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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Thank you! I appreciate your recipes!!
You are most welcome!
Where do I get a stand like that to put the pit of rice so raised?
It is available on amazon and I have a link to it in the detailed post
Priya Patel says
Made this Daal today and will definitely be making again, so few ingredients but great taste!
Thank you for the feedback
Hi, The link for the tall trivet goes to a trivet set where they are same height but different diameters. The details say they are not tall enough to use for pot in pot cooking. Is the link to the one you have used in the video? I'm looking for a tall trivet for pot in pot cooking. thanks.
I am so sorry, looks like they changed the product. Here is the new link - https://amzn.to/2Sv57Zr
Made this in the instant pot. I didn't have curry leaves so omitted those. It turned out great. I don't have the high trivet and extra pot for pot in pot cooking yet but I plan to purchase those. Thanks for an easy and good recipe.
Thank you for the feedback! I just sent you the correct link for the tall trivet. I will also update the post.
My first try using pot in pot by using your delicious spinach dal and rice. I absolutely love the spices you use. Although I have to admit I cannot eat cilantro. Was wondering what a good substitute for curry leaves? Also I am looking forward to taking my Instant Pot with me when I go camping. I just need a little electricity nearby.
Hi Paddy! you can skip curry leaves as there is no substitute for that. And skip cilantro too. I promise the daal still will be very tasty!
Hello! Looking forward to trying this recipe. I love making tiki masala in my instant pot and this seems like it’ll be wonderful too. Do you have the link to the stainless steel pot to put inside the pressure cooker? Thank you!
Yes! Here you go - Tall Trivet - https://amzn.to/2Sv57Zr
Stainlesstetl pot - https://amzn.to/2x5CQz1
Can I use toor dal (that is what I have) in this recipe? Would the timing change?
Yes just increase pressure cooking time to 8 mins
This recipe looks like a life saver. I plan to use brown rice for pip. You mentioned to set the time to 22 mins instead of 5 min. Should i still be using the same settings and natural rice? Will it not ovecook the daal too much when increasing the time so much. If i soak the rice for 7/8 hours, how much does it take in pip method?
I usually like my daal very mushy. So if you are ok with that then just increase teh cooktime to 22 mins. For soaked brown rice you can cook pot in pot brown rice for 12 minutes.
Louise Samson says
Fast and easy.
Another winner, Archana!
You are welcome Louise!
Love your live videos on your Facebook page. I am trying out pot in pot recipes for the first time. And was trying a variation of this recipe. I am using 2 stacked pots each for rice and masoor dal. Does the quantity of water and the pressure cook time change in that case ?
Thanks in advance
Hi Anusha, it takes longer for lentils to cook n a pot. I would increase teh cook time to 8 minutes followed by 10 min natural pressure release.
Janice Shah says
Hi, this recipe sounds delicious! How spicy does the chili make the dal? I have three kiddos and was wondering if it’d be too spicy for them..thank you!
Depends on the type of chili, if you want reduce the chili by half or even skip it. IT will still be delicious. You can ass red chili powder in the end to taste.
Delicious - whole family loved it (though I left out the chili since my kids are little) ! I always rinse all lentils so I added the other ingredients and turned on sauté to heat the oil a bit with the other components while rinsing the lentils.
Thank you for the feedback. Good idea to leave out the chili for kids.
How do you adjust the cooking time if you're not making the PIP rice?
Same cook tune
Wife travelling for work, have only 45 min to cook this eve, will try tonite. gotta take my teen to volleyball..hopefully she won't make faces if it turns out well!
You can do it! Just have to dump everything. I would love to know how she likes it
New dad here- love this simple recipe! Baby loves I’m only away for leas than 20 mins making it
Congratulations on the new baby! So glad you are able to spend all the time with the baby
Lori LeBlanc says
I made this recipe today and we loved it. We like a little more texture, so I increased the lentils. Great flavor and super easy! I am new to cooking with an instant pot, so happy when all goes well and recipe is delicious! Thank you!
You are most welcome Lori. This recipe is in our weekly rotation
Katie Williams says
Does the cook time change if you sub moong dal for red lentils?
Same cook time will work for moong daal as well.
Hi I am counting calories and I have a quick question...is this 299/per serving or 299 for the amount made...
The 299 calories is per serving which also includes the basmati rice. My portions are usually generous, so you can always serve smaller portions.
Jennifer M says
Another fantastic recipe! Thanks!
Quick question- at times when we don’t have tomatoes and turn to a can of tomato puree, how much of puree would you recommend?
Jen & Presh
Yes you can use tomato puree. 1/4 cup will be plenty
I’m using toor dal, so I’m doing 8mins HP with 10mins natural release as you mentioned in one of these comments. But will that not be too long for the rice?
Pot in Pot Rice is fine unto 10 mins of pressure cooking time.
It's an awesome post in favor of all the internet users; they will get advantage from it I am sure.
Hi, if I use Sona Masoori rice, will the pressure cooking time be same?? Thanks in advance
yes! same time will work