Dal Palak (Lentil and Spinach Curry)

This Dal Palak recipe represents so much of what I love about Indian cuisine.  The fusion of flavors is a feast for the palate and this dish is as nutritious as it is flavorful.  Creamy lentils or yellow split peas combine with spinach to create a wholesome and filling meal that you can enjoy on its own as a main dish with some naan or a green salad, or serve it as a side dish alongside a larger meal.

This is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes along with Masoor Dal and Chana Masala.  It is so flavorful and satisfying that even devout carnivores won’t miss the meat!

dal palak recipe indian lentil and spinach curry authentic traditional

What is Dal Palak?

Dal Palak is a very traditional Indian dish that pairs lentils and spinach, a combination that has been a staple dish for centuries, some researchers dating it as far back as 800 BC.  This wholesome dish not only satisfies the taste buds but also provides a powerhouse of nutrients, making it a popular choice for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.  The primary ingredients are dal, which translates as “split” and refers to a number of split pulses included lentils and split peas, and secondly palak, or spinach.  These are cooked with a medley of spices, typically cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, garam masala, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients like garlic, ginger, and chilies.

Dal Palak is a dish with a long history, great cultural significance, and one that is cherished among Indian households, every family having their own cherished version that is passed down through generations.  My family loves this dish and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

dal palak recipe indian lentil and spinach curry authentic traditional

What to Serve with Dal Palak

Dal Palak is a versatile dish that’s fit for the most upscale Indian dinner parties as well as the most casual family get-togethers.  It is served as either a main dish or as a side dish.  Here are things you can serve with dal palak:

  • Fresh Naan, chapati or roti with Mango Chutney
  • Dosa – enjoy your dal palak rolled up in a dosa, the popular South Indian pancake.
  • A side of steamed basmati rice
  • A green salad
  • Cucumber Raita

And for dessert you can never go wrong with a refreshing Mango Lassi or some Fruit Chaat!

Which Legumes Should I Use?

Yellow lentils and yellow split peas are the two most popular choices but red lentils can also be used.

Can Dal Palak Be Made In Advance?

Yes, it can.  Dal palak will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  It will get thicker as it sits and you can thin it out by adding a little bit of water or vegetable broth.

dal palak recipe indian lentil and spinach curry authentic traditional

Dal Palak Recipe

Let’s get started!

Add the oil or ghee to a pot over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop (careful not to scorch or they will become bitter). Add the onions and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chilies and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, and asafoetida and cook for another minute.

cooking spices and onions in pot

Add split peas/lentils and stir to coat. Add the salt and the water or broth, reserving 1/2 cup to add towards the end if more liquid is needed.  Cover and simmer for 35-50 minutes (20-25 minutes for lentils) or until the split peas or lentils are tender.  If you prefer a smoother, creamier consistency cook longer until the peas have broken down.  

Add the spinach, stir to combine, and simmer another minute or two, until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice and add salt to taste.

dal palak recipe indian lentil and spinach curry yellow split peas authentic traditional

Ladle into bowls and serve hot.


dal palak recipe indian lentil and spinach curry authentic traditional

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