Garam Masala Tuesdays: Dal Makhani

by Shumaila

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.