Punjabi Dal Makhani

Slow cooked black Dal with garlic, tomato, butter & garam masala

Black Dal Makhani

Everybody loves a basic tadka Dal as part of an Indian meal. A bowl of warm dal, rice topped with ghee is comfort food and even makes a perfect accompaniment to any meal. But when we think of slow cooked creamy Dal Makhani it’s in a league of its own. A traditional lentil dish that’s part of most Indian meals at weddings and special occasions. Essentially a recipe hailing from the north of India with influences from the Peshawar Punjabi community after partition, it now sits well in Mughlai/ north Indian restaurant menus across India and worldwide.

Most commonly used lentils in Indian cooking include toor dal, channa dal and moong dal amongst others. There are over 50 varieties but one that’s key to a classic Dal Makhani is urad dal also known as black lentils.

My recipe is one I’ve adapted from a family recipe during my travels to Amritsar 11 years ago. Using tomatoes instead of yoghurt for a rich tangy flavour is the base of this recipe although I also add a little bit of tomato puree to thicken the dal and add richness that you are looking for in a restaurant style Dal Makhani.

There are loads of recipes for a slow cooked black dal that include only urad dal without including any other lentil or pulses in addition to it. Urad dal is a lentil that thrives on slow cooking; the longer it cooks the richer the Dal Makhani is. In places like Bukhara (ITC Delhi) synonymous for its Dal Bukhara, a master pot is cooked low and slow overnight. Although in this day and age we don’t have the luxury of cooking over coals or even simmering the dal for half a day! So the addition of a small quantity or Rajma/ Kidney beans will give the makhani gravy its rich texture and also a little bit of colour. Both the Kidney beans and urad dal cook with ginger, tomatoes and chilli giving it plenty of time and injecting lots of flavour.

The reason I say this dish is for special occasions is the copious quantities of butter and cream. No recipe should skimp on it and nor will mine! But where a restaurant in Delhi might opt for a kilo of butter to cook Dal Makhani I’ve gone with a few tablespoons!

NOTE- Lots of readers recently have mentioned cooking my recipes in a pressure cooker. This Dal Makhani can also be cooked in a pressure cooker to save time. I have a conventional pressure cooker which take around 8-10 whistles over a medium flame to cook the dal and rajma until its soft. Then proceed to frying the remaining ingredients.


  1. Soak the black lentils and kidney beans overnight in a bowl in plenty of water.

  2. In a large heavy bottom sauce pan add the black lentil and kidney beans along with the water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer on a low heat for an hour. Stir a few times and scarp of the foam from the top. Continue cooking for further 1 hour and 15 minutes Black Dal Makhani (4)

  3. Drain, reserving the cooking water and set aside to use for later. Mash the lentils with a potato masher this will take some arm work so keep mashing till you have a coarse consistency. You want some lentils whole but most of it mashed.

  4. In a heavy bottom large non stick sauce pan heat the oil on a low heat. Add the asafoetida, chilli and cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 5 seconds and add the garlic frying for a further 30 seconds.

  5. Now turn the heat to medium and add the onions sautéing for 7-10 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir well making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

  6. Add the tomatoes and fry for a further 3 minutes mashing the softened tomatoes with the back of the spoon now add the puree and cook for a minute

  7. Add the ginger and fry for a minute followed by the mild chilli powder. Season to taste and add the mashed dal. Stir well and make sure to mix all the spices with the dal

  8. Add 650 mls cooking liquid and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes on a low heat with the lid on. Make sure to stir a few times preventing it from sticking to the bottom of the panBlack Dal Makhani (3)

  9. The dal should be thick and creamy so add a little more water only if you need to. Add the garam masala powder along with the butter. Stir well simmering for a minute

  10. Just before you serve add a swirl of cream, fresh coriander and ginger. Serve with naan or pulao