Dal Palak refers to lentils cooked with spinach, North Indian-style. It is a simple thing to prepare, yet highly delicious and nutritious. This is one of those dishes that will leave your tummy happy and soul satisfied. Serve it with plain rice, jeera rice or rotis, and you have an absolutely wonderful meal. Today, I am sharing the recipe for Dal Palak, the way I make it at home.
Winter is setting in here, and a variety of produce is slowly beginning to appear in the markets. The spinach available at this time of the year is absolutely beautiful, and it’s just perfect to use in this Dal Palak.
What goes into this Dal Palak?
I make this dish using toor dal. There’s a generous amount of spinach (‘palak‘ in Hindi) that goes in. I use a minimal amount of oil and spice powders.
The tempering for this Dal Palak is added in at the very end, restaurant-style, and it adds a world of flavour to the dish. Mustard, garlic and a few other spices are tempered in ghee and added to the Dal Palak.
How to make Dal Palak?
Like I was saying earlier, this is a very easy dish to put together. Here’s how I make it.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
- 1 medium-sized bunch of spinach, 2 cups when finely chopped
- 3/4 cup toor dal
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 2-3 green chillies
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Red chilli powder to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder (optional)
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander powder or to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon garam masala or to taste
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon ghee
- 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 2-3 dry red chillies
1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water, then transfer the dal go to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover the toor dal completely. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Allow 7-8 whistles on high flame or till the dal is well cooked and soft. Let the pressure release naturally.
2. Wash the spinach well, to remove all traces of mud from them. Then, chop finely and keep ready. I had 2 cups of spinach when finely chopped.
3. Peel the ginger and onion and chop finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep ready.
4. Peel the garlic cloves. Using a mortar and pestle, crush them roughly. Keep ready.
5. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash it thoroughly. Keep ready.
6. Now we will actually start making the Dal Palak. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add in the finely chopped onion and ginger as well as the slit green chillies. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute for 2-3 minutes on medium flame or till the onion cooks and changes colour.
7. Add in the chopped spinach, along with a bit of salt. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the spinach wilts and cooks. If needed, sprinkle some water to help the spinach cook.
8. Add in the chopped tomatoes, sprinkling some more water if needed. Cook covered on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the tomatoes turn mushy.
9. Add in the cooked and mashed toor dal and about 1-1/2 cups of water or as needed to adjust consistency.
10. Add salt and red chilli powder and the turmeric powder. Mix well.
11. Add in the jaggery powder, garam masala and coriander powder. Mix well.
12. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes on medium flame, stirring intermittently. The dal will start thickening up by this time. Switch off gas when the dal has thickened up, but is still on the runnier side. It will thicken up further upon cooling.
13. Mix in the lemon juice.
14. Now, we will prepare the tempering for the dal. Heat the ghee in a small tempering pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Add in the cumin seeds, asafoetida, dry red chillies and crushed garlic cloves. Turn the flame down to low. Allow the ingredients to stay in the hot oil for a few seconds. Let the garlic cloves cook, taking care not to burn them. Switch off gas and add this tempering to the dal we prepared earlier. Cover the pan and allow the flavours of the tempering to seep into the dal, for at least 15 minutes. Now, the Dal Palak is ready to serve.
Tips & Tricks
- Use very fresh spinach, for best results. Chop it finely to ensure quick cooking. Tender stems can be used too.
- Skip the green chillies if you do not prefer using them.
- Adjust the quantity of garam masala and coriander powder as per personal taste preferences.
- Adding the jaggery is purely optional. I would recommend doing so, however. The jaggery does not make the dal sweet, but rounds off the other flavours beautifully.
- Adjust the quantity of lemon juice you use, as per personal taste preferences. Amchoor powder can be used instead, too.
- Make sure the toor dal is completely cooked before using it in making this dish.
- Make sure the spinach and tomatoes are well cooked before adding the toor dal to the pan.
- Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending on the consistency of the dal you require.
- This is a completely vegetarian recipe, but not vegan (plant-based) because of the use of ghee. I would highly recommend using ghee, but do use oil for the tempering if you want to make this dish vegan.
- To make this dish gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.
- After the tempering is done, do not forget to keep the dal covered for a few minutes. This is an important step, which will help the flavours of the tempering integrate well with the dal.
Other dal recipes on the blog
I love experimenting with cooking lentils in different ways. I am a huge fan of simple and wholesome lentil dishes like this Dal Palak that eliminate the need for any other side dish.
There are quite a few other lentil/dal recipes on the blog, which you might be interested in checking out – Dhaba-style Dal Fry| Gujarati Khatti Meethi Dal| Dal Moradabadi| Healthy Dal Makhani| Andhra-style Tomato Pappu| Kaffir Lime Dal Tadka| Sri Lankan Dhal Curry| Gujarati Dal Dhokli| Maharashtrian Drumstick Amti| Parikkai Pitla
I am in love with this Rajasthani Pancharatna Dal on my fellow food blogger Poonam’s blog. I’m definitely going to try it out soon!
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!