A favorite Indian lentil dish, this Spinach Dal is made with an easy dump-and-done Instant Pot recipe. This recipe also shows you how to make the rice at the same time using the pot-in-pot technique so you have a full meal to enjoy.
The original recipe posted in Jul 2018 has been updated with new photos and a video
Spinach Dal also known as Palak Dal is a staple Indian dish cooked with lentils and spinach. Lentils are cooked in earthy spices such as cumin, turmeric, and garlic, along with tomatoes and fresh spinach. Spinach dal can be enjoyed by itself as lentil soup or served over hot fluffy rice for a wholesome comfort meal.
Using Instant Pot to Cook Dal
Traditionally Dal is first cooked in a stovetop pressure cooker or in a pot and then tempered with spices, aromatics, and veggies in a separate pot. Also with stove-top pressure cookers, you need to manually keep track of time or count the number of whistles.
Instant Pot has big advantages over traditional pressure cookers. First, you do not need to monitor the cooking time making it a mostly hands-off process. Secondly, you can start and finish cooking dal in the same pot so you have only one pot to clean. And all of this with the same authentic taste in lesser time.
Simple No Tempering Dal
When I first shared this dal recipe, I used the Instant Pot Saute option to temper cumin seeds. But there is technically no need to first temper cumin seeds in hot oil. So now I follow this no-tempering method where I add all ingredients to the Instant Pot insert and pressure cook. The flavors of all the ingredients meld perfectly well to make a creamy dal with earthy aromas and taste - just like the dal, I grew up eating.
- Red Lentils - also known as masoor dal, these lentils are perfect for making dal as they have a short cooking time and make creamy dal. You can also use Toor dal, Mung dal, or a mix of lentils.
- Spices - cumin seeds add an earthy flavor while turmeric adds a beautiful yellow color in addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits
- Green chili - Indian green chili adds perfect heat to this dish. I make a long slit in the chilies so they can be easily picked out while serving or eating
- Garlic - fresh garlic adds a pungent nutty flavor to the dal
- Curry Leaves - add a nice citrusy aroma. curry leaves are available in Indian grocery stores
- Tomato - fresh diced tomato adds a hint of tangy flavor to the dal. You can also use canned diced tomatoes
- Spinach - pre-washed fresh baby spinach is perfect for this recipe and adding it after the pressure cooking cycle also preserves the vibrant green color in the dal
How to Make Spinach Dal
- Add all the ingredients for the dal except the spinach to the Instant Pot insert (photos 1 - 4)
- Add rice, water, and salt to the stainless steel pan and place the pan over the tall trivet and start pressure cooking (photos 5 - 6).
- Allow 5 minutes of natural pressure release and then open the Instant Pot. Thin out the dal to the consistency you like by adding more water. Stir in the spinach, and bring the lentils to a gentle boil on Sauté mode (photos 7 - 10).
How to Serve Spinach Dal
Serve hot dal with rice, a pickle, and a spoonful of homemade ghee. I often pair the spinach dal and rice with Batata Bhaji, Aloo Gobi, and cooling cucumber raita or beet raita.
Cooked spinach dal will stay well refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. For extended shelf-life, freeze the dal for up to 6 months. Place the dal in the refrigerator to defrost overnight and then reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.
- Depending on how old your lentils are, or in case you are using organic dal; it may take much longer for the lentils to cook. In this case, increase the pressure cooking time to ten minutes.
- If you have hard water in your home, it may take longer for the dal to cook. My recommendation is to either use filtered water for cooking or soak the lentils in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes as you prepare the other ingredients.
- Lastly, you can do a full natural pressure release for this recipe so the dal continues to cook soft and get creamy.
- This recipe is gluten-free and to make it vegan simply substitute ghee with neutral cooking oil, or simply skip the ghee altogether
- Other than lentils, salt, and turmeric all the other ingredients can be optional
- Skip spinach or substitute it with baby kale, frozen spinach, or kale
- To make pot-in-pot brown rice, increase the pressure cook time to 22 minutes
More Indian Lentil Recipe You'll Love
Spinach Dal with Rice
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 green chili chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 8 curry leaves optional
- 1 tomato diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup red lentils rinsed and drained (masoor dal)
- 4 ounces baby spinach
Pot in Pot Rice
- 1 cup basmati rice rinsed and drained
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups water
- Add ghee, cumin seeds, turmeric, green chili, garlic, curry leaves, tomatoes, lentils, salt, and water. Give a quick stir.
- Place the tall trivet inside the pot. Add rice, salt, and water to the stainless steel pot and place it over the trivet. Note: This step is optional.
- Close the Instant Pot with pressure valve to sealing. Select Pressure Cook(Hi) and adjust the pressure cook time to 5 minutes.
- Allow 5 minutes of natural pressure release and then release the remaining pressure manually. Open the Instant Pot and carefully take out the rice bowl and the trivet.
- Mix the lentils with a spatula. Add more water, to bring the lentils to desired consistency. Dal will thicken as it cools.
- Add chopped spinach and mix well. Cook on Sauté mode until the daal comes to a gentle boil.
- Enjoy hot with steamed basmati rice.
- Substitute Masoor dal with moong dal or Toor dal. If using Toor dal or Chana dal increase the pressure cook time to 10 minutes.
- You can also make dal without pot-in-pot rice.
- If you like to temper the spices, heat the ghee in saute mode. Then add cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds. Then add garlic, green chilies, and curry leaves and saute for another 2 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and follow the rest of the recipe
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Bekra Yorke says
Made it last night, my 1st Indian food in the Instant Pot, and only the 4th or so item I've tried in the Instant Pot. Wow, delicious!! As good as any restaurant dal I've ever had. Had an extra small head of cauliflower and an onion, so cut them up and included them (along with recipe for 16 servings). I get the feeling this is a forgiving recipe in that way. I will be making this again, and look forward to trying others on the site as well. Thank you for making these great recipes available!
Rekha Pradeep says
The dal turned out delicious. Thank you so much for the easy to follow instructions and the fantastic recipe!
Made it today, I doubled the recipe. Came out perfect. I never knew pink daal and spinach was such an amazing combo! My new comfort food:)
Thank you! Would love 5 star from you 🙂
This is the best and easiest daal recipe! Thank you again for your yummy recipes!
Instead of a steel pan for rice, can you use a silicon pan??
I have not tried but yes if it's oven-safe it will work in the Instant Pot too.
This recipe is the best discovery! I used the pot in pot method and did it twice. Just need to increase the amount of water in the daal to give it not so thick consistency. This method reduces the number of vessels and has perfect measurements for the rice!
I am so glad you enjoyed it! I agree the lentils will continue to thicken as they cool down so add water as needed.
Pam Angel says
Looks delicious. I just did the Chana Saag on the stove and loved it. This looks very similar, so I'm looking forward to making it. But I have a question. Two of the comments mention cilantro, but I don't see any in the ingredients list. Is there another version of th elist.
Hi Pam! Cilantro is an optional garnish. I usually skip it as the recipe uses lots of spinach and so additional garnish is not necessary.
Pam Angel says
Thank you . I'm so glad I found your site. I love your recipes. Trying to do more meatless days and you have so many delicous options
Have I told you lately that I love you? Your recipes are consistently perfect. This is the easiest, best dal I've made. I know the curry leaves are optional & I've had a hard time getting fresh ones. But, finally, we had some & oh, the added taste! Thank you!
Thank you SO much, Susan! You made my day!
Danika Fonseca says
Is this recipe in your instant pot cooking book. I have tried a lot of your instant pot recipes and everyone is so good that it would be sad if the book didnt contain ALL of them 😛
Hi Danika, I am so glad to read that you are enjoying the recipes from my cookbook. This recipe is not included in the book as the book has a different set of recipes. Feel free to print the recipe card from the blog and dd it to the book for future reference. Happy Cooking!
I love cooking this updated version of spinach dal because it is super easy, delicious, and full of protein. Thank you so much Archana! This is my new favorite go-to dinner!!
First time I've done pot in pot, rice came out brilliant and the daal was delicious! Such a simple but tasty meal.
Maria Alice Gouveia says
Thanks a mil Archana, I do appreciate your dishes, but am bad at photograpy.