//Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

dal makhani served in a copper bucket and garnished with three cilantro sprigsdal makhani served in a copper bucket and garnished with three cilantro sprigs
Dal MakhaniDal Makhani

This Dal Makhani recipe is a restaurant style version with smoky flavors and subtle creaminess of the lentils. If you love authentic Punjabi food then you are going to love this Dal Makhani even more. Dal Makhani is one of the most popular lentil recipes from the North Indian cuisine.

dal makhani served in a copper bucket and garnished with three cilantro sprigsdal makhani served in a copper bucket and garnished with three cilantro sprigs

Why this recipe works

  • Whole spices: Fragrant and aromatic whole spices make this Dal Makhani more flavorful.

    In my experimentation with this dish earlier, I remember making dal makhani without whole spices many times and hoping to get restaurant like taste and flavors in the lentils. But it never matched and my experiments continued.

    When we were residing in Goa, we used to have dal makhani (and it was one of their best dish there) at the quiet and serene Benaulim beach.

    So once I found a black cardamom and a clove in their dal makhni. I thought may be it is the black cardamom and clove giving that lovely aroma and flavor.

    Thereafter I tested dal makhani many times adding whole spices and realized that they do make a difference in the dish. But I still felt something was lacking.

  • Butter and cream: So I kept on experimenting and when I cracked the recipe of Dal Bukhara, I realized it was the cream and butter making this difference, apart from the slow cooking.

    The richness in the dish comes from the fats in the butter and cream. The amount of butter and cream added is not copious and just enough to lift the dish in its richness.

    You could still make dal makhani with less butter and cream. Just remember to slow cook it for longer periods of time, to get the real deal.

  • Slow cooking: The more slow cooked dal makhani is the better it tastes. In most Indian restaurants specializing in authentic North Indian food, Dal Makhani is simmered overnight or for many hours.

    Basically you can call it slow cooking of the lentils. This slow cooking makes a world of difference to the consistency of the lentils.

    The lentils are slow cooked over a tandoor. The tandoor is a cylindrical shaped oven made of clay. The fire in the tandoor comes from lit charcoal or wood.

    Overnight simmering of the dal makhani gives some smokiness in the dish from the charcoal or wood.

    In most Indian homes you will not find tandoor. But you will find a pressure cooker easily.

    The fastest way to cook the lentils are in a pressure cooker. In this post, I have used a stove-top pressure cooker, but you can cook the lentils in an Instant Pot too.

    I have cooked the lentils & beans in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes. Later I have slow cooked them on a low heat for 25 minutes.

    You can slow cook for more time than what I have done. Slow cooking makes the lentils viscous, creamy and the end result is a finger-licking dal.

  • Smoky flavors: Like I mentioned above the smoky aroma in the dal makhani comes from cooking lentils on wooden or charcoal fires.

    To replicate this smokiness in the dish, I have two tried and tested methods for you.

    1. Charcoal infused smoke: This is also called as Dhungar in Hindi language. It is a charcoal smoking technique. It works fabulously for any recipe where you need some smokiness.

    The dal makhani smoked with this method tastes exactly like the restaurant one. The dhungar smoking technique is optional and you can just skip if you cannot get charcoal.

    2. Use smoked paprika: Using smoked paprika is the easiest method and especially great when you cannot get charcoal.

    Just replace the red chilli powder in the recipe with smoked paprika. I have added smoked paprika so many times to dal makhani to get that smoky flavor.

dal makhani served in a small and taken in a spoon on a dark blue boarddal makhani served in a small and taken in a spoon on a dark blue board

Two more similar recipes made with black gram are Kaali Dal (Punjabi maah ki dal) and Amritsari Dal (langarwali dal).

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Dal Makhani

Soaking

1. Soak both ¾ cup whole urad dal (whole black gram) and ¼ cup rajma (kidney beans) overnight in enough water for 8 to 9 hours. Drain them well. The below photo shows the soaked whole urad dal and rajma.

soaked urad dal and rajmasoaked urad dal and rajma

2. Rinse the urad lentils and rajma legumes a couple of times in water.

rinsing urad dal and rajmarinsing urad dal and rajma

3. Drain well and then add them in a 3 litre pressure cooker.

added urad dal and rajma in a pressure cookeradded urad dal and rajma in a pressure cooker

4. Add 3 cups water and stir well.

pouring water in the pressure cookerpouring water in the pressure cooker

5. Pressure cook for 18 to 20 whistles on a high flame, till both the whole urad dal and rajma have cooked thoroughly and softened. If they are not cooked, then add about ½ cup water again and pressure cook for 4 to 5 whistles more. 

The urad dal should melt in the mouth and should not give any bite or resistance when eaten. You can also just mash the urad dal with a spoon or with your fingers to check the doneness.

The same rule applies for rajma too. Keep the cooked beans aside. Both the urad dal and rajma beans have to be fresh. If they are old or close to their expiry, they take a lot of time to cook.

pressure cooking the lentilspressure cooking the lentils

6. In the below photo, both the rajma and urad dal are cooked and softened well.

cooked urad dal and rajmacooked urad dal and rajma

7. In a blender or mixer jar, take chopped tomatoes. 2 large tomatoes or 200 grams of tomatoes, chopped. No need to blanch the tomatoes.

chopped tomatoes added in a blenderchopped tomatoes added in a blender

8. Blend to a smooth puree. Keep aside. You can also use the store brought 1 cup tomato puree instead of blending the tomatoes.

tomatoes pureed in the blendertomatoes pureed in the blender

Making dal makhani

9. In a pan, now heat 3 tablespoons butter. You can use salted butter or unsalted butter.

melting butter in a frying panmelting butter in a frying pan

10. Add the whole spices – ½ tsp cumin seeds, 2 to 3 cloves, 2 to 3 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon, 1 small to medium tej patta/Indian bay leaf. saute till the spices become aromatic.

whole spices added in the panwhole spices added in the pan

11. Then add ½ cup finely chopped onions.

finely chopped onions added in the panfinely chopped onions added in the pan

12. Stir and saute the onions on a low flame often.

sautéing onionssautéing onions

13. Saute the onions till they become light golden.

onions have become light goldenonions have become light golden

14. Then add 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste. Stir again and sauté till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.

add ginger-garlic pasteadd ginger-garlic paste

15. add 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies and stir for a minute.

added chopped green chilliesadded chopped green chillies

16. Then add the prepared tomato puree.

added tomato pureeadded tomato puree

17. Mix again.

tomato puree mixed with the rest of the ingredientstomato puree mixed with the rest of the ingredients

18. Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder.

added red chilli powderadded red chilli powder

19. Then add about 2 to 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder.

nutmeg being grated on a small grater above the pannutmeg being grated on a small grater above the pan

20. Stir very well and saute this mixture on a low to medium flame, till you see fat releasing from the sides. About 3 to 4 minutes on a low flame.

sautéing the tomato puree and and other ingredientssautéing the tomato puree and and other ingredients

21. Then add the cooked urad dal and rajma beans.

adding cooked urad dal and rajmaadding cooked urad dal and rajma

22. Add the remaining stock. Add 1 cup water or more if required.

adding the remaining stock and wateradding the remaining stock and water

Slow cooking

23. Mix very well and simmer the dal uncovered on a low heat.

simmering dal makhani on low heatsimmering dal makhani on low heat

24. Keep on stirring often, so that the lentils don’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan. The lentils become viscous and start to stick at the bottom if not stirred. Mash a few lentils too while stirring.

simmering dal makhanisimmering dal makhani

25. Once the dal makhani has begun to thicken, add salt as required.

adding saltadding salt

26. Mix very well and continue to simmer on a low heat. When simmering you can add more water if the consistency looks thick or dry.

The longer you keep dal makhni to simmer, the better it tastes. The lentils become creamy, viscous and the consistency of the dal will keep on thickening as you simmer.

I kept for about an overall 25 minutes on a low flame. Do keep on stirring at intervals.

simmering and slow cooking dal makhanisimmering and slow cooking dal makhani

27. When the gravy has thickened enough, then add ¼ to ⅓ low fat cream or half and half. If using heavy cream, then add 2 tablespoons of it.

The consistency of Punjabi dal makhani is neither too thick or too thin. It has a medium consistency with a viscosity coming from the thoroughly cooked lentils.

added creamadded cream

28. Mix the cream very well. Then switch off the heat.

mixing cream with the dal makhanimixing cream with the dal makhani

29. Now add ¼ teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed. Stir again. Cover and keep the dal makhani aside, if you are proceeding to the dhungar method. Or else you can serve Punjabi dal makhani straight away.

adding crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)adding crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

Optional – charcoal smoking or dhungar method

30. Heat a small piece of charcoal on flame till it becomes red hot. With the help of tongs, keep on turning the charcoal piece so that it evenly burns.

charcoal placed on top of a wired rack on a gas-stove burnercharcoal placed on top of a wired rack on a gas-stove burner

31. Keep the red hot charcoal in a small bowl.

hot charcoal kept in a small steel bowlhot charcoal kept in a small steel bowl

32. Pour ½ to ⅔ teaspoon oil on the charcoal. The hot piece of charcoal would begin to smoke as soon as you pour oil on it.

oil drizzled on charcoal which has led to smoke coming from itoil drizzled on charcoal which has led to smoke coming from it

33. Immediately keep this bowl on top of the dal.

the steel bowl with the smoking charcoal kept on top of the dal makhani in the panthe steel bowl with the smoking charcoal kept on top of the dal makhani in the pan

34. Cover with a lid tightly for one minute and allow the charcoal to infuse its smoke in the dal makhani. I usually keep for one minute.

the pan covered with its lid. the pan covered with its lid.

35. Stir again. Serve Punjabi dal makhani garnished with chopped coriander leaves and a few teaspoons of cream with naan, tandoori roti, paratha, kulcha, phulka or aloo paratha or steamed rice.

top shot of dal makhani garnished with three small coriander sprigs served in a small bucket on a dark blue boardtop shot of dal makhani garnished with three small coriander sprigs served in a small bucket on a dark blue board

Tips

Expert Tips

  1. Soaking: For any kind of dried whole beans or dried peas it is always helps to soak them overnight or for 8 to 9 hours. Soaking beans reduces the phytic acid which causes indigestion and flatulence thereby makes them more digestible. Soaking also helps the beans to cook faster.
  2. Rinsing: Before cooking, rinse the soaked beans in water a couple of times. Then drain all the water and cook the beans with fresh water. Doing this also reduces the phytic acid.
  3. Cooking: When you soaking beans and lentils the cooking time considerably reduces by 25%. You can then cook the soaked beans in a pan or in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
  4. Freshness: Beans & legumes should be fresh and not aged. Beans which are too old or beyond their expiry date (shelf-life) will take a lot of time to cook and perhaps not cook well enough to give a melt in the mouth texture. Undercooked beans upset the stomach too.
  5. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an important ingredient in this recipe. You could use canned tomatoes too or packaged tomato puree (1 cup). For fresh tomatoes, choose the sweet and ripe variety. Do not add highly sour or tart tomatoes.
  6. Dhungar method: The smoking method can be skipped too if you do not have charcoal. If you have smoked paprika, then use it in place of red chilli powder in the recipe to get a faint smoky flavor.

More Tasty Lentil Recipes

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This Dal Makhani recipe is a restaurant style version with smoky flavors and subtle creaminess of the lentils. Dal Makhani is one of the most popular lentil recipes from the North Indian cuisine made with whole urad dal and kidney beans.

Prep Time 8 hrs

Cook Time 1 hr

Total Time 9 hrs


Cuisine North Indian, Punjabi

Course: Main Course

Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian

Difficulty Level: Easy


Servings 4

for dhungar method (optional)

Preparation

  • Soak both the whole urad dal and rajma overnight in enough water for 8 to 9 hours or overnight. Later drain them well.

  • Rinse both the lentils a couple of times in water.

  • Drain again and then add them in a 3 litre pressure cooker. Add water and stir well.

  • Pressure cook for 18 to 20 whistles on a high flame, till both the urad dal and rajma have cooked thoroughly and softened. If they are not cooked, then add about ½ cup water again and pressure cook for 4 to 5 whistles more.

  • The urad dal should melt in the mouth and should not give any bite or resistance when eaten. You can also just mash the urad dal with a spoon or with your fingers to check the doneness. The same rule applies for rajma too. Keep the cooked beans aside.

  • In a blender or mixer jar, take chopped tomatoes and blend to a smooth puree. Set aside.

  • You can also add ready 1 cup tomato puree instead of blending the tomatoes. No need to blanch the tomatoes while pureeing.

Making dal makhani

  • In a pan, now heat butter. You can use salted butter or unsalted butter.

  • Add the whole spices – cumin seeds, cloves, green cardamoms, black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon, 1 small to medium tej patta.

  • Fry for some seconds till the spices sputter and become aromatic.

  • Add finely chopped onions.

  • Stir and sauté the onions on a low or medium-low heat often till they become light golden.

  • Add the ginger garlic paste. Stir again and sauté for some seconds till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.

  • Add the chopped green chilies and sauté for a minute.

  • Add the prepared tomato puree and mix well.

  • Add red chili powder and 2 to 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder.

  • Stir very well and sauté this mixture on a low to medium flame, till you see fat releasing from the sides.

  • Then add the cooked urad dal and rajma beans along with the stock. Also add 1 cup water or as required.

Slow cooking

  • Stir very well and simmer the dal makhani uncovered on a low flame.

  • Keep on stirring often, so that the lentils don’t stuck to the bottom of the pan.

  • Once it has begun to thicken, add salt as required.

  • Stir very well and continue to simmer on a low flame. When simmering you can add more water if the gravy looks thick or dry. The longer you keep dal makhani to simmer, the better it tastes. I kept it for about an overall 25 minutes on a low flame. Do keep on stirring at intervals.

  • When the gravy has thickened enough, then add cream. Dal makhani is not too thick or too thin. It has a medium consistency.

  • Mix the cream very well. Then switch off the heat.

  • Add crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Mix again.

  • Cover and set dal makhani aside, if you are proceeding to the dhungar method. Or else you can serve dal makhni straight away.

Dhungar method

  • Heat a small piece of charcoal on flame till it becomes red hot. With the help of tongs, keep on turning the charcoal piece so that it evenly burns.

  • Keep the red hot charcoal in a small bowl.

  • Pour ½ teaspoon oil on the hot charcoal.

  • Immediately keep this bowl on top of the dal makhani.

  • Cover for a minute and allow the charcoal to infuse its smoke in the dal makhni. Remove the bowl. Stir again.

  • Serve punjabi dal makhani garnished with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and a few teaspoons of cream with naan, roti, paratha or steamed rice.

  • Cooking in  pot or pan: Add the the black gram, kidney beans and water in a large pot. Cover and cook on medium heat till the lentils and beans soften. If cooking the beans in a pot, it may take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Soaking: It is always better to soak beans overnight or for 8 to 9 hours. Soaking reduces the phytic acid in them which causes indigestion and flatulence. Soaking also helps the beans to cook faster.
  • Rinsing: Before cooking, rinse the soaked beans in water a couple of times. Then drain all the water and cook the beans with fresh water. 
  • Cooking: When you soaking beans and lentils the cooking time considerably reduces by 25%. You can then cook the soaked beans in a pan or in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
  • Freshness: Beans & legumes should be fresh and not aged. Beans which are too old or beyond their expiry date (shelf-life) will take a more time to cook and may not cook well enough to give a melt in the mouth texture. Undercooked beans upset the stomach too.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an important ingredient in this recipe. You could use canned tomatoes too or packaged tomato puree (1 cup). For fresh tomatoes, choose the sweet and ripe variety. Do not add highly sour or tart tomatoes.
  • Dhungar method: The smoking method can be skipped too if you do not have charcoal. If you have smoked paprika, then use it in place of red chilli powder in the recipe to give a faint smoky flavor in the dish. 

Calories: 308kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 13gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 433mgPotassium: 353mgFiber: 12gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 987IUVitamin B1 (Thiamine): 1mgVitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1mgVitamin B3 (Niacin): 1mgVitamin B6: 1mgVitamin B12: 1µgVitamin C: 17mgVitamin D: 1µgVitamin E: 1mgVitamin K: 7µgCalcium: 61mgVitamin B9 (Folate): 60µgIron: 4mgMagnesium: 31mgPhosphorus: 77mgZinc: 1mg

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This recipe post from the archives (January 2015) has been republished and updated on 14 September 2020 with a video and plenty of my expert tips.