05 February, 2019

Dal Makhani Recipe | How to make Dal Makhani

Learn how to make Dal Makhani ~ Rich and buttery lentil curry cooked in a mildly spiced creamy onion and tomato gravy

Bombay-Goa highway, few hungry students, time well past the lunch hours, speeding bikes at 100 kms per hour, hot and sizzling afternoon… With few ten rupees notes stuck in our pocket we obviously didn’t dare to enter some plush and expensive restaurants with swanky ambience and attentive maitre d’ to greet us with fake smile plastered on his face that didn’t reach his eyes.

We took a detour to one of the small eat-out joints where you can’t expect to see plush chairs and tables in an air conditioned room with soothing music playing in the background. Here you will hear blaring sound of Bollywood music and see one small shed which is a cooking area with tandoor (earthen oven half buried in ground) in one corner and huge gas burners with large cast iron sauce pans and kadai or woks bubbling delicious food with most amazing aroma that tickled your nose even from hundreds of meters away. In an open air, the coir woven wooden cots and a big wooden plank served as a seating and table arrangements. Then came our maitre d’, a small boy in a blue checks knickers and vest who greeted us by slapping a big steel tumbler of water on the rickety table. When we asked for the menu, the little boy started rattling off without pausing for breath… With some training the boy surely could give Shankar Mahadevan run for his money with his own album called ‘Dhaba Breathless’ ;) Within few minutes we were served tandoori roties, red onion and green chilli in a big Thali and array of curries filled in generous sized bowls. It didn’t take very long for us to lick the plate clean while the Daler Mehendi sang away ‘Bolo Ta Ra Ra’ in the background.

Yes my friends, I am talking about a Dhaba, which is a small road side restaurant offering quick service to truck drivers and people like me who can go on and on with my love affair with Dhaba food. Originally located on major highways, where they were supposed to cater to truck drivers on long distance travels, these dhabas have now become a popular option with students, professionals and even families. For students like us Dhaba was a god sent gift which not only served delicious food but also pocket friendly.

One Punjabi food I always loved is Dal Makhani, a celebratory dish enriched with butter and cream. The whole urad dal and red kidney beans simmered in creamy gravy of butter, onion, tomatoes and spices with a liberal dose of cream is something to die for. Butter, spices and cream??? Oh!!! Did I hear some grumblings from my weight conscious friends? You can substitute the cream with yogurt and reduce the amount of butter to make healthier version of Dal Makhani, but then it wouldn’t be a luscious Dal Makani. Whenever I feel like indulging and forget about my expanding waistline, the first dish to cross my mind is this Dal Makhani. If you could pack warmth, memories and comfort into a bowl, this would be it! Slow cooked dal softened with a generous dash of cream and slab of butter, served with tandoori naan or jeera rice, this meal is the perfect mood elevator.

My search for the origins and history of Dal Makhani lead me into very interesting story. It is believed to be the brainchild of Kundan Lal Gujral, founder of Moti Mahal chain of restaurants, who came up with the lip smacking recipes in a bid to make his ingredients last longer. Did you notice that I mentioned recipes, and not just recipe?! Well, this is the same man who introduced the makhani gravy that we are quite familiar with when we talk about Butter Chicken and it’s the same idea that revolutionised the way humble dal was cooked. The idea was triggered off when he invented the buttery gravy to serve the drying chicken tikkas hanging on the seekhs above the tandoor waiting to be ordered but would sometimes dry out in the absence of a refrigerator in the olden days. He came up with the brilliant idea of simmering the chicken in a luscious gravy of tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices to help them retain moisture, which gave birth to the much fabled Butter Chicken Curry. He applied the same recipe with his black urad dal, and gave birth to Dal Makhani too around the same time. Today Dal Makhani is not only a household name in the Indian subcontinent, but has proudly made its presence felt in the world culinary map.

As per the legends, Kundan Lal Gujaral was working in Mukhey da Dhaba run by Mokha Singh in Peshawar during pre-independence time in the '40s. When Mokha Singh's health deteriorated, he eventually sold his shop to Gujral who renamed it as Moti Mahal. Post partition, Gujaral migrated to Delhi and carried on the legacy to establish Moti Mahal as the food institution we know today. Sabut urad (whole black lentils) served with hot tandoori rotis was a speciality of West Pakistan, which Gujaral brought along with him as he crossed the national frontiers and included it in his dhaba menu. However, the turning point for the traditional dal preparation, what now we call Dal Makhani, came about when Gujaral mixed cream and tomatoes (as a souring agent) to the dal as traditionally no Punjabi dal recipes uses cream or tomatoes before. Even if they did require a souring agent, it’s always been yogurt, not tomatoes, added to the dish. So, if you are a fan of Dal Makhani, then you have to thank Kundan Lal Gujral! (Source: Wiki)

Dal Makhani's popularity is due in part to its versatility in a meal: the rich vegetarian dish can be served as a main meal, included as part of a buffet (thali), or used as an accompaniment to a meal. In India, soups and curries with a red or yellow lentil base are an important staple, however, due to Dal Makhani's rich texture and lengthy preparation process, it makes an appearance on homemade thalis for special occasions. The traditional preparation of dal makhani involves a series of time-consuming procedures, which can take up to 24 hours to complete. With the availability of modern cooking equipment, namely electric pressure cookers and slow cookers, the preparation time of the dish has reduced significantly to 2–3 hours. Living in a fast paced world, I use my trusty stove top pressure cooker to cook the dals and let it simmer in butter rich onion and tomato gravy for half an hour or more depending on how much time or patience I have. But whenever I cook this creamy delightful dal, I make sure I cook enough to have leftovers for the next two days I find the flavours much better as all the ingredients blend well and mature after 24 hours of cooking. So I highly recommend to make extra quantity of Dal Makhani as it is not everyday you get to sit down to make the most delectable dish!

Dal Makhani (Rich and buttery lentil curry cooked in a mildly spiced creamy onion and tomato gravy)
Prep Time: 10-15 mins (excluding soaking time)
Soaking Time: At least 8 hours (preferably overight)
Cooking Time: 30-45 mins
Recipe Level: Intermediate
Spice Level: Low to Medium
Serves: 5-7 people
Shelf Life: Up to 3 days in refrigerator
Serving Suggestion: With Basmati rice or with Indian flat breads like tandoori roti, naan or chapatti.

1½ cups Sabut Urad/Whole Black Lentils
¾ cup Rajma/Red Kidney Beans
2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
1-2 Green Chillies, slit (Adjust as per taste)
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
¼ - ½ cup Fresh Cream or 1 cup Yogurt, whisked
2 + 1 tbsp Butter (Adjust as per taste)
Salt to taste

Spices Used:
1 Bay Leaf
½ + ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
2 tsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder (adjust as per taste)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seed Powder
½ - 1 tsp Anaar Daana Powder (Pomegranate seed powder) or Amchur Powder (Dry mango powder)
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi/Dry Fenugreek Leaves (optional, but recommended)

For Tadka/Tempering:
1 tbsp Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida

  1. Wash and soak whole urad dal and rajma beans in 5 cups of water overnight. Next day drain the lentils and pressure cook with 4½ cups of water with ½ tsp turmeric powder for about 3 whistles or 15 minutes (approx). Let the pressure release completely before opening the lid. Cooked dal should feel soft to touch and easy to break when pressed between fingers. Strain the water and keep it aside. Lightly mash the lentils with a help of a back of the ladle or a masher and keep it aside until needed.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, peel and finely chop the onions. Finely chop the tomatoes, slit the green chillies and keep it aside until needed. If using fresh ginger-garlic paste, peel about 1 inch ginger and 5-6 large cloves of garlic and roughly chop them. With a help of a pestle and mortar, crush the ginger and garlic with a pinch of salt to paste. Keep it aside until needed.

Proceed to cook:
  1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium flame. Once the butter melts, add cumin seeds and hing.
  2. When the cumin seeds start to splutter, add slit green chillies and ginger-garlic paste and fry for around 30 seconds.
  3. Add finely chopped onions, ¼ tsp salt, 1 tsp suagr and sauté them over a medium heat for around 2-3 minutes till they turn golden brown. Salt helps to speed up the cooking and sugar helps in caramelising the onions.
  4. Add coriander powder, cumin powder chilli powder, turmeric and crushed kasuri methi and sauté it for a minute or so till you get nice aroma.
  5. Mix in finely chopped tomatoes, pomegranate seed powder and sauté it for around 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes turn pulpy and release their juice.
  6. Mix the cooked dal with about 2-3 cups of water (use the reserved dal water also). Add remaining butter, salt to taste and mix well.
  7. Cover the pan and cook on a medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes till the gravy starts to thicken. I have found that the more time you cook the dal, tastier it is to eat. Adjust the seasoning as per your preference. Make sure you stir the dal half way through to prevent it from burning. Add little more water if you find it too thick.
  8. Mix in the cream or yogurt, garam masala and cook again for another 5-10 minutes on a low heat.
  9. Finally, add finely chopped coriander leaves and mix well. Cover and let it rest for 10-15 minutes for the flavours to blend and mature.
  10. Serve this delicious buttery Dal Makani with Tandoori naan/roti or with some Jeera rice and enjoy!

Sia’s Notes:
  • Soaking the dals overnight helps in speeding up their cooking time. So make sure you soak them for at least 6-8 hours (preferably overnight).
  • Adjust the amount of butter and fresh cream as per your taste and waist demands! :)
  • You can substitute the cream with yogurt and reduce the amount of butter to make healthier version of Dal Makhani, but then it wouldn’t be a luscious Dal Makani.
  • Whenever I cook this creamy delightful dal, I make sure I cook enough to have leftovers for the next two days I find the flavours much better as all the ingredients blend well and mature after 24 hours of cooking. So I highly recommend to make extra quantity of Dal Makhani as it is not every day you get to sit down to make the most delectable dish!


  1. Oaky! I am here but are you going take of the post after I comment?! Hahaha!!
    I have NEVER seen and been to a Dhaba before in my life.My brother used to go to Delhi often and he would tell us about it, may be one day when we visit Delhi.
    Dal Makhani looks great.Usually served with Parathas, Pooris look yummy there too!Glad you made it on the last day for RCI or is it just for you! Oriya is on,I am not familiar with that state at all!:)
    LOL at all diet conscious peeps cribbing about butter and cream.I like to be little plumper side myself.You know, I don't have one single wrinkle on my face! True!!
    Have a great weekend Sups.Hugs.

  2. Looks great! I always love your end notes...

  3. Hi,
    it's okay to not watch weight for this kind of dish.well who can resist the rich creamy dal makhani.
    loved the post.

  4. Great post, so much information. Love the Dal too, never cooked Dal Makhani before, I am looking forward to trying.

  5. Eating at dhabas has its own share of fun....we do once in a while drive down to the dhabas near our place......dal makhani looks very inviting

  6. for the last one week, bloggers are driving madly down the memory lane with dhabas on the road sides and I a m madly homesick as well:) No comparisons to dhaba food and ofcourse our 10 rupees note was enough for a sumptous meal!! your dish looks rich and creamy and yes i did think of your expanding waistline when i saw that poori :))))

    Take care

  7. WOW YUM! Looking excellent Sia, puri jothe writeup about the dabba is very good.ok dear gotto to go good i checked before i left to office :) have a great weekend bye

  8. Dhaba food rocks! Dal makhni looks delicious

  9. Lovely write and equally lovely recipe, Sia. Those pooris look yummy! yes, dhabas are good, aren't they-the food is great :).

    have a fun weekend,

  10. This is lovely... I really need to get my bean intake up!

  11. I love eating at dhabas too whenver I visit India since I love punjabi food - the food tastes so authentic there.

    Just read your reply to my comment on your last post. Thanks for your encouragement but I cant even dream of participating in any of the food events yet - cooking for me is a chore unlike you all who love cooking and sharing your wonderful recipies and I am just learning to cook food from all you wonderful and enthusiatic food bloggers !

    I make daal makhani very often as my kids love it with hot rotis :-) And what is punjabi food if it doesnt have richness of butter, ghee and cream !

  12. Forget calories.. Dhaba food is atrociously tasty!

  13. I too go with Asha's first line LOL!! just kidding.
    I too ve never been to Dabha. My hubby says it has a very spicy food.
    your pics are drool worthy. makes me hungry.

  14. Sia, just the dish for a rainy weather. Looks wonderful, your story about Dhaba made me long for the road side poratta stalls that are comming in Tamilnadu. I have never cooked with whole Ural Dal, but love Red Kidney beans. Should give this a try.

  15. hey, dhaba's sure are such a fav with youngsters right :) hostelites always prefer going to the dhaba :) dal looks very tempting, love the puris anytime ;)

  16. WOW!!! I am in a dreamland now with all the road side dhaba style joints sitting on a khatiya and licking my fingers thru the dals!!! ;)

    Anchur in dal makhni is new to me!! And it looks great al always! :)

  17. I'm crazy, I'm up at 5.30 am on a weekend, reading your lovely write up and proceeding to read the recipe and now badly craving for dal makhani!!! My tummy is growling for some just now!!!!!!

  18. Dhaba breathless, so true. they rattle off the menu so fast :)The dal makhni is looking too good in that white bowl. Gr8 recipe Sups :)

  19. Looks yummm...the kasuri methi and amchur powder lend a taste of their own.... i used to make it the same way as you do before i tried out the Tarla dalal recipe. dal makhani is always heavenly...

  20. great looking dal...very nice


  21. Nice pic....good recipe. I made Dal Makhani too thinking that I'd send it in as my entry for RCI, but somehow I never got around to posting the recipe.

  22. You are right! Dhabas are more interesting. I had been there once during my trip to Pilani. I loved it.

    Dal Makhani is inviting.

  23. My dal makhani both times I made it turned out grey and unattractive, and as usual, it was a humongous amount. Never made it after that! Yours looks nice.

  24. You know I have often seen these kind of eateries in Hindi movies. But never have actually been to one. I don't know but one is not sure what the kitchen looks like you know. But Sia, your version is brilliant and I think I will try and get that Dhaba flare at home on the weekend!

  25. The makhani looks great Sia...
    I love dhaba food too. This one trip to Delhi almost all of us had an upset stomach (some food poisoning) so we had to stick to idlis and curd rice (!) but when our tour bus stopped at a dhaba we just couldn't resist and decided we'll just pop more tablets, and ate to our heart's content... :)

  26. Sia, your write-up was really good.
    Dal makhani very tempting. I just loved your second pic!

  27. Beautiful writing...your words bring that dhaba and the bunch of college students alive. And how those little boys rattled off, I can still hear that....very very beautifully written Sups

    Have never made Dal makhani...Wanted to make something for RCI but little S is down with high fever and there is very little cooking time at home :(

  28. Hi, Dalmakhani looks superb. Never tried. I will try this very soon. Huge information. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.

  29. Hey Sia, Great pictures. This is the same way I make it and it taste awesome. Loved the post.

  30. dhaba breathless, indeed. i love these places. i've seen a truck driver down 3 glasses of lassi and two large bowls of chicken curry, plus countless rotis. then he grinned and told me, he's going to be driving non-stop from bombay to hyderabad - after a nap, of course.

  31. Hi Sups,,

    Dal makhani sound and looks rich and delicious...by the way perfect entry for the event too...'
    Nice writeup....:))

  32. Hi Sups,
    Great recipe and after reading abt your dhaba experience I felt I was reading about my own experience. My friends and I used to go these dhabas on kanakpura and there is another one called rinku dhaba near nandi hills. Ah! those good ol days (sigh).

  33. Your Dal Makhani looks yum! No fancy restaurant can ever beat the earthy, homely taste of dhaba food.

  34. I loved going to dabhas, inexpensive, great food... there were so many in hyd, I used to drive down about 30 miles and that too in the evening, eat out looking at the stars in the cool breeze, it was fantastic....

  35. Gosh.....heaven on a plate....I loved dhaba foods when we travelled all over India....what a treat that was...just something about eating by the roadside while the "bhaiyyas" fry or knead away.....
    man, oh man, that daal and puri look delicious!

    thanks for your message! I haven't been getting home until 9:00-10:00 at night..been real busy with both the businesses and such.

    hugs to you,

  36. WOW.....What a great recipe here....looks very delicious with nice photo....Thanks for so much nice information with recipe.:)

  37. As usual nice write up sia. Love to read your write up always. The dal makhani is tempting really. Viji

  38. Hi Sia, Dal Makhani with Poori......yummm. Your pics are wonderful. LOL about those diet concious comments. I dont think I can ever think about dieting. How can I miss all those delicious food. Have a gr8 weekend Sia.

  39. I miss dhaba food in US, but in CA we use to go to chat house and it was close to dhaba food taste.:) Yummy dal makhani Sia.

  40. Oh.. What an amazing spread Sia. The first thing that came to my mind was the dabba place that we ate at in the middle of the hills on our way to the top of Kedhar. The taste still lingers.. the cold night.. with hot chilly curry and naan.. and a campfire. It was truly a wonderful night. Thanks for the recipe.

  41. oh the dhabas... I miss them too... though I never visited one when I was studying, we had our Kerala dhabas aka Thattukadas for that... Yep, a 10 rupee note goes a long way there :)... Great writing sup.... and the dal makhani looks great, great pics... I just have to substitute rajma with chicken :)

  42. Your Dal makhani looks delish!

  43. Hi Supriya,

    There is a place here too, while not open-air, is called Punjabi Dhaba and bills itself as a truck-stop type restaurant. For the city, it is that: step up to the counter, order your dish and then carry it to your bench or your car. I laughed at your recollection of the little maitre'd and his recitation ;)

    Dal makhani is a guilty fav of mine too -- I will try your yummy version with yogurt :)

  44. NICE! Quintessential comfort food. I am niw hankering for some Dhaba food. Btw, you have been tagged!

  45. The dal makhani looks absolutely delicious...loved the 'dhaba breathless' bit :D

  46. Dal makhani looks great...... So creamy....Perfect pictures...... Nice combo.....Mouth watering one....Love it...

  47. @ashakka,
    nope...this time i am not gonna delete this post;) LOL...
    so r u done with ur homework for RCI-orissa?;) do share some notes with us:)

    thanks dear:)

    i second ur thoughts:)

  48. @saju,
    girl, do try dal makhani. its one of the yummilicious thing i have ever eaten:)

    @bha the don;)
    oh wow...lucky u to get a chance to eat @ real dhabas... i envy u dear:)

    blame richa for asking us o cook punjabi dish;) made atta to make paratas but at last moment changed my mind and went for real fat food;) he he he...

  49. @roopa,
    he he he...girl u r addicted to blogging for sure:)

    @roopa #2:)
    thanks my dear:) and yeah dhaba food rocks:)

    thanks sweetie:)

  50. @anh,
    thanks my dear:) u surely guarenteed to get good portion of bean intake:)

    thanks my dear:) blog events are for fun and participate only if u want:) i too miss many of them coz of time constraints. i agree with u on learning new recipes from bloggers. thanks to blogsphere that we get to learn new things everyday and i am not just talking abt food:)
    by the way, do post ur recipe for dal makhani for us:)

    i agree:)

  51. @sharmi,
    LOL...yeah yeah... make fun of me;)
    not all dhaba foods are spicy. do try them when u get chance to visit one:)

    oh those parotta stalls... i too love them indo:) this was the first time i cook this dish with whole urad dal. its got very nutty and creamy flavour.

    yeah,and when u have very limited money in the end of the month dhaba's r the best place to hangout n eat:)

  52. @coffee,
    he he he... r u still lost in dream land?;) i like little khatta taste:) so thats why i have added amchur n its optional:)

    LOL... girl, i cant imagine eating dal makhani @5.30 in the morn:) and i cant even think of getting up that early in the morn on weekdays also, forget abt weekend:)

    thanks my dear:)

  53. @priyanka,
    so which one do u think is better? this way or tarla dalal's? i got to check mrs. dalal's recipe.

    thanks dear:)

    a warm welcome to spice corner:) it happens with me also. i cook for the blog events but most of the times i dont get time to post:)

  54. @seeC,
    u bet:)

    ha ha ha... i followed my friend's recipe n it turned out quite good:) grey n unattractive is okay with me as long as it tastes good;)

    oh, talk abt bollywood movies;) they do exaggerate to some extent. i hope u do get chance to eat @ authentic dhabas coz nothing like eating right from the tandoor and open oven:)

  55. @laavanya,
    LOL...oh girl!!! i surely can understand ur cravings for dhaba food inspite of not keeping well:)

    a warm welcome to spice corner n thank u for ur kind words:)

    oh!!! i am flying high san:) ur words means a lot to me u know:)
    i am so sorry to know that little S is not keeping well. sending her good wishes and kisses. hope she gets well soon. blog events r not that important when it comes to lil precious:)

  56. @jyothi,
    thanks my dear n a warm welcome to spice corner:)

    thanks dear:) good to know that u make it same way:)

    LOL... i have seen one driver eat more than that and say proudly he has big appettie;)

  57. @usha,
    thank u darling but wait!!! this is not a entry for RCI:)

    u know what i have not seen any proper dhabas in b'lore. i got to check the ones u mentioned next time i visit.

    oh yes...i totally agree with u:)

  58. @dee,
    girl, u sound just like me:) good old hostel days n eating with friends @dhaba.

    thanks dear:)

    he he...u surely sound quite nostalgic @ a moment sweetie:)
    i guessed as much. sounds like u r really busy these days. tc my dear:) will mail u soon once i finish all my training and workshops.

  59. @kajal,
    i am glad to know u enjoyed it dear:)

    i am glad to know u go through all my rants viji. thank u:)

    he he... diet for me is like mixing oil in water;) so i dont think too much as long as i burn out all the cal wile exercising:)

  60. @shivapriya,
    u r really lucky to get some good chats dear:) me n my hubby r on hunt for authentic indian food here in uk;)

    thank u:)

    now u r making me crave for chilly curry n naan on starry night dear:)

  61. @sig,
    he he he... if given a chance u will substitute everything with chicken i guess;) LOL...

    thanks and warm welcome to spice corner:)

    oh wow... thats quite close to desi dhabas u can get. i am now green with envy dear:) i dont think we have such places here:(
    use cream if u r ok with little cal coz i feel authentic dal makhani must be creamy with cream:)

  62. @dhana,
    thanks my dear:) n thank u for tagging me but i have posted my meme in previous post:)

    thanks dear:)

    thanks girl n i hope u do try n taste this delicious dish someday:)

  63. Hi Sia,
    Great entry for RcI. Dal looks creamy !!!! Thanks for sharing.

  64. Dal Makhani looks perfect ..Dhaba food tastes great Supriya. I once had dinner in a dhaba in delhi and loved it.

  65. Dal Makhani looks very yummy with Puri my mouth is watering baby.......Great dinner.:)

  66. I love Dhabha food, I used to have on Bombay-Pune/Bombay-Nasik highway...they are so simple yet to tasty delights...thanks for shring yet another mouthwatering recipe

  67. @prema, kajal and padma,
    thank u girls:)

  68. This was a wonderful recipe. If you are looking for some more Dal Makhani Recipesthen check out this link.

  69. Dear Sia,

    Every now and then I use your recipe to cook it for my wife. And that twinkle in her eye after the taste is something I have started yearning for. Thank you for this and all the otherlovely recipes.



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