When my husband and I go out for Indian food, I have a few favorites I like to order—channa masala, garlic naan, and one or two daals. But I still have a glance at the menu, usually on the look-out for something new (to me)—enlivened by chilies and exotic spices that pique my interest. My husband, on the other hand, is more cautious. Afraid he’ll order something so spicy that it’ll sear off half his tastebuds, he tries to stay clear of anything that might have him huffing, puffing, and in a sweat. Invariably he turns to me and asks, what’s the name of that really tasty lentil dish we love? And then we order Daal Makhani.
Daal makhani (buttery lentils) is one of the world’s finest dishes. Although easy to make, it does take a while, but it is worth every single minute and stir to your pot. Smooth and velvety in texture, full of earthy, smoky flavors, and creamy, it is one of the most captivating daals you’ll ever eat. It is made of whole black lentils and is a very popular Punjabi dish that can be found on almost any Indian restaurant menu.
A few months ago I was telling Parkash, a friend and author of the blog and website Global Vegetarian , that I wanted to try making daal makhani. Parkash is a wealth of knowledge on holistic living and flavorful vegetarian indian cuisine. Her inspiring website has instructional videos, a free vegetarian recipe eBook that also contains a handy guide to Indian spices, and more. So when I asked if she had any daal makhani tips, I was thrilled when she sent me her recipe. I’ve made it several times for friends and family, each time we’ve welcomed the opportunity to indulge while the fragrant spices fill my home. Mmmmm. Now, I’m excited to finally share a slightly adapted version of her recipe with you. It’s velvety, rich, filling and has a lovely savory/spicy flavor. Thank you for sharing your recipe Parkash. I look forward to trying others!
To try another daal recipe, see Palak Daal with Coconut.
You can easily adjust the level of heat by adjusting the amount pepper used. I make it mild (with just a pinch of cayenne or small piece of jalapeño) for my husband and son to enjoy, and raise the heat for myself and others. If you’d like, some recipes add red kidney beans or split chick peas for a creamier consistency. Daal makhani is best cooked slowly. Give it time and you’ll be rewarded appropriately. Unless you’re using a pressure cooker, it’s an ideal dish to make in a slow cooker (crockpot). Be sure to remember to soak your lentils overnight or for at least several hours. This will reduce cooking time and also give the daal a creamier consistency. If you don’t have a slow cooker, daal makhani can still be cooked on the stovetop. Serve with rice, roti or naan. Daal makhani is not traditionally served with avocados, but my family and I enjoy it with avocados tossed with lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Leftovers have always been a hit because daal makhani tastes even better the following day.
1 cup / 7.5 ounces/ 210 grams urad daal/black beluga lentils, sorted and rinsed
5-6 cups /1.5 liters water, plus more if necessary
1 1/2 cups tomato purée/sauce (about 2-3 medium tomatoes blended)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika or chili powder (I used sweet Hungarian paprika)
1 teaspoon ground garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8-1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) cayenne pepper or finely chopped green jalapeño pepper
dash of ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil or butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
2-3 green onions, sliced thinly, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup crème fraiche or coconut milk for a vegan version (I’ve made both)
sugar, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh lime juice
freshly ground black pepper, optional
Place rinsed lentils into a crockpot with water and soak overnight without turning it on.
The following day, turn crockpot on high. Add tomato sauce, salt, paprika, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.
Meanwhile, in small saucepan heat oil on medium high heat, add cumin seeds, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for 3-5 minutes and then add green onions and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the sautéed mixture to the crockpot and give everything a good stir.
If you are leaving the house and want to make sure the lentils don’t burn or dry up, you can program the crockpot to turn off after 6 hours. If you are going to be home, you can stir the daal every now and then while it cooks. The texture will become creamier as the lentils soften.
After the cooking time is done, the daal should be soft enough to crush some against the side of the pot. Heat the cream or coconut milk in microwave for about 15 seconds and add to the lentils. Taste, adjust seasoning. Continue cooking for 15 or so minutes. Check to see if the texture is to your liking. If it is too thick, add some hot water and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until preferred consistency is achieved. If it’s too thin, uncover and cook longer. Taste again and adjust the salt and chilli if necessary.
When done, mix in chopped cilantro. Top with avocados, if using, and garnish with cilantro and green onions. Serve hot with rice, roti or naan.