Dal saag, or Spinach dal or dal palak, is a comforting curry with lentils and spinach. In this post, I will show how to easily make this flavorful, nutritious, and delicious curry at home with basic panty staple ingredients.
This naturally vegan and gluten-free creamy spinach lentils will be ready in 30 minutes and is ideal for busy weekdays or weekends.
What is Dal Saag?
Dal saag is a flavorful and nutritious Indian dish that combines lentils and green leafy veggies. Dal means lentils, and Saag means green leafy. Usually, spinach is the green leafy vegetable used in this dish. And hence, we also call this dish Spinach dal or Palak dal.
Instead of spinach, we can use other leafy greens like amaranth greens, sorrel greens, dill leaves, fenugreek leaves, and mustard leaves. You can also make this dal palak recipe with Kale, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, and Swiss chard.
Essential Ingredients to Make Dal Saag
Here are the main ingredients to make the dal saag at home.
- Lentils: Generally, split pigeon peas is used to make the daal saag. But you can make this dish with any lentils like masoor dal (red lentils), moong dal (yellow lentils), chana dal (split chickpeas), or yellow split peas.
- Spinach: Fresh and vibrant spinach leaves add that signature earthy flavor to our Dal Saag. You can also use other greens like Kale, mustard, collard, amaranth, sorrel, and even baby spinach.
- Aromatics: I used chopped garlic, which will flavor the dal very well. You can use onions and ginger as well while making this recipe.
- Spices: This recipe uses ground coriander and turmeric powder as powdered spices. And cumin seeds, mustard seeds, green chili, and red chili are added to the tempering. If you do not have cumin seeds, you can use ground cumin. Skip mustard seeds if you do not have them.
- Oil: I used coconut oil to make vegan dal saag. You can use other oils like avocado oil, peanut oil, ghee, or butter.
- Lemon juice: The tangy flavor of the lemon juice takes our Dal Saag to the next level. Instead of lemon, you can use tamarind paste, raw green mango, gooseberry(Amla), and raw mango powder for tartness in spinach dal.
Traditional Comfort: Stovetop Dal Palak
Usually, daal saag is a 2-step process. First, we cook the plain lentils. Next, we mix the cooked lentils with the tempered spices and spinach leaves. Then, simmer it further until the dal becomes creamy and flavorful. That's how my mom does it when she makes this dal at home.
Step 1: Cook the lentils
- Add rinsed dal to the pressure cooker pot.
- Add water and pressure cook the lentils for three whistles on a medium heat.
- If using an Instant Pot, pressure cook the lentils on high pressure for 5 minutes. And let the pressure release naturally. Please check my Instant Pot toor dal recipe for detailed steps.
- Keep the cooked lentils aside. The next step is to temper and simmer the lentils with spices and saag.
Step 2: Temper and simmer the dal saag
- Heat a pan and add oil to it.
- Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and hing to the hot oil. Make sure to be a little away, as seeds will splutter.
- Now add red chili and green chili to the tempering.
- Once these turn lightly brown, after a minute or so, add chopped spinach to the pan.
- Let the spinach leaves cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- To these wilted spinach leaves, add cooked and mashed lentils.
- Now add coriander powder, turmeric powder, and salt.
- Mix it well and let the dal saag simmer for 4 to 5 minutes on low to medium flame.
- Add more water to adjust the consistency of the spinach dal saag. Take the dal saag out of the flame and add lemon juice.
- Mix it well, and the creamy and delicious Dal Saag- Spinach daal is ready to serve!
Quick & Flavorful: Instant Pot Dal Saag Method
We can make this spinach dal in less time using an instant pot. So I always prefer this method for a busy day's lunch or dinner.
- Start the Instant Pot in saute mode. Once it is hot, add oil to the Inner Pot.
- Now add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and hing. Once the seeds start to splutter, add green and red chili.
- If you are using garlic or ginger or both, add it now.
- Also, add curry leaves if using.
- At this stage, you can remove some portion of tempering. You can add this tempering to the dal saag at the end.
- If you are using tomatoes, add them now.
- Now add rinsed lentils and water to the Instant Pot.
- Close the Instant Pot with its lid and seal the vent. Select Manual or Pressure Cook mode and cook the lentils for 6 minutes on HIGH pressure.
- If you want to cook basmati rice with dal, place a trivet on top of the dal. Then place the rice bowl on it and pressure cook for 6 minutes on HIGH pressure.
- Once the Instant Pot finishes cooking, wait 10 minutes and carefully release the pressure. You can wait for a natural pressure release also.
- Take the rice bowl and trivet out of the Instant Pot.
- Start the instant pot on saute mode again.
- Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, salt, and chopped spinach leaves to the Instant Pot.
- Mix it well and simmer the dal saag for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Switch off the Instant Pot. Garnish the dal saag with the tempering and dash of lemon juice. Serve the tasty, quick spinach dal with fluffy basmati rice for a comforting meal!
Recipe Notes and Tips
- Do not add lemon juice while the saag dal is cooking. It will turn bitter.
- If using raw mango, tamarind paste, or gooseberry while making this dal saag, add it with spinach leaves.
- You can grate or finely chop raw mango and gooseberry if using them.
- You can use baby spinach leaves for making this dahl recipe. Do not overcook the spinach leaves in that case.
- While making this recipe, I didn't use ginger. I usually add garlic and sometimes grated ginger to make any dal.
- I used whole red chili and green chili to make this dal saag. If you do not have them, you can make this recipe with red chili powder or flakes.
- In any authentic Indian dal recipe, curry leaves are the main ingredient. I skipped the curry leaves when shooting this recipe. If you are using curry leaves, add them along with green chili.
Usually, lentil dishes will not keep well for more time at room temperature. We typically consume this dal saag within 8 to 12 hours of making it. You can store this in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days and 2 to 3 months in the freezer.
How to Serve Dal Saag
Dal and rice is my favorite combination, but you can also serve this dal saag with cooked millet, quinoa, spiced basmati rice, or Indian flatbreads like naan bread, chapati, and roti. Pair this with some vegetable salad; your meal will be filling and yummy.
I sometimes serve this as a soup with toasted bread for a light and hearty meal.
Common Queries About Making Dal Saag
Yes, you can use any lentils to make this dish. The cooking time of the lentils will vary accordingly.
You can use frozen spinach to make this recipe, but fresh spinach might yield a brighter flavor. Thaw the frozen spinach before adding it to the dish.
Adjust the seasoning. Add more salt, spices, or a touch of lemon juice to enhance the flavors. You can also add half a teaspoon of garam masala powder to flavor it.
Yes, you can make dal saag and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Add a bit of water to reach your desired consistency. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
Yes, absolutely! You can use Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, or a mix of these for a unique flavor profile. You can use any leafy greens to make the dal saag. Check out my dal recipes with different greens - amaranth leaves dal, sorrel leaves dal.
Dal Saag is quite nutritious, but you should pair it with rice, bread, or flatbread for a well-rounded meal.
Be mindful of the cooking time for lentils. Overcooked lentils can become mushy. Keep checking their texture while they simmer. But mushy dal will also taste delicious.
More Lentil Recipes
Dal saag - Spinach dal ( Indian Spinach and Lentil )
Cooking the lentils
- Rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold water until water runs clear before cooking to remove any impurities.
- Soak the lentils for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours before pressure cooking for a creamier texture.
- Place the rinsed dal into the pressure cooker. Add water and pressure cook the lentils.
- For a conventional stovetop pressure cooker, cook for three whistles over medium heat. If using an Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Once the lentils are cooked, set them aside.
Simmering the Dal Saag
- Begin by heating a pan and adding oil to it.
- Add cumin, mustard, and a pinch of hing (asafoetida) in the hot oil.
- Now, add garlic, red chili, and green chilies to the tempering. After about a minute, or when they lightly brown, add the chopped spinach to the pan.
- Allow the spinach leaves to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes.
- To the wilted spinach leaves, add the cooked and mashed lentils.
- Sprinkle in coriander powder, turmeric powder, and salt. Stir thoroughly and let the dal saag simmer for 4 to 5 minutes over low to medium heat.
- Adjust the consistency of the spinach dal saag by adding more water if needed.
- Now remove it from the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.
- Mix well, and your creamy and delicious Dal Saag - Spinach dal is ready to be served!