Are you familiar with dal makhani? It’s a rich, spiced, lentil-based stew made for special occasions in India (especially in the Punjab region in northern India). Someday, I hope to travel there and taste it for myself. Maybe next year, if I’m lucky.
For now, I’ll enjoy this dal makhani at home. Dal makhani traditionally takes quite a long time to make, starting with soaking the lentils and then cooking them for hours on the stove (or more quickly in a pressure cooker). It’s often reserved for special occasions, like birthdays and holidays.
I couldn’t find traditional whole black lentils (urad dal) in grocery stores, so I used regular black lentils instead, which cook much faster. I also used canned kidney beans rather than dried, so this dish only requires about 45 minutes on the stove.
Dal makhani is generally made creamy with lots of butter and cream, but I stole a trick from my favorite lentil soup to make this creamy—I blended up about two cups of the cooked stew and stirred it back into the pot. The starchy lentils get nice and creamy that way.
You’re welcome to stir in cream (or coconut milk) at the end, if you’d like, but it dulls the flavor a bit. If you order this dish at a restaurant, it will probably arrive with a beautiful swirl of cream on top.
Since this dish is rich, the spices in this recipe are more subtle. Garam masala is a warming spice blend made with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper and coriander. Indian cooking typically starts by dry-toasting whole spices, but I cheated and used a ground spice blend.
Frontier Co-op’s blend smells and tastes so fresh that I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Great spices really do make a difference, and I feel so spoiled with a spice drawer full of Frontier products.
Ground coriander (made from the seeds of the cilantro plant) and cumin liven up the dish, and a splash of lime at the end works wonders. If you’re craving a creamy, curried, satisfying stew, this is exactly that!
Quick Dal Makhani
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Stew
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Indian
This dal makhani is rich, creamy and loaded with flavor. It’s also lighter and quicker to make than other recipes! Recipe yields 4 servings.
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Frontier Co-op garam masala*
- ½ teaspoon Frontier Co-op ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon Frontier Co-op ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably the fire-roasted variety), with their juices
- 1 cup uncooked black lentils (also called beluga lentils)**, picked over for debris
- 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans
- 5 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus additional lime wedges for serving
- Optional (for additional creaminess): half-and-half, or regular or light coconut milk
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Suggested accompaniments: cooked brown basmati rice or toasted naan
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeño, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Stir in the garam masala, cumin, coriander and salt. Season generously with black pepper. Cook, while stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 more minute, while stirring. Add the lentils, kidney beans, water and bay leaf. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are nice and tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf. Transfer 2 cups of the mixture (make sure to get some liquid with the lentils) to a blender. Securely fasten the lid. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute, being careful to avoid the hot steam rising from the blender lid.
- Transfer the blended mixture back to the pot and stir to combine. Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt (I usually add ½ teaspoon) and pepper. If you would like to temper the flavor and make the mixture even more creamy, stir in a splash of half-and-half or coconut milk, to taste.
- Serve in bowls, with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge on top. If desired, serve rice or naan on the side. Leftovers keep well, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Use coconut milk instead of half-and-half, or use none at all.
*Change it up: While untraditional, I also love this recipe with regular curry powder instead of garam masala.
**Lentil note: This recipe is not designed for traditional urad dal (whole black gram lentils), which take forever to cook. Standard lentils (the brownish/greenish kind) will work in place of the black lentils. Just keep an eye on them, since they may be done cooking about 5 to 10 minutes sooner.
▸ Nutrition Information
This post was created in partnership with Frontier Co-op and I received compensation for my participation. Opinions are my own, always. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who support C+K!
I followed this recipe pretty closely. I didn’t have store bought garam masala so I threw together my own mixture of spices. I just cooked down everything for probably a whole hour on medium. But I am so happy with this meal!! We ate it over white rice. Even our 2 year old devoured it. Thank you for the recipe, we’ll make it again soon!
Wonderful recipe! I’ve been wanting to make a black lentil dahl for sometime. Subbed potatoes for the beans, added tomato paste in addition to the fresh summer babies and a dollop of yogurt to finish. Thank you for the guidance!
You’re welcome, Jen! Happy you enjoyed the recipe.
Made this tonight with Persian red lentils & it was delicious. Definitely going to be on high rotation in our house!
Sounds perfect! Thank you for sharing, Amy.
This is really good recipe. I have made it 2x now and it’s so flavorful and filling. It kind of reminded me of your Spicy Black Bean Soup so I added avocado and I can confirm it works. I don’t know which I like better?
I love it! Thank you for sharing, Melissa. They are both so delicious in their own ways!
Such a fan of your lentil soup and this dal recipe was just as delicious! I went a little heavier on spices and salt and also added coconut cream. My husband is Indian and loved this, as did our baby who just started eating food. 5 stars!
Made it with regular brown lentils and it was delicious even without the coconut milk. DH added some yogurt, which he loved with it. Thanks so much!
Thank you for sharing, Amy!
I followed the recipe closely and an hour into cooking the entire mixture, the dahl lacks flavor / is pretty watery… maybe i just have to cook it down but that takes a lot of time. I would like to know how to make the dahl savory – more onions? Less water?
I’m sorry you don’t love this one. I like it as written.
Hi James –
I used less water, myself — 7 instead of 10 cups for a doubled recipe. I did cook longer, like you did. Also punched up the lime and salt a little bit (which I guess the lime wedges would have taken care of if I wasn’t too cheap to buy them…). Then it got rave reviews! Thanks for making it so easy, Kate :-)
I keep making this recipe varying it a little bit each time. It is consistently DELICIOUS, and one of my favorites. It’s hard to find a version of this that doesn’t require a pressure cooker and yours never disappoints.
Thank you for sharing it!
This was a great recipe. My son was coming out of hospital and after eating hospital food for 3 days he wanted some home cooked food. He asked me to make makni daal. I googled it and found your recipe. It was delicious. I had a jar of jalapeño peppers and put about 4 slices in. I think together with the freshly ground pepper it made it quite hot. However once the daal had been cooked, I added sour cream and that seemed to neutralise the heat. Thank you and I will definitely make it again.
I’m glad it provided some comfort. I appreciate your review, Yasmine!
It’s so hard to find a good quick-cooking recipe for dal makhani but this one tops any I’ve tried! It truly is restaurant-quality and is bookmarked in my recipe file.
Instead of jalapeños, I used 1 Tbsp of the chili-garlic paste (ok, I’m lazy) found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores.
Delicious!! Thanks for figuring out a shortcut.
Quick and easy meal, but we found it to be a little ‘flat’. It lacked depth of flavour, nothing one more teaspoon of cumin couldn’t fix. Overall a good recipe and will revisit it with the added spice
That’s great to hear, Katie! Thank you for your review.
I also upped the spices a touch and this dish was phenomenal! I loved the ginger and jalapeño flavor that complemented the garam masala so well! I always look for dinners that would be easy to make in my tiny kitchen and I can easily reheat for the rest of the week and this was perfect!
Hi! How much coconut milk would you recommend? I just love your recipes and have your cookbook. You are much appreciated!
Hi, I would do it by taste. Start with 1/4 cup and then add from there. I do prefer this best as written.