Nourishing Red Lentil & Spinach Dahl

01/05/20

(Updated 05/06/24)

This homemade recipe for red lentil dahl with fresh spinach is an Indian-inspired meal featuring dried red split lentils. Ready within 40 minutes, serve with rice or roti for a comfort food that transcends culture.

When you’re after something superbly hearty and nourishing-to-boot, look no further than dahl. Rooted in the rich culinary traditions of Indian and South Asian cuisines, this plant-based dish features simmered legumes, and has qualities akin to soup, stew and curry.

With recipes galore for dahl, here’s my take. It uses a nice blend of spices, gently tempered to enhance taste, and then sautéd with aromatics and tomatoes. The lentils are simmered in vegetable stock, infusing it with great flavour. To top it off, you mix in a mini mountain of spinach, which the Registered Nutritionist in me loves, because #vegetables.

Best yet, if you’re after quick heathy ideas for dinner, this red lentil dahl (no coconut milk) is great to bulk-cook and freeze for speedy heat-and-eat meals. Future you will be very happy👌.

Gather Ingredients

  • Dried red split lentils. Our legume pick-of-the-bunch. Red lentils soften and break down when cooked, resulting in a creamy porridge-like texture. Find them in the soup, canned goods or bulk bin aisle at the supermarket.
  • Vegetable stock. Use whatever’s on hand, whether homemade, store-bought, fresh, or a dried stock powder.
  • Spices. We’re using a blend of whole cumin and mustard seeds, as well as ground turmeric and chilli flakes.
  • Canned tomatoes. For a lovely tomatoey flavour base.
  • Fresh baby spinach. For a nutritious boost. Baby spinach is easy to throw in the pot as is, but you can also use larger spinach leaves, cut smaller.

You’ll also need the basics: aromatics, like onion, garlic and ginger; oil to fry; lemon juice to brighten; and salt to season it all to perfection. While this is a vegan dahl, you can sub the oil for ghee (clarified butter) and enjoy a vegetarian dahl instead.

Step-by-Step: Lentil & Spinach Dahl

Sift through lentils and discard any stones, misshaped or discoloured lentils. Rinse under running cold water until the water runs clear.
Bring lentils, stock and water to boil. Cover, then simmer for 20 minutes. Once finished, remove from heat, leaving the lid on. It should look like porridge.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the aromatics: dice the onion, finely chop garlic and finely grate the ginger.
Heat oil in a fry pan over a medium-low heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds, and fry for a minute or so, until fragrant.
Add onions, garlic and ginger, and sauté for 15 minutes over a low heat.
Add turmeric and canned tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the tomato-mix has finished cooking, carefully add into the saucepan with the cooked lentils and mix.
Add the spinach and chilli flakes. Mix well, bring to boil, then turn off heat. Add lemon juice and salt, to taste.

Kitchen Tips

  • ‘Thar she blows!’ (aka watch the steam). Keep an eye on the lentils as they cook. Excess steam can cause pressure build up and the contents of the pot to spill over. To avoid, set the lid slightly off-centre to allow a small gap for steam to escape, and stir occasionally.
  • Sauté low and slow. Taking extra time to sauté the onions, garlic and ginger allows for the development of deeper, more complex, flavours. So worth it!
  • Be the master of your tastebuds. Once the dahl has finished cooking, taste test, and adjust the salt, lemon juice and chilli flakes to your preference.

Serving & Storage

Serve over rice, or enjoy with Indian flatbreads like roti or naan – the bread can be used to scoop up the dahl. A garnish of fresh coriander, cashew nuts and a sprinkle of chilli flakes takes it up a notch.

This healthy dahl recipe is delicious freshly made and hot off the stove, but it’s also great prepped ahead and frozen until ready to heat-and-eat.

If you have a little extra prep time up your sleeve, serve with homemade mint and cucumber yoghurt raita for a cool and refreshing addition🥒.

Nutrition Q&A

What are the nutritional benefits of lentils? Known for their affordability, lentils pack a mighty nutritional punch, making them an excellent addition to your mealtime rotation. Cooked lentils offer:

  • A rich source of plant-based protein. A cup provides an impressive 17.9g of protein. Incorporating lentils into meals, especially plant-based ones, will help create a more nutritionally well-rounded dish.
  • High in dietary fibre. Lentils are a fabulous source of gut-loving fibre, boasting 15.6g per cup. Fibre is cornerstone to digestive health and creating a sense of fullness.
  • Polyphenols galore. Lentils are rich in health-promoting polyphenols, known for their strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the body (1).

Thanks for reading! Are you looking for more plant-based meal ideas? Try this Mexican-Inspired Chili Sin Carne with Dark Chocolate.

Nourishing Red Lentil & Spinach Dahl (Vegan)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serving Size: 4
Rating:

Ingredients:  

Cooked lentils

  • 1 cup dried red split lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water

Spiced tomato mix

  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • ½  tsp cumin seeds
  • ½  tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach
  • ½  tsp chilli flakes, or less or more to taste
  • Juice of ½ medium or 1 small lemon
  • Salt, to taste

Method:

Cook the lentils

  • Sift through red lentils and discard any stones, or misshaped or discoloured pieces. Rinse in a sieve under running cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Add lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with a fitted lid. Add stock and water, turn heat to high and bring to boil. Skim off any white foam that comes to the surface with a spoon and discard.
  • Turn heat down to a simmer, place lid on, and leave to cook for 20 minutes until a porridge-like consistency. Once finished cooking, remove from heat, with the lid left on.

Make the tomato-mix

  • While the lentils are cooking, peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Grate ginger using the smallest hole on your grater or using a microplane grater.
  • Heat the oil or ghee in a fry pan over a low-medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds, and fry for a minute or so, until fragrant.
  • Add onions, garlic and ginger, and sauté for 15 minutes, or until onions are soft and clear.
  • Add turmeric and canned tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine and season

  • Once the spiced tomatoes have finished cooking, carefully add to the saucepan with the cooked lentils and mix.
  • Add spinach and chilli flakes, and mix. Bring to boil, then turn heat off and mix well.
  • Add the lemon juice and ½ – 1 tsp salt (to taste). Mix together, taste test and add more salt, lemon juice or chili flakes to your preferred seasoning.

Notes:

Serving suggestions: Great with rice or roti.
* Sensitive to heat? You may prefer to knock this back to ¼ tsp chili flakes, or for a totally mild dahl add no chili flakes

Leave a Comment & Rate this Recipe

If you enjoyed this dish, please consider giving it a star rating when you post a comment. Star ratings help others discover my recipes online (and your reviews make my day! 🙂 ). Happy cooking and baking. Danijela x

5 from 5 votes (1 rating without comment)

Recipe Rating




    12 Comments

    • Hi there, thanks for your comment – 3 decent sized portions or 4 smaller bowls – if you enjoy with rice, it bulks it out. Recipe has been updated, thanks 🙂

  1. 5 stars
    This spinach/dahl recipe is absolutely delicious!!
    Eating as I type. Yum!!!
    I had all ingredients available for this recipe.
    Had ready made stock paste to make stock liquid, used our thermomix to finely chop up the onion, ginger + garlic.
    Had a bagful of blanched wild spinach, that I cut up with scissors + I think we had small limes that had turned yellow, in place of the lemon.
    Will definitely make it again.
    Thank you so much, Danijela 🙏

    • Thank you for this lovely comment Franny! Got to love when you have all the ingredients available 🙂 And great tip re the Thermomix, I’ll have to do that next time xx

      • I forgot to mention that I also used ghee in place of the oil.
        Gave it a creamy, buttery taste, contrasted with the lime juice (I probably added more than the recipe suggested) was just amazing.
        The wild spinach was NZ Warrigal greens. Next time, I might use Japanese Okinawa spinach from my garden.
        I have already shared your recipe link with a few friends who love dahl, or who haven’t enjoyed dahl in the past. Hubby was very impressed with the flavour!
        NB. my thermomix vegie stock concentrate may have also enhanced the flavour, compared to store bought stock.
        Anyway, bravo Danijela! 👏