This restaurant style Dal Makhani is a creamy, rich and flavor packed lentil curry made by cooking whole black lentils and kidney beans with aromatics and toasted Indian spices.
Dal Makhani is one of the most popular lentils from the Punjab region in northern India.
Black lentils (Whole Urad/ Black Gram) and red kidney beans are soaked overnight and cooked in butter, with aromatics like fresh ginger, garlic, green chillies and onion, till they get soft and creamy in texture.
Their flavor is enhanced by seasoning them with toasted garam masala and it’s finished with butter and/or heavy cream. The end result is pure creamy deliciousness.
Due to its rich and luxurious taste, you will always find Dal Makhani on Indian wedding and Indian food restaurant menus.
It is best enjoyed with Naan, roti or Cumin rice.
Is Dal Makhani the Same as Madras Lentils?
My local Costco and Trader Joe’s carry a ‘Madras Lentils’ curry, which is very similar in texture and flavor to Dal Makhani.
Both use a black gram lentil and kidney bean combination and cook it with aromatics like onions, ginger and garlic, and season it with warm spices.
There are some additional spices in Dal Makhani, like ground coriander and garam masala, that give it a more earthy and intense flavor.
But, once you make this Dal Makhani or Madras Lentils at home, I can guarantee you’ll never buy a packaged one again!
What is the Difference between Dal Makhani and Dal Bukhara?
I find that some restaurants use these two names interchangeably, but the fact is, that there is one big difference between the two.
On our recent trip to New York, we had dinner at a very famous Indian restaurant. The food was amazing, but I was disappointed that an accomplished restaurant like that got these two dals mixed up.
The main difference between the two is the addition of kidney beans in Dal Makhani, whereas, Dal Bukhara is primarily made with Black lentils, also called black gram or whole Urad.
My Mom’s Dal Makhani Recipe
This recipe has been in my family for many generations now.
My mom uses the same spices and seasonings, but skips the heavy cream in the end. She just adds a dollop of butter and simmers it a little longer.
Growing up, I saw mom prepare Dal Makhani in two steps.
She would pressure cook the lentils with ginger, garlic and salt. She would prepare the tempering, called tadka, separately and simmer everything together for 15-20 minutes on low heat.
A few years ago, when I was visiting her, I introduced her to my “one-pot” style of making Dal Makhani.
She was so impressed by the results, that she doesn’t make it any other way now 🙂
One-Pot EASY Recipe for Dal Makhani
This is how I make this easy Dal Makhani, that tastes like it’s been cooking for hours.
This recipe is good for cooking Dal Makhani in an Instant Pot, or any other pressure cooker :
✓ Heat oil on saute mode.
✓ Add cumin seeds and wait for them to sizzle
✓ Next, add onions and saute till translucent.
✓ Add pureed tomato and deglaze the pot.
✓ Spices go in next, followed by strained lentils and water.
✓ Close the lid and pressure cook for 30 mins.
✓ Let pressure release naturally and open lid after all pressure has been released.
✓ Using a potato masher, mash a few times. This makes the Dal Makhani more creamy.
✓ Sprinkle garam masala, add heavy cream, a dollop of butter (optional) and let is hang out for a few minutes.
Preparing Dal Makhani for Entertaining
This is one of those dishes that gets tastier, the longer it sits. I kid you not, but Dal Makhani is way tastier the day after.
All the toasted spices and aromatics get a chance to hang out and become one with the lentils. It also gets creamier and thicker the longer it sits, which intensifies the flavor more.
When I have to prepare this for entertaining in the evening, I prepare the dal in the morning.
I pressure cook the dal, cool it, transfer it to an oven safe dish and stick it in the fridge. I save the step “after pressure cooking” for later.
An hour before dinner, I add heavy cream, garam masala and a dollop of butter to the bowl, stir it and stick it in a pre-heated oven at a low temperature, about 200°F-225°F.
It warms up low and slow and when I take it out, the aroma is to die for.
How to Make Dal Makhani with Pot-in-Pot Brown Rice?
It is very easy to make a one-pot meal, in which you can cook Dal Makhani and brown rice in one pot, all at the same time.
Brown rice take anywhere from 22-25 minutes to cook in the pressure cooker. During pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking, since they’re in a separate pot, away from direct heat, adding another 5 minutes doesn’t make a huge difference.
You can follow this recipe for brown rice.
I wouldn’t combine white rice with this recipe, since the rice will be a complete mush in 30 minutes.
If you’re into PIP cooking, here are some more recipe combinations for PIP.
✓ Assemble the lentils as per recipe. Place a trivet in the pot.
✓ In an oven-safe bowl, add rinsed and drained brown rice, water, salt and oil.
✓ Place the bowl on top of the trivet. Close the lid and pressure cook for 30 minutes, NPR.
How to Make Vegan Dal Makhani?
Lentils and legumes are vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan naturally.
In this recipe, substitute the butter with any clear oil, vegetable, coconut or olive oil.
Instead of adding heavy cream for that rich taste, you can add any of the following:
Option #1: Cashew paste: soak 2-3 tablespoons raw cashews in about 1/2 cup warm water for about 10 minutes.
Using a small blender, grind them to a fine paste and add that towards the end and simmer for 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can add 2 tablespoons of cashew meal if you have that.
Option #2: Open a can of regular coconut milk without shaking it. Carefully skim off the fat layer on top.
Add that towards the end, stir and simmer for about 10 minutes.
If you liked this recipe, you might enjoy some more Indian restaurant classics:
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Dal Makhani in Instant Pot
Wash & Soak 8 hours- overnight
Add after Pressure cooking
Soak 8 hrs (or overnight)
- Wash and soak black gram and red kidney beans in water for 8 hours to overnight. Later, strain and rinse the lentils well. Keep aside.
- Turn the cooker ON. Heat oil on saute mode. Add cumin seeds and wait for them to sizzle.
- Add onions and saute till translucent (about 1 minute). Add pureed tomato and deglaze the pot, which means scrap off any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add all spices, followed by strained lentils and water. Close the lid and pressure cook for 30 mins. Let pressure release naturally and open lid after all pressure has been released.
After Pressure Cooking
- Using a potato masher, mash a few times. This makes the Dal Makhani more creamy. Sprinkle garam masala, add heavy cream, butter, and let it hang out for some time. Garnish with cilantro and serve!