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.
Palak Dal is a family favorite recipe! Creamy dal cooked in warm spices such as cumin, turmeric, garlic, and optional veggies, served over hot fluffy rice makes for a wholesome comfort meal that is super easy to make in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.
The word dal in Hindi language has 2 meanings:
- Dried split pulses such as masoor dal, toor dal, moong dal, etc. and
- A soup, stew-like dish made with the tender cooked split pulses tempered with spices.
Dal and rice is a quintessential Indian meal! Many families have their favorite version, with some recipes that are passed down for generations.
There are many variations and ways to prepare dal. Starting with plain soft-cooked dal with just turmeric and salt, to tempered or tadka dal where cooked the lentils are topped with a smoky tempering of spices such as cumin, turmeric, and chilies, to a dal cooked with spices and an assortment of vegetables.
Often served over rice, dal is an inexpensive way to eat proteins paired with carbohydrates to makes a complete and hearty meal.
This spinach dal recipe is on my weekly menu for many years. It started with trying to incorporate greens into our diets while trying to manage busy weeknight meals. I grew up eating my mom's version of spinach dal that tastes incredible but I rarely have the time to make her detailed recipe which resulted in my simpler version that comes pretty close to hers with much fewer efforts.
Using Instant Pot to cook Dal
My original spinach dal recipe that I shared last year uses a more traditional cooking method with tempering and layering of ingredients. Using the Instant Pot to start and finish up this dish in itself is a HUGE plus. You have one pot to clean and hands-free once you press the pressure cook button. A big advantage over traditional pressure cookers that you need to manually keep track of time by counting the whistles.
A year later, I keep trying to make the recipes even more simple so my children can make them independently. Making dal seemed like a perfect candidate for a dump-and-done recipe and this is how this easy recipe was born.
- 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
Unlike mustard seeds, cumin seeds do not require popping them in hot oil. You can add them raw to dal or rice when pressure cooking and they meld perfectly well with all the other ingredients to make a flavorful dish while adding its earthy aromas. So go ahead and add cumin seeds to your dump-and-ready recipes.
Depending on how old your lentils are, or if you are using organic dal it may take much longer for the lentils to cook. Also if you have hard water, it may take longer for the dal to cook. My recommendation is to use filtered water for cooking or soak the lentils in warm for 5 to 10 minutes as you prepare the other ingredients. You can also allow full natural pressure release for this recipe so the dal continues to cook soft and get creamy.
How to make Spinach Dal & Rice, easy step-by-step recipe:
Add all the ingredients for the dal except the spinach to the Instant Pot insert. Add rice, water, and salt to the stainless steel pan and place the pan over the tall trivet and start pressure cooking (photos 1 - 4).
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, bring the lentils to a gentle boil on Sauté mode (photos 5 - 8).
I love the convenience of pre-washed boxed baby spinach. Although you can add it with the lentils and pressure cook, I like to stir it in after the pressure cooking is done so that the spinach retains the bright green color. You can add a handful (photo 9) or the entire box (photo 10).
How to serve Spinach Dal
How to store cooked Spinach Dal
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.
EASY Spinach Dal with Rice
- Add ghee, cumin, 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.
- 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 increase the pressure cook time to 10 minutes.
- You can also make dal without pot in pot rice.