dal makhani

To me, dal makhani is the queen of dals. Literally, it means buttered lentils. It is a Punjabi dish, traditionally slow-cooked in a clay oven i.e. tandoor. On many a night, I have craved for nothing but a well-buttered garlic naan with hot, creamy dal makhani. After several attempts, I have given up on producing a tandoor-quality naan at home. But, thankfully, you can very easily make a pretty good dal makhani right on the stove-top. All you need is time and patience. I came across this recipe in Julie Sahni’s “Classic Indian Cooking” a few years back and now, it’s one of my favorite dishes to make. Thank you, Y, for giving me this book!

This is a very rich and heavy recipe. If you really want to enjoy it the way it is meant to be, then don’t skimp on the butter, cream and yogurt. Since it takes 7-8 hours for this dal to be ready, might as well reward yourself with something worthy of all that time and effort (actually a lot of time, but very little effort)!

Ingredients for: 8 people

Time: 7-8 hrs

 For cooking beans:

  • 1 cup whole urad dal
  • 2 tablespoons red kidney beans
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick or 8 tablespoons butter, or 6 tablespoons ghee

For tadka (tempering):

  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 cup minced/finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed chopped fresh coriander leaves


  • Wash the lentils and kidney beans.
  • Put them in a deep saucepan. Add 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and let the beans soak, covered, for 2 hours. Do not drain this water, since the beans will cook in the water they are soaking in.
  • Add rest of the ingredients for cooking the beans into the pan, and stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 4.5 to 5 hours. Stir the beans very carefully every 1/2 hour during cooking. The heat should be as low as possible so that the beans barely simmer during the entire 5 hours of cooking. At no point should they ever boil rapidly, or the beans will crack and become slimy. 
  • Take out about 2-3 cups of the cooked beans from the pan, and finely puree them in a blender or food processor. Return the puree to the pan. Or mash about a third of the cooked beans in the pan itself, with the back of a spoon. This will give the bean mixture a smoother, creamier consistency. (You can use this trick while making chole or rajma too.) Keep the dal on a low simmer while you prepare the tadka.
  • Heat the ghee over medium-high heat in a frying pan. When it is hot, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds turn dark brown, add the onions, and cook until they turn light brown (about 10 min), stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Pour the entire contents of the frying pan over the simmering bean mixture. Add the heavy cream and chopped coriander leaves, and stir well to mix thoroughly. Simmer until heated through. Check for salt, and eat!

12 thoughts on “dal makhani

  1. this looks very similar to what we get at our neighborhood “Annapurna” restaurant. I am sure it tastes the same..

  2. yes yes. We order 2-3 times a month. Good to have a friendly neighborhood place, when feeling lazy to cook. Come to Delhi and you can taste it.

  3. awesome AK! this looks lovely (i would definitely say it looks better than annapurna’s dal .. ) and i am sure tastes better too 🙂

  4. naah … i’ll leave the easy part of cooking, preparation etc to others. i’ll take the huge, difficult responsibility of “evaluating” the dishes and providing my useful feedback!!!

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