This easy dal makhani recipe uses pre-cooked beans and lentils to shorten the cook time for this flavorful vegetarian dish. Serve with naan and enjoy!

Dal Makhani

Do you have people in your life who you feel like you were fated to meet? We’re lucky to have several of those people in our lives, and one of them is Dan. We like to joke that Dan is more of  a brother than a friend—so much so that we created a new word for it (yep, he’s our briend). Our briend Dan lives two houses down and is always up for a front-porch chat or a walk to the corner brewpub. While I was travelling, Dan kept Alex company and convinced Alex to try a dish he’d been craving from his recent trip to India. With Dan at the helm, they created this easy dal makhani, a spicy lentil and bean stew. Keep reading for the dal makhani recipe!

Related: 15 Best Lentil Recipes

What is dal makhani?

Dal translates to “lentils” in Hindi; you may find it spelled daal or dahl. Makhani translates to “buttery”, so this dish literally means “buttery lentils”. It’s a traditional Indian dish made with black lentils, beans, butter and cream. This version is lightened by using butter and milk.

This spin on an easy dal makhani is intensely flavorful and delicious. We topped it with sour cream and sopped it up with whole wheat pita. But if we’d had naan on hand we’d have gone with that. It was so, so good that we knew we had to share it here.

Another great dal recipe? This Masoor Dal (Indian Red Lentils). Masoor dal translates as “red lentils” in Hindi. It comes out cozy and nuanced, with just the right amount of gentle flavoring.

How to make this easy dal makhani

The ingredients list for this easy dal makhani recipe looks intimidating, but it’s primarily spices and flavorings you likely have in your pantry already. Making this Indian dal makhani is surprisingly simple. First, sauté cumin seeds until they start to brown (your kitchen will smell heavenly!) and then add onion, fresh ginger, and garlic to the pan. Next, add in a slew of different spices, a few tablespoons of butter, and some milk. Dump in the pre-cooked lentils and beans, and gradually add in the rest of the milk until the dal makhani has thickened up nicely.

We used dairy milk in this recipe, but if you’re dairy-free you might be able to substitute your preferred milk of choice. We haven’t made this easy dal makhani using non-dairy milk, so I can’t speak to how that will affect the taste. However, I’m sure that as long as you’re using plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk the end result will be tasty! This easy dal makhani keeps well in the fridge for a few days and actually tastes better the longer it sits.

Looking for more easy Indian recipes?

Outside of this easy dal makhani recipe, here are a few more easy Indian inspired recipes:

This easy dal makhani recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Easy Dal Makhani


  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

This easy dal makhani recipe uses pre-cooked beans and lentils to shorten the cook time for this flavorful vegetarian dish. Serve with naan and enjoy!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup minced ginger
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 ½ cups milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons each cumin seeds, chili powder, and coriander
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 15-ounce cans black lentils (or 3 cups cooked black lentils)
  • 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Naan or basmati rice, for serving
  • Sour cream, to garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste and ½ cup milk until smooth.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Sauté the cumin seeds until they just start to brown, about 1 minute. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chili powder, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper, butter, the tomato paste and milk mixture, and another ½ cup milk. Add the beans and lentils and the kosher salt.
  5. Heat and stir, gradually adding the remainder of the milk (1 ½ cups, or more) over a few minutes until a thick sauce forms.
  6. Serve warm, with naan for dipping, or serve with basmati rice. Top with sour cream and chopped cilantro.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: Easy dal makhani, dal makhani, Indian recipes, Vegetarian dinner ideas, Dinner ideas, Healthy dinner ideas

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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30 Comments

  1. I loooove eating spicy Indian food when the temperature rises. I feel like it helps my body cope a bit better somehow? Could be total nonsense too. Either way, this sounds delicious, especially when there’s good “briends” around to help cook it up :)

  2. It’s definitely never too hot for spicy foods – in fact, as you guys know – in Southeast Asia there’s a strong believe that the hotter the weather, the MORE appropriate spicy foods are.
    The photo here is gorgeous, as always, but all the more impressive since dal is one of those foods that seems particularly tricky to photograph!

    1. Thanks you, Jess! It’s nice to hear from others who understand the challenge of photographing a pile of brown slop :) Hope all is well in Southeast Asia!

  3. I normally hate when people ask about substitutions, but I have absolutely no idea where to find black lentils and currently have a bag of normal, brown (?) lentils in my cupboard. Will those do the trick, or are black lentils vital to this recipe? Otherwise, this looks amazing!

    1. Hi Lauren! Great question. We found the black lentils in cans near the normal canned beans in our grocery. I asked both Alex and Dan and we all agreed that canned lentils seem to be the ingredient to use here. Dan has tried it with cooked brown lentils but it didn’t turn out as well. I would think any type of canned lentils would work, but black lentils had a nice texture in this dish — they hold together a bit better than brown lentils (which can become mushy). Thanks for asking – let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Hi friends,
        For Dal Makhani, it is essential that you get black lentil only. It is also called as Whole Urad daal (with skin). There are at least 10 other types of lentils available in the US market but they are not used to make Dal Makhani. I usually buy them from any international grocery store and soak them for 4-6 hrs and then cook them in a pressure cooker. I know it sounds cumbersome, but gives the best results. I do not know where you could find the canned ones…may be at Trader Joe’s.

        1. Thank you so much for this feedback, Shachi! We found our black lentils canned at Fresh Market — but it’s good to know there’s an alternative (albeit a bit more labor intensive!). Thanks!

      2. I really enjoyed this meal! I only had brown lentils which I cooked in the instant pot before transferring to this dish. OMIGOSH! It was AH-mazing! Served over white rice. Thank you!

  4. This looks so interesting, and the flavors look like ones my family would happily eat! Ever since I read Little Princes by Conor Grennan I’ve been wanting to discover what dal is. Maybe we’ll experiment with traditional vs. nontraditional. Thanks for sharing!

  5. We made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! We skipped the butter and added only 1 cup of milk, and it was nice and thick with the naan. We’d add more milk if we were serving it with rice, which would be good too. Thanks for such a great recipe!!

  6. Oh, this is one of my favorite Indian dishes! I have to admit, usually I am too intimidated to cook Indian food (it never turns out well for me!), but I think I’m going to have to give this one a try. :)

    1. I feel like many of the Indian dishes we’ve tried are sub-par… but while this was cooking I went outside and returned to the kitchen and scent of the spices was just fantastic! Dan really came up with something that seems authentic to mid-America me :)

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