punjabi dal makhani

Punjabi dal makhani is a wondrously rich lentil curry from Northern India. This is the restaurant version. You can make it in ten minutes once your lentils are cooked. The traditional version can take a whole day.

Dal makhani is celebration food in India.  It’s rich. Creamy. Mildly spiced. Not an every day dish. I don’t think they even had a home cooked version originally.

It originated in Punjab. In the north of India. But it has spread throughout India. Now it’s everywhere. All around the world. And now you can make it at home.

Vegetarian main course or side dish

Dal makhani is a seriously hearty dish. It’s big enough to stand alone as a main course in a vegetarian meal. I’m not vegetarian. Not remotely so. But this is satisfying in a way that will make even the most carnivorous palates smile.

It’s incredible as a side dish too. Or part of a thali. But be sure to make your best main courses to go with it. Or it will steal the show.

Close-up of bowl of dal makhani.

Choice of lentils matter

I’m a big fan of lentils. All sorts. Beans in general. But dal makhani is about one or two specific lentils.

Urad dal is the backbone. It’s also known as black gram or black lentils. Not that hard to find. Any Indian grocer will stock them.

One thing to note. Urad dal takes forever to cook. I mean forever. Plan on it. Or use a pressure cooker. It’s amazing how long it takes these little lentils to soften. And you do want them soft. Toothy lentils are not good.

The other lentil often seen in dal makhani is rajma or red kidney beans. I like them too but I left them out of this recipe. It’s not easy to get two types of lentils done perfectly at the same time.

You could try cooking them separately if you really want both. But that is more work. And dal makhani is fantastic with just the black lentils. So I don’t usually bother.

Punjabi dal makhani in a small copper pot garnished with a red chili.

Restaurant style dal makhani

This version is restaurant style. Invented by restaurants for restaurants. And served in Indian restaurants everywhere. My spin on it adds a bit of chili. Just a bit. Not traditional. But I like it.

Restaurant style punjabi dal makhani is rich and buttery. Just the way they serve it in your favourite Indian restaurant.

Makhani means with butter. Lentils with butter. Sound good? It is. Start with ghee. Stir in some butter to finish. Throw in a bit of whipping cream to enrich. Not diet food. Party food.

Punjabi dal makhani may not be a dish you should have every day. Or every week. But when it’s time to feast you can do a lot worse.

Punjabi dal makhani in a small copper pot garnished with a red chili.
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5 from 5 votes

punjabi dal makhani

Punjabi dal makhani is a mild, rich lentil curry worthy of the fanciest Indian meal.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 274kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole urad dal - soaked overnight
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 2 black cardamom whole, split
  • 1 2 inch piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole dried red chilies
  • 1 Tbsp Indian restaurant spice mix - recipe link below
  • 1 Tsp kasoor methi - crumbled between your fingers
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste with enough water to dilute to the consistency of pasatta
  • 15 oz curry base - recipe link below
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)
  • 1 tsp salt to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-soak the urad dal, preferably overnight, in cold water. Cover them by about an inch with the water.
  • Simmer the lentils in 4 cups water until tender - this could be a couple hours. Urad dal takes forever.
  • Drain the lentils. Puree about 1/2 the lentils and return to the pot with the remaining whole lentils
  • Warm your curry base. 
  • Pre-heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the ghee. 
  • Add the whole dried chilies, cardamom and cinnamon to the pan and let them sizzle for about 15 seconds. The chilies will start to change colour.
  • Add garlic/ginger paste and cook until sizzling subsides.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the kasoor methi and cook 20 seconds.
  • Add the Indian restaurant spice mix and salt. Cook over medium low heat about 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato paste, increase heat to medium and cook until oil separates and craters form.
  • Add 3 oz of the curry base. Raise heat and cook until craters form and oil separates.
  • Add 6 oz of the curry base and cook until craters form and oil separates.
  • Add another 6 oz of the curry base and cook until craters form and oil separates.
  • Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Return the pot with the lentils to the stove over medium low heat.. Add contents of the pan to the pot with the urad dal and stir to combine.
  • Mix in butter until melted.
  • Stir in heavy cream. Continue to heat until the dal makhani comes back to temperature.
  • Adjust salt to taste and garnish with a bit more cream (optional) and cilantro.

Notes

The recipe for curry base is here.
 
The recipe for indian restaurant spice mix is here
 
The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.
 
If you haven't read about Indian restaurant technique yet, do that before you start cooking.
Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.
If you are making multiple curries, have your curry base warming in a pot on the stove. If you are just making one, microwave it to warm it up right before you start cooking.
Indian restaurants pre-cook their meat so it's ready for service. This recipe assumes the same. To pre-cook chicken, simply simmer it with a bit of curry powder and salt in chicken stock for about 10-15 minutes - until it's barely cooked.
To pre-cook lamb or beef, do the same but plan for 1 to 1/2 hours for lamb and 2 hours or more for beef. You are making stew meat so you are braising until tender. You will need to keep an eye on the level of the stock. For beef use beef stock.

Nutrition

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 274kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 556mg | Potassium: 172mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 675IU | Vitamin C: 3.5mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 3.2mg

22 thoughts on “punjabi dal makhani”

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Romain
    I made this and loved it (as previously posted). If I trial it in my pressure cooker, how long would you cook it for?

    Thanks
    Kaye

    Reply
    • I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with urad dal in that I must be getting batches that vary significantly in freshness where I am. My cooking times are all over the map. For a pressure cooker I would try 45 minutes to an hour and then simmer uncovered until you get to the desired tenderness.

  2. Romain,

    I know you are probably getting sick of me constantly writing you, and I wasn’t going to write, but I just had to tell you my father who has always for some reason been vehemently against dal’s has finally fallen and accepted defeat for this is the first dal he has ever enjoyed and actually went back for seconds!

    Only you can make such extraordinarily amazing recipes that change an opinion my dad has held for near 40 years. He is still not a fan of dal’s generally but he did truly enjoy this one and it was really great to see.

    Your rice comes out amazing every time, so fluffy, soft, and buttery. We never go to restaurants anymore because they always pale in comparison to what we experience from our own kitchen.

    Before I found your website around a year ago or so I was frustrated just having to make do with some Pataks butter chicken sauce, since every “from scratch” recipe I found to be lackluster. But when you say restaurant or hotel style you really mean it. And it has transformed my life.

    So again I say thanks. And to anyone reading this: never underestimate the power of delicious food.

    Reply
    • Ha. I will never going to get sick of hearing stories like this. I am delighted to hear that your dad enjoyed the dal and that I have helped you get to a happy place in the kitchen. Please don’t think I am anything other than ecstatic to hear of your success!

      FWIW I rarely go to restaurants either – makes my wife a bit crazy but I just can’t get excited unless the food is better than I can make myself. It’s out there but the problem is that it is really expensive.

  3. I’m lucky enough to have eaten dal Bukhara many times at the ITC Sheraton in Delhi and want to recreate it. I notice you are using your restaurant curry base in this dish. I had just made a batch of your makhani base as I thought you would use this? I also have your hotel base in the freezer. Could I use either of these? TIA

    Reply
    • I have an updated hotel style dal makhani on my to do list but I haven’t started really tinkering with it. You could try half hotel /half makhani gravy as a starting point for this one. You wouldn’t fry the gravies like you do in restaurant style but the spicing would come across.

  4. I wasn’t reading closely enough and prepped your hotel style gravy (which I’ve made before and LOVE) instead of restaurant curry base. Are they interchangeable for this dish?

    Reply
    • Not directly interchangeable, no. You could skip the frying of the curry base stage, add maybe around 1/4 of a cup of water towards the end to thin in it out and roll back on the tomato paste some.

    • Thanks Romain! It turned out great, I used just 1 Tbs tomato paste and added water at the end on a double batch. Served over Basmati. If this was the “wrong” way, can’t wait to try it right!

  5. Can I ask a couple of questions; lid on or off whilst simmering ? I have Kashmiri Dried Red Chillies, would these be OK?

    Reply
    • 5 stars
      Hi Romain

      I just wanted to report back after making your dal makhani.
      Initially my thoughts were, well that was an epic! Dal made, it was popped in the freezer. Tonight it was the base for crispy pan fried seabass with a take on sauce Vierge drizzed over the veg served alongside. (Mediterranean I know, but herbs swapped for Coriander). I can only say it was worth every minute of preparation. Absolutely delicious with a subtle glow of spices. I am a firm believer in slow cooking for all types of dishes and this only underlines that. Amazing.

      Kaye

  6. One of my favorite Indian restaurants in Queens includes red kidney beans in their version of this. Think I’m going to try it. Thanks for all your fabulous recipes!

    Reply
    • You are very welcome. Hope you enjoy it! Remember – urad dal takes forever to cook. Give it the time it needs…

    • Thank you.
      So pleased i found this site.
      I’ve made lots of the Indian recipes – all amazing (favourites so far Butter Chicken and Rogan Josh)
      🙂

  7. 5 stars
    Dal makhani is really a favorite to our culture. I love the indian restaurant technique you mentioned. Really nice that you share it with us. Looking forward for more such recipes. Thank you.

    Reply

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