Punjabi Dal Makhani - A creamy and buttery gravy made of whole urad dal, rajma and channa dal. Slow cooked and simmered to get a delectable rich dal. Perfect to make ahead for weeknight dinner and a great crowd pleaser.
Dal is so synonymous with the Indian cuisine. From a simple Punjabi dal tadka to the rich and delicious dal makhani, Indian cuisine has so many recipes using dal. From pulses to legumes and lentils, we make use of everything in our cuisine. We make spice mixes, the most popular vada is made with three kinds of lentils, idli, dosa and I can go on... This recipe - dal makhani, is the king of Indian gravies, especially in the vegetarian category. Dal makhani is an exemplary dish that makes use of lentils in the best way possible.
Dal makhani origin
Dal makhani is one of the most renowned dishes inside and outside of India. This rich delicacy has its root in the Punjab region. The Punjabis know how to handle the lentils. This dish was created by the famous Kundan Lal of the Motimahal restaurant. He is the founder of the famous Butter chicken or Murgh Makhani. It is said that he wanted to create a creamy vegetarian dish to balance the array of non veg dishes prepared in his kitchen. He used the same makhani sauce as the base and added a combination of urad dal, rajma and channa dal. Thus, the most popular vegetarian dish of India came alive. Dal makhani is quite simple to make but time-consuming. Traditionally, it is slow cooked on low flame overnight. The slow cooking is what makes the dish tasty. Urad dal when cooked slow and low, gives a wonderful flavour and this is a perfect recipe for slow cooker. I have listed four important things that helps you to make the best dal makhani every time.
Tips for making Dal Makhani
The most important thing in perfecting the tastiest dal makhani is simmering it for a long time and preparing ahead of time. Yes, the best dal makhani is one which was prepared a day ahead or at least few hours before.
Lentils | Dal - Dals used in making Dal makahani
There are three kinds of dal used in this dish. The main ingredient is the whole Urad dal with skin. It is called Black lentils or Black gram in english. The other two dals are Rajma ( red kidney beans) and channa dal (split bengal gram). They can be omitted if you don't have them. Soaking the dal overnight or at least 6 hours is also important. I know there are many shortcuts out there like pouring hot water or cooking for a longer time and reducing the soaking time etc... I have tried all this method and felt something missing. Most of the times, the dal hardens after cooking. This was a major deal breaker for me. For now, I soak them overnight. Ill keep experimenting with these techniques and definitely keep you updated once I master a foolproof technique for speeding up the process. The point is the dal must be cooked well to achieve the creamy and velvety texture.
Simmering & resting - One of the important techniques to make a lip smacking dal makhani
Yes, this is the most important part in perfecting the dal makhani. The more you simmer, the better it tastes. This helps the lentils absorb all the flavour and in achieving more creamier and smoother gravy. When you have the time, simmer it for a longer time.
Also, let it rest for some time after cooking. This is a universal tip in cooking. The settling time gives everything that went in to amalgamate fully. This is kind of a universal rule. I follow this for many recipes and try to avoid serving anything right off the stovetop. You can prepare this ahead and reheat (warm it up) just before serving. This is the best make ahead recipe. You can store this in the refrigerator for about a week. Do not add cream or milk or diary products tif you are storing it for a week and this extends the shelf life.
- Butter & Cream
As the name suggests, makhan means butter in hindi. So, the dal makhani recipe has a good amount of butter and cream. Both of which gives this dish, a velvety, creamy and smooth texture. Unlike other gravies (curries), this is a very mild dish. Other than garam masala, it has no extra spice powders.
- Kasuri Methi
This is the magic ingredient not only for this gravy but for most north Indian dishes. I cannot emphasize enough how much it elevates the flavour of the dish. Kasuri methi must be added only at the end of the cooking or after turning off the flame.
For everyday cooking of Dal Makhani
The above mentioned tips can be used while making an elaborate meal on a weekend or when you have guests. You need to impress them, don't you ?
Reduce the butter and omit cream. You can also add milk. Keep it simple. It doesn't mean that you are cutting back on the flavour but you are keeping it light and simple.
Do you have slow cooker ? Then this recipe is perfect to be made in it. Simmering simmering is all this needs.
Punjabi Dal Makhani - A creamy and buttery gravy made of whole urad dal, rajma and channa dal. Slow cooked and simmered to get a delectable rich dish. Perfect to make ahead for weeknight dinner and a great crowd pleaser.
- 2/3 cup whole urad dal | whole black gram with skins
- 1/3 cup red kidney beans | rajma
- 2 tablespoons channa dhal | split bengal gram
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 3 tablespoons Butter, divided
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds | jeera
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
- 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (the Indian variety)
- 1.5 teaspoons red chilli powder (adjust if needed)
- 2 teaspoons garam Masala
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 1/4 teaspoon kasuri methi | dry fenugreek powder
- Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish
- 2 large-sized tomatoes, about 1 cup finely chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion, roughly cubed
- 1 green chillies
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
Soak all three dal in water overnight. Rinse and drain the water. Pressure cook the dal by adding salt and water enough to cover the dal; cook for about 12-15 minutes on high flame. Cook until they are soft and almost mushy.
If you use the Indian pressure cooker, keep it on for about 8-10 whistles on med-high flame.
In a pan add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of oil and keep the flame med-high. Once it is hot, add all the whole garam masala - cardamom, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick. Once they start sizzling and plump; remove them from oil. (refer notes)
Then add the cumin seeds and onion. Sauté until the onions become translucent. Add the chilli powder and turmeric powder. Fry them for a minute.
Then add the ground tomato puree. Cover and cook until the raw smell goes off for about 10 -12 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the oil separates and the masala is almost dried; another 10 minutes.
Then add the cooked dal and 1.5 cup water. Keep stirring and mash some of the lentils with the back of the ladle. This helps in thickening the gravy a bit.
Keep the flame low and simmer it for about 20 minutes. Keep stirring and mashing in between and add water as and when needed.
- As you keep stirring it becomes creamy and thick. Check for salt and adjust.
Then, add the garam masala and 1/2 tablespoon butter; stir well. Simmer it for another 5 minutes.
Finally before switching off add the cream and kasuri methi. Crush the kasuri methi between the palm before adding.
Turn off the flame, garnish it with coriander leaves and serve it with naan or roti or rice.
- The lentils must be well cooked and almost mashed. This is key in achieving a creamy texture. As different pressure cookers have different cooking time, adjust accordingly. If you cook the lentils on stovetop, it might take an hour.
- Remove the whole garam masala from oil as soon as they crack in oil. They are pungent if you bite them by mistake and spoils the entire taste of the dish. Hence it is good to remove them.
- The dish gets its richness and flavour from simmering it for a long time. The more you simmer it the more its taste. I usually simmer it for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. You can also keep it on the flame longer.
- As soon as you add cream and kasuri methi, remove from flame. Do not keep it for a longer time.