Dal Makhani (Butter Lentils)

Dals are an important source of protein and fibre in our diets.  But also these amazing little legumes are also packed with folic acid, iron and manganese.  They are also good sources of thiamin, potassium and B6.  Need a mineral?  Little low?  You’ll probably find it in lentils.

I used to hate ’em.  Hated them.  Because the way they were cooked when I was young left them a mushy, bland mess or the lentil skins were hard and stuck between my teeth.  Yuck.  Lentils, prepared and cooked well, with the right amounts of spice are incredibly good.

Dal Makhani (or butter lentils) is a common element of the Sikh langar and also common in many Punjabi homes.  Langar means “Guru’s kitchen” and is a free meal that is served in gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) all over the world.  The meals are simple and vegetarian – usually including roti, rice, some dal (lentils), a subzi (vegetable dish) and kheer (a rice pudding) – so that anyone can sit and enjoy the meal.  Anyone at all, regardless of caste, creed, religion, colour, gender or other reason people typically use to discriminate against one another can enjoy the langar, which is prepared by volunteers doing seva.

Dal Mahkani comes in many types – creamy, restaurant style dal to clear, home style dal.  The recipe I’ll show you today is for the richer, creamy dal.

I prepared this on the weekend, when my husband had invited some childhood friends over for lunch.  The recipe in the video is meant to serve 10 people generous portions of the dal.  The recipe below will serve 4 – 6 people.

Some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar but most are now available in larger Canadian supermarkets and definitely in South Asian grocers.

Dal Mahkani

1 cup black lentils (urad dal), soaked overnight in sufficient water
1/2 cup moth beans (matki) (optional), soaked overnight in sufficient water
1/2 cup kidney beans (rajma), soaked overnight in sufficient water
4 – 4 1/2 cups water for pressure cooking
3 generous tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1″ cinnamon stick or 4 small pieces cinnamon bark
1 bay leaf
1 cup finely chopped onions
3 green chilies, finely chopped or slit and seeded (for less heat)
2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes (about 3 large tomatoes)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups water (up to, used to prevent dal from thickening too much while cooking)
1/3 cup table cream or half and half (22% – 30% cream)
1 teaspoon crushed dried methi (fenugreek)
Salt, to taste

Soak the lentils and beans together overnight in enough water (I usually use 3 cups water to every 1 cup of lentil or bean).  Rinse and drain the lentils and beans well.

Put the lentils and beans together in the pressure cooker and cover with 4 – 4 1/2 cups of water.  Pressure cook on high pressure for 35 – 40 minutes (or 20 whistles if you use an Indian style pressure cooker).   Take the pressure cooker off the heat and allow pressure to release.  The lentils and beans should be very tender and not give any resistance when bitten or mashed between two fingers.  If they are undercooked, simply add more water and pressure cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Set the lentils and bean aside with the stock.

In a large pot, over a medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the whole spices (cumin, cloves, cardomom, cinnamon, and bay leaf).  Saute until the spices become aromatic.  Add the onion and saute until the onions become a light golden colour and are almost translucent.  Add the ginger garlic paste and continue to saute until the raw smell of the ginger and garlic is gone.  Add the chilies and saute for 1 minute.  Add the tomato puree, red chili powder and nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook (it will sputter so you may want to partially cover the pot) until you see the oils separating from the tomato paste.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Now add the lentils and beans along with their stock.  Allow the dal to simmer, uncovered until it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add salt to taste and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes at least.  Add water as necessary if the dal begins to look dry.  Remove the dal from the heat and add cream, stirring well.  Add the dried methi.

Your dal makhani is now ready to serve, with some rice, naan or rotis!

Peace and love,




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.