Spinach Dhal With Chickpeas (Keerai Kadalai Koottu)


We are a family of good eaters. When I say ‘good’, it is eating to our heart’s content :). My little girl used to give me a very hard time feeding her right from her birth until a few years ago. But she’s gotten into the groove with the rest of us now and loves to eat. It is always a pleasure to cook and feed food lovers, however it becomes a big challenge when their likes and preferences vary considerably. That is exactly what happens in my family and my head starts to spin every time I have to plan a meal. I’ve seen this as a common problem in almost every household, but I always feel that I break my head on this more than others. This is no exaggeration.

My husband prefers only Asian food. He hates pasta;  you can’t make him have even a hot and spicy Indianized version of pasta. My daughter hates rice,  but she can have pasta any time of the day. My son’s choices always revolve around a very few set of items. It always annoys me beyond I can explain when he reaches out to eat just yogurt rice when I would have made a table full of exotic dishes while entertaining guests at home. These are just a few examples I’m giving to explain you my plight. I can keep going on and on and on and complain endlessly.


So, I almost always end up making a few different items every time, so everyone will have something that will suit their preference. I have tried many times to make them eat the same meal, but the gripes and grumbles drive me insane. Cooking is most certainly close to my heart, but I do have other things to do outside of my kitchen.

When you try to cater to others always, your preferences usually take a back seat. To avoid adding more confusion to the mix, I declare myself as a wildcard often. I can take side with anyone and eat anything I cook. The good thing about that is I don’t have to make ‘another’ item to please my own self; but the frustrating part is my personal favorites keep sitting in the backlog for eternity.


This “Keerai Kadalai Koottu” is such a favorite of mine. There aren’t any spinach lovers at home besides me, so this stew although very nutritious seldom makes it to the menu. It is a very authentic South Indian stew and the recipe that I’m sharing here is my mom’s. Whenever my dad is here with me, the floodgate opens and all those age old family recipes keep hitting my kitchen counter one after the other. My mother-in-law also reminds me to make this for her every time she visits us.

If you love spinach and dhals, this one is sure to win your heart and tummy. It bursts with prominent South Indian flavors and tastes so very good. Give it a try and let me know.



Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves: 3-4


1/4 cup yellow moong dhal
6 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup boiled chickpeas
1 tsp turmeric powder (divided)

For Masala

1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 red chilies
1 tsp urad dhal
1/4 cup coconut (freshly grated)
1 tsp oil

For Tempering

1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dhal
1-2 red chilies
1 sprig curry leaves


Add half teaspoon turmeric powder to the moong dhal and pressure cook until soft and mushy (see notes). Meanwhile roughly chop the spinach and set aside.

Saute all masala ingredients except coconut in a teaspoon of oil until the urad dhal turns golden brown and aromatic. Transfer to a chutney grinder (Indian mixer or small blender), add coconut and grind. Add quarter cup of warm water and grind again until the paste is smooth. Set aside.

Add cooked dhal, spinach, chickpeas, remaining turmeric, a cup of water and salt in a sauce pan, mix well, and cook uncovered for five minutes. Add ground masala, let the dhal come to a boil, and turn off heat. Add more water to adjust consistency as required.

Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon oil in a skillet, add mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Now add cumin seeds, urad dhal, hing and red chilies and saute until the urad dhal turns golden brown and fragrant. Add curry leaves and turn off heat. Pour on top of the dhal and give it a gentle mix.

Serve warm with steamy hot white rice with a generous drizzle of ghee. Pappads and pickles go very well with koottu and rice.


1. To cook dhal, add dhal, turmeric and a cup of water in a pressure cooker under medium heat. Cook until the dhal becomes mushy, about 3-4 whistles (varies by the cooker).
2. You can use other veggies in place of spinach in this recipe. Cabbage, chayote squash and snake gourd work well. These veggies need more time to get cooked than spinach, so I usually add the veggies also to the dhal and pressure cook. This saves a lot of time.
3. Spinach does not have to be cooked for long. Overcooking spinach strips of the vibrant color from it.
4. Coconut oil enhances the overall flavor of the koottu beautifully. I love using coconut oil in this recipe than any other oil.
5. My dad loves to squeeze a wedge of lemon over his koottu, but I’m not a big fan of it.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. UmmSumayya says:

    “I declare myself as a wildcard often” – thoroughly enjoyed this line. The whole write-up is as usual amazing. The recipe definitely is interesting – bookmarked! The last picture has taken my heart away 😦

    1. Thanks so much sweetie. Please do try this recipe and give me your feedback 😘😘

  2. Vidya says:

    There is hardly any difference in both our experience!!!! I am not sure if it’s men’s mentality especially South Indian men… not to eat or even try anything other than Asian/south Indian meal… I totally felt like reading my own blog😃… enjoyed it thouroughly!!!!

    1. Thank you dear. I think almost every family can relate to this. It is not an easy task at all to decide meal menus 😀😀

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