dal palak – indian spinach and lentil curry

Dal palak is a creamy lentil curry that adds spinach to make it something special. This is a great flavour combination you need to try.

If you like spinach. And you like lentils. Then you are going to love this dish. It makes a great side dish to any Indian meal. It’s healthy. Vegan. Low fat. High fibre. Gluten free. Inexpensive. All the check boxes ticked. And somehow still delicious. 

Dal palak in a bowl from above.

Tempering adds a flavour bomb to dal palak

Tempering is a fancy word for a little spicy sizzle to finish off any lentil curry. Some people call it a tarka. Or tarda even. Not sure why there’s so many names for the same thing. Doesn’t really matter though.

What matters is it’s a great technique to learn. And to use every time you make dal. Any dal.

Nothing to it really. Heat up some oil. Fry some spices to bloom the flavours. Mix it into your dal spinach mixture. Instant flavour bomb. Indian cooking magic.

Dal palak in a copper bowl with curries and rice.

This is dal palak done restaurant style 

You can make this to order. 10 minutes top. Once you have your lentils cooked.

In a restaurant they have a bunch of cooked masoor dal ready to go. They add some spinach to a portion of dal.  Whip up the tempering and out the door it goes. 

It’s not quite the same at home but the idea is the same. Cook your lentils. Once they are ready it’s pretty much identical. Lentils. Spinach. Tempering. Dinner. Easy as that.

Dal palak, lemon chicken with coriander and rice in bowls from above.

Amchoor gives it a bit of tang

Amchoor is my new secret weapon for lentil dishes. I use it in my over the top chana masala and I use it here. It’s dried mango powder. You can get it at any Indian grocer. You need to get some. It’s that good.

It adds an earthy, slightly sour flavour. Hard to describe. Kind of like tamarind. But different. If you can’t get amchoor, tamarind will do in a pinch. 

 

Spinach and lentils go great together

When I first started cooking Indian some time in the Bronze age I found a recipe for lentils and spinach in a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. I made it and I loved it. Been playing with the flavour combinations since then.

This version of dal palak is my current favourite. I love the combination of the whole cumin and mustard seeds with the ground spices.

The earthiness of the lentils and amchoor tame the sharper taste of the spinach. It just comes together nicely. So I’m sticking with this one for a while. 

Dal palak. Lentil curry with spinach. Really tasty stuff.

Dal palak close-up in a copper bowl.
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4.90 from 19 votes

dal palak – lentil curry with spinach

Dal palak is a healthy and delicious lentil curry that’s sure to please.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Keyword dal, dal palak, lentil, lentil curry, lentil curry with spinach, spinach curry, spinach lentil curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 as a side dish
Calories 133kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

Spice Mix

  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 2 tsp indian restaurant spice mix or curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste at the end

cook the lentils

  • 1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 1/2 cups water

dal palak

  • 3 tbsp neutral oil (e.g. vegetable)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 2-3 dried kashmiri chilies
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • the spice mix
  • 9 oz cooked spinach (frozen works well here)
  • the cooked lentils

Instructions

Make the spice mix

  • Combine the cumin powder, Kashmiri chili powder, restaurant spice mix, amchoor powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook the lentils

  • Combine the water, turmeric and lentils in a pot large enough to also hold the spinach (you will add that later). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the lentils disintegrate. You are after creamy mush here.
  • Set aside.

Make the tempering

  • Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seed and mustard seed to the hot oil. 
  • When the cumin and mustard seed starts to crackle (around 30 seconds) add the whole, dried chilies. As soon as they start to discolour add the garlic ginger paste.
  • Stir until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering. 
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add the spice mix. Stir to combine and cook for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to let the spices burn. 
  • Add this tempering to the lentils. Stir to combine.
  • Add the drained spinach. Mix well. Reheat the dal palak gently over low heat if needed. Taste and adjust the salt. Lentils do take a fair bit of salt but creep up carefully. You can add salt. You can’t take it away.

Nutrition

Calories: 133kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 613mg | Potassium: 5mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 1.1mg

26 thoughts on “dal palak – indian spinach and lentil curry”

  1. 5 stars
    May I ask a question please? if you are doing twice or 3 times the amount in any of your dishes should I be using 2 or 3 times the amount of spice mix etc I have all your curry base, hotel curry gravy and restaurant spice mix etc all made. I am looking forward to trying so many of your recipes now. Thanks for all the advice.

    Reply
    • Scaling recipes linearly works pretty well at lower multiples (2 or 3). When you are scaling for larger numbers things getting a little more complicated.

      For traditional Indian you can safely scale to double or triple. For hotel recipes you can also scale.

      For restaurant style curries you can scale ingredients but the problem lies elsewhere. Restaurant style relies on frying the curry gravy hard. I have a coupl YouTube videos that show how you can get to double (hint – big frying pan) but I don’t think that triple is really feasible for this reason.

  2. 5 stars
    This is the absolutely delicious!!!
    Loving your recipes
    I have made 4 so far , PRAWN CURRY , BUTTER CHICKEN , VINDALOO WITH LAMB, and now the LENTIL CURRY
    Just amazing.
    Quick question please……with all the above recipes they state for 2
    how do i go about making for 10 people to increase ingredients in the recipes
    (not sure if i must times everything in the recipe by 5 etc )

    I am having a dinner party for 10 people in 2 weeks time and i want to make a few of your currys so we have variety .
    Thank you if you could help me out here.
    Much appreciated, Penny

    Reply
    • Delighted to hear that. Thank you.

      I believe all the recipes (except this one) are done in the restaurant style with frying the curry base being a key step. Unfortunately it is really hard to make that happen if you use 5 times the gravy (the pan just gets too full). I have some videos on YouTube about how to double recipes with a 12 inch skillet but I’ve never had much luck going beyond that.

      You could look at hotel style recipes here on glebekitchen (they scale easily) or you could cook the curries right up to the point where you add the protein ahead of time (so 2-3 times if you use the double version show in the YouTube videos) and then just add the protein and warm through when you are ready to serve.

      Hope that makes sense…

  3. Howdy I wonder if you have anything you have jotted down that might compare the various types of lentils – or if you have a source for that. I know there are tons of different kinds and I haven’t quite dialed in on what a good varietal to stock is. For instance, I have channa and urad dal in the house, but not any particular recipe that I am overly fond of using them in. Your recipes are always very good…so I’m asking for some insight. Like would this or the restaurant dal fry you have, lend itself to those types? Just think what to do with them… Appreciate it.

    Reply
    • I don’t have a guide to lentils but chana is a natural fit for anything that works with recipes labeled chana (chana masala) or chole (whole masala). I have both here if you search.

      Urad dal is what I use for dal makhani. I don’t use it much else because it is one of the slowest, longest cooking lentils and I am never smart enough to plan ahead. It is, I think, the most filling lentil around so it’s fun to use as a meat substitute.

      For everyday dal (and I do make a dal pretty much every time I cook Indian) I use masoor dal or toor dal. Both are great although I’d give a slight nod to toor dal. Masoor dal is available everywhere (split red lentils) and is cheap and delicious. For toor dal you’ll probably need to visit an Indian grocer.

  4. I cooked it exactly by your recipe and it was full of flavour, it was a big hit. Btw, I’m really enjoying your site…😊

    Reply
    • Absolutely. The only place you need to worry about scaling is restaurant style (not hotel style) recipes that call for curry base as you have pointed out.

    • Depends what you mean by chili powder. You can use any chili powder from an Indian grocer or a mix of cayenne and paprika. The resulting curry will likely be quite a bit spicier depending what you pick but it will work. What you can’t use is the stuff they sell at grocer stores called “chili” powder that is a blend of spices intended to go into a bowl of chili.

  5. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I was wondering if I could freeze any leftovers? There is just me in the house and six servings is a lot.

    Reply
    • I haven’t tried it but I bet it would work well. Certainly you wouldn’t have the problems you might with chicken or lamb…

  6. 5 stars
    jesus christ romain ive literally just found my favourite dish !!!!!! only problem now is if any gets saved for dinner tonight 5 stars ⭐️

    Reply
  7. 4 stars
    Since this recipe doesn’t use the curry base, should I worry about the lack of onion? Was thinking of frying some shallots for the tadka. Thanks again for the great recipes!

    Reply
    • The recipe works very well as written. Not all Indian dishes have onions in them. But if you want onions some shallots in the tadka would work as well.

    • Thanks. No, you don’t need to precook frozen spinach. Just make sure to squeeze as much liquid from it once it thaws.

    • Appreciate your prompt response. I have been thro’ many websites on Indian and Pakistani cookery. Yours is truly the best. Easy to follow and delectable.

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