This chana dal soup with yellow lentils and spinach is flavored with delicious spices and packed with a lot of goodness. You don’t have to put up with bland vegetable dal soup! Low-calorie soups can be yummy and interesting, too. Learn how to make lentil soup with any kind of split lentils/dal. (Instructions below)
About the recipe
A spinach dal soup that is creamy and healthy with nutritious vegetables and antioxidant turmeric! This is a delicious dream come true, especially for a weeknight dinner.
Why chana dal soup is good for you
Dal is an excellent plant-based source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. This spicy vegetable dal soup is a wholesome dish in itself. You can add in any of your favorite vegetables which surprisingly adapt to the flavor of the soup and the lentils.
You can also make this low-calorie lentil soup with greens– spinach, mustard greens, beet greens or Swiss chard. That’s the beauty of dal, they don’t overpower the dish but yet have a flavor that influences other ingredients in the dish quite in a delicate way.
With about 200 calories and a lot of fiber and nutrients, this palak chana dal soup is a wholesome plant-based recipe.
Lentils are quite versatile. They are a healthy alternative to refined flour. Dal can be used in soups, curries and stews to add volume and nutrients or in chutneys and dips as taste enhancers.
Dal can also be used in salads like chana dal salad.
What lentils are good for soup?
Yellow, red, green, brown and black lentils are some of the generic ones. Split lentils or dal are easier to cook and turn out creamier than whole lentils like brown or green lentils.
There are so many varieties of lentils that it might be confusing for a person new to lentils. Yellow dal is of 3 types: split chickpea or chana dal that I have used here, split pigeon pea (toor dal) and the split mung bean (moong dal).
You can use any of the 3 dals for this yellow lentil soup recipe, you just have to tweak the cooking time. (Similar to my Kerala parippu curry recipe.)
Red lentil/masoor dal soup
Masoor dal is most suited for soups and stews. You can cook them in about 10 minutes and so the masoor dal soup is the easiest and quickest soup with dal. Follow this same recipe but reduce the simmering time to 10 minutes.
Moong dal takes about the same time to cook as masoor dal, chana dal takes about 30 minutes of simmering while toor dal takes 40 minutes. There is a slight difference in flavor, too.
Chana dal has a nuttier flavor, mung dal is creamier while toor dal is somewhere in-between in texture. Use any of these lentils for soup depending on the texture and flavor you need.
I like to have a bit of texture in my soup and also make a quick soup 🙂 So I’ve used chana dal.
Do lentils need to be soaked?
The advantage of dal is that they don’t need to be soaked like beans and they cook faster.
Although soaking them for 15 to 20 minutes and rinsing as mentioned in the recipe enhances the taste of the soup. It also helps in the better digestion of lentils if you are not used to lentils.
This lentil soup can be cooked in a pressure cooker in less than half the time required for cooking in a soup pot, but slow cooking really brings out the flavors of not only the lentils but also each of the other ingredients.
That being said, if you are in a hurry, it doesn’t hurt to cook this lentil soup in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
- Chana dal (dry yellow lentils or split chickpeas)
- Aromatics: Onions and garlic
- Vegatables: Palak, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes
- coriander powder and cumin powder– the 2 flavors that go well with lentils.
- turmeric powder– for its antioxidant properties and bright yellow color.
- pepper– for a bit of heat and to enhance the health benefits of turmeric.
- Garnish: Coriander
How to make yellow lentil soup
(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this page.)
- Rinse and soak dal in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables.
- The soaking step can be skipped, in which case the cooking time should be increased by 10 minutes and the quantity of water increased by half a cup.
- Saute the onions and garlic in the oil in a soup pot for 3 minutes and then tomato puree for 2 minutes on medium heat. Do not let them brown.
- Drain the lentils and add them along with the vegetables, except palak. Add the spices, salt and 3 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add palak and simmer for another 15 minutes or until dal becomes soft. If you want the lentils very soft and mushy, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
How to make chana dal soup in the pressure cooker or instant pot (quick recipe)
A pressure cooker or instant pot can also be used for cooking the lentil soup in which case it takes only 20 minutes in total to cook the soup, though you might compromise a little bit on the taste. Use 2 cups of water instead of 3.
Saute onion and garlic,and tomato puree in oil. Add lentils and all vegetables except palak in the cooker.
Add the spices, close, and cook on high heat. Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes (for 5 whistles in the pressure cooker). Wait for the pressure to release naturally.
Add chopped palak and close tight with the lid for 5 minutes. The residual heat will cook the palak. Transfer the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro before serving.
What to serve with dal vegetable soup
- You can have some garlic toast for dunking if you’re not worried about gluten or dairy.
- This soup tastes great with vegetarian sides like tandoori cauliflower or
- a protein like hariyali chicken or tandoori chicken.
- I also pair it with seafood sometimes, like salmon kabobs, tandoori fish or fish cakes.
Do lentils cause bloating?
Lentils are high in fibre which is good for you, but difficult to digest. So if you are introducing lentils in your diet for the first time, it is better to soak them before cooking. Rinse the lentils and soak in a lot of water for about 30 minutes. Rinse the soaked lentils at least thrice before using. Cook until the lentils are well-mashed and creamy. Use a masher or a spoon to mash the lentils until smooth.
Following the above steps will avoid bloating and indigestion from eating lentils. Adding ginger or a few pinches of asafoetida powder (aka hing, an Indian spice used in dal recipes) also helps in the digestion of lentils.
How to cook lentils the right way?
When you cook lentil soup, you can cook the lentils until they are well cooked and mashed. (follow the instructions above). For recipes like stews and curry (moong dal palak) you need to cook them well but they still need to have some texture. Salads like chana dal salad require the lentils to be whole and not mashed.
Should I cook lentils before adding to soup?
It is better to cook lentils with vegetables and spices so that the flavors are absorbed well. That being said, if you have to use cooked lentils or canned lentils, you can do that. But ensure that you simmer the lentils with the spices for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
How to thicken lentil soup?
If you want a thick lentil soup, just before turning off the flame, scoop out 1/2 cup of the soup and mash using a potato masher or stick blender. You can also cool it and blend using a regular blender. Add the puree back to the soup. Reheat and serve, garnished with cilantro.
How long does lentil soup last?
Lentil soup stays fresh in the refrigerator for only a couple of days. If you want to keep it beyond that, store in the freezer. This soup can be frozen for about a month.
Hope I’ve answered the questions you might have regarding this lentil soup. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. I’ll be glad to help.
Looking for another recipe with dal and spinach? You’ll love moong dal with spinach.
Looking for more soups?
Love chicken? Try this wholesome coriander lemon soup with succulent pieces of chicken and vegetables.
More dal and bean recipes you might like
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Hi! I’m Sheeba, welcome to Go Healthy ever after!
I have a passion for cooking delicious nourishing food that’s easy to cook with fresh natural ingredients free from additives or preservatives. The easy healthy recipes you find here will inspire you to cook with creativity.
Health benefits of turmeric in lentil soup
While turmeric is a flavorsome spice that is nutritious to consume, it has also traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammatory conditions, skin diseases, wounds, digestive ailments, and liver conditions. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, shows promise in the treatment of cancer. Research shows that people on long-term medication like diabetes can benefit by adding turmeric to their diet since its antioxidant properties are so powerful that they may stop your liver from getting damaged.
When you add this antioxidant, anti-inflammatory turmeric to the healthy lentils, what you get is a super flavorful and nutritious vegan lentil soup recipe!