Dal Makhani
Dal Makhani
5 from 5 votes
Experience the rich, creamy decadence of Dal Makhani, a traditional Indian dish that combines the wholesome goodness of black lentils and kidney beans. A delight for vegetarians and spice lovers alike, this recipe is a culinary journey worth embarking on.
Dal Makhani

Dal makhani is a creamy lentil curry that is perfect for a cosy dinner at home. Comforting, flavourful, and hearty this dish is so satisfying.

There are many types of lentils out there. Dal is the Indian term for lentils and pulses and with so many variations out there, one can really be spoilt for choice.

In the tapestry of Indian cuisine, few dishes can weave together simplicity, heartiness, and indulgence quite like Dal Makhani.

This culinary wonder, treasured by both novice home cooks and seasoned gourmands, has a flavour that resonates deeply, singing a melodious symphony of Indian spices and textures.

While this recipe might seem daunting at first glance, let me assure you, it’s like riding a bicycle, only this time, your bicycle is delicious.

Dal Makhani hails from the vibrant region of Punjab, the land known for its abundant agriculture and hearty meals. The name itself is a tribute to its key ingredients and cooking method: ‘Dal’ translates to lentils, and ‘Makhani’ is a nod to the word ‘makhan’, meaning butter.

This homage is well-earned, for this creamy concoction is cooked to perfection with butter and spices, providing it with a soul-stirring richness. The origin of this dal can be traced back to the partition era when it was a popular choice amongst the refugee Punjabis who migrated to Delhi.

Over the years, Dal Makhani has ventured far beyond the borders of Punjab and Delhi, making its way into the hearts and kitchens of countless Indian food enthusiasts worldwide.

The beauty of Dal Makhani lies not just in its rich flavours but also in its versatility. It pairs beautifully with the flaky, slightly charred naan bread or the warm, comforting basmati rice. Whether it’s a lavish party or a cosy family dinner, this dish never fails to impress, painting a canvas of comfort with each bite.

Now, you might be wondering, how challenging could this be. To be honest, the difficulty lies not in the complexity but in the patience required.

Dal Makhani isn’t a dish you whip up in a hurry; it’s a labour of love that rewards your patience with an explosion of flavours. The lentils and beans need a good soak before they’re tender enough to absorb the symphony of spices you’re about to introduce them to.

Then comes the slow simmering process, which truly enhances the depth of flavours, creating a beautifully integrated dish that’s worth every second spent.

This recipe of Dal Makhani, which combines whole black lentils and kidney beans with a selection of robust spices, doesn’t call for any exotic ingredients. Everything you need is probably already sitting in your kitchen cabinet, just waiting to be transformed into this delectable Indian dish.

So, pull out that apron and roll up those sleeves. The magical world of Dal Makhani is waiting for you.

With the fragrant spices wafting through the air and the comforting heat of the stove, you’re about to embark on a delicious journey. It’s time to discover the rich, buttery allure of this cherished Indian delight, one spoonful at a time.

Remember, every good dish begins with good intentions and, of course, a dash of enthusiasm. Get ready to create your very own Dal Makhani masterpiece. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you!

What Ingredients to Use & Why

Dal Makhani, a beloved Indian dish, is a testament to the complexity and richness that can be achieved through a blend of well-chosen ingredients.

The earthy goodness of whole black lentils and kidney beans combine with aromatic spices and creamy notes to create a comforting, filling meal that is not only delicious but also packed with nutrients.

Each ingredient in this recipe has been carefully chosen to contribute to the overall flavour profile, enhancing the textures, the taste, and the health benefits. So, let’s delve into the rationale behind each of them.

Whole black lentils: The backbone of this recipe, whole black lentils, also known as Urad Dal, bring a creamy, satisfying texture to the Dal Makhani. Being a good source of plant-based protein, fibre, and micronutrients, these lentils also serve as an important component in terms of nutrition.

If unavailable, whole green lentils could be used as an alternative, though they would slightly alter the final flavour and colour.

Kidney beans: These are added to bring a subtle contrast in texture and flavour. They provide additional protein and fibre, making the dish more filling. If kidney beans aren’t on hand, pinto beans would be a suitable replacement due to their similar texture and mild flavour.

Ghee: This clarified butter adds a distinct, rich flavour that elevates the dish. Its high smoke point makes it perfect for sautéing the onions and spices. If ghee isn’t available, clarified butter or regular unsalted butter can be used, but the unique flavour of ghee is hard to replicate.

Onions, ginger paste, and garlic paste: These ingredients form the base of many Indian dishes, contributing an essential layer of flavour. The onions, when cooked down, add a sweetness that balances the spices.

Ginger and garlic, with their pungent notes, add depth and complexity. As an alternative, powdered versions of ginger and garlic could be used, but the fresh versions are preferred for their brighter flavour.

Tomatoes and green chillies: They bring acidity and heat to the dish, respectively. The acidity from the tomatoes balances the richness of the lentils and ghee, while the chillies add a kick that’s quintessential to many Indian dishes. Depending on personal preferences, the number of green chillies can be adjusted.

Spices: The spices, including salt, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and garam masala, work together to create a warm, complex flavour profile that’s characteristic of Dal Makhani.

They also offer various health benefits, like aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. If any of the spices are unavailable, a pre-made curry powder can be used, but the taste won’t be as authentic.

Fresh cream: This adds a luxurious, creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavour that rounds off the dish perfectly. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, low-fat cream or coconut cream could be used, but they might slightly alter the dish’s flavour.

Coriander: Used for garnishing, fresh coriander leaves bring a pop of colour and a burst of freshness to the final dish, balancing out the rich, warm flavours. If coriander isn’t available, parsley could be used, though the flavour profile will be slightly different.

Unveiling the Mysteries of Dal Makhani

If there’s one dish that immediately comes to mind when thinking of Indian cuisine, it’s Dal Makhani. A staple in Northern India, it’s a dish that’s rich, flavourful, and comforting in every sense. Dal Makhani translates literally to “buttery lentils”, a name that perfectly captures its creamy, indulgent nature.

Dal Makhani is a blend of whole black lentils (urad dal) and kidney beans (rajma), traditionally cooked in a rich sauce of butter and cream, giving it its characteristic creamy texture.

This humble lentil dish is transformed into an exotic delicacy through a slow-cooking process and a mix of spices that imparts a distinct flavour profile.

The ingredients are simple and fairly easy to find in most supermarkets. However, the magic lies in the method of preparation, which involves soaking the lentils and kidney beans overnight and then cooking them till they are soft and buttery.

The aromatic blend of spices is added next, giving the dish its robust and deep flavours. Fresh cream is stirred in towards the end, adding a luxurious richness to the dish.

Dal Makhani is a testament to the richness and diversity of Indian cuisine. Despite its simplicity, it’s a dish that requires patience and a lot of love to make, resulting in a culinary experience that’s truly unforgettable.

The Art of Cooking Dal Makhani at Home

One of my favourite Indian dishes to cook at home is Dal Makhani. Its rich, creamy texture and the medley of flavours from the various spices make it a perfect comfort food. The process is surprisingly simple and immensely rewarding. Here’s my take on how to cook this delightful dish at home.

Firstly, I ensure that I have all the necessary ingredients ready. Then, the process starts by soaking the black lentils and kidney beans in water overnight. Once soaked, I cook them in a pressure cooker until they are soft and mushy.

While the lentils and kidney beans are cooking, I prepare the masala. Then heat ghee in a pan and sauté finely chopped onions until they are golden brown. I then add ginger paste and garlic paste, cooking them until they release their fragrance.

I mix in the finely chopped tomatoes and green chillies, cooking them until the tomatoes soften and start to break down. At this stage, I add the spices – salt, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and garam masala, and cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are well combined.

Once the lentils and kidney beans are cooked, I add them to the masala, mixing well to ensure the lentils are well coated in the spicy masala. I let this simmer on low heat for around 20 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.

Towards the end, I stir in some fresh cream, which gives the Dal Makhani its characteristic creaminess and rich texture.

Finally, I garnish the dish with some fresh coriander leaves before serving. The end result is a bowl of warm, comforting Dal Makhani that’s perfect when served with rice or naan bread.

Exploring Substitutes for Kidney Beans in Dal Makhani

When it comes to the traditional recipe for Dal Makhani, kidney beans, also known as rajma, play an essential role in creating that signature hearty texture.

But what if you find yourself out of kidney beans, or maybe there’s a dietary restriction? Thankfully, in my culinary adventures, I’ve discovered a few viable substitutes.

One possible substitute is black-eyed peas. They have a similar texture to kidney beans when cooked and are easily available. Just remember to adjust the cooking time as they might not require as much time to soften.

Another substitute could be chickpeas. They provide a robust flavour that complements the creamy dal. Their firmer texture also adds a nice contrast to the smoothness of the black lentils.

It’s also possible to skip the beans entirely and simply use more black lentils. The dish will still be delicious, but it will lack the additional texture that kidney beans provide. Regardless of what you choose to substitute with, you’ll end up with a delicious, hearty dish that warms your soul.

Mastering the Creaminess of Dal Makhani

Creaminess is the soul of Dal Makhani. But achieving that velvety consistency can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Over the years, I’ve discovered some tips that can help achieve that perfect creaminess.

Firstly, soaking the lentils and kidney beans overnight helps to soften them, making them easier to cook to a mushy consistency that lends itself to a creamier dal.

Secondly, slow cooking is key. This not only allows the flavours to meld together but also breaks down the lentils and kidney beans further, creating a creamier texture.

Adding fresh cream towards the end of the cooking process is another crucial step. It gives the dish a luxurious richness and a smooth, creamy finish. However, if you find your dal is still not as creamy as you’d like, you can whisk in a bit more cream or even a dollop of unsalted butter.

Finally, mashing some of the lentils with the back of your ladle can help to thicken the dal and make it creamier. These tips have worked for me and helped me in achieving that desired creamy texture in my Dal Makhani.

Making a Vegan Dal Makhani

It’s no secret that traditional Dal Makhani is a vegetarian dish, thanks to the star ingredients: whole black lentils and kidney beans. However, it’s the addition of ghee (clarified butter) and cream that makes it unsuitable for vegans.

But don’t worry! I have found an equally delicious vegan version of this dish that satisfies my craving while adhering to vegan principles.

Instead of using ghee, I use a neutral oil like avocado or coconut oil to sauté my onions, ginger, and garlic. Coconut oil particularly lends a subtle yet delightful flavour to the dish.

For the creaminess, full-fat coconut milk is my go-to substitute. It imparts a rich, creamy texture to the Dal Makhani without the need for any dairy.

It’s crucial to use the same spices that give Dal Makhani its characteristic flavour – cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chilli, and garam masala.

Once the lentils and kidney beans are cooked and the spices have been stirred in, I add coconut milk and let it simmer for a while, which helps all the flavours to come together beautifully.

To top it all off, I sprinkle a generous amount of chopped coriander for that fresh finish. Served with a side of vegan naan or rice, this vegan Dal Makhani is a hearty, wholesome, and utterly delicious meal that everyone can enjoy.

Understanding the Gluten-Free Nature of Dal Makhani

As someone who loves to cook and eat, I’ve often found myself adapting recipes to suit dietary preferences or restrictions. One such restriction that’s quite common today is the need for gluten-free meals. Luckily for us, Dal Makhani is naturally gluten-free!

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat and other related grains. Dal Makhani is made from whole black lentils and kidney beans, none of which contain gluten. The rest of the ingredients – the various spices, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cream, and even the ghee – are also gluten-free.

The only potential source of gluten could come from cross-contamination. If you are cooking for someone with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance, make sure your spices are gluten-free certified, as spices can sometimes be processed in facilities that also process wheat products.

So, if you’re following a gluten-free diet and have a hankering for something comforting and rich, Dal Makhani is a fantastic option. You get to enjoy all the delicious flavours of this traditional Indian dish without worrying about gluten.

Making Dal Makhani without a Pressure Cooker

There is a common perception that a pressure cooker is absolutely necessary when preparing Indian cuisine, particularly lentil-based dishes like Dal Makhani. However, I’m here to assure you that it is perfectly possible to create a delicious Dal Makhani even without this common kitchen appliance.

To start, you’ll still need to soak the black lentils and kidney beans overnight to soften them. The next day, rinse them well and then add them to a large, heavy-bottomed pot.

Pour in ample water – you’ll need more than what’s used in pressure cooking, as open pot cooking allows more evaporation. Cover the pot and let it simmer on low to medium heat.

Keep in mind that cooking lentils and kidney beans this way will take longer than using a pressure cooker – typically around 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to check the pot occasionally and add more water as needed.

Once the lentils and kidney beans are soft and mushy, you can follow the rest of the Dal Makhani recipe as usual. You will find that the result is just as flavourful and satisfying, and you may even prefer the textures achieved through this slow-cooking method.

Finding the Perfect Pairing for Dal Makhani

One of the great pleasures in my culinary journey is finding perfect pairings. When it comes to Dal Makhani, a dish as rich and flavourful as this requires something equally satisfying to accompany it.

Traditionally, Dal Makhani is served with Indian bread such as naan, roti, or paratha. The bread serves as a vehicle for the lentils, perfectly mopping up the creamy gravy.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about tearing off a piece of warm bread, scooping up some Dal Makhani, and experiencing the burst of flavours in your mouth.

However, the pairing doesn’t end at bread. Dal Makhani is also excellent with basmati rice, particularly if it’s a fragrant pilaf. The lightly spiced, aromatic grains of rice beautifully offset the rich, creamy lentils.

For something a little different, try serving Dal Makhani with a side of cucumber raita – a cooling yoghurt-based condiment. The cool, refreshing raita balances the richness of the Dal Makhani and adds a delightful contrast.

In the end, the best pairing for Dal Makhani is what appeals most to your palate. So don’t be afraid to experiment and find your favourite combination!

Safely Storing and Reheating Leftover Dal Makhani

There’s something special about the taste of Dal Makhani that’s been sitting in the fridge for a day or two. It’s as if the flavours become even more intense and well-integrated over time. In my experience, leftover Dal Makhani can be even more delicious than when it’s freshly made!

To store leftover Dal Makhani, wait until it cools down to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer it into an airtight container, making sure to cover it securely. It should keep well in the fridge for about three to four days.

For longer storage, you can freeze Dal Makhani. Place it in a freezer-safe container, leaving some space for expansion, and it should be good for up to three months.

To thaw, move it to the fridge overnight, then reheat as needed.

Reheating Dal Makhani requires a gentle touch to maintain its creamy texture and robust flavours.

I prefer to reheat it slowly over low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You can also reheat it in the microwave, but be sure to stir it halfway through to ensure even heating.

You might notice that the Dal Makhani has thickened after being refrigerated. To bring it back to its original consistency, simply add a little bit of water or cream while reheating. Just remember to reheat only what you will consume to maintain the best quality.

Uncovering the Health Benefits of Dal Makhani

While Dal Makhani is often celebrated for its creamy, indulgent taste, it’s also packed with numerous health benefits. This is largely due to the nutritional powerhouse that is the whole black lentils and kidney beans.

Black lentils are rich in protein, which is vital for building and repairing tissues in our bodies. They are also a great source of dietary fibre, which aids in digestion and keeps us feeling fuller for longer.

Kidney beans also offer a good dose of protein and fibre, along with a range of essential minerals and vitamins.

Despite the health benefits of lentils and beans, it’s important to remember that traditional Dal Makhani is a rich dish due to the generous amount of ghee and cream used.

Moderation is key here. Enjoying Dal Makhani as part of a balanced diet allows you to reap the health benefits while savouring its luxurious flavours.

Alternatively, you can adjust the recipe to make it lighter. Use less ghee or swap the cream for a lower-fat alternative like yoghurt. Either way, you’ll still be getting the goodness of the lentils and beans, along with the irresistible flavours of Dal Makhani.

Check Out These Other Recipes

After treating yourself to the creamy delight of Dal Makhani, you must be craving more from the incredible Indian cuisine. Let’s delve deeper into the heart of this remarkable cuisine.

Firstly, the simplicity and nutritional richness of Moong Dal are sure to leave you in awe. This dish is another variety of lentils, cooked in a comforting blend of spices, and is as delightful in taste as our Dal Makhani.

Next in line is Aloo Methi, a delightful concoction of potatoes and fenugreek leaves, seasoned with traditional Indian spices. The bitterness of methi leaves combined with the earthy potatoes creates an irresistible taste sensation that echoes the rich flavours of Dal Makhani.

The enticing aroma of Cauliflower and Egg Curry is another culinary marvel from the Indian subcontinent. The cauliflower florets, bathed in a spicy curry and coupled with boiled eggs, promise an unforgettable gastronomic experience that shares the creamy texture with Dal Makhani.

But there’s more! Have you ever tried Aloo Gobi? The union of potatoes and cauliflower, sautéed in a medley of spices, makes this dish a comforting meal, reminiscent of the delicious flavours in Dal Makhani.

Tadka Dal, another lentil marvel, is sure to catch your fancy. This lightly spiced, creamy dish resonates with the lusciousness of Dal Makhani, surely making it your next go-to recipe.

And last but not least, you mustn’t miss the opportunity to try the authentic Indian curry – Chicken Curry. The succulent pieces of chicken, simmered in an aromatic, rich gravy, makes it a delight for all the senses.

So, dear food lovers, Indian cuisine has many more treasures waiting for you to discover. The delightful flavours and aromatic spices that define Indian dishes are sure to make you fall in love with this cuisine, just like our beloved Dal Makhani.

Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section, and happy cooking!

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

by Nabeela Kauser
Experience the rich, creamy decadence of Dal Makhani, a traditional Indian dish that combines the wholesome goodness of black lentils and kidney beans. A delight for vegetarians and spice lovers alike, this recipe is a culinary journey worth embarking on.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Soak Time 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours 10 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 4
Calories 157 kcal


  • 200 g Lentils Whole Black
  • 50 g Kidney Beans Rajma
  • 1 litre Water
  • 2 tbsp Ghee Butter
  • 2 Onions Finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Ginger Paste
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Paste
  • 2 Tomatoes Finely chopped
  • 2 Green Chilies Finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tbsp Double Cream
  • Coriander


  • Allow the black lentils and kidney beans to soak in water overnight.
  • Once soaked, add them along with water to a pressure cooker and cook on high heat for 15 minutes or until fully cooked.
  • In a separate pan, heat ghee and sauté finely chopped onions until golden brown.
  • Add ginger paste and garlic paste to the pan and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  • Mix in finely chopped tomatoes and green chilies, and cook for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.
  • To the same pan, add salt, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and garam masala, and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the cooked lentils and kidney beans to the mixture.
  • Simmer the mixture on low heat for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in fresh cream and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Finally, garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or naan bread.


  • To enhance the flavour, add a little kasuri methi while cooking.
  • For a vegan version, substitute ghee with oil or vegan butter and the cream with coconut milk.
  • Adjust the quantity of fresh cream according to your taste preference.
Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 157kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 3gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 613mgPotassium: 337mgFibre: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 779IUVitamin C: 14mgVitamin D: 0.1µgCalcium: 53mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Curry, Dal, Food, Lentils, Recipe, Spicy, Vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

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Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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