Dal Makhani (Buttery Black Lentil Curry)

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In the 1940s, having already invented Butter Chicken, famous Indian chef Kundan Lal Gujral created Dal Makhani in New Delhi. He did it to bring the traditional Indian dal to world fame. Considering Dal Makhani is now sold in Costco, I’d say he succeeded.

A bowl of Dal Makhani with roti, topped with cilantro

My earliest association with Dal Makhani is having it in fine restaurants in Bombay when I was a kid. The rich, creamy sauce screams luxury. Today, I love to eat dal makhani on a cold day when nothing is better than a rich, warm dish.

Dal Makhani is a vegetarian dish made with whole urad lentils. Typically it is made with lots of butter, ghee, and cream. It is a very fatty dish, but if you enjoy dal makhani and want to enjoy something a little healthier, it is easily modified by leaving out all or most of the cream and reducing the butter.

My recipe uses the Instant Pot since I find the Instant Pot a convenient substitute for the pressure cooker. You could also make it on the stove, but it will take longer to cook. It is essential to really soften the urad lentils, so they will have to be cooked for a long time.

I prefer to eat Dal Makhani with naan, but it also goes well with rice. If you can, instead of naan, try Romali roti. Romali roti is a large flatbread that is folded over on itself. It is a favorite of many of my friends. It also goes well with grilled chilis and pickled onions. 

As a accompaniment dal makhani, try paneer tikka. The smokiness of the two dishes can really complement each other.

The biggest issue to look out for is to cook the lentil long enough. Be sure to test your dal when it comes out of the pressure cooker to ensure the bite is gone. Dal makhani needs to be creamy, and you don’t want to lose that to undercooked lentils.

Dal makhani has a lot of cream and butter, but it can be made vegan by substituting earth balance in place of the ghee and using plant-based milk in place of the cream. I would avoid coconut milk in this case since the coconut flavor will alter the dish’s flavor profile, but you may like the change.

A bowl of Dal Makhani with roti, topped with cilantro

Dal Makhani (Buttery Black Lentils)

Puja Thomas-Patel
Dal Makhani is a vegetarian dish made with whole urad lentils. Typically it is made with lots of butter, ghee, and cream.
4.55 from 11 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 8
Calories 235 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ cups dried urad dal (black lentils)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger finely grated
  • 1 tbsp green chilies finely chopped (amount to taste)
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder or paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp butter (cold)
  • chopped cilantro (garnish)
  • 1 15oz can kidney beans
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek)
  • ½ tsp cayenne

Instructions
 

For Dal

  • Pressure cook dal, 1 tsp of ghee (or vetable oil) and 4 cups of water for 20 minutes.

In Pan

  • Heat 1 tbsp ghee
  • Add garlic and ginger, saute until golden
  • Add tomato sauce, cook until oil starts to separate
  • Add cooked dal
  • Add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Add salt and 3 tbsp butter
  • Let simmer for 20 minutes

In a Separate Pan

  • Heat 1 tbsp ghee
  • Add 1 tsp Kasoori methi and 1 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika, allow to toast slightly
  • Stir in 2 tbsp of butter
  • Garnish with cream and cilantro

Nutrition

Calories: 235kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 10gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 90mgPotassium: 41mgFiber: 8gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 467IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 33mgIron: 3mg
Keyword black lentils, dal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

16 comments

  1. How beautiful your lentils look! Also besides the meal such a nice posting with the Panasian tour and the dish story – could have been me as well ;-). I also get very excited if I enter a shop or go to a market with beautiful dishes and decorations (love the bowl on your photo and the nicely ribboned spoon!).

  2. Thanks Claudia! I am sure you have access to some really beautiful props in Germany. Isn’t it great how food blogging makes it okay to horde plates, fabrics and other pretty things?

  3. Hi there, I made your dal makhani this weekend. It was fabulous. Thank you for sharing your recipe! Rhonda

  4. Hi, Great website. I just came back from the Indian Food stores on Newak ave in Jersey City, now i know black lentils are urad dal. Thankyou! I will make this recipe for sure.

  5. Made this for dinner last night. Good flavor, will make again. Thanks! We had black lentils in the cupboard and didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully I stumbled across your site! Will be returning for some more yummy goodness!

    1. Hi Susan,
      I’ve been making a lot of updates to the site lately and this was one of the old recipes I came across. I updated it a few months ago to the way I’ve been cooking it lately. I’m glad to have your feedback about the old recipe. I’m going to try cooking it both ways and do a comparison and decide what to do from there. I might end up having both versions on the site. In the meantime, you can find the original recipe here. (It doesn’t have all the nice formatting since it isn’t part of a post).

  6. 5 stars
    Thank-you from the very bottom of my huge bag of black lentils for providing a link to the original recipe! It is my favorite, but this new recipe looks intriguing. An excellent excuse to add some new spices to my collection so I can try it. Again, my grateful thanks.

  7. 2 stars
    I love Indian food are eat lentils all the time. However, I was not overly impressed. The directions seemed incomplete. There was no mention of when to add the kidney beans. or when/where to add the toasted spices. I threw them all together and the dish was still bland. I went back and doubled the green chilies (I used jalapenos), ginger, and tomato sauce as there was a lot of lentils for the small amount of aromatics. I also though the lentils were overcooked. I generally pressure cook black lentils for eight minutes not 20. And then simmering the cooked lentils for another 20 minutes made them a bit mushy.

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