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Dal Makhani

March 23, 2010

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I was curious to know which dals OLTE’s readers like to eat and I held an online poll last week. The options were Yellow Dal, Channa Dal & Dal Makhani. The results were quite surprising to me, until I realized that Dal Makhani is the more commonly served lentil at Indian restaurants here in the US. This week, I bring to you the recipe for a classic North Indian dish, that is so creamy and buttery to the taste, you’ll want to come back for more again and again. Best had with Paratha’s, it is commonly made in households of Punjab – A north Indian state.

Dal Makhani literally means in Hindi – Lentils in Butter. And the original recipe is true to its name. As the recipe originated in a region of India that used to be the highest producer of Dairy products, the dal is cooked in butter, and garnished with fresh cream and a dollop of butter when served. The lentils used here are the whole Urad dal and Red beans. The combination of these 2 lentils makes this dish high on protein, very nutritious and ideal for the vegetarian diet.

Rajma - Red kidney beansRed kidney beans
Whole Urad dal or Black lentils

Whole Urad dal or Black lentils

I feel the creamy texture of the Whole Urad dal gives the dal a buttery texture. My recipe has no cream, unlike the traditional recipe, and is cooked in a teaspoon of butter and some oil. Serves 4.

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

You will need:

  • 1 cup Whole Urad dal – Look for ‘Sabut Urad dal’ or ‘Whole Urad dal’ in the grocery store
  • 2 tablespoons Red kidney beans
  • A pressure cooker
  • 1 tbsp oil + 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 green chili, slit lengthwise
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  • 3/4 tbsp Ginger & garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice for garnishing


  • Wash and soak the Urad dal + red kidney beans in 2 cups of water overnight
  • Drain the water and cook the dals in a pressure cooker with about 3 cups of water, for 4-5 whistles
  • Check the dals after they are cooked. They should be mushy. Cook them with some more water for 1 more whistle if they are still a little hard
  • Mash the dals roughly. Keep aside
Roughly mash the cooked dals together

Roughly mash the cooked dals together

  • In another pot, heat the oil & butter
  • Add the green chili slivers and cumin seeds
  • As soon as the cumin seeds begin to crackle, add the chopped onions and cook on medium heat till lightly browned and soft
  • Add the ginger & garlic paste, and cook for a few more seconds
  • Then add the tomatoes and cook till they are soft
  • Add the Red chili powder and mix well
  • Finally add the mashed dal mixture in this pot and mix well
  • Add salt to taste and the garam masala powder
  • Allow the whole mixture to simmer on low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add more water to the dal if you want it thinner
  • Serve hot. Garnish with some lemon juice and enjoy with some paratha’s or Zeera Rice.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 8:18 pm

    I’ve never had Dal Makhani, but I definitely want to make your lighter version! And you may just be encouraging me enough to get over my fear of the pressure cooker. I have one, but I have childhood memories of my mom blowing up a corned beef in the cooker that I need to get over. 😉

  2. March 23, 2010 11:51 pm

    I’ve seen my mother climb up a ladder and clean the ceiling when she blew up the pressure cooker once 😉 So I totally get you on the scary image in your mind. The trick is to use the right amount of water. Add too much and it may spill out when the whistle blows. Add too less and the food may burn or the lid may blow up. Personally, the more I used the cooker, the better I got at gauging how much water to put.

    With dals though, you don’t need to be too careful. Also, making sure that the rubber ring in the lid is clean before you use it, prevents lid blow-ups. In any case, current cookers are very sophisticated and safe.

  3. Margit permalink
    March 24, 2010 9:05 am

    Oh that sounds delicious! I still have so much to learn when it comes to Indian cuisine – but hey, with your help, I’ll get there!

    • March 24, 2010 1:54 pm

      Yes Margit! It’ll be a true achievement if I can teach someone to make yummy Indian food through this blog 🙂


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