Easy Dal Makhani

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

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (79 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)

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


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!



  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons each cumin seeds, chili powder, and coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 15-ounce cans black lentils (or 3 cups cooked black lentils)
  • 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Naan or basmati rice, for serving
  • Sour cream, to garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish


  1. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste and 1/2 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 1/2 cup milk. Add the beans and lentils and the kosher salt.
  5. Heat and stir, gradually adding the remainder of the milk (1 1/2 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

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    May 29, 2013 at 8:26 am

    What a yummy and flavorful meal! It sounds incredible and I never do Indian, so I really want to make this!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

    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 :)

  • Reply
    May 31, 2013 at 12:46 am

    How many ounces are the cans of lentils and black beans?

    • Reply
      May 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

      Good catch — 15-ounce cans! I’ve updated the recipe – thanks!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2013 at 5:09 am

    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!

    • Reply
      May 31, 2013 at 9:29 am

      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!

  • Reply
    June 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

    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!

    • Reply
      June 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      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!

      • Reply
        July 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        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.

        • Reply
          July 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm

          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!

  • Reply
    Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are}
    June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

    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!

  • Reply
    June 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    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!!

    • Reply
      June 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting us know :)

  • Reply
    June 2, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Have this simmering away as I type! So excited to share with my family xxx

    • Reply
      June 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Awesome! Bon appetit!

  • Reply
    Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies
    June 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    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. :)

    • Reply
      June 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      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 :)

  • Reply
    August 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I have a stupid question. What do you mean by “separated” milk?

    • Reply
      August 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Haha — sorry! We mean that the 2 1/2 cups are not used all at once in the recipe :)

  • Reply
    November 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    This recipe matches Dan’s spicy personality well. Really good though. Couldn’t find black lentils, though. To be honest I’m not sure they actually exist.

  • Reply
    February 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    This was so yummy! Tim has been wanting to try this for a few weeks and I finally made it this evening. We were out of milk and butter so I used a can of light coconut milk/cream and coconut oil instead. It turned out great. The flavor with the tomato paste and spice mix (plus all of that ginger) is really lovely.

    • Reply
      February 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Awesome, so glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully Time pinned it to his favorite pinboard ;)

    • Reply
      Mary Ellen
      February 9, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Hi. I made it tonight with brown lentils, it was what I had. It was delicious. I also used plain greek yogurt rather than sour cream as a garnish. Definitely would make it again.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I have been searching for years for a simple Dahl recipe that is both flavourful and lower in calories than the traditional and this recipe meets all my qualifications. Loved it.

  • Reply
    August 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Guys, I was wondering whether I should drain and/or rinse the beans and/or lentils? This looks fabulous, and I noticed black lentils at my local grocer. Thanks.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    SO good, my Woden loved it the too. Lotsa subs just using trying to empty my pantry on a Sunday. Garbanzos instead of black beans, brown lentils, and added a can of chopped tomatoes which I think added to the dish. I’m trying to make vegan a few times a week so used a can of coconut milk and olive oil in place of milk and bu tree. Oh also added a tablespoon of mustard seed I see in a lot of Indian dishes and I love the little crunch it gives.

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