Keerai Kootu is a simple South Indian vegan spinach/palak recipe. Learn to make this healthy Indian spinach dish in the Instant pot and on the stovetop!
This easy recipe can be made in just 30 minutes.
What is kootu?
Kootu is a very common dish in our South Indian household. It is made using any vegetable and lentils.
The consistency is semi-solid and it's mainly served with rice. Normally, the recipe does not call for onion or garlic.
It's actually a dish that's perfect for those days when you need to whip up something quickly.
There are numerous kootu recipes and palak keerai kootu is one of them. I have another kootu recipe on the blog. You can check it out here.
The main ingredient in this particular recipe is keerai/palak/spinach, hence the name Keerai Kootu.
This one is a personal favorite!
This Indian spinach dish is also called Paruppu Keerai Masiyal, Pasalai Keerai, and/or Keerai Molagootal in Tamil.
Paruppu means lentils, keerai means spinach, and masiyal means a mashed dish in English.
Yes, this Indian vegan spinach recipe is a childhood favorite. Even today when I miss home and need something comforting, I make keerai kootu.
Since this dish is best enjoyed with rice, we limit eating this dish to weekends. I often make this Indian spinach dish on Sunday mornings and we have it for lunch and dinner.
It's the best meal and both of us look forward to it equally. It reminds us of home and mom-cooked food.
Spinach - a superfood
Leafy green vegetables are very nutritious as they are rich in dietary fiber and iron.
Spinach being one of them, is considered to be one of the healthiest and nutrient-dense foods on earth.
It's not just low in calories, but Spinach also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.
It definitely is a smart choice to include this green vegetable in your daily diet and that too in its true form.
For those who only have tried it in salads, smoothies, and stir-fries, this recipe is just another interesting way to enjoy spinach.
When combined with lentils (like in this dish) they make for a healthy meal.
Some Indian spinach dishes
Here are some more spinach-based recipes that you can check out.
- Palak Paneer
- Garlicky Spinach Peas Fenugreek Curry
- Peas & Spinach Pastry Puffs
- Spinach Peanut Chutney
- Spinach Lentil Rice
Why make it
As I said, it's a great way to include spinach in your daily diet. This is a very old and traditional South Indian TamBrahm recipe.
While this Indian spinach dish is very tasty, mildly flavored, and suitable for all ages, it's also all this:
- This is one of those dishes that can be made in very little oil.
- It is naturally vegan and gluten-free
- Needs no special masala or spice blends
- Can be made under 30 minutes using basic pantry essentials
- Is very healthy and nutritious
- This stew totally brings out the flavor of the main ingredient
These are the ingredients needed to make this keerai masiyal/molagootal.
Spinach - Buy good quality spinach and ensure that they are not wilted. You can also use frozen palak in this recipe. Thaw it first and then use it as needed.
Coconut - Traditionally, freshly grated coconut is used. But if unavailable to you, use unsweetened desiccated, shredded, or frozen coconut.
Lentils - There are two kinds of lentils used in this recipe. Toor dal and Urad dal. Instead of Toor dal, you may also use moong or masoor dal.
Spices - Mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and green chillies give it an aromatic flavor. You can use jalapeno or dried red chillies instead of green chillies.
The traditional recipe is in 3 parts. First, we need to boil the spinach and the lentils. Then prepare the coconut paste and lastly bring everything together.
Making this Indian vegan spinach recipe in the Instant Pot saves time and effort. I now only make it in the Instant Pot. It's very convenient.
Here's how to make it
This Indian vegan spinach recipe is pretty straightforward and can be made in very little time.
While this is being cooked, prepare rice in a rice cooker. That way you can immediately enjoy keerai rice once it's done.
Instant Pot Version
First, chop and rinse spinach and keep it aside.
1) Soak toor dal for 15 minutes.
2) In a blender jar, add shredded coconut, green chillies, and cumin seeds.
3) Blitz to a smooth paste. Add water if it's too dry. Keep it aside for now.
4) Turn on the Instant Pot in 'Saute' mode and add oil. Once it beeps, temper mustard seeds and urad dal.
5) Once the urad dal turns light golden, add the coconut paste and ¼ cup water.
6) Drain the water from the lentils and add them to the pot. Give it a mix.
7) Next, add the chopped spinach. Mix it all together.
8) Add water or vegetable stock, and salt. The level of water should just be 1 inch above the spinach.
Basically, it should be fully submerged in the water. Turn off the saute mode.
Close the lid and select 'Manual/Pressure' mode. Cook for 8 minutes and release pressure naturally.
Once done, open the lid and give it a quick stir. Keerai Kootu is ready to serve.
Add the chopped spinach, tur dal lentils, water or stock, salt, and turmeric powder to a pressure cooker or vessel and cook.
I usually cook everything in a pressure cooker as it's convenient.
Give it 2-3 whistles as the lentils must get well cooked. Do not drain the water once done and keep it aside for now.
Meanwhile, prepare the coconut paste as mentioned above.
Heat oil in a pan, temper mustard seeds, then add urad dal, asafoetida, and curry leaves. Fry for 30 seconds or till the urad dal turns golden.
Then add the coconut mixture to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes.
Then add the boiled spinach and lentils mixture to the pan. Simmer and bring it to a boil.
If the curry is too liquid, then just mix little flour and water and add it to the pan. It will thicken instantly.
Lastly, garnish it with chopped cilantro and take it off the flame.
Keerai Kootu tastes best when served with steamed rice with a side of papad and pickle.
This South Indian vegan spinach recipe doesn't need any sambhar or rasam with it. But some like to serve it with Vathal kuzhambhu.
If you are looking for some low carb options, then serve it with cauliflower rice or quinoa.
You can also enjoy it as a hearty lentil spinach soup or serve it as a side for roti/chapati/naan.
Top tips, recommendations, and suggestions
If you want, you can add a mix of greens (kale, collard greens, beet leaves) instead of just spinach.
Just ensure the greens are of good quality and not wilted. You can also use frozen spinach here. Thaw it first and then use the required amount.
You can use any lentils like moong dal, tur dal, or masoor dal in this recipe.
Don't add too much water when cooking spinach. It doesn't need too much water. You can also use vegetable stock instead.
Use fresh, frozen, desiccated, or shredded coconut in this palak recipe. Just ensure it is unsweetened.
To boost the protein in here, throw in some beans like black-eyed peas, chickpeas, or kidney beans.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of sambhar powder along with the coconut paste for a different and delicious flavor.
This same recipe can be followed to make lauki, cabbage, beans, gourd, chow chow, or pumpkin kootu.
It stays good for 4-5 days in the fridge. You can also freeze this stew.
Can you make it without coconut?
Yes, you can. However, that will alter the taste. Follow the recipe as is but skip adding the coconut paste.
Instead, you can add a tempering of mustard seeds, green chillies, garlic, and chopped onions in the end.
It's an easy and tasty variant of this palak recipe that you can try.
How to adjust the consistency of the kootu?
If when done, the kootu is very thick, add little water/stock to get the desired consistency and bring it to a boil. Add salt accordingly.
If it is too thin or watery, prepare a slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon flour with 2-3 tablespoon water. Add this and mix. It will help thicken it up.
If you’ve tried this Keerai Kootu | Spinach Lentils Stew Recipe or any other recipe on the blog please let me know how it went by commenting below, I love hearing from you!
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Keerai Kootu | Spinach Lentils Stew
To make the coconut paste
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 2-3 green chillies
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
To make the stew
- 16 oz spinach
- ½ cup toor dal
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 cups water/vegetable stock as needed
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon urad dal
Instant Pot Version
- First, chop and rinse spinach and keep it aside.
- Soak toor dal for 15 minutes.
To make the coconut paste
- In a blender jar, add shredded coconut, green chillies, and cumin seeds.
- Blitz to a smooth paste. Add water if it's too dry. Keep it aside for now.
To make the stew
- Turn on the Instant Pot in 'Saute' mode and add oil. Once it beeps, temper mustard seeds and urad dal.
- Once the urad dal turns light golden, add the coconut paste and ¼ cup water.
- Drain the water from the lentils and add them to the pot. Give it a mix.
- Next, add the chopped spinach. Mix it all together.
- Add water or vegetable stock, and salt. The level of water should just be 1 inch above the spinach.
- Basically, it should be fully submerged in the water. Turn off the saute mode.
- Close the lid and select 'Manual/Pressure' mode. Cook for 8 minutes and release pressure naturally.
- Once done, open the lid and give it a quick stir. Keerai Kootu is ready to serve.
- Add the chopped spinach, tur dal lentils, water or stock, salt, and turmeric powder to a pressure cooker or vessel and cook. I usually cook everything in a pressure cooker as it's convenient.
- Give it 2-3 whistles as the lentils must get well cooked. Do not drain the water once done and keep it aside for now.
- Meanwhile, prepare the coconut paste as mentioned above.
- Heat oil in a pan, temper mustard seeds, then add urad dal, asafoetida, and curry leaves. Fry for 30 seconds or till the urad dal turns golden.
- Then add the coconut mixture to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Then add the boiled spinach and lentils mixture to the pan. Simmer and bring it to a boil.
- If the curry is too liquid, then just mix little flour and water and add it to the pan. It will thicken instantly.
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Excellent Keerai kootu
I’m not that much of an internet reader, to be honest, but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road
Thank you so much.
My kind of comfort food <3 Love this!!!!
Mine too 🙂
This is such a comforting meal! Love that you also made it vegan! Yum!
Thank you so much
Sadia Malik says
Can we just use one type of lentil and increase the quantity instead?
Toor dal is the main lentil. Urad dal is just used for tempering. You can skip that. Yes, you can increase the quantity of both spinach and toor dal. Hope this answers your question.
Always up for trying new ethnic recipes. If we can't go to an Indian restaurant right now, fixing this recipe at home is a great alternative! Love that there is an Instant Pot version.
Oh yes, its really very easy to put together.
I have had very little Indian food before but this sounds and looks amazing!
It truly is one of the simplest Indian dishes to make.
Spinach and lentils are one of my go-to one-pot meal combinations! I can't wait to try your version - all of the spices and flavors look absolutely delicious!
Thank you so much
Spinach and lentils are two of my favourite things and having them in a stew is perfect! Love how it's so homey and comforting. Perfect for weeknight dinners!
Absolutely! We love it at home. 🙂
Jessica Formicola says
I've been wanting to try more Indian food at home, and this looks like the perfect recipe to try! Thanks so much for sharing!
Then this is the perfect dish to try. Thank you.
mehulb thakkar says
Mouth watering recipe.
Can't wait , hav eto prepare immediatly
Hello Ms Priya,
Greetings from the U.S. Thank you for posting all these wonderful recipes from southern India & printed out several to make. I can't wait to try the Keerai!
That makes me so happy! Thank you so much.
Thank you for the recipe. I made it today and I really liked this version. It’s diff from my usual way of doing it but it’s delicious 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻
I am so glad you liked it 🙂
I would love to try making this~all of the ingredients are my favorites! Love the story and your memories behind it too 🙂
This is so healthy and comforting.Would love to try.
Camila Hurst - Pies and Tacos says
Love the bit where you talk about your mom's home cooked food. isn't that the best And those memories I am totally trying to recreate for my son too!
My husband would totally love this dish!
Wow, this genuinely looks absolutely delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe, defo gonna give it a go 🙂
Jessica Formicola says
I bet the flavor of this is AWESOME! I can't wait to try it!
This lentil dish looks so good. I love trying new things.
Sara Hoffman says
My son has been begging for green curry, this is perfect! Thanks!
Neli Howard says
Ohhh I can't WAIT to try this! yessss! This is the perfect recipe for me. Looks VERY tasty! Now, this recipe will be one of my favorites. I'm sure this is incredibly delicious!
Janette | Culinary Ginger says
This a delicious vegan option with so much flavor