A week back, on this day- Tuesday, I started a new thing on the blogGaram Masala Tuesdays or as someone I know put it GMT (I tell you, these things are not intentional- they just happen 🙂 !). This Tuesday its my second post for Garam Masala Tuesday and even though I have been in no mood of cooking- it has been a 2 1/2 months long break from cooking– but I had to post something today. How can I start something a week back and not live up to the promise!

Since I had to post, and there were no two ways about it, I thought I would make something that would not require too much effort. And, something that I knew V had eaten rarely in the last 2 1/2 months. And something I love quite dearly. So it had to be Dal Makhani.

Dal Makhani is the quintessential Punjabi dish (Punjab is a state in the northern part of India). Dal means lentils and makhani means buttery; so, literally translated dal makhani reads “buttery lentils”. Dal Makhani, butter naan and butter chicken are staple to Punjabi food- the above three and rajma chawal are always top of every Punjabi’s favorite food list.

Dal makhani is a rich, creamy lentil dish that is traditionally cooked on a low simmer for hours in a pureed tomato and butter gravy. Traditionally, the dal was cooked by leaving overnight on burning charcoal. It is also called Maa ki Dal. Though Maa means mother in Hindi,  Maa is also the name given to whole unskinned black lentils and hence the name for the dish.

If you notice, the common thing to most Punjabi dishes is, yes, you guessed it- butter. Ah, butter- utterly butterly delicious butter! Being a north Indian and a hard core Punjabi, now you know the reason behind my affinity to butter and the reason for my tendency to put on weight. Well, tradition is a tough thing to break from and when tradition comes in the form of butter, you know the battle is lost!

There are lot of different versions of this dish but I like this one as its easy and the results are always great. Plus, there is no chopping involved in the recipe I use (that is exactly why I chose to make it today). And requires very little time in the kitchen. It does take 2 hours for the whole preparation but you are not required to be in the kitchen the whole time.  This dish is great even the next day- so feel free to make a day before you plan to serve it. The dish is great both with rice and with Indian flatbreads like chappati/roti or naan.

Note: Some time back I had posted another lentil recipe. It is one of V’s recipe and IT IS GOOOOOD! Do check it out!


Adapted from Nita Mehta’s Indian Vegetarian

Serves 4-5


  • 1 cup  urad saboot (whole unskinned black lentils)
  • 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup ready made tomato puree (I had no tomato puree so I blanched the tomatoes, skinned them and pureed)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter

GRIND TO PASTE (Since I was too lazy I just used ginger-garlic paste and added the soaked red chillies as whole)

  • 2 dry, whole red chillies, preferably Kashmiri red chillies- deseeded and soaked for 10 minutes and then drained
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • 6-8 flakes garlic


  • 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1/2 cup cream


  1. Wash the lentils and let them soak overnight. If you forget to keep them overnight, then soak them in warm water for atleast 2-3 hours. It is important to soak as the dish requires the lentils to be a little mushy. Soaking also reduced the cooking time, else you will have to cook longer.
  2. next day, drain water. Wash several times in fresh water, rubbing well, till the water no longer remains black.
  3. Pressure cook the lentils with the 5 cups of water, 2 tbsp ghee, salt and the ginger-garlic-chilli paste. After the first whistle (sometimes it takes me two whistles), keep on low flame for 20 minutes. Remove from fire and let the pressure drops.
  4. After the pressure drops, remove cooker lid and mash the hot lentils a little. You should easily be able to smash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.
  5. To the lentils, add tomato puree, the dried fenugreek leaves, garam masala and nutmeg powder. You can also add a little red chillie powder if you want it more spicy, but I do not.
  6. Add the butter and let the lentils simmer on medium flame for 30 minutes, stirring the dal occasionally. Remove from fire. Keep aside to cool till the time of serving. (You can keep it in the fridge at this time)
  7. When ready to serve, add the milk mixed with cream to the dal. Bring to a boil on low heat, stirring continuously. Mix very well with a ladle. Simmer for 2 minutes more to give it the signature creamy texture. Remove from fire.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

Note : You can add red kidney beans too. Just soak 1/2 cup red kidney beans overnight and add them when you pressure cook the lentils.

11 Thoughts on “Garam Masala Tuesdays: Dal Makhani

  1. Kaitlyn Wesley on 27 April, 2011 at 10:55 am said:

    I thank for the information.

  2. I’ve never had this before but can’t wait to try it…. Great pictures!

    Thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop 45.

  3. Daal makhani is one of my all time fav daal 🙂 Thanks SO much for sharing at the hearth and soul hop !!

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  5. Hi Shumaila. I love Indian food, Bollywood films, Indian music and culture.. I grew up in Chicago in a big Indian neighborhood with lots of Indian kids, LOL. Half my friends growing up were Indian. So, for the milk/cream blend called for in this recipe, would the milk be whole milk? I’m guessing it would be in Punjab 🙂 As we used to say here in Wisconsin, “it’s better with butter!” I love eating dal and chana dishes any time but especially nowadays when I am pinching pennies. They are cheap, filling and best of all, knock me out for a quick snooze.

    • Haha, yes everything is better with butter. Don’t even attempt to ask this question that if the milk mentioned is whole milk or not to my grandmother. She will throw a fit and go into this whole flashback of how when they were growing up they would make sure that their milk has extra “milai” (cream) in it. Haha. I have started making this dal in the slow cooker. I put it on low at night, changing the setting to high in the morning and by afternoon I have this creamy dal (Without adding any cream to it). Should be doing a post on the slow cooker version of the dal soon.
      By the way, you should definitely visit India. I am sure you will enjoy the experience.

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  7. Stephanie on 30 January, 2014 at 10:21 am said:

    I’m happy to have found your blog – I’m a pasty white Torontonian, but my partner is Bengali and I’m on a mission to learn how to prepare the kind of food she grew up with and loves (and now I love too!)

    The first time I tried this recipe, I woke up in the morning to find that the lentils had burned. I didn’t even know you could burn things in the slow cooker, but it happened! I used the same amount of lentils and water that you recommend, and cooked on low as suggested. I tried it again, with 6 cups of water (instead of 4), and although it didn’t burn, it tastes watery (although there isn’t all that much excess liquid). Sigh!

    This is the first of your dishes that I’ve tried. I’ll give another one a go and see if I do any better! I really want this to make me a better pseudo-Bengali cook!

    • Stephanie on 30 January, 2014 at 10:29 am said:

      I guess this should have been under the slow cooker version of the dish…sorry!

    • I am so sorry to hear that Stephanie. I really cant say what went wrong. I have tried this recipe many times with the same proportions. Maybe its something to do with wattage of your slow cooker. I really can’t say. I hope the second time through it works out fine. Please let me know if it doesn’t. Thanks for letting me know though.

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