Instant Pot Chana Dal With Spinach

Savor the spices of India, chana dal, and spinach in this healthy vegetarian dish. Instant Pot Chana Dal With Spinach cooks quickly, and packs so much flavor. It’s sure to be a favorite for #MeatlessMonday or any day when you’re looking for a filling and comforting bowl of vegetarian goodness! 

This recipe first appeared on Pressure Cooking Today where I am a contributor.

Instant Pot Chana Dal With Spinach in a red serving bowl next to a bowl of basmati rice and fresh cilantro.

Tamara Talks

A pic of the author Tamara.

Instant Pot Chana Dal With Spinach is an adaptation of a recipe you may remember from the early days of my blog… Or maybe not, as I was still feeling my way around the food blogosphere!  🙂 Chana Dal With Spinach is basically the same recipe – one I’ve made for years – cooked on the stove top. Having become more interested in IP/pressure cooking, I thought it a perfect recipe to adapt. Whatever your cooking method preference might be, you’re sure to love the flavors in this somewhat traditional Indian dal recipe.

I have to admit that I am too often guilty of thinking “inside the box” when using my Instant Pot (i.e. quickly cooking meats that need tenderizing), so I am loving the challenge of expanding my horizons. This vegetarian dal has no meat, but the pressure cooker has dry, unsoaked beans and lentils ready in a fraction of the time required on the stove top.

Instant Pot, Electric Pressure Cooker, or Stove Top Pressure Cooker?

Over 40 years experience cooking under pressure doesn’t mean I’m an expert, but it does mean I know my way around pressure cooker. I grew up with a mom that had the “old school” rather dangerous looking electric model, and until about 4 years ago, I used a nice stove top model.

When we moved to McAllen in 2015 – and I no longer had a gas stove – I found the stove top model to be a bit more of a chore. I still use it when I’m in a hurry, but found that it really requires 2 burners – one to get it up to pressure and a second one preheated to a lower temperature so that the pressure doesn’t drop off. I just have to babysit it because the heat level is not immediate.

In 2016, I moved to a Pressure Cooker XL. It’s a solid electric pressure cooker, and always got the job done. However, with all the emphasis on Instant Pots, I succumbed and bought one! Correction: I bought 2!

My first IP was a 6 quart model, and I wanted a smaller one for rice and yogurt. I just recently bought a 3 quart model. It’s perfect for both… BUT. STORAGE. Haha. I have so many gadgets and appliances in my not-so-large kitchen!

In summary: I find my stove top model comes to pressure more quickly, but requires babysitting. I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of electric pressure cookers. I really don’t see much of a difference in the performance between brands. I have used and love them all!

What is “Dal?”

Chana dal is my favorite of all of the Indian pulses. Pulses include beans, lentils, and peas. “Dal” is a split pulse. Chana dal is a split chick pea. Read A Guide to Indian Dal, Lentils, Beans, and Pulses for an in depth look at Indian pulses.

Chana dal retains its texture longer than many of the pulses I have cooked with, and I love the textural contrasts in this dish – creamy Greek yogurt, wilted fresh baby spinach, and the al dente chana dal. Served with fluffy basmati rice, it provides complete proteins, and is loaded with nutrients and fiber.

Instant Pot Chana Dal With Spinach over basmati rice topped with Greek yogurt in a white shallow bowl on a burlap background... a quick, easy vegetarian main dish!

How to Make Chana Dal with Spinach

This entire dish can be completed in the pressure cooker. I have a stove top Presto cooker, but since moving to a house with a glass cook top, I rely more on my Power Pressure Cooker XL or Instant Pot.

If you’re cooking on a glass cook top, you’ll want to use two burners to avoid problems associated with burners that don’t respond quickly. Once the cooker comes to pressure, move it to a pre-heated burner. Mine works best on a fairly low setting, but it will depend on your cook top.

Most electric pressure cookers have the ability to sauté in the pot prior to pressurizing. You may have a special button for sauté, but mine will sauté on any setting as long as the lid is off.

Cooking Steps

  • The onion/ginger/garlic mixture gets sautéed in a bit of oil..
  • Add the black mustard seeds, red chiles, and freshly ground spices.
  • Add the rinsed and sorted chana dal, and the broth or water.
  • Lock the lid, and pressurize according to your model’s instructions for beans/legumes. Then, do a quick natural release of about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the spinach, and serve over basmati rice. Garnish with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

I think you will be amazed at the slow-cooked flavors this dish develops in such a short amount of time!

A bird's eye photo of vegetarian and gluten free Chana Dal With Spinach topped with Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro over rice and in a white bowl with Indian print napkin.
Yield: 4 servings

Instant Pot Chana Dal with Spinach

Instant Pot Chana Dal with Spinach
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 7 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 " piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola, coconut, or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3 small, dried red chiles, split
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1 1/2 cups chana dal, rinsed thoroughly and sorted
  • 5 to 6 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 5 ounces fresh baby spinach, rinsed and drained well

Garnishes

  • plain Greek yogurt
  • cilantro, chopped
  • lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Add coarsely chopped ginger, garlic, and onion to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the mixture is pureed.
  2. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pot to saute (medium-high on stove top). Add the onion mixture, the black mustard seeds, and the red chile pieces. Saute until the mustard seeds begin to pop.
  3. Grind the coriander seed, cumin seed, and fenugreek together in a spice grinder. Add to the pot. Sautee 1-2 additional minutes, being careful to not burn it.
  4. Add the chana dal, broth or water, salt, garam masala, and turmeric.
  5. Lock the pressure cooker lid in place. Set according to your model's setting for beans/legumes (about 7 minutes), or on the stove top, cook on high pressure for about 5 minutes. Allow the dal to release pressure for about 10 minutes during which time, the chana dal will continue to cook. At 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure.
  6. Add the spinach to the pot, and stir to combine. Check for seasoning.

TO SERVE

Serve the chana dal over basmati rice (white or brown). Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt (optional, not vegan), and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

Notes

I usually start dal and beans dry and unsoaked. I'm pretty happy with the results. If you substitute a different pulse, adjust cooking time.

Key to good Indian food is good spices. Make sure they're still fragrant!

Nutrition Information:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 196Total Fat: 7gCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 16g

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6 Comments

    1. Sorry for a slow response Barbara! It’s fenugreek seeds. The seeds have to be ground up (and they’re kind of a pain) with the other spices. I’ll make a note in the recipe! I’m glad you took time to write, as the import from WP Recipe Maker to Create is incomplete. There are no instructions. Take care…

  1. Hello Tamara!

    I saw your comment on Sue’s Hatch Green Chile Dip recipe using our Hatch Green Chile. Our store front is actually in Las Cruces but we harvest our Green Chile in Hatch. I cannot imagine moving away from this town for many reasons including my newfound love for Hatch Green Chile. HEB is a wonderful store but I’m sorry that they didn’t supply Hatch Green Chile for you this year. Instead, we would love to ship you a free box of our Hatch Green Chile to say thank you for talking so highly of our delicious chile.

    If you’re interested, please send me an email!

  2. I love dal and this looks fabulous Tamara! It’s so beautifully golden. I love that its all made in the pressure cooker too. I’ve never used one but I’ve had one on my wish list for a while as I love the thought of making speedy vegetable stocks in them as making stock the traditonal way each weekend takes hours.

    Do you recommend a stove top pressure cooker or a powered unit?

    1. I have both Jennifer… I think I preferred the stovetop model when I cooked on gas. The bane of my existence in McAllen has been this awful glass electric cooktop! It’s very difficult to control the heat quickly enough with the electric top. My electric powered unit takes a little longer to pressurize, but it’s pretty hands off, and does other things too – slow cook, saute, etc. I would probably recommend that type as it won’t heat up the kitchen. Making stocks is a dream!

      Thanks for the compliment on the photos… You know how much that means coming from you 😉