Dal Makhani Recipe (Restaurant Style)
Dal Makhani Recipe with stovetop and instant pot instructions. Dal Makhani is a classic North Indian dish made with whole urad dal, rajma, butter and spices. It is one of the most popular lentil dishes originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. This Punjabi Dal Makhani recipe is a keeper. One bite of this flavorsome lentil goodness, your family & guests will be amazed. I am sure you will love how rich, creamy, flavorful and delicious it tastes!
About Dal Makhani
Dal makhani is a popular North Indian dish where whole black lentils & red kidney beans are slow cooked with spices, butter & cream. Dhal or Dal refers to lentils and Makhani translates to buttery. Dal Makhani literally means Buttery dal.
Traditionally Dal Makhani is prepared by cooking lentils on wood/coal fire for several hours. This slow cooking for prolonged hours yield a creamy, thick and best tasting buttery dal.
Making a good Dal Makhani is easy & needs only a few ingredients but it does take time as the lentils need to be slow cooked. So this is an amazing dish to make for a weekend or special festive meal.
Serve this Dal Makhani with garlic Butter naan, tandoori roti, Chapati, roti, Jeera rice or basmati rice.
Ingredients & Substitutes
Lentils – I use black lentils (whole urad dal) and red kidney beans (rajma). For 1 cup urad dal I use ¼ cup rajma. Many people also add a small quantity of chana dal (Bengal gram) for texture. If you prefer you can use 2 tbsp in the recipe or may substitute rajma with chana dal.
Cream – Cooking cream, whipping cream, heavy cream or homemade malai (cream) works well. If using homemade malai, then blend it well in a small blender jar until smooth. Then transfer this to a small cup and stir together a few tbsps of dal makhani. Then pour that to the pot. This way cream will not split.
Kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves – A small quantity of kasuri methi makes a huge difference here. However if you do not have you may skip it. There is no substitute.
How to Make Dal Makhani (Stepwise Photos)
1.Soaking lentils: Add 1 cup urad dal (black lentils) & ¼ cup rajma (red kidney beans) to a large pot and rinse thoroughly a few times. Drain the water and pour 3 to 4 cups fresh water. Soak them for at least 6 to 8 hours. To speed up the soaking process you may pour boiling water and soak for 4 hours.
2.Cooking lentils: After they are soaked well, drain the water and pour 4 cups fresh water. Pressure cook on a medium heat for 10 whistles. It takes about 35 to 40 mins. If using an Instant pot pressure cook for 20 mins. If cooking in a pot add more water as required and cook until they become tender. This is how they look after pressure cooking them.
3.Check if cooked well: When the pressure releases naturally, open the lid and check if the dal is well cooked. Both rajma and urad dal have to be softened. Press down a rajma and few urad dal in between your thumb and fore finger. They should get mashed very well easily. They should not be aldente or even slightly hard.
If they are under-cooked, add half cup more hot water and cook for a little longer about 3 to 4 whistles.
While the dal cooks, chop 1 medium onion finely. Make 1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste. Chop 210 grams of tomatoes (about 1 heaped cup chopped). Puree in a blender. We will need 1 cup tomato puree here. Measure it and keep aside.
4.Heat a heavy bottom pot. Add 1½ tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon ghee. If using whole spices (optional), add 1 bay leaf, 1 black cardamom and 2 green cardamoms. Saute them for half a minute. Then add 1 medium onion finely chopped. Saute until golden or light brown.
5.Then stir in 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste. Saute for 1 minute until the raw smell disappears.
6.Next add 1 cup tomato puree (210 grams) and saute for a while.
7.Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, ¾ to 1½ teaspoon red chilli powder and 1 teaspoon garam masala. Adjust the chilli powder to suit your taste. I use 1½ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder. If you are using hot chilli powder then cut down . I used this punjabi garam masala. Please ensure you use a good one.
8.Saute until the masala cooks well and turns thick. The masala begins to smell good when done.
9.Mash the cooked lentils slightly and transfer to the pot along with the stock. Stir well and add 1 cup hot boiling water.
Slow Cook Dal
10.Stir and continue to cook on the lowest possible heat stirring often to avoid burning. After 60 mins, you will need to add another half cup hot water each time and cook until the dal thickens. I add about 2 cups water in total (1 + ½ + ½).
11.Continue to cook on a low flame for a total of 80 mins stirring every now and then to prevent the dal sticking at the bottom.
12.Taste the dal makhani. Add more salt as needed. Take ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and crush it in between your palms. Then add it. This brings out the flavor.
13. Stir in ¼ cup cream and continue to cook for another 10 mins. If you are making ahead for later use, you may add cream, butter and kasuri methi when you reheat it. So just make the dal makhani without all of the 3, cool and refrigerate or freeze. When you reheat add all of them.
14.This was the consistency I got after 90 mins of total cooking. Thick, creamy & flavorful. Then stir in 1½ tablespoon butter. Turn off the heat.
Smoke Dal Makhani (Optional)
Please avoid this if you are a novice cook. Dal makhani tastes good even without this step.
Place a tall steel cup or bowl in the center of the pot. Ensure it doesn’t get submerged in the dal. Hold a piece of wood coal with a tong over direct fire. For extra safety use a stove lighter or a candle instead of a larger source of fire.
After a few minutes, the coal will turn red & hot. Then carefully place it inside the cup and pour ¼ teaspoon of ghee. You will immediately see fumes emitted by the coal. Cover the pot immediately and leave for 3 to 4 mins.
You may repeat pouring another ¼ teaspoon ghee to smoke for longer. Smoking too long will leave a very strong flavor so 3 to 4 mins is good enough for our taste.
Dal makhani goes very well with Indian breads like butter naan, roti, tandoori roti and even with jeera rice or plain basmati rice. Garnish dal makhani with cream or butter before serving.
Soak black lentils and rajma for at least 8 hours. Well soaked lentils cook up to a creamy texture which is very important to make a delicious dal makhani. To speed up the soaking process, you may soak them in boiling hot water for 4 hours.
Precook the lentils well before adding them to the makhani masala. Even slightly undercooked dal will not work well here.
Butter is the key ingredient to make a flavorful dal makhani. Be generous & use a good amount of butter. In India, cultured butter is used which actually brings an amazing flavor. You can also use the regular butter like the way I did.
But be generous & add a good amount of it. If you are on a low fat diet, cut down your portion size instead of making a low fat dal makhani.
I prefer to use half butter and half ghee for cooking the masala as using only butter burns quickly. You may use one for the other.
Slow cooking lentils on a lowest heat brings out the best flavors. Dal makhani served in restaurants is so much flavorful as the lentils are cooked overnight or whole day on slow fire.
Without simmering you won’t really get the essential flavors in your dal makhani. I suggest simmering for at least 90 mins after adding the cooked lentils to the tempering or masala.
Spices are used in minimum quantities here to keep the flavor of slow cooked black lentils dominant. Most standard Indian restaurants use whole spices like bay leaf, black cardamoms & green cardamoms especially in the tempering.
These spices make a huge difference as they release a unique aroma to the dal when slow cooked for several hours. However you may use either whole spices or ground spices or a mix of both. More in the recipe notes.
Smoking dal makhani – Traditionally made dish is cooked on coal fire for long hours which naturally imparts a smoky aroma to the dish. To some extent the smoky flavor can be recreated at home by smoking the final dish. This step is optional. I have shown it in detail in the video you may take a look.
If you prefer to smoke your dal makhani, ensure you use wood coal that has no additives or fuel added to it. Many people also add liquid smoke to the dish to get that strong flavor.
Dal makhani is made with whole black lentils, unsalted butter, spices, tomatoes, onions, herbs & cream.
Sabut urad dal is used in dal makhani. It is also known as black lentils or black gram.
Just skip the onions and follow the recipe as is. There will be no change in the taste.
Though the major flavors come from slow cooking the lentils, a small quantity of whole or ground spices do elevate the flavors of the dish. So for best flavors, use the spices as mentioned.
For best flavors, cool it immediately, transfer to smaller freezer safe glass bowls & freeze within 2 hours of cooking. This way the flavors are retained to a maximum extent. When you prefer to use, thaw it in the fridge overnight or for 10 to 12 hours.
To reheat, transfer to a pot and cook until bubbling & very hot. If needed pour little water. Alternately transfer to a steel bowl and reheat in instant pot (PIP) on a high pressure for 3 to 4 mins. I do not add any water for reheating in the IP.
How to double the recipe?
To double this recipe, double all the ingredients. Pressure cook the lentils for the same amount of time. I slow cook the dal makhani for longer than 2 hours after adding the cooked lentils to the masala.
Dal Makhani Recipe (Restaurant Style)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
To Pressure Cook
- 1 cup whole black lentil (200 grams black gram – whole urad dal)
- ¼ cup rajma (red kidney beans) (optional)
- 4 cups water for pressure cooking – more for pot
Tempering or Masala
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided – 1 ½ tbsp + 1 ½ tbsp)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 medium onion finely chopped (65 grams)
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 cup tomato puree (210 grams)
- 2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste)
- ¾ to 1½ teaspoons red chilli powder (adjust to taste) (I use 1½)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (use flavorful one)
- 2 cups water (preferably boiling hot)
- ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) (optional)
- ¼ cup cream (more for garnish, heavy cream, whipping cream)
Whole Spices (optional)
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 2 green cardamoms (optional)
- 1 black cardamom (optional)
- Add urad dal and rajma to a large pot and rinse them well a few times. Drain the water and soak them in 3 to 4 cups of water for 7 to 8 hours. To reduce the soaking time, you may soak them in boiling hot water for 4 to 5 hours.
- Later drain the water and rinse them well.
- Pour 4 cups fresh water and pressure cook for 10 whistles on a medium heat. You can also cook in a pot until soft and tender adding more water whenever needed. If cooking in instant pot, pressure cook on high pressure for 20 mins.
- Both urad dal and rajma must cook to very soft. When mashed with a spoon the dal and rajma must be soft and get mashed well easily. If not then pour another half cup hot water and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 whistles on a medium heat.
How to Make Dal Makhani
- Heat a heavy bottom pot with butter & ghee. If using whole spices, add them and saute for half a minute. Then add onions and fry until they turn golden.
- Stir in ginger garlic paste and saute for 1 minute until the raw smell goes away.
- Then transfer tomato puree and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until thick.
- Add salt, chilli powder & garam masala. Saute well until the masala smells good and turns thick.
- Mash the cooked urad dal slightly and pour it along with the stock. Pour another 1 cup hot boiling water & mix.
- Cook on a low flame until the dal thickens stirring often in between to prevent burning the bottom. After 60 mins, the dal thickens.
- Add another ½ to 1 cup hot boiling water and continue to cook until thick. This takes another 30 mins. Totally cook for about 90 mins from the time you added the cooked dal to the pot.
- Then add kasuri methi and pour cream. Stir and cook again for 6 to 8 mins until it becomes thick and creamy.
- Taste and add more salt if needed. Add butter and mix well.
Dhungar – Smoking (optional)
- Place a small piece of foil or a tall steel cup on the dal makhani. Hold 1 to 2 inch piece of natural wood charcoal with a tong and burn it on direct fire until red hot. Then place it on the foil kept over dal or in the steel cup.
- Quickly pour ¼ tsp ghee on the hot coal. Immediately cover the pot and allow to smoke for 3 to 4 mins. For stronger flavor, add another ¼ tsp ghee on the coal and repeat the smoking.
- Garnish dal makhani with butter or cream & serve with naan.
Instant Pot Dal Makhani
- Press SAUTE button on the Instant pot. Add ghee and butter to the steel insert.
- Once the butter melts, add onions and saute until transparent. Add ginger garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds.
- Pour the tomato puree, red chilli powder & garam masala. Saute for 3 to 5 mins.
- Drain the water from the lentils and add them. Pour 3 cups water and deglaze the pot by scrubbing the bottom with a wooden spatula.
- Press CANCEL button. Secure the Instant pot with the lid. Position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Press PRESSURE COOK button and set the timer to 30 mins.
- When the IP finishes it will beep. Wait for the pressure to release naturally.
- Open the lid. You will see the dal being runny at this stage. Add salt & slightly mash the urad dal, not rajma.
- Press SAUTE button. Adjust the setting to LOW by pressing the saute button twice.
- Cook further stirring often until thick. When most of the moisture evaporates, dal turns thicker. Optional – I prefer to add 1 more cup of hot water in 2 batches, ½ cup each time. Cook further until really creamy and thick.
- Then add cream and kasuri methi. Continue to cook until creamy.
- Stir in the butter and garnish dal makhani with cream.
- You can halve the recipe to make 2 to 3 servings. Cut down the cook time to 60 mins.
- Older stock of lentils & beans (aged) often take longer to cook. So buy them from a store which sells fresher stocks.
- If you do not like to use rajma, just skip them. Keep all the quantities of ingredients same.
- You may use whole spices in tempering – 1 black cardamom, 2 to 3 green cardamoms and 1 bay leaf.
- You can use bottled or homemade tomato puree. To make the puree, chop and blend a little over 1 cup tomatoes to make 1 cup puree.
- You can cook the lentils in a pot if you don’t have a cooker. It may take about 60 to 90 mins. Add more water than mentioned in the recipe.
- Simmer the dal for at least 90 minutes to get the best texture. If you double the recipe, simmer for longer.
- Dal makhani tastes best when slow cooked on a low flame for long time. So do not cook even on a medium flame.
- To get the authentic taste you can cook the dal for as long as 3 hours on the lowest flame, adding more water as needed.
- Keep stirring consistently to prevent burning.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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Can I add meat to this? Is that done? I was trying to merge this recipe and your Butter Chicken. Can ground beef be mixed in? What are your thoughts on how these changes would affect the integrity of this recipe (dont want that!)
#thanksforhelpingme move away from burger fries
Dal Makhani is a a meat replacement dish and is never cooked with meat. Adding anything else can easily change the flavor profile. Make this dish once as is without any changes so you get to taste the authentic flavors. After that it is easier for you to experiment. Hope this helps
Thank you for the reponse! For those like me making this for the first time, my observations: If you are making without an Instapot/Pressure cooker be prepared for this dish to take an entire day with a 7-8 hour soak time, another 1-2 hours trying to further tenderize the lentils and then another 90 minutes for it all to simmer (i WILL be buying one, lol).
I did not have the cardamon or cream, but otherwise followed the directions. I do not know what I did wrong (not rinse well enough?) but the dish turned out a bit bitter. I ended up adding a squeeze of lemon juice, and a bit more salt to balance out.
The dish is very forgiving and I ended up tasting and seasoning until I was happy with the flavors. I was generous with the chil powder, garam masala, and salt. I used a bit of milk in place of the cream.
Since it took until after what should have been dinner time (no instapot remember), I put in fridge overnight and the time for the flavors to blend must have worked wonders because my 3 picky kids ate it over rice with ZERO complaints! No one was looking for “the meat”!
Thank you for helping make this cross cultural vegetarian dining experience a winner for my family.
Glad it turned out good. Yes the lentils need a proper rinse else they will taste bitter. Also old lentils are likely to taste bitter so use fresher stocks. You can try blanching the lentils before soaking and this helps a lot of times to get rid of the bitterness from the skin. Thank you for trying and sharing back how it turned out for you.
Came across your website when looking for Indian recipes and I’m kinda puzzled at the huge number of recipes you have on Swasthi’s. I’m loving them all. Every dish I have tried from here have turned out to be amazing and that’s more than what I expected. Last week I made dal makhani and bhindi masala. Made 2x recipes to feed my family of 4. My family is blown away at this dal makhani and there were no leftovers which I was expecting. Thank you and next try is your Kadhi pakora.
Thank you so much for trying the recipes Julie. So glad you like them. Hope you enjoy Kadhi pakora too.
Hi! I’ve made this dal makhani almost every month and comes out great each time. However I double the onions and brown them, add a bit of sour cream for a slight tang. It turns out amazing and such a great balance of flavors. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing back how it turns out for you. Some people use curd/Indian yogurt in dal makhani. I guess sour cream gives a similar taste. Glad it turns out good.
What an amazing & brilliant dal makhani recipe! I’ve already made it many times in the last few months and every time it was delicious. But had to try the smoking/dhungar method & tried it last Friday. Oh My God!! It was the best and I’m kind of addicted to this recipe. My only question now is about the whole spices, do you add them to a pouch or just to the oil in the pot? I could not find them in the pictures.
Thank you so much for trying. So glad you like it. I add them to the ghee/ butter to the tempering. Yes you can add them to a pouch if you don’t like biting into them.
I’m in the middle of preparing for this recipe after soaking the skin seems to separate from the lentils is it okay to use thank you
Alva, Yes You can still use them. I guess they are oversoaked but that should be fine. Sorry I’m late in replying
I’m a vegan and love Indian food. I finally got my meat eating husband to love lentils with this dal makhani. Made it thrice so far and it is the best lentil dish I have ever eaten. Thank you for the recipe. Going to try more from here.
That’s great Danarita. So happy to know you like this. Thank you so much!
Thank you for the quick reply. I made it and my family says they never ate a dal this delicious. Tastes excellent and we need a bigger batch for the next time.
Happy to know Patrick. Thanks a lot for sharing back.
Does dal makhani taste different if garam masala is added later at the finishing stage? I love this recipe and looking forward to try it soon. Thank you
Yes it does taste different. You want the lentils to be flavored as they cook not after they are done cooking. At the finishing stage you may sprinkle a little more along with salt (as mentioned in the recipe) for more flavors. Hope you enjoy the dish Patrick.
Your recipes are fantastic. I keep coming back to this dal makhani recipe because my son loves this. Turns out amazing every time. I am yet to try this out with whole spices. Thank you.
Happy to know Beth. Thank you so much for trying the recipes.
Best dal makhani I ever made. Left out kidney beans and whole spices still it turned out delicious. Served with frozen naans. Delicious!! Highly recommend this recipe.
Thanks Linda for sharing back how it turned out. Glad it tasted delicious.
Thank you very much. My husband loves this dal makhani. Turns out amazing every time.
Happy to know Urmila. Thank you
Thank you for sharing your dal makhani recipe! I made 2x recipe last Sunday and have been enjoying it for lunch all through the week. It’s surprising because I’m a very picky eater and trying to be more calorie conscious. I came across your recipe while looking for a dal bhukara that I ate in New York few years ago. Decided to try out this dal makhani that looks similar. I’m so wonderfully glad I did try because this tastes absolutely delicious.
That’s awesome! Happy to know you love it
I know black lentils are best here but I was wondering if you can use brown lentils instead? If so, would there be a difference in cooking time?
You don’t need to soak the brown lentils and cut down the water to 3 cups. After adding to the masala (tempering), pour hot water only as needed. You only need to cook for 30 to 35 minutes before adding to the masala and 5 to 6 mins after adding to the masala. Hope you enjoy the dish.
Holy cow! I made this dal makhani for my family for dinner tonight and it is hands down the best I have ever made in my life. Amazingly delicious. We had with frozen naans, jasmine rice & raita.
Thank you so much Margaret. That makes me very happy!
Delish! I all the whole spices and also cinnamon. Came out awesome. Thank you
Glad to know Aditi. Thank you so much for trying and sharing the outcome.
Your recipes are uncomplicated and so easy to follow. Made 2x last week and refrigerated the leftovers. On the 5 day it tastes even more delicious. Thank you
So happy to read this Purvi. Yes actually a lot of people say dal makhani tastes best the next day! Thank you so much!
I made this recipe using the skinned urad daal and it worked out fine. Lovely recipe and very clear instructions. Thank you so much.
Glad you like it Rosie. Thanks for sharing how it turned out for you.
I tried this Dal Makhani recipe for the second time and in love with it. I also used a little yogurt and it turned out fantastic. Also had your chicken tikka kebabs on the side. Fabulous meal!
Glad to know Renitha. That’s a lovely spread! Thanks for sharing how it turned out.
Hi there, I run a food truck selling Asian foods. I would like to make this dal but unable to find the lentil with skin. Can I use skinned split urid.
Actually dal makhani is best made with whole lentils with the skin. You can sure make with skinned lentils but then the cook time changes and you will miss the earthy flavor. Other than that the recipe will still work. You may try a small batch first to see if you like.
Just made this dal makhani for dinner. We like rich delicious Indian food & have been trying to get more legumes and veggies into my family’s diet. I doubled the recipe because we love dal but had to leave out the rajma. I also used extra garlic and paprika because I didn’t have the Indian chili powder. My Indian friends said it tasted just like the Delhi Makhani Dal that they eat in Delhi restaurants. One of my friends helped me smoke the dal. Love Love Love this Dal Makhani Recipe. Tasted delicious! Going into my monthly rotation.
Thanks Jane. That’s great! Happy to read this!
This Dal makhani is our favorite. I think your proportion of urad to rajma & spices is great. I follow this recipe exactly but use 1.5 cups pureed tomatoes. Turns out delicious every time! Thank you!
Happy to know Abha. Thank you so much for leaving a comment. Makes me happy!