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.
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.
Dal Makhani (Buttery Black Lentils)
- 1 1/2 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)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- Pressure cook dal, 1 tsp of ghee (or vetable oil) and 4 cups of water for 20 minutes.
- 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