• Tanya Carneiro

North Indian Spinach Dahl (Vegan)

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

The humble 'Dahl & Rice' is the epitome of Indian comfort food.

This dahl has been a prominent part of my childhood , as I would always request a big batch when I was sick , feeling down or just not 100% .

Chilly autumns and cold winters in England were warmed up with a bowl of dahl , rice and a seafood fry!

Although comforting and simple in nature, there is a lot that goes into a wonderfully complex and bold flavoured dahl .

Every region in India has their own variations and unique ways of cooking dahl.

I cannot explain the number of delectable dahl dishes that are found in India ; with such a wide range of lentils and pulses paired with such bountiful rich spices - you are bound to be in for a treat!

One thing is for sure , there is absolutely no 'stock powder/liquid' ever used an authentic Indian dahl , so please do not offend this authentic dish by using that in any dahl recipe!

This recipe is for an exquisite Spinach Dahl , that has been in my family for over 150 years , unchanged - for a good reason . It is so delicious , healthy and rather simple to make (compared to a few other traditional dahl recipes!)


Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients 1/2 cup split pigeon pea lentils + 1/4 cup split red lentils 1/2 inch ginger – finely sliced julienne 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder 1 tsp raw brown sugar Salt (as needed) 1 lemon wedge 2.5 cups water for cooking lentils Tempered Spinach: 1.5 tbs vegetable oil 1/2 large brown/red onion – chopped extra fine 1 large tomato – de-seeded chopped fine 3 cups spinach loose leaf / 4 frozen small pucks 1/4 green chilli – de-seeded & sliced into thin rings (omit if you cannot handle heat) 1/2 inch ginger – finely sliced julienne 2 tsp garlic paste (I use gourmet garden brand) 1 tsp cumin seeds 1/8 tsp asafoetida powder Salt (as needed)

Final Tempering : 1 dried Kashmiri red chilli broken into 3 pieces 1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder 1 tbs vegetable oil



Wash lentils until the water runs clear , then soak them for 30 minutes in warm water (very important step)

1.Prepare lentils

In a large casserole dish or large saucepan , add the lentils , ½ inch sliced ginger , 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder , 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp salt and specified amount of water

Bring this to a boil and then turn the heat to a medium simmer uncovered until the lentils are fully cooked and soft. This should take around 35-45 minutes , then turn heat off +set aside. If the water is evaporating before the lentils are cooked then add some more 1/2 cup at a time. The consistency should be thick and viscous but not too watery. 2.Make the Tempered Spinach

Heat 1.5 tbs oil in a casserole dish/ saucepan until hot – then turn down the heat to low-medium and add the asafoetida powder, cumin seeds and fry for maximum 5 seconds moving the oil around the pan so it doesn’t burn. Now add the onion , green chilli and salt – mixing and cooking until golden brown and cooked through – this will take around 15 minutes frequent mixing on low-medium heat ; you want a caramelized onion with NO burning. Once the onions are dark brown and mushy, add the ginger , garlic , fine chopped tomato and mix again until the tomatoes are jammy and well combined (10 minutes of frequent mixing on medium heat). Once the tomatoes are at that stage , add the spinach , 1/3 cup water and mix – cover pan with a lid and set on low for 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Now pour the cooked lentils into the spinach mixture and gently stir for a minute. Check the seasoning for salt. Now add 1 tsp of raw brown sugar and mix. Turn the heat off and let it sit.

3.Prepare the Final Tempering

Next heat oil in a small pan until it is very hot but not smoking. Then add the cumin seeds and crackle them until fragrant and a shade darker (around 10 seconds) Do not burn them . Turn the heat down to low-medium flame. Immediately add the dried Kashmiri red chilli pieces and stir (max 10 seconds) keep mixing do not let it sit untouched for even a second or it will burn . Immediately add the Kashmiri red chilli powder, swirl pan for 2 seconds and pour into the lentils pot (entire tempering mix including the oil). This entire tempering process will take around 10 seconds max

4.Stir gently until well combined. Check the saltiness, if required add a small pinch more and stir – taste again.

5.Squeeze the lemon wedge onto the dahl and stir again until well combined .

Garnish it with course chopped coriander leaves . Serve hot with steamed rice and naan bread.

Refrigerate for 3 days maximum - or freeze batches of this dahl as soon as it has cooled after cooking. Freezes perfectly for 3 to 6 months.



  • You can use just split pigeon peas or just red lentils in this dish (or a mix of half half)

  • When boiling the lentils be careful as they froth up and tend to bubble out of the pan so keep an eye on the pot and simmer on low-medium heat

  • The final tempering stage is extremely quick and happens in a span of 20 seconds , you have to pay full attention to the pan and ingredients as if you burn them , it will ruin the entire dahl.

  • You can easily freeze this dahl in freeze-friendly containers for up to 6 months

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