This dal makhani recipe is my take on an Indian classic! It’s filled with tender and protein-packed lentils and kidney beans that are prepared with tons of flavorful spices. Plus, it’s naturally vegetarian-friendly!
I always love testing out Indian-inspired recipes in my kitchen. You can achieve so much with just a handful of ingredients — much of the flavor of Indian recipes comes fom the wide variety of spices added to each meal. Some of my favorite creations include this vegetable jalfrezi stir fry recipe, this kala chana (black chickpea curry), and this paneer butter masala. Uncomplicated ingredients, flavor-packed spices, and simply delicious results.
A few years ago I went to India and travelled through New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Ranthambore. It was amazing and everywhere we went we tried the locals dal makhani and I kept ideas and tips for when I got back home to share with you. This is my version, and I feel it resembles our favorite found at a truck stop on the way to Agra.
My take on this dal makhani recipe is filled to the brim with creamy black lentils, tender kidney beans, tomatoes, a bit of cream, and some of my favorite Indian spices. It’s a wonderful option for Meatless Monday that won’t leave you hungry. You’ll be able to satisfy your savory cravings without any added meat. Not only is this dish vegetarian-friendly, but it can also be vegan!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Whole Black Lentils - Otherwise known as urad dal, black lentils are essential in many Indian recipes like dal makhani. The flavor is full-bodied and earthy, and they cook up really nicely.
- Red Kidney Beans - These robust and protein-filled beans add a soft texture to this creamy black lentils recipe.
- Butter - You’ll need this to sauté your spices. You can use vegetable oil if you’re vegan.
- Red Onion - I prefer using red onion in this dish, but you can use whatever kind you have on hand.
- Heavy Cream - This will make your creamy black lentils even creamier. If you want to make this dish vegan, simply replace it with a bit of canned coconut milk.
- Pureed Tomatoes - Extra veggies for extra flavor.
- Spice Bag - You’ll need to create a spice bag containing whole cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks to cook this dish.
- Other Spices and Seasonings - I told you these creamy black lentils are bursting with flavor-packed spices! You’ll need these on hand:
- Serrano Chiles - This ingredient, while not too spicy, adds a flavorful sharp taste.
- Red Chili Powder - Use store-bought or my homemade version.
- Liquid Smoke - Optional!
- Turmeric - Most curries would be incomplete without turmeric, and the same can be said for this recipe! Between the color and musky flavor, this ingredient is irreplaceable.
- Garam Masala - My homemade version.
- Ginger Paste
- Cilantro - The ultimate garnish for black dal!
HOW TO MAKE DAL MAKHANI
- Soak The Lentils And Beans. You need to soak your lentils and kidney beans in water overnight before you get started. Be sure to remove any debris.
- Prepare The Spice Bag. Place the cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with kitchen twine. Set it aside.
- Cook The Lentils And Beans. Rinse your lentils and beans and then transfer them to a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover them with water and add half of your onion. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
- Sauté The Spices. Using the same pot, add in your ghee/butter or vegetable oil and sauté the chopped onion for 2 minutes. Then, add the chiles and other spices and cook for 3 minutes.
- Cook Again. Add in your pureed tomatoes, the spice bag, 4 cups of water, and the lentils and kidney beans. Cover and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.
- Blend And Simmer. Remove the spice bag and place the mixture into an immersion blender and pulse. Pour your black dal back into the pot and stir, then allow it to simmer for 10 more minutes. Add in your cream and the liquid smoke (if desired) and stir.
- Garnish And Serve. Remove your dish from the heat and place it into serving bowls. You can garnish your black dal with a bit of cream or butter and fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with plenty of your bread of choice!
NOTE: The below photo is also black dal, but the meal is blended completely with an immersion blender. As a result, it becomes a thick, creamy soup.
How Long Should I Blend Dal Makhani?
This step is entirely up to you. If you want a creamier, more velvety texture, then pureé the soup until smooth. If you’d like the texture a little chunkier (my favorite), make sure not to pureé as long, just a few pulses should do it.
What Should I Serve With Creamy Black Lentils?
Traditionally, a dal makhani recipe is served with garlic naan. However, dipping a slice of any soft flatbread into the spicy soup is an unforgettable experience, and an easy way to elevate the dish even more. Of course, you could also pair it with brown, white, or even forbidden (black) rice.
Can I Freeze Black Dal?
Absolutely! This is a great option if you make a double batch that you want to serve later. Make sure to let the dish completely cool before you transfer it to a freezer-safe container. It will keep for up to 6 months. You should let it thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
This post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes December, 2020, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in June, 2022.
Dal Makhani Recipe
- 1 cup dried whole black lentils (urud dal)
- ½ cup dried red kidney beans (rajma)
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 3 inch cinnamon stick break in half
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 Serrano chiles sliced thin
- 2 teaspoon ginger paste
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 14.5 oz pureed tomatoes (or 2 cups finely chopped)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- chopped cilantro
- drizzle of cream
- Pick through the dried lentils and kidney beans, removing any debris. Cover with water by 1 inch and soak overnight.
- Cut onion in half. Keep one half intact and chop other half. Tie the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth with kitchen twine, set aide.
- Rinse soaked lentils and kidney beans. Transfer to a large stock pot or Dutch oven and cover with water by 1 inch. Add half of the onion and bring to a boil, cover and cook on high for 10 minutes. Lower heat to simmer and cook covered for another 20 minutes. Remove and discard cooked onion half and drain lentils, set aside.
- To the stock pot or Dutch oven add butter and sauté the chopped onion for 2 minutes. Add the chiles, ginger paste, garlic, cumin, salt, red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the pureed tomatoes, tied spice bag, 4 cups water and the par-cooked lentils and kidney beans. Cover and simmer on low for 45 minutes.
- Carefully remove spice bag and discard. Either use an immersion blender and pulse several times or transfer half to a blender and puree. Pour back into stock pot or Dutch and stir (See Note 1). Simmer for 10 more minutes. The soup becomes creamier as it simmers, almost a velvety consistency. Add more water as needed for desired consistency. Add the cream and liquid smoke (this is optional, but the flavor is great). Stir to incorporate in the lentils and season to taste.
- Serve this garnished with a drizzle of cream, dab of butter, chopped cilantro and lots of dosa, naan, roti, flatbread, pitas or whatever bread you like.
- You can also use an immersion blender and pulse several times if you still want some lentil texture, or puree until completely smooth.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.