tofu and your garlic naan.
I made this last night and it is INCREDIBLE! One of the best plant based meals I’ve ever had. My husband, usually wary of meals without meat, agreed. I didn’t have any fenugreek so I substituted a tbsp. of curry powder like another commenter suggested. I also added a small a pinch of hing and a handful of chopped cilantro toward the end for more flavor. One suggestion I have is to provide a measurement for dry lentils to produce 3-4 cups cooked. That would have been helpful! Otherwise, this will be on rotation in my house. I made homemade scallion naan to go with it and damn was it delicious 🙂
So happy you enjoyed this Jenn! I will add the dry lentil amount. 🙂 Thanks!
Delicious! I added some fried paneer as well
Loooved it! As suggested, bumped the spices up to probably just shy of double (eyeballed the additions, as that’s how we do spices in this home). Didn’t have fenugreek on hand, so added a bit of curry powder with the other spices, plus a tsp of molasses just before serving. SO good! Our 3 year old gobbled his down too. Oh, and our family has a brown rice habit, which went just fine with the dish.
So happy everyone liked it!
This is beyond delicious. I kept it plant based using coconut yogurt, and did a 50/50 split of black lentils and chickpeas. I also subbed Thai chili and loved the extra spice. For anyone asking, I’ve frozen this in the past and it’s worked well. Thanks for a great recipe!
Thanks so much Jen!
I love this recipe! This is my 2nd time making Emerald dal, but the 1st using black lentils. They make all the difference!
One question: What is the serving size associated with the nutrition information? One cup?
Thanks for the consistently clear, easy, and delicious recipes! And thanks in advance for the nutrition details!
Thanks, Ingrid – I think it is about 1 1/4 cups per serving.
This was delicious made with frozen spinach and quick, too. Loved the squeeze of lemon on top. I’ll be making this again!
Awesome to hear Josie- yes frozen spinach makes this super fast!
beautiful recipe, love lentils and spinach and all the spices, great job, thanks!
Fantastic recipe. Easy to make, fragrant and delicious.
Glad you enjoyed this Ron. I need to make this again soon. 🙂
Are you able to freeze this?
Awesome recipe. I just needed to modify it because of the kids, so no chilies and some of the spices. Everyone loved it. My 2 and 3 year old ate the full plate. Will definitely go again for it. Thank you so much
Wow- love it Elena!
Came out amazing! My husband and I love this recipe and it’s a monthly staple.
Great to hear Chloe!
Excellent recipe! Thank you, both color and taste are lovely. ps. We forgot to get fenugreek but it tasted really good either way. We used regular spinach and Kite hill vegan almond/soy yogurt.
Thanks so much- glad you liked it!
Love this recipe!! It’s versatile enough to exchange ingredients that you have in the pantry & the color is always fantastic
Thanks so much!
I made this with baby spinach and also found it very bitter. I’m wondering if it’s the dried fenugreek leaves. I have never made anything with them before and when I google their flavor it says they can be bitter? Even though it was bitter, it was a different kind of bitter, that’s why I’m wondering if it was the fenugreek leaves. My family and I still loved it. I just stirred in more greek yogurt. 🙂
Thanks for the feedback- I was wondering what was doing that! Didn’t even think of the Fenugreek.
Hi – wondering if this freezes well. Thanks
Hi Samia, I bet it would freeze just fine. You may lose the vibrant green color but the flavors would still be there. 🙂
Hi. I have a question. I just made this . And it is quite bitter. What could have caused that? The only change I made I used 1/2 tsp. cumin powder instead of 2 tsp cumin seeds. I’d really appreciate your reply. Thank you.
Interesting Mila- Some others have reported the same thing. Did you use baby spinach?
Yes, I used baby spinach. The only change was cumin powder. Thank you for your reply.
I’m not sure what would make it bitter….sorry Mila!
this was a great recipe! i’m trying to cook more vegetarian and this made a perfect dinner. i never realized how much a pound of spinach is, and while cooking I thought it was going to be too much but it worked out perfect. i took the advice to add extra spice because of the rice. i couldn’t get naan at the grocery story so i used lavash instead. def going to make this again!
So happy you liked this one Tim!
Made this on a whim as I had a bunch of spinach to use up. Now my go to comfort meal, absolutely delicious. Freezes well – so perfect to pull out for dinner after a busy day. Thanks Sylvia!
Thanks Lindsay- glad you enjoy this one!
The meal was just amazing and so easy to make, thank you so much for the reciepe. Also it is not written in the ingredients but put mint leaves like in the picture it really makes a difference.
Hi Nicolina- glad you liked this. Mint leaves are included in step two. 🙂