First Attempt: Spinach is Dal-icious

Indian cuisine is excellent for warming weeknight meals, if you can avoid the rice (pretty much impossible, especially if you crave the spicy stuff like I do). Dal – a mild stew-like side dish of split lentils, peas, or beans – is one of The Boyfriend’s favorites so today I’m attempting to make my own with yellow split peas and spinach hold the rice. There are hundreds of different recipes online, but you know I don’t reallyyyy like to follow recipes, so I’m going to mix them all up and see what happens!

You can find most of these ingredients in ethnic markets or in the bulk section of a well-stocked supermarket – we found nearly everything at WinCo.


2.5 cups yellow split peas
4-5 large handfuls baby spinach (about 1/2 of a 16oz tub)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 Serrano pepper, diced
5-7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh minced or pureed ginger
5 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white vinegar
2.5 cups water
1.5 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter or ghee

3 tsp salt, divided
1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more optional)
1/4 tsp mustard powder

Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse split peas with cool water. Fill a medium-sized bowl with 2.5 cups cool water and soak peas for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas and water from bowl to a large non-stick pan, add 1.5 tsp salt, and bring to a boil. Lower to medium heat and allow peas to simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes. If your pea mixture looks very thick, add water one cup at a time (in total I ended up adding about 2.5 more cups of water throughout the cooking process – not all at once). At this point, stir in 3 tsp of lemon juice and turn off heat.

In a separate, medium-sized non-stick pan, melt 1.5 tbsp coconut oil and 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the onions, pepper, garlic, and ginger and sauté until onion begins to soften (about 4 minutes). Turn heat to low and add cumin, turmeric, coriander, red pepper flakes, and mustard powder to the onion mixture; mix well. Continue sautéing vegetables for another 3-5 minutes before adding onion mixture to the split peas.

Bring pea and onion mix back to light boil on medium-low heat, cover with lid, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes; stir every 8-10 minutes. When there is about 10 minutes left on the timer, stir in 2 tsp white vinegar and 2 tsp lemon juice. After 30 minutes of simmering, the peas should be soft but not mushy. Add 2 tbsp butter, stirring until it melts, then add spinach while continuously stirring (gently). Re-cover pan with lid for 3-5 minutes or until spinach wilts. Serve immediately, as is or with cauliflower rice.


4 thoughts on “First Attempt: Spinach is Dal-icious

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