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
Chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chili pepper.
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.
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.
Pour the spinach sauce back into the pan.
Using 3 cups of lentils (instead of 4) will lend a more flavorful, “saucier” dal which I prefer. But if you have 4 people in your family, I’d just add another cup of lentils. 🙂
If you are wondering how I cook lentils- I basically use the pasta method. I 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!
Then stir in a little plain yogurt which will add creaminess and a touch of tanginess.
So simple and tasty and can be made in 30 minutes if you cook the lentils ahead!
The leftovers are tasty too!
What to serve with Lentil 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 Lentil Dal this week and let me know what you think in the comments below!
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
- 1 medium jalapeno, finely chopped (or 1 serrano)
- 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)
- 10 mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
- 2 tablespoons water (if using fresh spinach)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 3 –4 cups cooked black lentils (or aka caviar lentils, beluga lentils or French green lentils)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 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.
- 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.
- Combine: Stir in the yogurt, lentils and salt. Taste. Adjust salt to your liking, adding more if necessary! You want this slightly 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 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!
SPINACH: If using fresh spinach, be sure to use baby spinach, as mature spinach and their stems can be bitter.
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. 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. Feel free to sub other greens for the spinach.
Cook Basmati Rice the same way!
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