Coconut & Spinach Dhal with Spiced Paneer

A few months ago one of Michael was talking about Scott’s Food Rocks with one of his colleagues. To cut a long story short they shared a few recipe ideas with him, that he then passed on to me. They were all ideas for healthier versions of popular foods. As I can be a bit of a recipe magpie I stored them all in my online recipe archive just in case I was looking for inspiration.

One that caught my eye was a recipe for a lightly spiced coconut dhal. Largely because I’d not made one before and don’t often cook with lentils. Michael isn’t a huge fan of beans and pulses and I rarely get excited by them. Indeed, beyond a cassoulet or dhal it’s pretty much certain I’d not eat either. Yes, that means that unlike a lot of my fellow Brits I really don’t like Baked Beans…

I think I’d also convinced myself that making a dhal would be a bit of a chore. I’ve said before that I like to leave what we call “Indian” food to the professionals. I don’t have the skill with spicing nor the equipment to make most of the things I order anyway, so you can hardly blame me. But when I saw how few ingredients that recipe needed I thought I should give it a go. Adding a few of my own tweaks along the way, of course.

The base of the dhal is, unsurprisingly, lentils. Here they’re the red split variety, that need to be thoroughly rinsed in cold water before use. They’re added to a fragrant mix of vegetables before being simmered in coconut milk until cooked through. They’ll do a great job of absorbing most of the moisture, turning the contents of the pan into a rich and smooth sauce as they do.

The dhal would have been great served on its own. Though I was worried it would feel more like a side dish than main course. As such, I decided to add a few cubes of spiced, fried paneer over the top just before serving it. I’m glad I did as this final flourish brings with it a lovely contrast in texture as well as some additional spicy heat.

It also keeps it vegetarian, which is great as we try and increase the number of meat free days we have each week. If you’re vegan then you could swap the cheese for another protein like tofu instead. Or just miss it out altogether and add an extra spoonful of dhal to your bowl.

Who am I kidding? You’ll add the extra spoonful anyway – this is seriously moreish stuff!

Coconut & Spinach Dhal with Spiced Paneer

The delicate flavour of the tender lentils in this Coconut Dhal is wonderfully balanced by the hit of spice that comes from the coated pieces of Paneer. It all makes for a delightful and surprisingly filling meal.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Curry, Indian, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 550kcal


For the Coconut & Spinach Dhal

  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Red Onion peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ Red Pepper deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
  • ¼ tsp Dried Chillies
  • 1 tbsp Mild Curry Powder
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Purée
  • 200 g Red Split Lentils rinsed in cold water
  • 400 ml Coconut Milk
  • 250 ml Vegetable Stock
  • 75 Baby Spinach stems removed
  • Fresh Coriander Leaves to garnish

For the Spiced Paneer

  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ tsp Ground Turmeric
  • ½ tsp Garlic Granules
  • ½ tsp Ground Cumin
  • ½ tsp Ground Coriander
  • ½ tsp Garam Masala
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt finely ground
  • 200 g Paneer cut into cubes


  • Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper, then sauté for 5-10 minutes until softened.
  • Add the garlic to the pan and fry for a further minute or so until fragrant. Add the dried chillies, curry powder and tomato purée to the pan and stir to coat the vegetables, cooking for a further 30 seconds or so.
  • Pour in the lentils and stir through the vegetables, before adding the coconut milk and vegetable stock and mixing into a sauce.
  • Bring to a simmer, then allow to cook for 30-35 minutes until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, put 1 tbsp of the oil into a bowl, then add all of the spices. Stir to create a thick paste, then add in the cubes of paneer. Stir to coat the paneer throughly in the spice mixture and allow to marinate for a few minutes.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the cubes of paneer and fry for 4-5 minutes, turning regularly until golden all over.
  • Add the baby spinach to the dhal in the last minute or so of cooking, allowing it to wilt in the heat of the pan.
  • Divide the dhal between four bowls, topping each with cubes of the crisp, golden paneer. Sprinkle over some fresh coriander and serve.


Estimated Values per Serving
of which Saturates27g
of which Sugars5g
Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.

Scott Silverthorn

Hi, I’m Scott. I love cooking food and I love eating it - both useful credentials for writing a food blog! I get a lot of joy from sharing my passion with my friends and family, so here's hoping you enjoy it too.

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