Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal

Entreés, Recipes

Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal | Nutrition Stripped Recipes

Cozy. Hearty. Warming. Filling. These are the words that immediately come to mind after eating this Simple Spinach Butternut Squash and Daal. Anyone, and I mean anyone can make this daal recipe. It’s so simple, affordable, and makes amazing leftovers for the week ahead. Here’s why this is now on my batch cooking menu every weekend this fall! #helloantioxidants.


Some nights, you just don’t want to cook. Trust me, I’m just like you and go through the same thing- the struggle is real. I’m very picky about take-out food and don’t get it often, but when I do, one of my favorite take out places here in Nashville is an Indian restaurant called Woodlands Cafe off West End…it’s the bomb. I know what I’m ordering is healthy, homemade, and tastes delicious. BUT like with all take-out I’d rather keep it as minimal as possible and remake my own at home to keep it more affordable without sacrificing any of the authentic taste. My schedule keeps feeling busier and busier as I go along into the fall season, making meal time and every single thing I put into my body that more precious. I stopped by to grab some of my favorite daal and rice as take-out, came home, and thought to myself- what am I doing? I can totally make a HUGE batch of this on Sunday and have it for the entire week…for about 1/4 of the price.

We all go through those times where our schedules are crazy, you’re bouncing from meeting to meeting, class to class, running around with the kids or running errands- it’s all the same. And guess what? These are the times where we have to be über intentional and purposeful about squeezing as many nutrients, antioxidants, healthy fats, proteins, and anti-inflammatory compounds as possible to keep our immune systems strong, metabolism revved, and hormones happy! If that’s not motivation enough to cook your meals ahead of time, then I don’t know what will! THIS recipe is a lifesaver for those nights where you just want to open up the fridge and reheat a meal, I promise it tastes like you just cooked for hours every time you reheat it.

What is daal? First off, it’s pronounced like DHOLL, also it’s spelled in many ways including dal, dhal, daal, and dahl. Daal is a delicious traditional dish from India and enjoyed in many other countries around the world, for good reason, it’s high in fiber, protein, tastes delicious and is a vehicle for my favorite anti-inflammatory spice TURMERIC. I think you know how coo-coo I am for turmeric as evidenced by: Turmeric Milk, Turmeric Tea, Turmeric Milkshake, Turmeric Porridge…okay, I’ll stop there. Turmeric is a major component in yellow daal specifically, combined with other Indian spices like mustard, cumin, coriander, red chili, garlic…all the amazing spices. Besides turmerics involvement in daal, it’s really all about lentils or some other type of split legume that’s cooked down with spices, aromatics, and served vegetarian with garnishes like fresh herbs, diced red onion, lime, and Chapati bread (which I’ll make a recipe for this soon!).

Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal | Nutrition Stripped Recipes

Guess what, this is just 1 type of daal I’m making a spin-off from; there are SO many daal categories. Here are a couple more you can try at home too:

  1. Yellow daal- what I would categorize this recipe as
  2. Green Gram: made with mung beans
  3. Black daal (urad dal): made with black bean varieties
  4. Bengal Gram: made with chickpeas
  5. Masoor Dal: made with red lentils
  6. Toor dal: made with pigeon peas or green peas

Here’s a list of other legumes/pulses you can use when making daal:

  • Mung beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Green split peas
  • Pigeon peas
  • Red lentils
  • Yellow lentils
  • Brown lentils
  • Black lentils (urad)
  • Aduzki beans
  • Kidney
  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas

Lentils are one of the Top 10 Plant-based Proteins You Should Be Eating, for good reason. They’re affordable, easy to cook with, versatile, delicious, and packed with minerals, fiber, and protein.

Daal is delicious to eat alone, I typically will just scoop a couple heaping serving spoons into a bowl, garnish it with mushrooms, fresh herbs, and call it a day. On the chance that I have some grains cooked ahead from my Batch Cooking day like quinoa, rice, or millet, I’ll scoop the daal on top. Both ways are delicious! You can also boost the protein, which I always talk about and it’s very easy with this one- try adding your favorite organic tofu, tempeh, or grilled fish and shrimp on top, it’s sublime and incredibly filling for a meal.

Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal | Nutrition Stripped Recipes

5.0 from 7 reviews
Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal
Recipe type: supper, entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A delicious, simple, and quick spinach daal recipe using less than 10 ingredients in under 30 minutes.
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup diced butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • OPTIONAL, yet I highly recommend
  • 1 handful of fresh curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  1. Rinse lentils well using a mesh strainer.
  2. In a medium-hot skillet, saute chopped onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add rinsed lentils, ginger, turmeric, sea salt, cumin seeds, and red chili. Add optional mustard and curry leaves here as well.
  3. Cover this mixture with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil, continue adding water 1 cup at a time (or you may use vegetable stock) and stir occasionally until the water is absorbed and the lentils are cooked until soft and tender. Add in butternut squash after about 10 minutes. This whole cooking process will take up to 30 minutes. Once lentils are soft, add in raw spinach and cook down for another 5 minutes.
  4. To serve: serve on a bed of basmati rice, or Cauliflower Rice. Garnish with fresh lime, cilantro, parsley, extra red chili slices, and any proteins you enjoy.
For added flavor, use vegetable stock instead of filtered water during the cooking process

Simple Spinach and Butternut Squash Daal | Nutrition Stripped Recipes

Looking forward to seeing how you recreate this daal recipe and add in your favorite veggies. Let me know what you think when you give this recipe a go! Leave a comment and rate it. I love seeing what you come up with so don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #nutritionstripped on Instagram!

xx McKel

Share your thoughts

  • Samantha

    This recipe is checking all the right boxes for me…and then some 🙂

    Question on when to add the butternut squash?

  • Lentils + turmeric is my favorite comfort combination, and adding squash sounds like food for soul for a fall evening. Plus nutrients load for nurturing our body cells. The photos look great 🙂

    • Isn’t it the ultimate comfort food? Photographing daal is actually quite hard! It’s basically mush, but thank you 😉

  • Whitney

    This looks delicious. Should we add the butternut at the same time as the lentils?

  • Michelle


    Try as I have, again and again, I can only tolerate a very modest amount of cumin and have never been able to handle any type of curry. Can you make any suggestions for replacing the cumin seed? At the very least I’m considering making this with just a small amount of cumin powder. Otherwise, the recipe sounds delicious!

    • Great question, you can omit the cumin if you’re not a fan or just use a small pinch! It’s all up to you and how you want to make it 😉

  • Shyla

    This looks lovely! And delicious!

    Do you have any tips for picking restaurants that you know have whole, unprocessed foods? I also love Indian cuisine, but I find it hard to select a restaurant that doesn’t use packaged or processed ingredients. Thanks! xo

  • Carole

    Hi McKel,
    Do you add the butternut squash at the same time with the lentils, or saute with the onions and garlic?
    Thanks, looks delicious!

  • Lisa

    Sounds delicious! When to add the squash? Is it roasted ahead of time? Thanks, love your work!

  • Kate

    When do you add squash?

  • Rachel

    Looks good, but when is the butternut squash added? Its listed in the ingredients but not the directions.

  • Alexandra

    Hi Mckel!
    How would you suggest cooking the tempeh before adding it to this recipe? Looks delicious and can’t wait to try!

    • Great question! I would roast it, cook it on the skillet until crisp, or crumble it into the daal directly there are so many ways. 🙂

  • emily

    mmm looks so great for fall.
    how much water / vegetable broth do you add while cooking ? i see you add 1 cup at a time until it’s absorbed – do you just keep adding for a half hour (i’m sure i’m overthinking it)

    • Exactly! Just keep adding water or vegetable stock until it’s cooked and you can make it thinner by adding more or thicker by adding less or cooking longer- it’s such a flexible recipe 😉

  • Vanessa

    hi McKel,

    could you please tell me how much the spinach would be in grams? I find it very hard to estimate.

    Thanks 🙂

    • I’m not sure in grams, but an easy way to do it is measure it in handfuls! I would say about 5 handfuls 🙂

  • This looks so comforting and delish! I may be my new go-to dinner in a hurry!

  • I love the idea of adding butternut squash to yellow daal! Looking forward to your recipe for Chapati! Pinned 😉

  • I never know how to incorporate lentils into dishes, but this looks so delicious!

  • Jolene

    About how much water are you adding? Not sure how to balance the adding a cup and waiting for it to be absorbed 🙂

  • Lucy

    Hi Mckel!

    When i first saw this today, I decided I just HAD to make it for dinner tonight. And what do you know? It was super easy and SO FREAKING DELICIOUS! I didn’t have a chili, so I put in chili powder and added more turmeric too. I served it with raw mushrooms and cilantro on top of quinoa. I can’t wait to finish it off tomorrow

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Haha! I’m so glad you enjoyed it Lucy! It’s one of my favorite recipes of all time 🙂

  • Sara

    This is so good! I made it this evening, and paired it with your roast cauliflower with mint chutney recipe, all served with cooked whole rye grains. So, so good! I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow! This is definitely going to be my go-to dahl recipe now!

  • Julia

    This was so delicious and easy. Will definitely make again and again. I had trouble finding a red chili so used crushed red pepper flakes and chili powder instead. I also used bay leaves to add a perfume-y flavor as I didn’t have time to get curry leaves. Everyone should try this! Filling and tasty.

    • Perfect! I’m so glad those replacements worked well for you Julia, thanks for sharing! xx

  • Lynda

    I made this for dinner this evening, and it was so delicious!! Very glad to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow – thank you!!! 🙂

  • Julia


  • elena

    Oh my! This was delicious. Perfect fall evening food. THANKYOU!

  • Jennifer Raisley

    How did you prepare the mushrooms that you topped it with in your photo and what kind of mushrooms are they? They look so delicious. Herbs you used would be cilantro? Anything else? Can’t wait to make it!

    • These are just plain ole’ white button mushrooms that have been sliced and roasted. Super simple! You don’t have to add these, just an option! You can use parsley or cilantro or mint in this for a little garnish 🙂

  • Corinna

    I have made this recipe twice now, and it is absolutely fabulous! Though I admit, I tweaked it just a bit ! I had a hard time finding curry leaves, so I used metthi leaves, which in ayurvedic medicine are great for cleansing and immune support, not to mention they compliment lentils! My family loved this! I am so thankful for all of your wonderful recipes and thank you for continuing to inspire those of us who love to cook and eat well!

    • Thank you for sharing Corinna, I’m so happy this has quickly become a staple in your family meals during the week! Love the use of metthi leaves, I’ve never used them before!

  • Anisah

    Just made it and was very pleasantly surprised. I’m always reluctant to make new dishes from websites I haven’t tried from and I was fully prepared to not like it but we just loved it. I replaced the squash with zucchini and my husband said to it’s a “make again” recipe. Just added a splash of lemon juice while serving and it was perfect with rice.

    • Love that! Thank you for sharing your experience Anisah, so happy you and your husband enjoyed this one xx

  • Rachel

    Made this for the 3rd time last night–LOVE it and such a simple recipe 🙂

  • Karla Palomino

    I love this recipe so much! Made it tonight with mung beans, added carrots and kale as well as the squash and spinach. Also added more spices such as garam masala & a little cayenne since I didn’t have the chili. Second time making this recipe and I’m hooked. Thanks for sharing this. <3

    • Isn’t it the best for this time of year? AND the best leftovers for the week ahead. So glad you’re enjoying this one Karla. xM

  • Naomi

    So delicious! We could not find butternut squash and substituted with sweet potato but it was totally heavenly!

    • McKel Hill

      Great substitution Naomi!

  • Mary-Ann Foster

    How many cups of water do you add once you start cooking it, after the initial 1 inch of water?


  • Christine H

    McKel, do you think swiss chard or kale or even collards could be substituted for the spinach in this recipe? Thanks!

    • They can definitely be substituted! Swiss chard, kale, and collards are all a tougher greens than spinach, so for the best taste I would cook them separately or double the cook time in the lentil mixture to make sure they were cooked through. Enjoy!

      • Christine H

        Thanks McKel for your thoughts, they are appreciated! I just got done making this; used some kale I had harvested last week that was begging to be used (I only used the leaves, not the stems). I added them early on in the process–just after the lentils came to a boil once I added the first water–and then proceeded to simmer them, along with the squash. Just tasted it–wow, excellent flavor! So glad I added the mustard seeds, they really add a lot of flavor. Thanks for a great meal!

        • That sounds wonderful! I’m slightly jealous you have fresh kale growing, that would be delicious in this! Happy you enjoyed it Christine xx

          • Christine H

            Yes, fortunate to have the kale–here in Fingerlakes area of NY, it grows well. My swiss chard is going gangbusters this season, too, so will be going through your archives for some recipes in which I can use that. Thanks again!

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