Dal Makhani | Black Lentils In a Creamy Punjabi Sauce


Did you know that dal makhani (the famous Punjabi Maa di Daal) needs just about the same time and effort as needed for a regular simple dal tadka and is not even that very different in terms of what goes into the dish? But it still gets slotted as a more elegant, ‘special’ dish fit for parties and festivals? Well, no offence to the everyday toor dal, but the credit really goes to the depth of flavors that you get from the whole black urad and rajma which completely sets it apart from the other dal recipes. There are not that many members in the lentil family that can impart their flavor so distinctly and elevate a dish altogether like this one does. I suppose you should also give credit to the patient people who back in the days without pressure cookers would spend hours (many many hours) just to get the tough black dal to get cooked through and soft enough to easily mash by hand, cause that definitely must have been why they settled to making this absolutely delectable lentil curry only on special occasions when they could afford to justify spending all that time cooking it! Lucky for us, pressure cookers can turn this hard to crack nut into bunny soft goblets in no time at all as long as you just remember to pre-soak the lentils. So go ahead and make this impressive yet easy lentil curry, which puts a special spin on the meal while still making you feel all fuzzy on the inside like when you have your favorite comfort food!


Dal Makhani | Black Lentils In a Creamy Punjabi Sauce

Soaking time: 8 – 12 hours | Cooking time: 40 minutes | Serves: 6


  1. 1.5 cups whole black lentils (black urad dal)
  2. 1/2 cup red kidney beans (rajma)
  3. 2 tbsp ghee / butter / oil
  4. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  5. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  6. 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  7. 1 tbsp fresh paste of ginger and garlic (or minced together)
  8. 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder
  9. 1 1/4 tsp red chili powder, or to taste
  10. 1 1/4 tsp garam masala powder, plus some more for garnish
  11. 1 tsp ground cumin powder
  12. 1 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
  13. 1/3 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half, or can be skipped too)
  14. 1/3 cup water, or as needed
  15. salt to taste
  16. few stalks of fresh cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish


Cook the lentils:


  1. Soak the lentils together for at least 8 hours, with enough water to fully submerge and stand a few inches over the top level. (see Notes for more tips).
  2. Drain the water from soaked lentils, transfer to a pressure cooker and add about 4-5 cups water. Add some salt to season the water.
  3. Cook under steam pressure for about 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are well done and can be easily mashed between your fingers.
  4. Mash the cooked lentils until more than half of the mixture is mashed through and only about 1/3 of the lentils remain whole, using a ladle or potato/vegetable masher.
  5. Note: Do not use a blender as it would make the lentil mixture too pulpy.

Make the curry:

Note: You can start making the curry while the dal is cooking to save time.


  1. Heat the butter/ oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and as soon as it crackles add the chopped onions along with some salt to help them cook faster.
  3. Cook the onions on medium heat until well done and they start turning golden brown.
  4. Add the ground paste of fresh ginger and garlic and saute for a few seconds to cook the raw smell out of them.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and all the dry spice powders (turmeric, red chili, garam masala, cumin) and mix well to combine.
  6. Cook with lid on med heat, stirring now and then, until the tomatoes are well cooked and mushy and oil begins to separate from the mixture.
  7. Reduce the heat, add the cooked and mashed lentils to the tomato-spice mixture and combine well. Reserve the water from the lentils for later use.
  8. Add the kasoori methi leaves (optional).
  9. Add some water (1/3 – 1/2 cup) if needed to bring curry to desired consistency and let it come to a slow simmer. Note: Do not add all of the water used to cook the lentils at once to the curry and add as-needed only.
  10. Add the heavy cream and mix well.
  11. Add a few extra pinches of garam masala and salt if needed.
  12. Cook on low heat until the curry is heated through, garnish with chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.

The curry will thicken some more with time. A dense skim-like layer usually forms on the curry when it cools down which is very distinctive for dal makhani.

Serve hot with roti/ rice or make it even better with naan instead!


  1. The ratio of urad dal to rajma can be changed according to your preference, some like to add more rajma so you could do 1:1.5 or even 1:1 if you’d like. You could even completely skip adding rajma to the dish.
  2. If you have time at hand, simmer on very low heat for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to blend in really well. This is optional only, and you could certainly opt to just bring to a simmer and proceed when time is of essence.
  3. Quick soak tip: Soak the lentils in boiled hot water with the lid on. This helps reduce soaking time to about 6 hours.
  4. The curry freezes very well, so I like making larger batches and saving some in freezer bags for later!
4 Responses to “Dal Makhani | Black Lentils In a Creamy Punjabi Sauce”
  1. Mini says:

    Made this recipe for a party…. Came out absolutely yummy just like the way they prepare in restaurants…. And obviously it was a true hit that people packed them home…. Yayyyy… Awesome one aish….

  2. Poppy Bhavan says:

    Mmmmmm, yummmmm.

  3. PotSoup says:

    Excellent, vivid photos. You make me want go hunting for some Dal Makhani right now.

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