Spinach Chana Dal: An Indian Recipe with Lentils

8 Reviews / 4.8 Average
Spinach Chana Dal is an Indian recipe otherwise known as yellow lentils with spinach. This flavorful dish contains split chickpeas and a wide range of spices that really get your tastebuds going. See how to make this recipe from our team member Kiran.
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Spinach Chana Dal: An Indian Recipe with Lentils on 100 Days of Real Food

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I grew up eating Indian food, but it wasn’t until recently that I really developed a love for it. I haven’t eaten red meat or pork in over 20 years, and two years ago I decided to forego poultry. That was when I realized there were some solid sources of protein I was no longer getting, and I wondered how to fill that void. Enter pulses.

Not to be confused with a test that your doctor may run at your well-check, pulses is an internationally well-known term, but it is maybe not so well known in the US. Or perhaps I may have just been oblivious to the term up until now.

Pulses are crops of legumes, including lentils, beans, dry peas, and chickpeas that are harvested and dried for food usage. They are a critical part of the world’s food basket, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, which is why the UN has declared 2016 to be the International Year of the Pulses. We are proud to be an ambassador of this issue, so you can look forward to a series of recipes and suggestions on how to use pulses this year! First up is a recipe that I am excited to share with you: Spinach Chana Dal, otherwise known as yellow lentils with spinach.

“Chana dal” is actually split chickpeas. Dal is often translated as “lentils” but actually refers to any pulse (lentils, peas, chickpeas [chana], kidney beans, etc.) that’s split in half. The split chickpeas in this recipe are dried, as all pulses are, which makes them convenient for storing. If you can find them in bulk, it helps avoid waste since you can purchase only as much as you need. To make this recipe, you first need to soak the dal overnight and then rinse thoroughly.

While the dal cooks, you will make a “tadka,” where you basically fry some onions, garlic, and ginger with spices in ghee, the cooking oil of choice in many Indian recipes. I like to serve this with some whole wheat naan (Indian bread) and a salad or alongside a meat or poultry dish such as Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, or Chicken Tikka Masala. This Vegetable Korma is also great!

Spinach Chana Dal: An Indian Recipe with Lentils on 100 Days of Real Food
This is what the spinach tadka will look like before adding it to the dal.

What type of pulses to you regularly include in your meals?

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26 thoughts on “Spinach Chana Dal: An Indian Recipe with Lentils”

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  1. This is similar to a recipe I have from my former mother-in-law – we use split mung beans and chard. With the mung beans there is no need to soak or precook the dal. Just saute the dal in ghee for a few minutes until the scent changes and they are turning golden. Add the onions and spices and then the chopped chard. The mung dal will be tender about the same the greens are. We serve it with a fried egg and green chilis sliced open and fried on the cut side.

    1. Hi Riya,
      That’s great! As you know, there are so many different ways to make dal. I’d love to hear what you use in yours, too.

  2. 4 stars
    Thanks for a vegan meal! I watched Forks Over Knives several months ago and have since transitioned the family to a primarily plant-based vegan diet. That said, pulses are a huge part of our diet. More please!!!!!

  3. Have increased our pulse intake immensely over the last few years, boys eat them happily now and hubby is happy as long as he can have some meat as well!
    Can I just recommend a recent discovery – for those who are avoiding gluten – to go with your indian food especially, but anything really if you change up the spices / herbs you use. 250 g chickpea (gram) flour mixed into 400ml water. Add in any other flavours (garlic powder / paprika / nigella seeds /rosemary whatever goes with your meal.) Leave for 30 mins if you can, Fry. Preferably in coconut oil for health benefits. This makes two good sized flatbreads.

    1. Oh my! Your directions for a chickpea flour based flat bread sounds great! I will definitely have to try this out! Thanks for posting!

  4. This looks really yummy and easy to make. We eat pulses– I learned a new term today!– every week and this dish would be an awesome new flavor. Dried beans are such a cheap source of protein, too! Cooking with them is a great way to stretch out the grocery budget when you’re buying high quality (and more expensive) dairy and meat.

  5. Thank you. Growing up we ate this every week. Now it seems the convenient foods have taken over. Now as an adult, I remember and now fully appreciate Indian cooking and foods.
    Thank you for bringing back my childhood in this easy to follow article.

    1. That is so sweet. I am on the same page; I remember them as a child and am so glad to get back to this way of eating and cooking.

      1. 5 stars
        Hi Kiran,
        It made me smile, that you wanna listen my recipe. Actually, I do not use cumin, I also add coriander powder and garam masala to it.

  6. spinach Dal is a staple food in our house however i cook it with Moong dhall instead of chena for easy digestion. Glad to see a indian recipe in this blog.

  7. 5 stars
    We love Dal (Indian lentil soup). We use a pressure cooker at home which cuts down our cooking time from 75 minutes to about 10-15 minutes! This looks delicious. I’ll definitely give it a try.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Me too, Shelley! Love my pressure cooker … I just didn’t include it in the recipe since I know not everyone has one. Hope you enjoy!

      1. Hello Kiran, thanks for the lovely recipe! Could you tell me the modified cooking time with a pressure cooker? I have a 5 ltr Hawkins Futura.

      2. depends on the efficiency of your cooker. Keep it in high flame for the first whistle, and reduce it to low – another 2 whistles should be good. it works better if you can soak your dal for 10-15 minutes in water

      3. Hi Kiran,

        I am planning to try this tomorrow. I also own a pressure cooker. Should I decrease the amount of water if I use the pressure cooker?