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 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!
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!
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!
- 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)
- 15–20 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)
- 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, mint, fenugreek and 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 water. Pulse and few times (hold 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.
Feel free to bump up the spices and heat (add more chilies and spices).
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