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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
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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

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4 from 1 review

  • 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
  • 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, drained (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


  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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Dianne says:

    I am cooking for friends from India. Is this a main course?
    Where do I find traditional Naan?
    What’s garahm masala?
    What other Indian foods would be served with this dish?
    Would they prefer Naan or rice with this?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m sorry, we don’t have enough information to answer all of these questions! I’d recommend checking out this cookbook:

  2. Donald says:

    Love your recipes

  3. Regina conner says:

    The recipe was very good!
    I used brown lentils (1/2 lb lentils 4cups of water cooked 20 – 30 minutes, perfect; it Made 3 cups of lentils still firm.
    Also Substituted coconut milk ( I don’t use regular cows milk) Followed the recipe otherwise. I have a tendency to use what’s in the larder, (house) vs new purchase.

    So good, even on hot days in Nevada!

  4. Beth says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I only had brown lentils which I cooked in the instant pot before transferring to this dish. I also didn’t have tomato paste, so I used about 8 oz of tomato sauce and used coconut milk (vegan) instead of regular milk. Let me tell you…there was NO problem with these revisions. OMIGOSH! It was AH-mazing! My husband, who is a tried and true “meat-a-saurus” actually ate a full serving of this. Cleared his plate! We served this over white rice. Thank you!

  5. Kellen says:

    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.

  6. Russell says:

    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.

  7. Darlene says:

    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.

  8. Megan says:

    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.

    1. Alex says:

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

    2. Mary Ellen says:

      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.

  9. Russell says:

    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.

  10. Nena says:

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

    1. Alex says:

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

  11. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies says:

    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. Alex says:

      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 :)

  12. Julia says:

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

    1. Alex says:

      Awesome! Bon appetit!

  13. Lindsay says:

    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!!

    1. Alex says:

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

  14. Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are} says:

    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!

  15. Lauren says:

    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. Sonja says:

      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. Shachi says:

        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. Sonja says:

          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. Beth says:

        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!

        1. Alex Overhiser says:

          So glad you enjoyed it!

  16. Jess says:

    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. Sonja says:

      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!

  17. Sofia says:

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

    1. Sonja says:

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

  18. Laura says:

    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 :)

  19. Tieghan says:

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

    1. DDay says:

      No one has asked the obvious question. Are the beans drained? Lentils? I’m making this recipe and it doesn’t say.

      1. Alex Overhiser says:

        Yes, drained! We updated the recipe card.

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