Red Lentil Dal with Spinach, a good Iron Source


Red Lentil Dal with Spinach, a good Iron Source


One of my teenage grandchildren has been vegetarian for some years. And as she is active in sports, getting enough iron to avoid anemia is a challenge. She loves Indian food, and does some cooking. So this one is for her. 

Lentils, and especially red lentils (called “masoor dal” in India), and spinach (called “palak” or “saag” in India) are both good sources of dietary iron. They also have many other nutritional benefits, including protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, and multiple vitamins.


Here is a delicious Indian vegetarian dish, Dal Saag (or Dal Palak), that brings together these two fine iron sources. It also makes a great meal, accompanied by rice or chapati flat bread, plus yogurt and a fresh chutney (I have a good recipe for fresh tomato chutney elsewhere in this blog).


Masoor dal, split and hulled red (or “Egyptian”) lentils, are available inexpensively at supermarkets, Indian stores, and natural food stores. The spices are relatively readily available at the same places. Frozen spinach is the easiest for this cooking, but fresh could be used if preferred. Indian cooks would typically fry part of the cumin seeds and part of the onion in a little oil or clarified butter (ghee) and stir it in at the end for heightened flavor. For simplicity (and for a teen-aged cook) I leave that step out and just cook those seasonings in with the lentils.


The recipe makes about a quart and a half, enough for six people. It keeps well in the fridge and reheats easily in the microwave.


1 1/2 cup split red lentils

5 cups water

4 tablespoons butter (or vegetable oil for a vegan dish)

1 small onion finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/4 teaspoons whole cumin seeds (or ground as a second choice)

1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or ground as a second choice)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 (12-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (not thawed)

Coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired


Rinse and drain the lentils. Place in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of thee pot. Skim off and discard the foam that arises as the lentils boil.


Add the butter, onion and spices (not the salt), and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot, until lentils are tender and start to disintegrate, 25-30 minutes. If the mixture is getting somewhat dry, add a little water.

Add the salt and simmer a few more minutes.


Finally, add the frozen spinach, and stirring frequently, cook only until the spinach is heated. Do not cook after the mixture boils.


Remove from the heat, taste for salt and add a little if needed. Let cool. The flavors are enhanced as the mixture rests.


Reheat to serve. Top lightly with coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, if desired, when using as part of an Indian meal with rice or chapati.


Follow Us @donderoskitchen