Quick to prepare and full of flavour, this Easy Yellow Split Pea and Spinach Dhal is a delicious, healthy, meat-free curry – equally at home served on its own with brown rice, as a nutritious midweek meal, or as part of a larger Indian themed meal at the weekend. 100% plant-based, this recipe is great for vegans, vegetarians and anyone looking to eat less meat but still enjoy great tasting food… Oh and it’s gluten free too!
What to do with half a packet of yellow split peas…
This easy split pea dhal recipe first came about because I had half a packet of yellow split peas lurking at the back of my cupboard! I actually can’t for the life of me remember what I used the rest of the yellow split peas for… no doubt some experimental recipe that didn’t quite work out (and hence why have no record of it – only the good ones get written up in my recipe development notebook!)
So anyway, I had been eyeing up this half packet of yellow split peas for a couple of months and it had got to the stage where they were starting to annoy me! I ummed and aaahed for a while over what to do with them… and eventually decided that they would be just perfect in a dhal.
I normally make dhal with red lentils… but I was pretty sure yellow split peas would taste just as good given the dhal treatment (actually I have come to much prefer this split pea version!).
How I created my easy split pea dhal…
As with all my curry recipes, I did a little bit of research first to find out what sort of spices are typically found in a yellow split pea dhal – and then fiddled about to get maximum taste for minimum effort (because I don’t have time to faff about with 10 different spices prepared in 3 different ways – I’m interested in taste not authenticity!).
I’m really pleased with the result. The combination of a touch of dried chilli flakes, cumin, turmeric, clove and cinnamon compliments the yellow split peas wonderfully and results in a delicately spiced dhal with real depth of flavour – but with very little effort. Just 10-15 minutes hands on time at the start and then you can leave the dhal to do its thing for the next 45 minutes!
My final touch was to stir in a large bagful of spinach just before serving. Spinach compliments the flavours and textures in this curry brilliantly, as well as adding extra nutrition. But if you are not a spinach fan, by all means leave it out.
Packed full of nutrition and goodness!
This easy split pea dhal is packed full of goodness. For starters it includes 5 different vegetables: garlic, onions, tomatoes, spinach and the split peas themselves (yep, legumes such as split peas count as one of your 5 a day!). Obviously the onion, garlic and tomatoes are in small quantities – so don’t count towards your 5 a day, but they are still packed with goodness.
Split peas themselves are also very healthy – high in protein and low in fat (in fact this whole recipe is very low in fat – using just 1 tablespoon of olive oil to fry the onions and spices right at the start), as well as having significant levels of protein, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. They are a great source of plant-based protein making this a great recipe for vegans and vegetarians (and anyone trying to reduce their meat consumption).
And then this recipe also features lots of spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric – which are well known to have all sorts of health benefits!
Serve this dhal with some brown rice and extra veg and you have yourself a very healthy meal indeed.
What to serve with Yellow Split Pea Dhal?
My favourite way to serve this dhal is with a small portion of brown rice and a big portion of Cumin Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash.
The veggies are simply roasted in the oven with a little salt, olive oil and cumin – all of which can be done while the dhal is having it’s 45-minute simmer. So simple – but utterly delicious – absolutely my favourite way to do cauliflower and butternut squash!
Of course you can also serve this Easy Yellow Split Pea and Spinach Dhal with white rice, naans, chapattis etc. And/or serve this dhal as part of a bigger Indian-themes feast with other curries, poppadums, pickles, chutneys, raita etc.
What to drink with Yellow Split Pea Dhal?
My beer-loving hubby would argue that beer is the only right and proper thing to serve with this dhal and suggests a refreshing ale that’s not too hoppy – such as a light IPA. His recommendation is Shipyard American IPA.
However, if you are more like me and prefer wine, I suggest a light aromatic white, such as an Alsace or NZ Riesling, or an Italian Pinot Grigio, or a dry fruity Rosé from somewhere like the South of France or Spain.
White and rosé wines go better with a delicate curry like this, but if it has to be red for you, go for something soft and juicy like a Chilean Merlot.
Can you reheat yellow split pea dhal?
Yes, absolutely – it actually tastes even better reheated the next day! Put your leftover dhal in a plastic lidded container and place in the fridge. It will keep there for 3 days.
Reheat in a saucepan until the curry is piping hot all the way through. Add a splash of water if it gets too dry. Alternatively reheat in the microwave until piping hot all the way through.
If you are actually planning to make this dish ahead of time, I recommend you DON’T stir in the spinach at the end of cooking, but rather do it when you reheat the dish – the spinach will be less mushy and have a fresher flavour done that way!
Can you freeze yellow split pea dhal?
100% yes! Yellow split pea dhal freezes beautifully. Simply place the cooked and cooled dhal in a plastic lidded container and place in the freezer. It will keep there happily for at least 1 month.
Place in the fridge overnight to defrost and reheat as per the instructions above.
A little note on cooking times for split pea dhal…
In my recipe I have specified coking the dhal for 40-45 minutes on a low heat. This *should* produce a soft texture with just a little bite left in the split peas.
HOWEVER, split peas do vary enormously in how long they take to cook – so I advise you follow the packet instructions and also test as you go along.
You will often find that older split peas take longer to cook. Interestingly, when I originally cooked this dhal (using the old split peas that had sat around in my cupboard for months) the split peas took 1 hour to become tender. But with a new bag, they only took 40 minutes! And yes, it was the same brand.
I don’t understand the science of this (please enlighten me if you know!), but it is something to bear in mind.
If you like my Easy Yellow Split Pea and Spinach Dhal…
…then you might like:
Easy Yellow Split Pea and Spinach Dhal (Vegan)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic crushed or grated
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (or to taste, or use fresh chilli if you prefer!)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 cloves left whole
- 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
- 250 g yellow split peas (see note 1)
- 750 ml vegetable stock from a cube is fine – I use 1 Kallo Organic stock cube, which is vegan and gluten free (see note 2)
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 125 g spinach (optional)
- Brown rice or white rice / naans / chapatis
- 1 portion Cumin Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash
- Place the olive oil and diced onions in a large lidded sauce pan and cook gently, with the lid on for 3-4 minutes, until softened but not browned.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute over a low heat, with the lid off.
- Add the chilli flakes, cumin, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon and cook for 2 more minutes – add a splash or two of water if the pan gets dry.
- Add the yellow split peas, vegetable stock and tomato puree, give everything a good stir and then bring to the boil.
- Turn the heat down low and cover with a lid. Simmer for 40-45 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the split peas are done to your liking (see note 1).
- If all the water gets absorbed before the split peas are done to your liking, add a little more water and continue cooking until they are done.
When the dhal is just cooked, add the spinach on top and stir until all the spinach leaves have just wilted, but still retain some texture. (It will look like way too much spinach to start with, but keep stirring and have faith!)
Serve with brown or white rice and Cumin Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash. (Or serve whatever you like best with a curry!)
- Split peas vary enormously in how long they take to cook – so I advise you follow the packet instructions and also test as you go along. It is likely to take between 40 minutes and 1 hour.
- The precise amount of liquid you will need will depend on how long your split peas take to cook and quite what shape your saucepan is! I advise you start with 750mls (3 cups) and see how you go – add extra water at the end if it starts to get dry!
- You’ll notice I don’t add salt to this recipe, that’s because the brand of stock cube I use is quite salty enough for this dish. If you are using a low salt stock cube or homemade vegetable stock, you may wish to add a little salt to this dish to bring out the flavours.
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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