Vibrantly healthy, this easy Fresh Spinach Dahl could win a culinary beauty contest! We love that it's chocked full of veggies and it's as delicious as it is pretty!
The inspiration for this Fresh Spinach Dahl came about in an unusual way. An email from Epicurious appeared in my inbox a few weeks ago. One of the images they featured was a gorgeous green soup that was paired with a scoop of rice. A pretty swirl of something creamy and white was a beautiful contrast to the verdant soup. Or what I thought was soup. I could hardly wait to check out the recipe.
What is dal?
The recipe over at Epicurious wasn't soup but was instead, an Indian-inspired dish called dahl (also spelled dhal, dal and daal). What is dahl? According to Indian Healthy Recipes, "Dal is a delicious Indian dish made with lentils". The lentils are usually combined with onions, garlic, spices, herbs and sometimes tomatoes and are simmered together to create a fabulous side or main dish. If you haven't experienced dahl, you're in for a delicious treat (with the proper preparation).
(On a side note, dal can also refer to lentils themselves as well as dried peas and beans in general.)
Sadly, the Epicurious dahl recipe had mediocre reviews, not awful but definitely not stellar. When I looked over the ingredient list, it seemed a bit boring and I could understand why some of the reviewers weren't thrilled with the recipe. Although lentils are super healthy, they're quite bland in flavor and need some great seasonings to make them shine. I was disappointed and clicked out of the site. But I couldn't forget the picture of that lovely vibrant dahl and, in the end, decided to come up with my own version with a similar presentation.
Vibrant, healthy and easy!
I've been tinkering with the recipe ever since and I think we have a winner. Nothing is boring about this Fresh Spinach Dahl - it's loaded with flavor along with lots of healthy veggies. I love that when I enjoy a bowl of this dahl, it keeps me satisfied for hours as the lentils are high in protein and fiber.
I also love how quickly and easily this Fresh Spinach Dahl comes together. Check out the simple steps:
- Roughly chop the veggies; onion, shallot and bell pepper (no need for fancy dicing as everything gets pureed at the end) and sauté them in a splash of olive oil and butter until nice and soft.
- Add garlic, fresh ginger, garam masala, turmeric, coriander and cumin to the sauté and let them cook for just a minute or two until they "bloom" (and smell amazing!).
- Next comes broth (either chicken or vegetable), coconut milk and a generous scoop of red lentils.
- Simmer all these delicious ingredients together until the veggies and lentils are soft and the flavors have melded and married.
- Lastly, add cilantro (or basil) and big handfuls of fresh spinach and whirl away with an immersion blender (or regular) blender to puree the dahl until nice and smooth.
- Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and garnish with pickled red onions and fresh mint. We also love to top this Fresh Spinach Dal with a scatter of purchased crispy onions for a delicious crunch.
How to serve this Fresh Spinach Dahl
As mentioned above, we love to pair this dahl with basmati (more authentic) or jasmine rice. Although not traditional, if you prefer a little more protein, you could add diced chicken (leftover or rotisserie.) The pickled red onions shown in the pictures are super easy to make and are a delicious and stunning garnish. Fresh mint is a pretty and tasty addition as is fresh cilantro or basil. If you enjoy a little heat, thinly sliced red chili peppers are also nice.
Don't judge me here until you try this - we really love crispy French fried onions as a garnish for this Fresh Spinach Dahl. Yes, the kind you find on the classic green bean casserole! I've discovered that 45 seconds in the microwave is like magic and this overlooked little grocery store condiment comes alive! A scatter of these crisp onions adds a really nice contrast to the creamy dahl.
One other essential with dahl is some great bread to sop up all the deliciousness. We love to serve it with our One-Bowl, No-Mixer Naan but if you're in a hurry, you could also use store-bought naan. Just follow easy prep in the Café Tips below to make purchased naan "come alive"!
So, if you're looking for something unique, fresh, healthy, beautiful (enough to win a contest!) and crazy delicious, put this Fresh Spinach Dahl on your menu in the near future. It's really perfect any time of year and comes together so quickly that it's perfect for a weeknight dinner. The leftovers (if there are any) reheat beautifully so this is a great thing to take to work or enjoy for a quick lunch on the run. I hope you will love it as much as we do!
Café Tips for making this Fresh Spinach Dahl
- This recipe calls for red lentils. Red lentils look like they should be called orange lentils as their hue is an orangey red. The cool thing about red lentils is when they're cooked the color transforms to a beautiful golden yellow. That's why they're perfect for this Fresh Spinach Dahl - the golden hue melds beautifully with the fresh spinach to create an amazing vibrant green. I don't recommend using other colored lentils for this soup as each has a unique cooking time and other colors will make this soup murky.
- You can find red lentils at larger grocery stores in the same area as dried beans. You can also purchase them online.
- As mentioned above, we love to serve this dahl with a scatter of French Fried Crispy Onions. You may have relegated this condiment to the classic green bean casserole but... give them another chance! I like to take about a half cup and wrap them in several thicknesses of paper toweling the microwave for 30-50 seconds (depending upon the power of your microwave). They get nice and crisp, almost like you just made them yourself!
- This recipe calls for a half cup of packed cilantro at the end with the spinach. I know there are people who don't like cilantro. Feel free to sub fresh basil or just skip it. It will still be delicious!
- We love to serve this dahl with fresh naan. Here's our easy naan recipe however, I know we're all busy and it's no crime to purchase naan. In fact, the naan that you can purchase at most larger grocery stores in the deli/bakery area is delicious! To make it "come alive", simply heat a sauté pan over medium-hot heat. Add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Swirl the pan a bit to coat the bottom then add the naan. Watch it closely as it won't take long (15-20 seconds) for the naan to puff up a bit. At that point, flip it over and let it cook for another 10-15 seconds then remove it from the pan and serve. If you're cooking multiple naans, keep them wrapped in several layers of paper toweling or a clean kitchen towel while you warm the others.
- You will need a spice mixture called garam masala for this dal recipe. Master Class describes garam masala as "a spice blend widely used in Indian cuisine, from curries and lentil dishes to soups. Whole spices of cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and cardamon pods are toasted in a pan to release their aromatic flavors, then ground to a powder." Garam masala is available in the spice section of most larger grocery stores as well as online.
- The other spices called for in this recipe are turmeric, coriander and cumin. These are all available in the spice section of most grocery stores.
- I use an immersion blender to quickly blend this Fresh Spinach Dahl before serving. Immersion blenders are wonderful little kitchen workhorses that will save you a lot of time. They blend ingredients right in the pot and the blender stick can go right into the dishwasher. I really like this immersion blender as it has a variety of other functions besides just blending.
- I like to serve this Fresh Spinach Dahl with basmati rice. To cook basmati rice, bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium-size pot. Add 1 cup of basmati rice and stir. Return the water to a boil then cover the pot and reduce the heat to very low. Allow the rice to cook on low for 20 minutes then turn off the heat (remove from the burner if you have an electric stovetop) and let the rice sit for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Thought for the day:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will, they exist and were created.”
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations, and ideas for variations.
- 1 tablespoon butter I use salted
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 1 medium shallot roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow bell pepper seeded and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger or ginger paste
- 4 medium garlic cloves
- 1½ teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth maybe more
- 14.5 ounces light coconut milk I use light coconut milk
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 ounces fresh spinach leaves
- ½ cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped and firmly packed
- plain yogurt for garnish
- pickled red onions for garnish, if desired
- crispy French fried onions for garnish, if desired
Heat a medium-large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and butter and heat until the butter is bubbly. Add the onion, shallots and bell pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the veggies have softened.
Lower the heat a bit and add the ginger, garlic, garam masala, coriander and cumin. Stir to combine then cook for 1-2 minutes until very fragrant.
Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, red lentils, sugar and salt.
Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Cook for 20 minutes uncovered.
Add the spinach and cilantro. Using an immersion blender, blitz to a purée with a hand blender or use a regular blender or food processor. If using a regular blender, make sure to vent the top to prevent pressure build-up.
Return to the pan, if you used a regular blender or food processor, and bring the soup back to a simmer. If you prefer the soup a little thinner, add a bit more broth. Taste and season with more salt, if needed Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and garnish as desired .
If using the crispy French fried onion rings, wrap the desired amount in several thicknesses of paper toweling and heat on high power in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until nice and hot.
I like to drop small spoonfuls of yogurt onto the soup and swirl each one with a toothpick for a pretty presentation.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
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