Recipes > Lentil Saag Dahl

Lentil Saag Dahl


This hearty and comforting dahl is made with onions, red lentils, yellow split peas and toasted spices. It is then finished with fresh spinach, lemon juice and cilantro.
  • Serves: 8 to 10
  • Active Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Views: 57,657
  • Success Rating: 93% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Gathering & Preparing Your Mise en Place

Gathering & Preparing Your Mise en Place
  • 2 cups red lentils*
  • 1 cup yellow split peas*
  • 1 lrg onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp onion seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder* (or to taste, can also just add a jalapeño is you like)
  • 2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 7 to 8 cups water or vegetable stock


*Note: Any combination of red lentil and yellow peas can be used. You can even use part split mung beans if you like.

To prepare the lentils and peas, simply rinse them well to remove any dirt or small stones and then drain.

Step 2: Cooking the Dahl

Cooking the Dahl
  • 7 to 8 cups water
  • 2 tbsp oil (optional)*


To cook the dahl, heat a large Dutch oven or pot over low heat. Then add the oil, followed by the onions and a good pinch of salt. *Note: Alternatively, the onions can be dry-sautéed.

Let the onions cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger and let cook for about 30 seconds. Next, create a hole in the middle of the onion mixture and add a touch more oil (if needed) and then add the cumin, mustard, onion, fenugreek and fennel seeds. Turn the heat up to medium and toast the seeds until they become fragrant. Be sure to stir the seeds frequently so they do not burn.

Once done, add the remaining spices, as well as the salt and pepper. At this point, turn the heat back down to low and then add the remaining spices and stir to combine.

Note: from this point forward, everything can be added and finished in a slow cooker.

Lastly, add the lentils, split peas, diced tomatoes and 7 cups of water (start with 6 cups if using a slow cooker) and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Cover the pot with a lid slightly ajar and let cook for approximately 1 1/2 hours, or until the split peas are soft and fully cooked through. Stir frequently, to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot and add more water as needed.

If using a slow cooker, cook for approximately 8 to 10 hours on low, or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Step 3: Adding the Spinach | Optional

Adding the Spinach | Optional
  • 8 oz baby spinach, or to taste


Once the dahl has fully cooked, add the spinach. Note, if making this dish the day before, do not add the spinach until ready to serve. This will help maintain it’s vibrant green color.

If not using baby spinach leaves, be sure to roughly chop the spinach before adding it to the dahl.

Cook the spinach until it wilts and becomes soft.

Step 4: Finishing & Serving the Dahl

Finishing & Serving the Dahl
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • pappadums
  • cooked basmati rice (brown or white)
  • garam masala, to taste (optional)


To finish the dahl, add the cilantro and fresh lemon juice and taste for seasoning — adding more salt and/or a touch of garam masala, if needed.

Serve the dahl with basmati rice, pappadums and additional toasted cumin and onion seeds, if desired.

Chef's Notes

While this dahl makes a delicious meal or side dish, it also happens to make a healthy dip and/or spread for sandwiches, crackers or vegetables.


  • Karen R
    Karen R
    I was unable to purchase fenugreek seeds, so I bought ground fenugreek. How much ground should I use in place of the whole seeds? I've not used this spice before. (-: Thanks!
  • Lauren L
    Lauren L
    Hi Karen, thank you for your question! I would start with 1 to 1-1/2 tsp ground fenugreek. There are a lot of factors in converting whole to ground spices. While weighing the spices is the most accurate way, there is enough flexibility in this recipe to just take an educated guess. It should turn out wonderfully! Lauren
  • Mark G
    Mark G
    I ended up using brown lentils and green split peas. After 10 hours in the Instant Pot, both the lentils and split peas are both still firm? Can I do anything to "fix" it? Should I have soaked them over night? How long can this recipe stay in the fridge...and can it be frozen? Thanks!
  • Lauren L
    Lauren L
    Hi Mark. Hmmm. That is a reeeaaallly long time to have the lentils and split peas both still firm. Soaking is not necessary to get lentils and split peas properly cooked, even at altitude. You do not want to eat undercooked beans or your digestion might suffer! I have found that when I simply can't get beans to soften it is because they are old and the liquid just can't penetrate the bean. If you were unable to cook them to soft you could "save them" by taking the mixture, pulsing it in a food processor with some binder ( a sticky grain or a flour) and turning it into a croquette. Think a play on falafel. You can bake or deep fry and that would likely create sufficient doneness - but that would take you on a culinary adventure : ) This recipe can stay in the fridge about 4-5 days. You can freeze it well. In both cases, add the spinach, lemon and cilantro just before serving. Lauren
  • Mark G
    Mark G
    Thanks Lauren!
  • Micki K
    Micki K
    Are the onion seeds in this recipe Nigella?
  • Lauren L
    Lauren L
    Hi Micki. Good question. Yes : ) Lauren
  • Karen M
    Karen M
    What can I sub for onion seeds? I can’t get them here. Thanks!
  • Sandy S
    Sandy S
    Hi Karen, Onion seeds often come under the name of "Nigella seeds". So, check that out, in case they are actually available to you. If not, you can either omit or, use a bit of dried oregano in its place, and garnish the dish with some chopped chives to mimic the flavor profile a bit. Good luck! Cheers, Sandy
  • Linda D
    Linda D
    Is there a substitution for the tomatoes? They don't agree with my stomach.
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Linda, you can omit the tomatoes and adjust the liquid quantity or consider adding a relatively soft vegetable that you enjoy. Consider, additional spinach or eggplant.
  • Dal B
    Dal B
    I'm abit confused as in the dried legume lesson it says acidic ingredients like tomato prolong cooking time but are added at the same time as the lentils in this recipe?
  • Sandy S
    Sandy S
    Hi Dal, Good question. Lentils and split peas are relatively quick cooking, compared to other legumes. This is a long and slow cook recipe, compensating for the acidity in the tomatoes, along with the tomatoes being diluted with plenty of water. I hope this clears things up for you. Cheers, Sandy
  • Riaz M
    Riaz M
    I want to fry rhubarb with the onions to impart a sour taste to compliment the sweet taste of the onions.can u do this and how much rhubarb if so?I also want to use some desiccated coconut for sweetness but not too much should I go about this?also what spices and herbs are umami like so u can get a complete flavour profile fully balanced?thank u.
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Hi Riaz, You can certainly add rhubarb if you'd like. The quantity you use will depend on how sour you want this finished dish. You might start with a handful, but please understand that you should rely on your senses and personal preference. As for the coconut, add it in Step 2, with the garlic and ginger if you want to caramelize the coconut. Otherwise, add the coconut after the spices are toasted in Step 2. Please experiment to find the balance of flavor that appeals to you. As for herbs and spices, consider fenugreek seeds and smoked paprika, and mint, basil, and oregano for additional layers of flavor complexity and interest. But, again, you'll need to experiment with these and other herbs and spices. ~Eric
  • Riaz M
    Riaz M
    Eric I want to replace some of the water with tinned coconut milk but I don't want my dhal to be cloyingly much can I replace as a starting point?thank u
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Hi Riaz, of course, the amount of coconut milk that results in a "cloyingly sweet" taste depends on your preference, so some experimentation is in order. Start by replacing a small amount of the liquid with coconut milk and taste the food, then repeat this process until you achieve the balance you desire. It's this level of engagement that will serve as a building block to greater knowledge and confidence! ~Eric

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