Dal Makhani is one of the most popular dishes in India, gifted from the northern state of Punjab. It's a buttery, rich, black lentil dish that is slow cooked with a lot of time, and a lot of love! Dal makhani literally means buttery lentils, and it's something that is served at every wedding, party, celebration and festival in Indian culture. The vegetarians love it, the carnivores love it, the grandmas with no teeth love it, heck even the kids love it, making it a staple dish appeasing every single person!
Any kid growing up in a Punjabi household has known and feared the sound of the pressure cooker whistle. If the pressure cooker was on, it meant that I wouldn't enter the kitchen in fear of it blowing - no, really! The sound was so scary and the acoustics in my mum's kitchen made it a billion times louder. I remember my brother and I daring each other to run through the kitchen to grab a packet of crisps, which of course was at the far back of the long and narrow kitchen, then celebrating the completed mission without the whistle blowing! But the pressure cooker also meant that black dal was in the making, and we were in for a treat for dinner that night.
I have never made dal makhani at my own home, despite my mum gifting me a pressure cooker years back. But that changed this year. I was reconnected with my love affair for this Indian lentil dish when I was in Amritsar in March. I visited the ever so popular Kesar Da Dhaba - a no-frills, roadside restaurant famed for their dal makhani. Their dal makhani is renowned for the twelve hours it takes to make! It tastes so good - rich, mildly spiced and creamy. You instantly notice the pool of ghee that floats above the lentils, disturbed only by the paratha (Indian flatbread) that spoons up the goodness. It was genuinely the highlight of my trip to Amritsar and since then, its acceptable to say that this dal made me conquer my fear of pressure cookers.
There are loads of different lentils, but dal makhani is made from black urad dal and kidney beans. Urad dal (and kidney beans if using dry) are soaked for at least twelve hours prior to any cooking. The lentils are then put into a pressure cooker with water that allows cooking temperatures to soar above 100 °C., helping soften the dal before any actual cooking begins. Saying this, you don't need to use a pressure cooker to make dal makhani, but it speeds up the process.
Dal makhani has umami flavors and is truly a culinary masterpiece! This recipe is so simple and only uses a handful of ingredients, but there are some specific techniques to this dish that make it what it is - smooth, creamy and a flavor blast. Making the dal is pretty simple. On one side you cook the lentils, and the other you make the tomato and butter sauce. You finally mix these together and add cream to finish off.
The only spice in this simple dal makhani is Kashmiri Red Chili Powder. Kashmiri red chili powder is a vibrant red chili powder that is mild in heat compared to regular chili powder, but gives a beautiful roasted flavor and a stunning red color. A lot of recipes call for many more spices, but the key is really simplicity!
I hope you try this dal makhani recipe and love it as much as I do.
Prep Time: 12 hours to soak Cook Time: 2.5 hours Total Time: 2.5 hours Yield: 6 servings
1 cup black urad lentils
400g can of red kidney beans, washed
100g butter, plus 30g butter
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon for serving
4 medium tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
pinch of dried fenugreek leaves
salt to taste
Soak the lentils in water for at least 12 hours. The lentils will swell a little so ensure there is enough water to cover them.
Wash and drain the lentils then add to a pressure cooker with five cups of water.
Cook the lentils in the pressure cook for four whistles, or for fifteen minutes. Remove from the heat.
Carefully let the steam out of the pressure cooker and run cold water on the pressure cooker lid to cool it down. Once all the steam has come out, open the pressure cooker and put the lentils and the water into a large pot.
Add 1 more cup of water and two full cloves of garlic and let the lentils cook, uncovered for thirty five minutes on medium flame. The garlic will infuse the lentils with more flavor.
Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes in a blender.
Place 100g of butter in another pot and melt.
Add 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 tablespoon garlic paste and sauté for three minutes until fragrant.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kashmiri Red Chili Powder to the pot and stir for a few seconds.
Add the tomato puree and cook for ten minutes, until the butter oozes out of the tomatoes and creates a layer on top - this means the tomatoes have reached peak acidity, important for this recipe.
Once the lentils have fully cooked and smoosh easily, remove the full garlic cloves added for flavor, then add the tomato butter mix to the lentils. Stir until fully combined.
Add 1 cup of water and cook for thirty minutes on medium low flame, covered. Make sure the lentils do not burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. You can add more water if you prefer the dal to be less thick.
Meanwhile, place 30g butter into a clean pot and melt.
Add 2 cloves of freshly chopped garlic and sauté until browned.
Add the garlic butter mix to the lentils and stir.
Once the lentils have cooked together with the tomatoes for thirty minutes, take off the heat.
Rub a pinch of dried fenugreek in your hands to activate the oils, and add to the dal.
Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream and stir until homogeneous.
When serving, drizzle a tablespoon of cream over the dal and enjoy with Indian flatbread.
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