Dal Makhani A Culinary Delight from India

Dal Makhani, a staple of Indian cuisine, is a rich, creamy, and flavorful dish that has won hearts across the globe. This beloved dish, originating from the Punjab region, is a testament to the vibrant and diverse culinary heritage of India. But what makes Dal Makhani so special? Why does it hold such a revered place in Indian households and restaurants worldwide?

dal makhani

History of Dal Makhani

Origins and Evolution

The origins of Dal Makhani can be traced back to the North Indian state of Punjab. It was traditionally made with black lentils (urad dal) and red kidney beans (rajma), slow-cooked to perfection with butter and cream. Over time, it evolved from a humble home-cooked meal to a star dish in Indian cuisine, often served at special occasions and celebrations.

Influence of Punjabi Cuisine

Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich flavors and hearty dishes, and Dal Makhani is no exception. The use of butter and cream, along with a variety of spices, gives it a unique taste that is both comforting and indulgent. This dish reflects the essence of Punjabi hospitality and the region’s love for robust, flavorful food.

Ingredients Needed for Dal Makhani

Key Ingredients

To make an authentic Dal Makhani, you’ll need the following key ingredients:

  • Black lentils (urad dal)
  • Red kidney beans (rajma)
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Ginger-garlic paste
  • Green chilies
  • Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and red chili powder

Optional Ingredients for Variation

For those looking to add a twist to the traditional recipe, consider including:

  • Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • A pinch of sugar for a hint of sweetness
  • A dash of smoked paprika for a smoky flavor

Health Benefits of Dal Makhani

Nutritional Value

Dal Makhani is not just delicious; it’s also packed with nutrients. The lentils and beans are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and essential minerals like iron and calcium. The dish provides a balanced combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, making it a wholesome meal.

Health Advantages

Including Dal Makhani in your diet can offer several health benefits, such as:

  • Improved digestion due to high fiber content
  • Enhanced muscle repair and growth from protein-rich lentils and beans
  • A boost in iron levels, which is essential for healthy blood cells

How to Prepare Dal Makhani

Preparing the Ingredients

Start by soaking the black lentils and red kidney beans overnight. This step is crucial as it softens the legumes and reduces cooking time. Chop the onions, tomatoes, and green chilies, and have your spices ready.

Cooking Process

  1. Boiling the Lentils and Beans: In a pressure cooker or large pot, boil the soaked lentils and beans until they are soft and tender.
  2. Making the Base: In a separate pan, sauté onions, ginger-garlic paste, and green chilies in butter until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and cook until they turn mushy.
  3. Combining Ingredients: Add the boiled lentils and beans to the onion-tomato mixture. Stir in the spices and cook on low heat, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  4. Finishing Touches: Stir in the cream and a generous dollop of butter. Let it simmer until the dal reaches a creamy consistency.

Step-by-Step Recipe of Dal Makhani

Ingredients List

  • 1 cup black lentils (urad dal)
  • 1/4 cup red kidney beans (rajma)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • Salt to taste

Detailed Cooking Instructions

  1. Soak and Boil: Soak the black lentils and red kidney beans overnight. Drain and rinse. Boil them with 4 cups of water until tender.
  2. Sauté the Base: In a pan, melt the butter and add cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add the onions and sauté until golden. Add the ginger-garlic paste and green chilies, cooking for a minute.
  3. Tomato Puree: Add the pureed tomatoes and cook until the oil separates from the mixture.
  4. Spice It Up: Stir in the coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, red chili powder, and salt. Cook for a few minutes.
  5. Combine and Simmer: Add the boiled lentils and beans to the pan. Mix well and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Creamy Finish: Add the cream and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add a final dollop of butter before serving.

Tips for the Perfect Dal Makhani

Cooking Tips and Tricks

  • Slow Cooking: The longer you cook Dal Makhani on low heat, the richer the flavors will be.
  • Use Fresh Spices: Freshly ground spices enhance the taste significantly.
  • Consistency: Aim for a thick, creamy consistency. If it’s too thick, add a little water.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Skipping the Soaking: Not soaking the lentils and beans can lead to uneven cooking.
  • Overpowering Spices: Balance the spices to avoid overpowering the natural flavors of the lentils and beans.
  • Rushing the Cooking Process: Patience is key for achieving the perfect texture and flavor.

Serving Suggestions

Best Accompaniments

Dal Makhani pairs beautifully with:

  • Naan or roti
  • Jeera rice or plain basmati rice
  • A side of pickles and yogurt

Presentation Tips

Serve Dal Makhani in a deep dish, garnished with a swirl of cream and a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves. Adding a pat of butter on top just before serving enhances its visual appeal and taste.

Vegan Dal Makhani

Replace butter and cream with plant-based alternatives like coconut cream or cashew paste to make a vegan version without compromising on taste.

Instant Pot Dal Makhani

For a quicker version, use an Instant Pot. Sauté the ingredients directly in the pot, then cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.

Cultural Significance of Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani in Festivals and Celebrations

Dal Makhani is a popular dish during festivals, weddings, and special occasions in India. It symbolizes abundance and hospitality, often taking center stage in festive meals.

Symbolism in Indian Cuisine

In Indian culture, Dal Makhani represents warmth and comfort. It’s a dish that brings families together, often cooked in large batches and shared with loved ones.

Dal Makhani Around the World

Adaptations in Different Cultures

Dal Makhani has crossed international borders, with adaptations found in various cultures. Chefs around the world experiment with local ingredients

, adding unique twists to the traditional recipe.

Dal Makhani in International Restaurants

Many Indian restaurants abroad feature Dal Makhani on their menus, introducing global audiences to this rich, flavorful dish. It’s often a favorite among both locals and expatriates.

Dal Makhani A Culinary Delight from India

Recipe by SAYEDCourse: MainCuisine: North Indian, PunjabiDifficulty: Moderate


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Cooking time




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


  • Main Ingredients
    ¾ cup whole urad dal – 140 grams (whole black gram)
    ¼ cup rajma – 40 grams (kidney beans)
    3 cups water for pressure cooking
    ½ cup finely chopped onions – 50 grams
    1 teaspoon chopped green chilies or serrano peppers or 1 to 2 green chillies
    2 teaspoons Ginger Garlic Paste or 6 to 7 small to medium-sized peeled garlic + 1 inch peeled ginger – crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle
    2 large tomatoes – 200 grams, pureed or 1 cup tomato puree
    ½ teaspoon 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)
    ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
    2 to 3 pinches grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg powder
    1 cup water or add as required
    ¼ to ⅓ cup light cream (25% to 30% fat) or half & half or 2 tablespoons whipping or heavy cream
    ¼ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves – crushed, (kasuri methi), optional
    3 tablespoons Butter – salted or unsalted
    salt as required

  • For Dhungar Method (Optional)
    1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
    1 tablespoon light cream (25% to 30% fat) or few teaspoons of whipping cream – optional
    1 inch ginger julienne – 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 undercooked, 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 kidney beans too. Keep the cooked lentils and beans aside.
    In a blender or mixer jar, take chopped tomatoes and blend to a fine and 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. Keep heat to medium-low.
    Add the whole spices – cumin seeds, cloves, green cardamoms, black cardamom, cinnamon and 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.
    Mix very well and sauté this mixture on a low to medium flame, till you see fat releasing from the sides.
    Add the cooked lentils and kidney beans together with the stock. Also add 1 cup water or as needed.
  • Slow Cooking
    Mix very well and simmer the dal makhani uncovered on a low heat.
    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 heat. Keep on stirring when the lentils are simmering on low heat.
    When simmering you can add more water if the consistency 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 heat. Do keep on stirring at intervals.
    When the consistency has thickened enough, add cream. Dal makhani is not too thick or too thin. It has a medium consistency.
    Mix the cream very well. Then turn off the heat.
    Add crushed dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi and mix again.
    Cover with a lid and set the Dal Makhani aside, if you are proceeding to the dhungar method. Or else you can serve Dal Makhani straightaway.
  • Dhungar Method (Optional)
    Turn on the stovetop and set the flame to low or medium-low heat. Place a flameproof wire rack with a handle on the stove.
    I typically use a round metal rack as shown in the step-by-step image above.
    Keep a small piece of charcoal on the rack and heat it directly over the flame until it becomes hot. Use steel tongs to rotate the charcoal, ensuring it burns evenly.
    Be cautious while doing this, and if you’re unsure, it’s okay to skip this step altogether.
    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.

Recipe Video


  • Helpful Tips:
  • Cooking in pot or pan: Add the the soaked black gram, kidney beans and 3 to 4 cups water in a large pot. Cover and cook on medium heat till the lentils and beans soften. Add water as needed. 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.
  • Vegan Swaps: To make vegan dal makhani, either use a neutral tasting oil or a plant based butter. Opt to include plant based cream like cashew cream or almond cream or omit adding any cream. Remember that using coconut cream will infuse coconut flavors in the dish.
  • Charcoal Smoking 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. 
  • Substitutions
  •  Lentils: Use split urad dal with the husks or beluga lentils (black lentils), whole red lentils (masoor dal) and whole moong lentils. The taste with all these lentils will be different and the cooking time will also change. 
  • Whole Spices: Substitute whole spices with ½ teaspoon of garam masala powder. Add garam masala powder at the step when kasuri methi (dried methi leaves) are added. Add ½ teaspoon curry powder if you do not have garam masala. 
  • Fresh tomatoes: Use canned tomatoes or packaged tomato puree (1 cup) in place of fresh tomatoes. You may need to add some more water as packaged tomato puree is usually thick. 
  • Light or low fat cream: Use half and half. If using whipping cream or heavy cream, add 2 tablespoons of it. 
  • Dried fenugreek leaves: Omit these if you do not have or are not able to source them.
  • Charcoal: Use smoked paprika or morita peppers which are smoked jalapeno peppers. These are smoked with a different method that leaves them with a fresh charcoal flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Common Queries about Dal Makhani

  1. How Long Does Dal Makhani Last?
  • Stored in an airtight container, Dal Makhani can last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  1. Can You Freeze Dal Makhani?
  • Yes, Dal Makhani freezes well. Store it in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw and reheat before serving.
  1. What are Some Good Side Dishes for Dal Makhani?
  • Naan, roti, jeera rice, and a side of pickles or yogurt are excellent accompaniments.
  1. Is Dal Makhani Vegan?
  • Traditional Dal Makhani is not vegan due to the use of butter and cream, but it can be made vegan by using plant-based substitutes.
  1. How Can I Make Dal Makhani Less Spicy?
  • Reduce the amount of green chilies and red chili powder. Adding a bit more cream can also help balance the spiciness.


Dal Makhani is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary experience that embodies the rich cultural heritage of India. Its creamy texture, rich flavors, and nutritional benefits make it a favorite for many. Whether you enjoy it with naan, rice, or on its own, Dal Makhani is sure to leave a lasting impression.

SEE ALSO: Vada Pav Mumbai’s Beloved Street Food


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