The royal Dal Makhani- a creamy mixed lentil curry

Dal Makhani is one of the most popular Indian, vegetarian dishes. It originates from the state of Punjab. You will almost always see it being served in the weddings and other social gathering, irrelevant of what state or city you are in!

Dal means ‘lentil’ and makhani means ‘buttery’. Let me warn you beforehand- this dish is rich in calories. It is made with whole black lentils (sabut urad ki dal), red kidney beans (rajma), butter and cream. Dal Makhani only tastes good if it’s creamy. That is why I don’t make it regularly at my home, and when I do, I don’t hold back on the cream.

I learnt this recipe from a punjabi neighbourhood aunty, when I was still unmarried. She used to make delicious dal-makhani and the day she made it, whole building knew it from the aroma wafting in the air. Traditionally, this dish is made through slow-cooking in an open, deep handi (utensil). Aunty used to keep it on her gas-stove for simmering and come down to have a chat and tea with us, sitting for hours. To this day in Punjab, many ladies still simmer their dal makhani overnight over the slow charcoal.

There are many easy methods of making a good dal-makhani nowdays. I make it in my pressure-cooker and if I may say so myself, it still turns out pretty good.

Most of the rich punjabi dishes, including this one, taste even better the next day. I don’t know the exact reason but I guess the spices and flavors get infused well over the long hours. It’s a common practice to finish this over two days.

Dal makahani is heavy on the stomach so be careful not to eat too much of it in one go. It goes brilliantly with Naan/chapattis as well as rice.

Give it a go and enjoy!


1 cup whole black lentils (sabut urad dal)

1/4 cup red kidney beans (rajma)

1 large chopped onion

2 medium sized, chopped tomatoes

2-3 tbsp tomato puree (if you don’t want to use puree, just increase the quantity of fresh tomatoes)

1tsp cumin

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp kashmiri red chilly powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 bayleaf

1 big cardamom

2 cloves

1 small piece of cinnamon stick

1 tbsn ginger-garlic paste

3-4 tablespoons fresh cream

2-3 tablespoon butter

2 tsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)

3 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

Chopped coriander leaves for garnishing


– Soak the lentils and kidney beans together in around 5-6 cups of water overnight.

– Next day, in a pressure cooker, heat the oil.

-Add the bay-leaf, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom along with cumin seeds and fry on low-medium heat for around half a minute.

-Add your chopped onions and fry till they turn pink and translucent.

-Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry till the raw aroma goes away.

-Throw in the diced tomatoes and sprinkle salt over them, before mixing everything well and covering the cooker (not locking it) so that the tomatoes cook quickly. Salt speeds up the cooking time of tomatoes dramatically.

-After the tomatoes get mashed up and the whole mixture oozes out oil on the sides, add the puree and your dry spices (including kasuri methi) and mix well. Again, wait till the mixture oozes out oil on the sides.

-Pour in the soaked lentils and beans along with the water and mix well. Note that the dal has to cook for at least half an hour because we have not pre-cooked the soaked lentils. So, make sure that there’s enough water in the cooker. Carefully add more if you feel the water is less and can dry out over the cooking time.

-Add the butter and the cream as well. Give it a final mix.

-Put the lid on and lock it in place. After the first whistle on high heat, reduce the heat to the lowest and let it cook for around 20-30 minutes.

-Switch off the gas and wait for steam to release.

-Open the cooker and check if your lentils are done. If they seem a bit hard, again pressure-cook the dal for some more time. Adjust the water according to the  needed consistency as well. It should ideally be medium-thick and creamy.

-If the dal seems done, take a ladle and mash the lentils gently so that they dissolve further with each other and into the gravy.

-Garnish with coriander and some cream. Enjoy the smooth, buttery dal-makhani with chapattis or rice!


-Usually, the soaked lentils and beans are pre-cooked and then added to the tempering to save the cooking time but I prefer to cook them un-boiled as I think the tempering and flavor infuses better while all the things are slow-cooked together for a longer time.

-If you feel that the consistency is a bit thinner than what you need, simply simmer the dal in open till you achieve the right texture. As I said, the more you simmer it, the more delicious it turns out. You can also adjust the salt, spices and cream during this stage.

Dal-makhani is a great accompaniment to most combinations in an Indian meal. This time, we enjoyed it with peas-pilau, spicy cottage cheese stir-fry, yogurt based raita and chapattis (not shown in the picture)




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