Make Ahead

Dal Saag

December 29, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

When I began learning cooking from my mother, I had a desire to take some of the comfort food I had as a child and make it my own. Growing up in an Indian-vegetarian household, I remember our pantry lined with bins full of all sorts of lentils--moong, masoor, chana, urid--so the lentil, or dal, was an obvious choice for my own kitchen. The base of this recipe is my mother's, but over the past few years, I have since expanded and modified it to suit my own taste. I generally use split moong dal, which looks like split peas. You can use other lentils, but I would not recommend thin ones, as they become mushy very quickly. Salt is key--when you cook with so many spices, you need enough salt to be able to taste the spices, otherwise you only smell them. Some chilies are milder than others, so you can always add more if you'd like it hotter. If you are disappointed in the chili hotness, you can add red chili powder too (but this should be done while the lentils are still cooking, not towards the end). You can also substitute the spinach with another vegetable--okra, zucchini, other leafy green--or use a bunch of fresh spinach instead of frozen. Adding butter at the end will soften any taste that is too strong. I find this dal the simplest and most comforting food that I make, and I hope you will be able to say the same for yourself. —kanvasudevan

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons Canola Oil, divided
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Ginger Root, grated
  • 1 Serrano or Green Chili
  • 2.5 teaspoons Salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
  • .5 teaspoons Ground Fenugreek
  • 3.5 cups Water
  • 1 cup Split Moong Dal
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Garlic, chopped
  • .5 teaspoons Turmeric
  • .5 Juice from 1/2 Fresh Lime
  • 8 ounces Chopped Spinach (thawed box/bag of frozen spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 3 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  1. Heat frying pan on medium heat. Add 3 tbs oil. Once heated add onion and sauté 1 min.
  2. Add ginger, green chili and 1 tsp salt and sauté 1 min.
  3. Add cumin, coriander, fenugreek and sauté a few min. Add remaining oil and sauté until onions become translucent, ensuring spices do not burn. Set aside.
  4. In a large soup pot heat water on high heat. Once boiling, add moong dal, garlic, turmeric and 1 tsp salt. Turn heat to low, cover pot with lid, leaving slightly uncovered. Stir occasionally. Cook lentils halfway, about 15 min.
  5. Add onion and spice mixture and 1/2 tsp salt and continue cooking 10 min. Stir occasionally.
  6. Add lime juice and spinach to pot and stir. Cook another few min., or until spinach heats through.
  7. Taste dal for softness. Dal should be soft but still retain its general shape. If more cooking needed and all the water has been soaked up, add 1/4 cup water. Taste for salt as well. You can always add more.
  8. Once dal is cooked add butter. Let butter melt into dal.
  9. Turn off heat and sprinkle cilantro on top.
  10. All done! Eat with jasmine or basmati rice and/or your favorite warm flat bread (roti/chapati/paratha/naan/pita/tortilla) and yogurt on side.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Amanda goldberg
    Amanda goldberg
  • KitchInspirations
  • kanvasudevan

7 Reviews

Amanda G. January 19, 2015
Ok, Thank you so much.
Amanda G. January 19, 2015
Would this recipe be acceptable with moong beans? Thanks.
kanvasudevan January 19, 2015
Yes, absolutely. Whole moong beans will also work, though you may want to pre-cook them in a pressure cooker.
KitchInspirations November 29, 2011
i am generally not a fan of lentils/daal, but wanted to incorporate it into my diet because of its nutritional value. i somehow found this recipe - yum! i probably make myself a pot of this (half the recipe) 2-3 times a month! i have used yellow moong dal and red split lentils - equally enjoyable. i also add some corn which is a nice textural contrast + a little burst of its sweet juice is nice against the spices in the daal. thank you for posting this recipe!
KitchInspirations July 18, 2012
7 months later...this recipe has really become a staple for me. today, i added chopped green apples (instead of corn)...the balance of spicy daal and sweet apple is really nice! thanks again to kanvasudevan for posting the recipe!
AntoniaJames November 17, 2011
Such a good recipe! I made it using brown masoor dal, as that is what I had. I left out the chilis (as I cannot eat them), and gave the dal a background flavor boost with a couple teaspoons of fish sauce. So, so delicious! I'll be making this many times in the upcoming colder months. Thank you so much for posting this! ;o)
AntoniaJames January 31, 2011
This looks outstanding. I'm going to make it as soon as I can pick up some moong dal (later this week). And I can't wait, as I know we're going to really enjoy it. Thank you for posting this recipe!! I hope you share more recipes here. ;o)