Much Loved Dal Makhani
Black lentil dal, or dal makhani, is a much loved rich and mildly spiced lentil dish from Mughal influenced North India. Dal means lentils and makhani means butter. Count me in! This is banquet food and not meant for everyday weeknight meals, or your body would not thank you. Your friends and family, however, will be very happy when a bowl of this hits the table. Traditionally cooked over coals throughout the night, dal makhani can now be made at home, with much less time and effort, without sacrificing flavor.
Very similar in ingredients and cooking methods to butter chicken, if you mastered one curry you can easily make the other. Using your pressure cooker or Instant Pot is a good way to go to shorten the cooking time. I will furnish that version at a later date. In the meantime, you can simply pressure cook the lentils and beans, then proceed with the following instructions. My recipe includes instructions on how to make this on the stovetop, from start to finish. This makes for a relaxing, puttering kind of weekend project.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Black Lentil Dal (Dal Makhani)
- 1 1/2 cups dried whole black lentils (urad dal)
- 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (rajma)
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon ghee, or oil
- 1 cup white or yellow onion ~ Finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/4 tsp cayenne, or more to taste. More!
- 1 cup tomato purée ~ Substitutions
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ~ Buy or Make
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1/4 cup half and half (single cream) ~ Or yogurt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice ~ Optional, but recommended
- 1/2 to 1 teaspooons sugar ~ Optional
- 1 3/4 teaspoons fine sea or table salt ~ To your taste (I added a bit more)
- 2 tablespoon cilantro ~ Chopped, for garnishing
- Wash the lentils and beans, then soak in plenty of water for at least 8 hours, or overnight at room temperature. If your kitchen is warm, then place in the refrigerator.
- Drain, and in a heavy-bottomed saucepan add the lentils, beans, and 6 cups of water.
- Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to simmer for an hour. Skim any foam that forms and stir several times. Cook for another hour, or until soft enough to mash easily.
- Drain, and mash lentils with the back of a spoon or use a potato masher. There should still be some whole lentils, but you want a thick, coarse consistency.
- In a frying pan, or wok, add 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened and translucent. Stirring frequently to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the ginger garlic paste, cumin, red chili, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture no longer smells raw. Add the tomato purée and cook just until thickened and slightly darker; about 5 minutes. If you are using crushed tomatoes or fresh diced tomatoes, cook an additional 3 minutes, or until they have broken down and the masala is thick.
- Add the mashed dal and 2 cups of water to the tomato mixture, turn up the heat to medium-high and bring dal to a boil, then turn down to low and cover. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding water if needed to keep the dal from sticking. If you have the luxury of time, simmer longer. Add warm water, if needed, to bring to a thick, but soupy consistency.
- Add the garam masala, butter, cream or yogurt, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Simmer for another minute and season to taste, adding salt, ground chili, or an additional squeeze of lemon if needed.
- Garnish with an optional drizzle of cream, or yogurt, and a sprinkling of coriander leaves.
- Black lentil dal tastes even better the next day, and freezes well, so I recommend that you double, or even triple the amount you cook.
- Plan ahead because the black lentils (urad dal) and red kidney beans (rajma) need to be soaked overnight.
- Adjust the cream and butter to your taste.
- If you have the luxury of time, allow the dal to simmer for longer than suggested. The longer the better within reason.
- This dal is typically served with a thick consistency, but you can add water to thin it to your taste.
- While not traditional, I added slightly more than a tablespoon of lemon juice, because it tasted better that way to me.