Recipes

punjabi-style black lentils

Because I have strange habits, I spent a lot of time one night last week watching videos on YouTube of grandmothers and other home cooks making dal makhani, a rich black lentil dish from the Punjab region. Unpolished home cooking videos are one of my favorite ways to learn how to make a dish that is foreign to me, and while what I’ve made here isn’t an authentic black lentil (urad) dal, it’s worth knowing why it is isn’t. For example, it would have a small portion of kidney beans (rajma) it in too, you’d definitely have soaked your lentils and beans together the night before and in almost every case, cooked them in a pressure cooker on another burner while making the spiced base sauce, and then together for a little or long while. The more authentic versions I looked at have a lot more butter and cream in them, and only sometimes began with an onion. In every case, the cook had a “ginger-garlic paste” that seemed to have come prepared, something I was previously unfamiliar with but find brilliant as they are so often better together, and of course all spices were added with eyeballed measurements.


what you'll needblack lentilschoppedtomato-spice base

It’s also much more loose. A traditional dal is like a gravy or a loose soup, but here I go for something thicker, almost like a chili. You can loosen it a bit with more water and serve it like a soup, or ladled over rice; you can also add a spoonful of rice to the middle, as we did with this soup to give it a bit more heft. We ate it in small bowls with some toasted naan and these potatoes and cauliflower on the side, a forever favorite.

browned onions
simmering
a kinda dal makhani

But you can’t write about a dish known as buttery lentils without talking about all the of cream and butter typical in it, and for this, can we talk for a minute about monter au beurre? Literally, lifted or raised with butter, it’s one of these French cooking techniques that sounds complicated but isn’t at all — it’s just finishing a sauce or dish with additional butter for maximum flavor impact. This idea of putting rich ingredients where you can best taste them has useful home cooking applications, especially here. I find that by finishing this with a smidgen of butter (salted, please) and a spoonful of cream, rather than cooking much larger amounts into the dish, it tastes like you’re eating the most decadent thing on earth without the arterial implications that go with it. It also means you get to have it more often, which was, after all, the goal.

black lentil dal

Previously

One year ago: Churros
Two years ago: Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes
Three years ago: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata
Four years ago: French Onion Tart
Five years ago: Multigrain Apple Crisps
Six years ago: Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers
Seven years ago: Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
Eight years ago: Meatball Sliders and Key Lime Coconut Cake
Nine years ago: Devil Dog Cake and Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges
Ten! years ago: Strawbery Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Plum Squares with Marzipan Crumble
1.5 Years Ago: Corn Chowder Salad
2.5 Years Ago: Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk
3.5 Years Ago: Butterscotch Pudding Popsicles and Pink Lemonade Popsicles
4.5 Years Ago: Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

Punjabi-Style Black Lentils

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Print

Black lentils, if you haven’t bought them before, are wonderful: tiny, pretty and they stay perfectly intact when you cook them, meaning they also scatter well over salads. Also called beluga lentils, I like to think of them as luxurious as caviar without the price. [Note: This dish was previously named “Black Lentil Dal.”]

    Base
  • 2 tablespoons oil, butter (regular or ghee)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional but traditional)
  • Ground chile powder, to taste (I started with a 1/2 teaspoon, but I have to keep things weak for kids)
  • 1 cup finely chopped or pureed tomatoes, fresh or from a can
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup dried black lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups water, plus more to taste
  • To finish
  • 4 teaspoons butter (salted is lovely here)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Handful chopped fresh cilantro

Make the dal: Heat oil (or oil and butter) over medium. Once hot, add onion and cumin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion browned in spots. Add garlic and ginger, cook for 1 minute more, then the rest of the spices and tomato and cook for 3 minutes more, scraping up any stuck bits. Add water and salt, then lentils. Bring to simmer, then reduce to low and cover and cook until lentils are tender, between 35 and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. For a looser dal, you can add more water. Adjust spices and seasonings to taste.

To finish as shown: Ladle into four bowls. Place a 1-teaspoon pat of butter in the center of each, letting it begin to melt before swirling in 1 1/2 teaspoons cream and finishing with cilantro.


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269 comments on punjabi-style black lentils

      1. SB

        In Like Flint – 1967 movie of the spy genre…Funny, if I remember correctly. This recipe sounds perfect for the strange hot/cold/warm/freezing/normal/cold weather we’ve been having here in the mid-Atlantic. As always, thanks Deb.

      1. That was a movie where the (anti?) hero was named Flint. It was a sequel to Our Man Flint, and Derek Flint was a spy parodying James Bond. “In like Flynn” is the original idiom, and seems to have appeared during WWII. Errol Flynn’s reputation may have inspired it, or it may have been related to a NY political boss named Flynn during FDR’s presidency.

        1. trixie

          It was “in like Flynn” — slyly commenting about Errol Flynn’s smooth way with women. He was a great “ladies’ man” – legendary in classic Hollywood. Nothing to do with the Flint movies.

  1. Eleanor

    I’ve been reading and loving your blog for years but haven’t ever commented. I just had to after reading this recipe. I ordered dal makhani on a whim at an Indian restaurant recently and have been searching for a recipe ever since without any luck. Thank you thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to make this.

  2. Amy

    Ground chile powder? I’m assuming this is not chili powder. Can you tell me what specifically to buy? Because I spent a while this morning digging through your Indian recipes and this is kismet and I must have it tonight… :)

    1. deb

      Here’s a good explanation, more articulate than me: The terms “chili” and “chile” are often used interchangeably across North America, but they don’t always mean the same thing. Chili powder is usually a blend of ground chile pods and other spices like cumin, peppercorn, and salt. Chile powder most often refers to pure ground chile pods with few or no additives; the only way to tell is to read the ingredient label.

      I picked up some kashmiri chile powder recently that was good here. You can find different heat levels (this was fairly mild but works well for cooking with kids who don’t like heat) in an Indian or Middle Eastern store. Cayenne is probably the most available elsewhere.

      1. BethD

        Thank you for the clarification (I thought it might be cayenne but was going to post the question if someone else hadn’t already).

    1. deb

      I’d go for a lentil that stays intact well while cooking, such as French green lentils de puy or Italian brown lentils (lenticchie). However, kidney beans are also traditional in dal makhani; usually they’re used in a 1/8 to 1/2 amount as the black lentils. You could just use them. And of course split red lentils and yellow lentils are more common in Indian cooking, however, they’ll fall apart more.

      1. Rebecca

        This dish is most often made with whole urad dal and kidney beans (fewer kidney beans than urad, typically a 2:1 ratio in favour of urad), which keeps its shape well. Although it can be difficult to find outside of Indian food stores so beluga lentils work well as a decent substitute!

    2. Claudina

      I buy beans by weight (everything else too) so I can keep in budget. Do you Know how much a cup of black lentils weight? Thanks very much!!

      1. deb

        Yikes, totally forgot to write it down but my weight for small green lentils (similar in sturdiness and size) is 210 grams per cups. Can fairly safely use that.

    3. CR

      I posted this on IG, but here again too, because these lentils are so good and easy to find. Goya Paradina variety. They’re small, delicious, and stay intact for a recipe like this. Available in any supermarket with a Goya/Spanish food aisle.

  3. Love a good, spicy, hearty dal. Love seeing a beautiful dal recipe on this site and love Smitten Kitchen. But the Indian (Tamil/Telugu) couldn’t resist a minor correction. Indian isn’t a language so an Indian-speaking grandmother would be difficult to understand… even by fellow Indians :) Perhaps she was speaking Punjabi or Hindi or one of the other 22 official languages of India. Looking forward to trying this recipe.

  4. I now see that I’ve been missing out on the joy of watching other cultures’ homecooking videos, which is obvious in hindsight! Question: the chile-garlic paste some of the cooks you watched use, is it like the “Chili Garlic Sauce” from Huy Fong? (I’d link you to Amazon, but don’t want to end up in Comment Purgatory 🙃 ) That little jar is one of my favorite things, and ends up in ALL sorts of dishes in my kitchen.

    Also, aside: the swirl of golden butter and cream in the header image, yowza.

    1. Indian cooks tend to use a prepared paste that’s just garlic and ginger ground together. The chili garlic paste you’re referring to is like chunkier version of Sriracha, with ground chilies, garlic and other spices.

      1. Ha, what an embarrassing failure of reading comprehension for me. Yes, I’m familiar with ginger-garlic paste, but somehow when reading the post I could have sworn I read “chile-garlic” paste. Obviously that’s not the case, and would explain why I was so surprised to see it there!

        1. Bree

          Hi Mike! Another comment further down suggests that there was a typo in the original text where it was ‘child-garlic’ that she later corrected, so you may not be as lacking in comprehension as you thought :)

  5. Poonam

    Love you and this blog to pieces, but “Indian” is not a language – they were likely speaking Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu (or even one of the other 119 major languages and 1599 other languages of the Indian subcontinent).

      1. Molly

        Cultural blunders like this can happen whenever we venture outside of our own cultural comfort zone. I think it’s a good thing, if we don’t make mistakes we’ll never know what we don’t know! Thanks for posting this recipe, I’m in the midst of making it now and it smells and tastes amazing :)

    1. I made this tonight in the Instant Pot, and it worked well. I sauteed just like I would have on the stove top. I only used three cups of water, but I had already soaked my lentils for about four hours and they absorbed a lot of water. (They were in the house and I didn’t plan to make it until later.) But I’d reduce water to account for lack of evaporation. I cooked mine for 5 minutes after soaking, and let it release naturally. Cooked perfectly. (I adore my Instant Pot and use it far more than I’d have imagined.)

  6. Dan B

    Hi Deb! This looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to try it; thank you for the recipe! I have a question: can you clarify what you mean by “1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (use 1 teaspoon in final)”? Thank you so much.

      1. Dan B

        Thank you! I’m going to make this for a dinner party this week; we’ll all raise a glass to you right before we eat what is sure to be a delicious meal.

  7. Colleen

    The first time I had dal makhani was in Jaipur and it was smoked. My then fiance, now husband, was so happy to find a vegetarian dish that spoke to the meat eater that he is. It is the one Indian dish that he makes and he will put the pot in the smoker for a few hours before finishing it with the cream.

    I brought a pot to my haldi (a pre-wedding, all women event) and all of my friends told me that I had made a good match as he had made food for the party, and it was delicious. They thought that he was wonderful even before he made the lentils for the party, but now 10+ years later, he is still expected to make it for parties.

  8. Susan

    ok being Indian – but not from the North as this dish is – I love this recipe. I have made it before with mixed results but probably my method was wrong. I only recently found out butter was a key to adding flavour to this dish so i will definitely be trying this.

    1. deb

      I did, now fixed. As this is a record number of typos for me, I think we can all agree that Deb needs more sleep and less wine this past weekend. ;)

      [Also, I first read your comment as ginger-child paste.]

  9. Amy

    Perhaps you should link some of the videos that inspired this recipe. Their creators would probably appreciate attribution and additional views, like any other source.

    1. deb

      Ah, good point. I always list sources but I didn’t adapt the recipe from anywhere so no source is listed; I just went into a deep rabbit hole of watching others make it and noting what they included that I hadn’t planned to (most things noted on top) and techniques (also noted up top), and then wrote my own. FWIW, I research a lot of recipes this way — as well as pulling books off my shelf and flipping through articles — and only usually call out the ones that end up influencing the way I write my own, or of course if I use another’s recipe all or in part.

      Here are a few I’d enjoyed.

  10. Robin

    Dal makhani has been my very favourite North Indian dish, possibly my favourite restaurant dish of any kind, since I first tried it as a pre-teen on my very first trip to an Indian restaurant. I’ve never made it at home because of the cream/butter issue, but now I have to! It may even be worth buying heavy cream for the fridge. May try it with yogurt instead though. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    1. JP

      Yes, I would like to know about using yogurt instead too…I don’t have to worry about salted butter because I never quit using that…glad to see it is coming back in style!

      Strange question: can lentils give “intestinal distress” like most beans or split peas?

      1. Hi, I’m a legume (lentils, beans and dried peas) enthusiast and run a helpline on the subject. Lentils give less distress than other legumes but they all digest better and help with nutrition absorption and give less distress when they are soaked for about 16-24 hours, rinsed then cooked properly (not al dente). An extra measure is to rinse the legume after cooking if your stomach is sensitive. If you have time after soaking, you can actually sprout the legume, which breaks down the antinutrients that can make it hard to digest. Just 48 hours of sprouting can make a difference! Also try tempeh, the fermentation process helps break down antinutrients as well.

      2. Well, my personal case, for what it’s worth. Beans make me seriously socially unacceptable, so this issue is something I’ve paid a lot of attention to!

        Lentil and peas, at least for me, don’t cause problems. Maybe because they’re so much smaller than kidney or navy beans? For whatever reason, they don’t. The other legume which doesn’t require me to withdraw to a hermitage for 24 hours is garbanzo beans or chickpeas. Other people’s digestions may react very differently, though.

        1. Janine

          I have the same issue with beans! As someone who doesn’t eat much meat at all, I rely on beans a lot for protein which really puts me in a pinch. By some sort of grace, I love chick peas and they never cause me problems. Lentils also agree with me. A delicious but sad experiment involving soaking raw cashews for a salad dressing gave me the same results as black beans – sad, but at least I know now.

  11. janmorrison12

    I’m at work and had to dip in just for a minute. Oh yum. I cannot wait. I’ll have to though as we don’t have any cream and won’t be able to get any for a few days. Yep, that’s right. I’m a ninety minute round-trip from a cream source, but yet we manage to live pretty high off the hog. My fella is usually the cooker of Indian cuisine but this seems to hit me in my Mexican/Indian fusion desire so I’m going to do it. Besides – he thinks he’s so smart! Time to put him in his place. Which…er…is often at the stove. hmmm.

  12. Just a quick note on the ginger-garlic paste: I have a cookbook (660 Curries, it’s great!) that talks about this stuff, and how to make it yourself. It’s incredibly easy. Just peel some garlic and ginger, rough chop the ginger, then put everything in a food processor or blender and puree, adding water if you need it, until it’s a paste, then pack it into ice cube trays and freeze it. An ice cube is usually about 1T, and you can just toss one into whatever you’re cooking.

    I usually buy pre-peeled garlic for this, because I’m lazy. I like the homemade better than the store-bought because I find the store-bought tastes a little like preservatives.

    1. Deborah

      Thank you for this! Would you recommend about a 1:1 ratio? I’ve made a lot of Indian dishes, but not necessarily paid attention to date on the ratio between the two.

        1. HKW

          An Indian friend who taught cooking classes said she always makes a big batch of blitzed ginger and garlic at the beginning of the week and keeps it in a jar on the fridge to dip into all week. Makes prep so much easier and I’d completely forgotten that tip until reading this!

  13. ouryearinindia

    This time last year we were in the middle of a ten-month stint in Mumbai. At the time, I felt that prepackaged garlic-ginger puree was cheating, but that was clearly culture shock on my part, and now I wish I’d brought some back. Genius move, subcontinent.

  14. Did you make it to Dishoom when you were in London? I’m a big fan of their black daal and wondered if you had tried it and how this one compared… Theirs tastes very complex and smoky to me with a background heat–they claim it takes days to make I think!

    1. deb

      I did not. I made it to one Indian restaurant and it was good but I was jetlagged and alone and probably didn’t get the most out of it. I’d so love to go back and eat, well, everywhere.

    2. Denise

      Yes!! Dishoom! I thought the exact same thing when I saw this recipe. I love that restaurant and wondered if this dish would be similar to that black daal.

  15. Emma

    Would a couple tablespoons of coconut milk work in place of the heavy cream? Butter works for tummies in my household, but cream sadly does not.

  16. Wendy

    Lol – I also just bought that giant bag of beluga lentils from kalustyan’s, except I spilled them all over the floor when opening. They are a close second place behind Legos when stepping on them barefoot! Thanks for the great dal recipe to use up the rest of them.

  17. Pen Fox

    One note of caution about all lentils, and especially beluga/black lentils — the packages can sometimes have small stones in them that are hard to see, and that could chip or break a tooth. My (Indian) mother always taught me to pour small batches of the dried lentils in a light colored dish and shake to see if I spot any stones.

    I cook lots of Indian food, and usually have ginger/garlic paste on-hand. It’s definitely a “thing”!

  18. Rebeca

    I adore black lentils, and this dal looks and sounds too good not to be tried. What I’m about to say may sound blasphemous to some, but it sounds a lot better to me without the butter and the cream at the end. Not that I’m scared of fat (hello, I was just eating almond butter by the spoonful a few minutes ago), I’m just not a fan of them. I think coconut milk would probably replace the cream nicely, though I’d bet it’s flavourful enough without.

    1. deb

      I’d say the small green/gray French ones because they stay more intact when cooked. But I think you could use this preparation for other beans too and it would still be delicious.

  19. Fran

    I went shopping for black lentils at the local (45 miles away) Indo-Pak store. What they had and insisted was right was Urad Whole or Black Matpe beans. Which look like black mung beans. And it seems they are correct because a lot of the recipes I found online agreed. So I’m going to try a mash-up of your recipe and a couple others I found. Wish me luck.

    1. Yeah. Being a botanist, I was going to comment with the fairly irrelevant nitpick that black lentils are actually a kind of mung bean. So they didn’t lie to you at the grocery store :D . Black lentil is one of their common names, so Deb’s not wrong either!

      1. Sonja

        Well when I did some (mainly Wikipedia) research I found:

        1) Vigna mungo, black gram, black lentil, mungo bean (not to be confused with the much smaller true black lentil (Lens culinaris)), black matpe bean, Sanskrit माष / māṣa, is a bean grown in the Indian subcontinent. At one time it was considered to belong to the same species as the mung bean.
        The product sold as black lentils is usually the whole urad bean, whereas the split bean (the interior being white) is called Ulunthu in Tamil, Minumulu in Telugu,”‘uddinabēḷe”‘ in Kannada, Urad Dal in Hindi, or white lentils.
        2) “True” black lentils (Lens culinaris) are known as Beluga lentil

        –> Summary: Urad dal comes from the Vigna genus while beluga lentils come from the Lens genus.

        Anyways, since my preferred grocery store carries Beluga lentils and no Urad beans, I am happy that this recipe uses Beluga lentils.

        1. Angie

          Yeah, I was confused since Deb talks in the head notes about how this isn’t exactly “traditional” (which is fine!) but then does’t draw attention to the fact she uses a totally different kind of bean. Both are commonly called “black lentils” but as you’ve mentioned urad dal is actually a type of mung bean (it’s more oblong and had a white stripe on it) whereas beluga lentils are true lentils, and have the standard lentil shape.

          In my experience, urad dal also takes a LOT longer too cook – I can’t imagine them getting anywhere near cooked in only 45 minutes without soaking.

  20. Mary Jane Wolfram

    Need to proof read “Make the dal” paragraph. “…until onion browned at in spots”??? Next sentence as well.
    I just read some of the comments. Do I add 4 tsp butter and 2 T. Cream to the dish, or smaller amt cream and butter/bowl?
    Thanks.

    1. deb

      Thanks, now fixed. There are four portions here; you’re to use a 1-teaspoon pat of butter and 1.5-teaspoon swirl of cream to finish each bowl.

  21. Oooh! I just made dal with chapatis (non-leavened bread) for our vegetarian Tuesday meal. Kid and I loved it; carnivore husband didn’t. I did it with coral lentils.
    Years ago, I took an Indian cooking class and the garlic/ginger paste was a staple. You can do it fresh with a food processor. Not sure a pressure cooker is necessary.

  22. Lata

    I love your blog, but just wanted to mention that it would be appreciated if we would call Indian/ethnic foods by their traditional name, and not white-wash it. Calling it “lentil dal” is redundant. Dal means lentil in Hindi, so you’re essentially saying “lentil lentil”. I understand that not all readers may be familiar with “dal”, but maybe dal could be explained in the blog, instead of changing its traditional ethnic name. Thanks!

    1. deb

      This is so interesting. I always understood dal to both mean lentils and also a kind of preparation, i.e. like the gravy/loose soup description above, hence the name. What would you call it in English?

      Editorially, the reason I usually use English names in post titles is that I want everyone to know what the dish is right from the top, even if they’re not familiar with its official name, and then I mention the official, non-English, name throughout, i.e. French Onion Soup and not Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée, Russian Honey Cake and not Medovik or Smetannik (although there are cases like Chana Masala and Latkes where I think the non-English name is what the dish is primarily known as). But it’s an editorial decision.

      That said, I researched dal makhanis — which is what I assume you’re saying you’d prefer I call it — because I was curious, but this is not ultimately dal makhani — it’s missing several of the spices and has no kidney beans and the prep is different.

      1. Geetika

        You are right – dal is a word used for the grain itself (called pulses in Indian English, lentils here in the US) and also for the finished preparation. Typically it’s self-explanatory if you’re talking about the dish (or the ingredient) due to context and so we never really say “lentil dal” – it is redundant.

        Different dals have specific names of their own – urad dal, mung dal, arhar dal (pigeon pea), chana dal (split pea), etc. You’ve followed more or less the style of dal makhni here, so you could call this that. If you wouldn’t like to because of the missing kidney beans (which is no big deal when home cooking, because we go without this or that all the time), you could call it “kaali mah ki dal” or “mah ki dal” or “urad dal”.

        Translation: urad is the name of this lentil in Hindi, mah is in Punjabi. Kaali means black. Urad dal is available in two forms – with and without skin – kaali implies with skin, the one with skin removed is white in color. Some folks use mah specifically for the whole one with skin, and urad exclusively for the skin removed version. “ki” is a possessive with no English equivalent. So yeah – it’s complicated! Don’t worry – you’re doing good :)

        1. Sonja

          Buuuuuuut since she uses beluga lentils and not urad beans, can it still be called the same? Just asking ’cause the more I read, the more confused I am…

          1. I’m not the OP here, but I am of North Indian ethnic origin, so I just wanted to interject and say that ‘kaali dal’, literally, black lentils, is a good catch-all term here, because it refers to the colour of the finished dish, rather than the colour, or type, of what went into the making of it.

      2. deb

        This conversation happened over on Instagram too! I asked the same thing as above, was that I thought it was both lentils and a way to prepare them and asked how people felt about “Punjabi-Style Black Lentils” as a English title instead. Here are some of the responses:
        • Madhur Jaffrey explains that dal means lentils, beans, any legume, as well as the completed dish. Similar to the British question, “what’s for pudding?” If you want to split hairs, you could look up the Hindi name for black lentil and replace the English words with the Hindi word. But it’s the same thing, so it doesn’t really matter. All that to say, I think the title is fine.
        • Agreed – daal refers to both the ingredient and the finished dish. Properly speaking we would call a daal made with Black Lentils and black lentils themselves “Kali Daal” i.e. black daal. “Dal Makhani” into english is a bit hard because it literally means butter dal. Probably most accurate to call it “A Daal made with [Black Lentils and] Butter”? Translation is so tricky!
        • yes! But we have dal dishes which are kind of dry too! Punjabi style black lentils sounds perfect. Or just Black Punjabi dal
        • calling this dish a dal is just fine. Correct, in fact. Love, your biggest fan of Indian descent
        • I’m another Indian who says calling it dal is perfectly fine (and correct). Dal makhani would be the Indian name, but for clarity (so readers know it’s made with black, French-style lentils instead of yellow dry dal) I think your title is just fine.
        • lentils as the name of your dish is fine!! I’m Pakistani and we call it Kali Daal, though we put a garnish of friend in butter crispy onions, Karhi leaves, solid round dried red chilies and zeera. To up the taste factor. Served with rice, fresh onion/tomato/coriander salsa/ lemon juice and some yogurt…

        [Does this help or make it more confusing? And I’m still waiting for more feedback before changing the name, but I’m leaning towards what I suggested above. I also try to keep in mind that someone with a surplus of lentils is going to type “lentils” in the search bar and if lentils aren’t in the title, it might not come up.]

        1. Lata

          Ah, to clarify, I don’t think there’s an issue with calling it a dal. It’s just that lentil dal translates to “lentil lentil” because dal is to mean lentil (as well as the preparation). So, it makes sense to get rid of the word “lentil” in the title (instead of the word dal). I would say both Kaali Dal and Punjabi-Style Black Lentils are good/more accurate names for the dish.

          1. Astrid

            Or you can get rid of the word “dal” in the title (instead of the word lentil), but I think the name of the dish is perfect.

  23. jenn

    garam masala is optional!?!? blasphemy!! it’s what makes nearly anything “taste like indian food” haha (from my white, non-indian tastebuds)

    ….but yes, I will be making this recipe soon.

  24. Nivedita

    Ginger-garlic paste is a fixture in my mom’s fridge in India, but will never cross my threshold here in the US. It became ubiquitous in India in the last couple of decades. Given the tiny garlic cloves most readily available there, I understand the desire for convenience. However, I can’t get over the slightly vinegary/stale taste of this paste. So know that freshly grated/minced ginger and garlic isn’t costing you anything in the authenticity department. Also, for those that don’t want to add much cream/butter, here’s my compromise: I add a tablespoon of butter/ghee to the tarka. I don’t call the resulting dal – dal makhni, but just “maa ki daal”.

  25. Cara

    When I was in India I noticed that you could buy a ginger/garlic puree mix in the supermarket, either in a plastic bag. In Australia it’s only one or the other in a jar an it doesn’t taste as good either. Very handy.

  26. Kitty

    My husband’s cousin married an Arab and lives in UAE, but he grew up in Mumbai. She makes massive amounts of ginger and garlic paste, as nearly every dish she makes begins with it.

  27. Marion

    Have you seen the “extras” on the Bend it Like Beckham” DVD? It cracks me up to see the director, Gurinder Chadha, cooking aloo gobi with her mom and aunt. So, so funny. And such a good movie, too!

    Thanks for this recipe! I got some black lentils a few months ago, and they’re still sitting in my cupboard, waiting for me to act. They will wait no longer :)

  28. Jenn

    How exciting! Dal has been a favorite since my honeymoon in Montserrat 23 years ago–there was a medical school there and we made friends with some Indian students who invited us to their house for a home cooked meal. They served dal and some other things and it was delicious! I tried to make it a couple times but it never seemed as good…I’m delighted to try again!!

  29. For the finish, you can also make a traditional tarka. Heat a couple teaspoons of ghee (or regular butter if you don’t have ghee) in a little pot and fry some cumin seeds in it for a minute. My mother sometimes also adds chopped jalapenos in her tarka. Spoon over each bowl of dal. When I was growing up, we always added a spoonful of tarka and a squeeze of lemon to our dal. Serve with a sabji (vegetable dish), a couple of my mother’s homemade rotis, and a bowl of fresh yogurt, eat with your fingers sitting cross-legged on terra cotta tiles, and you have my childhood in a meal!

      1. Hi Deb, I’m a long-time reader, but this is the very first time I’m commenting.
        ‘Tarka’ is a Punjabi word even though it’s prevalent all across North India, whilst ‘Chaunk’ or ‘Chhaunk’ is the more commonly-used Hindi word, and the one you’ll come across in cities like Delhi with a massive Hindi-speaking majority among its population.
        I thought you’d find it interesting that (dal) ‘tarka’, (chicken) ‘tikka’, (meat) ‘bhuna’ are just some examples where dish names are literally based on the cooking techniques used to create them. Those are all North Indian examples, because that’s the influence for the dish you created, but this trend continues elsewhere in the country too.

        1. deb

          Thank you for clarifying. The antecedent of this question is that I have a lentil soup recipe in my next cookbook finished with a “chaunk” and the husband of the person who tested is from India and neither of them had ever heard of chaunk, only tarka, which sent me into a tailspin of research. (I ended up noting both names.) I wish I could ask all questions here first about everything!

          1. Isn’t language fun? :) With hundreds of languages to choose from in India, often within the same family (or maybe it’s just mine, gabbling away in 5 languages at once), food terminology can get … interesting. Props to you for doing your research.

  30. Amy

    This looks delicious! I’m definitely going to try it. When you say an inch piece of ginger, do you mean an inch long piece of ginger root? Thanks for all the great recipes!

  31. Geetika

    Deb – I really want to appreciate your attention to detail about finishing off with butter versus cooking in butter. I have found that a lot of Indian restaurants in the United States really over-do the butter and cream in dal makhani (compared to roadside dhabas back in Punjab). Many would argue that it is not just the butter on top, but also from the traditional slow cooking that the dish gets its name. Dhaba cooks, at the end of the day, will turn off their tandoor – it takes real long to cool down fully and makes a great home for a big pot of lentils to slow cook for the next day. Finished with a dollop of butter on top, this is a dish that’s buttery in more ways than one. The tandoor style slow cooking also lends itself well to a modern slow cooker – way creamier than pressure cooker or stove top if you plan ahead.

  32. Hi Hello Nikki

    I noticed you posted this recipe this morning, this afternoon I bought Urad lentils at the Indian market, and we just finished eating it for dinner. It was absolutely spectacular (and spice-loving toddler and preschooler approved), and so were the suggested spiced cauliflower and potatoes as a side dish.

    One thing did not go well, and perhaps you have an idea why. 99.9% of the lentils turned out beautifully, but each serving had one to five lentils that were completely hard; like did-I-just-bite-a-pebble hard. It was as if someone had stirred in a few dry ones when I wasn’t looking. (I’m sure this didn’t happen.) It was most bizarre. Any idea why this may have happened?

    1. jillygirl

      Dry beans must always be sorted for tiny rocks before cooking, particularly with lentils I’ve found. I usually pour out one cup at a time on a white soup bowl (flat wide bowl) and sort carefully before adding to the pot.

      1. Hi Hello Nikki

        Yes, I did. There wasn’t debris in the lentils, but rather a very, very tiny portion of the lentils did not cook at all. The rest cooked beautifully as expected. It was really weird.

      2. Mary

        From someone who studies legumes… many beans and lentils have a quality known as “hard to cook” – meaning depending on the variety and growth – you have a certain percentage of lentils that actually may not cook – not really a big deal, if you don’t break any teeth (more difficult in larger beans) – bean breeders are working to breed out the trait, but it can still plague some beans. there is nothing you can really do about this – except perhaps make sure you buy the freshest most recently harvested beans/lentils possible, and don’t keep them around too long, and if a particular brand is bad, switch brands

    2. Jennifer

      I’ve had this happen, and believe it is a defect in the bean/lentil. I had also sorted carefully. It was definitely not rocks.

      1. Hiral

        The only way to get rid of the hard lentils is to soak them for some time…even if its only 30 minutes and then sorting them by dropping a few at a time in a glass or steel plate/bowl. If the bean makes a clinking sound then its no good. No sound and you are golden! Its time consuming but better than loosing teeth! The bad ones will also not swell at all.

  33. Dal Makhani was the very first Indian food I ever ate, at a take-out spot in Charlotte, NC, in the mid-90s. I was so in love with it I’d drive across town after work to pick up a container full. So when I saw this recipe and knew I had beluga lentils and the other ingredients in the house, I couldn’t keep myself from making it that same day. I’m rarely spontaneous, except when making soup.

    The results are delicious, but I’ll say that I ended up doubling — or even more than doubling — every spice in the mix when it seemed too bland to me at first. Maybe my soaking the lentils contributed? Maybe the spices could have been toasted in a dry pan first? I’m not sure, but I like my Indian food more boldly spiced. I also added a squeeze of lime to the pot at the end.

    (Side note: we set this up to eat tomorrow so that we could eat leftovers of your oven-braised beef with tomatoes and garlic. I’m a Smitten Kitchen devotee.)

    This worked well in the pressure cooker, making it a simple and straightforward recipe. Five minutes with pre-soaked lentils, probably seven or eight with unsoaked. And I finished with coconut cream instead of whole cream, but I kept the butter.

    Thanks for sharing your culinary YouTube wanderings. I’m looking forward to digging in tomorrow.

  34. Cy

    I made this tonight with brown lentils, TJ’s is my local and they only have orange or brown. I used cayenne, also from TJ’s, it was pretty hot so the 1/2 tsp was just about right. I wanted the cool of the yogurt. I think I underestimated the tomatoes and needed stronger ginger, but otherwise so good. Can’t wait to get ahold of some beluga beauties and make it again.

    1. deb

      I think it would work, although the flavor would be most developed if you saute the onion/garlic/ginger, spices and tomatoes first. You could add 1/4 cup extra water to compensate for evaporation, but I did keep this recipe loose (1 cup to 4 cups is common for sauceless black lentils). Haven’t done lentils in the slow-cooker but one recipe I just found online says 4 to 5 hours on High or 8 to 10 hours on Low, perhaps that’s a good place to start.

  35. Rebecca

    I just made makni dal overnight in my slow cooker, and I’m just seeing your recipe in my inbox this morning! The proportions I used (from Neela Paniz): 1 lb. black lentils, 6 c water, 1/3 c tomato puree, 1/4 c cream, ginger/garlic paste, 1.5 tsp salt and 1tsp ground chile. Slow cooker on low for 10 hours. It seemed like a lot of time, but this morning the lentils are creamy soft but hold their shape, and the liquid was perfectly creamy too. I love NP’s suggestion of making the lentils ahead, cooling, reheating and finishing them with the Tadka right before serving.

  36. Janet

    Funny. My husband is reading a novel which mentions dal bhat, which I ate in Nepal last year…they eat it virtually every day. Will have to try this…it sounds great…IF I can find black lentils.

  37. Happy Foodie

    Hi Deb~
    The photo is totally melt-in-your-mouth!
    Would it be reasonable or totally crazy to add a poached egg on top, just before serving? Only curious…..

  38. Maria

    This post was an exceptionally turbulent example of what has become an unfortunate trend on this platform. Endless typos and a glaring cultural faux pas? I realize everyone has an off day but for someone who writes for a living and claims to obsess over minute details I can’t help but wonder if your heart is really in this anymore.

    1. deb

      I’m sorry you feel this way — or that this site is coming off this way. This site is written, cooked, photographed, comment-responded and every other piece by a single very imperfect person — me! — and it has been for over 10 years, and there have always, nearly consistently, been a ton of typos that I miss, despite reading posts many many times before I publish them. It’s not a magazine, there’s no masthead of people ensuring quality control (nor are magazines immune from stupid mistakes). I don’t wish to be anywhere else; I’ll be here forever, should you all put up with me as long.

      Glaring cultural faux-pas? I’m not sure I follow unless you’re speaking about the “Indian-speaking” error I left in and corrected within 2 minutes of publishing and taking it to mean a larger offense than intended. I take great pains to do all the research I can on dishes so I don’t suggest any authority on food I don’t know firsthand. These — whether the dish has tomatoes, whether it has coconut milk, yogurt or cream; whether it’s heavy or light on the turmeric, what proportion of kidney beans are traditional, whether cumin is added as a seed or ground, whether it can authentically be called a dal makhani or whether it might just reference it as a template — are the details I obsess over. I believe this post reflects this.

      1. I just HAD to chime in and say that by the time I read this post (and this comment wasn’t there then), the ‘glaring cultural faux pas’ was long gone, as were all but one of the typos. As someone belonging to the culture that was supposed to be offended, I do have to ask: if ‘Indian’ food exists, why is it beyond the realms of possibility that an ‘Indian’ language might do? Without going into the details of the histories behind why there is no such language, did you notice that she got the region correct? That she decided not to use a specific dish name because she didn’t use all the ingredients? That people whose childhood memories are tied up in this dish (including me) are finding that the taste we are achieving is authentic?

        And for the record: I used to follow a lot of ‘celebrity’ food bloggers whose phoniness put me off after a while. After 10 years (yes, I was here from the outset) I, and many other readers like me, feel like we know Deb, and this kind of criticism of her feels like someone is unnecessarily being mean to our friend. Please don’t.

        1. Maria

          I have already replied below but will clarify: (1) I never implied that the aforementioned “faux pas” was something to be offended by. That is not for me to say. I was merely surprised by such a glaring error by an otherwise articulate author in contrast to the vast the amount of time and effort put into researching the background and ingredients of the recipe. (2) I was one of the few who actually saw the original post before it was edited. The timing of my comment is irrelevant. (3) Nothing in my comment was “mean” or condescending. This platform is designed to allow public expression, including both praise and constructive criticism. My words are those of concern as a reader who has seen better, and therefore comes to expect it, from SK.

          1. JS

            Maria, you may not have meant your comment to be mean or condescending, but as a number of people have posted, that’s the impression it gave. As you note, this platform is designed to allow constructive criticism. Please take the feedback you are receiving.

              1. Vicki

                Thirded. Don’t know if this is a proper word, don’t really care. Mean, condescending, and determined to be, without the labels. Sheesh.

          2. Actually, the timing of your comment is relevant. What is the point of publicly shaming Deb for errors she had promptly fixed? I’m not seeing how this is constructive.
            It doesn’t even sound like you’ve tried the recipe, which means you’re not contributing anything useful to the knowledge transfer that many of us come here for; just nitpicking unnecessarily.

      2. Maria

        Yes, I was referring to the “Indian-speaking” but never meant to imply that any of these blunders are intentional or malicious. I am a long-time reader who has felt a shift in the level of detail concerning your editorial process, not the content of your recipes. I understand the stress of being a one-woman show and the influence of typo blindness while staring at the same words all day. It is inevitable. I just know you’re better than that.

        1. Maria, I haven’t been here from the outset, but in the brief time I’ve enjoyed this blog I feel the same affection for Deb as the oldtimers. If you didn’t mean to imply intent or malice, those of us reading it all seemed to see it. That implies a lack of skill in writing, or possibly editorial process.

          Read this aloud and see how it strikes you. “[F]or someone who writes for a living and claims to obsess over minute details I can’t help but wonder if your heart is really in this anymore.”

          “claims,” “obsess,” “can’t help but wonder.”

          Writers’ workshops can help a lot with detecting the tone of your work before pushing submit.

          Or, possibly, don’t read blogs you don’t enjoy.

        2. Cy

          Sounds like someone might be having a bad day? We are all ” better than that”. Most of us strive to do our best, some days our ” best” is better than others. The reason I enjoy Deb’s posts and SM kitchen so much is that she is real. I have never had a problem with a recipe, because she tests then again and again. Can’t say that for MS, who by the way has a huge Staff. I think the other readers will concur. I have the utmost respect for , the toughest job on earth ( being a mom/parent), being a one woman show and doing everything yourself. With two small kids, no less. Sorry, but what you wrote was harsh, whether you intended it to be or not. Hi Deb! Sorry to speak of you in the third person, I just feel like this is a safe happy place and we should keep it that way. I admire your honesty and modestly. Your response was very gracious. I think I can safely say, that’s why we all feel like we can relate!

          1. Maria

            All I meant to do was share how I feel about Deb’s work so she would know these inconsistencies do have an affect on her readers (though I realize I am in the minority with this opinion). My words, and tone, were direct in order to make that very point. I never suggested that her work had to be flawless. She has set the bar very high over the past decade so I apologize for holding her to that standard. I was acting as a genuinely concerned fan, not a baseless troll. It is unfortunate that, in this day and age, honest criticism can be spun for vulgarity.

            1. I don’t doubt that you *meant* your comment to be just a bit of constructive criticism from a concerned fan, but that is not how it read. What does Deb owe you? What do you pay for this service and wonderful community she creates here? How are your comments actually helpful and constructive? An accumulation of these kind of comments are what shutter blogs. Maybe you’ve not noticed but this one-woman show has a lot more going on in than just her blog: raising two little humans and writing a cookbook just to name a couple easy ones. All our lives have ebb and flow. I’d just ask you to consider what this site is worth to you and all of us before you offer “constructive criticism”. If this was your monthly copy of Bon Appetit, I could understand your frustration but for many of us, this is our favorite place on the web, we pay nothing for it, and we want Deb to feel appreciated, not castigated.

      3. I have followed your blog for a while now and never commented but this mean and rude comment from Maria has prompted me to do so. I love all the recipes on your site, I love how you write about food, I come here for the content, not to editorialize!

      4. Sonia

        Indian here! Found myself completely not offended by the “indian-speaking” label…I did not see it, because it was already corrected, but definitely thought the above comment, and an earlier one which stated “wtf is indian speaking” were both a bit much. This is a blog, by one person, who is not Indian, and has 2 young children. Lighten up people, or gently let her know that India has many languages.
        Its a wonderful blog!

  39. Sandy Radeke

    This is random, but I am curious about your cutting board. I’m as beginner woodworker and have been making cutting boards as gifts. It looks like walnut — what are the dimensions? What is an optimal size (width, length, thickness) for a cutting board?

    PS, your beautiful board looks a little dull, when was the last time you oiled it (mineral oil, not cooking oil)?

    1. deb

      I love my cutting board(s). I actually have a slew of them in shapes and sizes; this is black walnut. I get them all from this guy, who has a shop in my neighborhood, and talked about the first one I bought over here. I am usually very good about using mineral oil on them, I baby them, except, I confess, for this one. This is the dedicated onion-and-garlic board and it gets more abuse.

      1. Trushna

        Hi Deb, this comment intrigued me. Do you have dedicated cutting boards for different ingredients? How do you feel about wood vs. plastic? I ask because I’ve noticed our (very very sharp Japanese) knives leave tracks in nearly all the cutting boards we use; are they low-quality or does this happen for everyone? I’m thinking of separating cutting boards for meat and veg/other stuff that stains (tomatoes, chiles, mango, etc). I can’t help feeling no matter how thoroughly I clean, there’s something left in those tracks.

  40. I LOVE the quart jars of ginger-garlic paste I get at the Indian market! And since the nearest market is over 2 hours away, I always buy two so I can have one in the pantry for when I run out of jar #1! It was a total game changer, finding that pre-made. They also sell just ginger that way, and while it’s not quite as potent as fresh (so I don’t use it in uncooked applications like Ginger Switchel), but it’s lovely to be able to just scoop up huge spoonfuls of ginger paste with abandon.
    I’m going to put my lentils on to soak right NOW!

  41. Lynn

    I make my Indian MIL make this every time she comes to visit and then we freeze the leftovers…I am going to have to see if hubs will accept a version such as this for a quicker weeknight meal. It’s sounds delicious.

  42. Hannah

    Deb, that cauliflower and potatoes recipe is, many years back, the reason I came to believe that I could actually cook Indian food at home. And also that the stomach-upsetting tomato and cream sauce served at every Indian restaurant in the US isn’t the only way to Indian food bliss. I love dal and will certainly add this one to my list!

  43. Meg

    You have done my homework for me! We have a favorite place in town that has great “fancy pizzas” and fun local brews. They have a dal makhani appetizer on the menu because the wife of the proprietor is Indian and it is one of her favorite things. We are obsessed with it and I’ve been scouring the interwebz for recipes, trying to study similarities and differences and think of how to start making my own at home. I never thought to look up youtube videos though! Brilliant! Like you, I was wary of all the butter and cream that seemed required; I love the idea of adding it at the end. I *cannot* wait to make this version at home! SQUEEEEE! (I’m on a smitten kitchen kick: in the last month we’ve had 2 batches of every day meatballs, the beef with cognac and mustard, the broken pasta with pork and arugula, and leige waffles!)

  44. Traci Brown

    I have to say, I don’t think I have ever commented on this blog, even though I am a huge fan. I just want to thank you Deb, for your openness to learning about different foods and cultures. You never seem to take offense when people suggest things, or outright sound critical. And you respond with such grace.
    Thank you.

  45. Kristen

    Great looking recipe; I will try it soon. And I didn’t know ginger-garlic paste is a thing. For Indian dishes I usually microplane garlic and ginger onto a saucer together on the spot and add it after the onions have cooked a while. That works well, but I always find that the mixture catches a lot on the bottom of the pan and so needs to be stirred vigorously.

    1. Vicki

      Maybe it would help if you add a bit of oil to the mixture before adding to the pan – I discovered a couple of years ago that this little trick helps when adding pressed garlic or garlic and ginger to a dish. A tiny bit of oil is all it takes, but it makes such a difference.

  46. scollman

    I tried this recipe and it was delish. One suggestion would be to use an immersion blender at the end (not to fully blend) to make it a bit creamier/soupier.

  47. Mel

    I have to say…I posted ‘ditto’ above but I felt the need to post again. This is a wonderful cooking blog. Deb is kind enough and generous enough to share her recipes and her wonderful writing with us. To pick apart every word, or to be offended because something was called by a wrong name or a general name, is somewhat disturbing. I get that it’s important to recognize the origins of foods, etc. but I really think everyone (and I don’t mean posters here, I mean everyone) needs to get a bit of a grip and a bit of perspective. I know not everyone will like what I’ve said, but I think it is appropriate to share.
    We love you Deb. Thank you for all you do.

  48. Billie

    I’m in the throws of the most horrendous morning sickness and cooking (that I normally love) is this awful after thought that I’m trying my hardest to ignore.

    Until now – this actually looks so good and sounds so appealing!

    I also wanted to pipe up and say – I love the thoughtfulness that goes into your posts, the willingness to be mindful of cultural differences and make changes that support your readers from different backgrounds, and the courage to make much loved recipes (like dal) with changes that keep the spirit of the recipe but make them more achievable for home cooks.

    I really love this blog, you are making such a fabulous contribution to family meals Deb.

  49. Laurie

    Just made this with what I had on hand (ground cumin rather than cumin seeds, French green lentils rather than black lentils, and a whole can of diced tomatoes rather than the 1 cup because I am lazy)–and it was pretty good until I added the cream and butter. Then: BLISS. Thanks for a fabulous dinner, Deb!
    p.s. My son is almost exactly a month younger than Anna. It’s been fun watching her grow up–but tell her to do it more slowly! (I keep telling my son the same thing, but he keeps getting bigger anyway…)

    1. deb

      Glad it was a hit. [It’s over 4 months away and I’m already fur-reaking out about her turning 2 this summer. How did we let this happen?!]

    2. Barb

      Thanks for this note – I made a special trip for black lentils but don’t have cumin SEEDs….I’ll go ahead with some ground cumin.

  50. Absolutely delicious. You never fail me, Deb. I especially appreciate how quickly this comes together as I have a 5-month old at the moment and dinnertime can get a little bonkers ;) (I ended up using red lentils because I couldn’t find black ones at my local store, but I don’t think the dish suffered!)

  51. Elisabeth in Vienna

    I am always nervous about adding salt to lentils before they are cooked. Isn’t it supposed to slow down the cooking process? Or is this a myth?

    Anyway, I I can’t wait to make this tonight.
    Have you tried Specklinsen mit Semmelknödel (bacon lentils with bread dumplings)? It is generally considered a light vegetarian dish in the more traditional Austrian Restaurants, like fried chicken on salad is.

    1. deb

      It’s a myth. It adds a lot of flavor. I haven’t tried bacon lentils but they sound really good.

      Does anyone have a favorite Austrian restaurant in NYC? I’ve always liked Sabarsky and Gutenbrunner’s other places but the food is generally less rustic, more fancy.

      1. Elisabeth in Vienna

        Made it for dinner and was very pleased, salt and all! Both kids (1 and 6) gobbled it up. Now they are asleep I traipse back and forth to the kitchen for another spoonful. Thank you for another delicious and easy meal!

  52. I know this probably sounds neurotic, but I have pretty severe OCD and just can’t actually eat and enjoy things without being aware of calorie counts. This sounds amazing and I want to try it, but would you possibly have any idea of the calories in it? Sorry to be a Debbie downer.

    Your fan, nervous illustrator MacKenzie 😁

  53. j + r

    Hi everyone if you’re scrolling through comments for Instant pot thoughts or adaptations here is what I did. I pre soaked and cooked the lentils for about 5 min in the IP on manual. I did this the day before and stored them in the fridge. The next day on high saute mode I cooked the onion fry and spices then added the lentils again to heat up, adjusting consistency with water as I warmed them. To finsih I put a charcoal briquet in a glass pyrex dish, drizzled it with oil and some cumin and lit it then floated it on top of the dal and covered the pot with a lid. Leave it alone for five min and you will have WONDERFUL smoky flavor with no smoker needed. I do this with any dish I want a smoke element to. Its really very simple and not time consuming it just sounds fancy. At the end I drizzled coconut cream and ghee and topped with coriander and Deb’s pickled onions from the tikka masala sheet pan recipe. It was so good. Definitely going in the rotation. You can also use red or yellow lentils and all the same ingredients /techniques and it is also very yummy. Those lentils cook more quickly though and make more of a soupy base. Mash them with a potato masher to get a good consistency.

  54. I made this last night! I used green lentils (what I had) and diced tomatoes. I recommend pureeing the tomatoes as specified by Deb. Green lentils turned out fine, but I am looking forward to trying with black ones.

  55. RS

    Commenting here for the first time to say – you are the best. I’ve always loved your recipes, your anecdotes, and your writing style, and your ongoing efforts to do Indian food justice- in flavor and in label- are just another reason this site is a pleasure to read. Thank you! (from a fan of Indian descent)

  56. Veronique

    Lovely dal recipe. The cream is a revelation. I throw on a few more cumin seeds and minced sweet onion at the end along with the butter and coriander.

  57. Liz

    Hi Deb,
    My black lentils leached out all their black color during cooking and now they’re just dull brown – any idea why this happened? Don’t think it’ll affect the taste, but yours came out looking so much prettier!

    Thanks,
    Liz

  58. Katie

    We made this for dinner last night and it was a delicious healthy meal served on top of rice. The leftovers for lunch were even better. My lentils took longer to absorb the water (an extra 30 minutes uncovered at the end) and I used ground cumin, but otherwise we followed the recipe exactly and recommend it for a healthy weeknight meal. Tried with and without cream – honestly, its good either way! Thank you.

  59. Rocky Mountain Woman

    In looking through the comments, I do think maybe a little more sleep is a good idea, but don’t ever ever skimp on the wine, Deb!

    I’m trying this on Sunday!

    XXOO,

    RMW

    1. Prea

      You could also soak a handful of cashews or blanched almonds in warm water. Grind to a paste using little water at a time to make a smooth paste. Add this towards the end.

  60. Joanie

    I made this pretty much as the recipe indicates…. though I usually over-measure spices, just because.
    The dish was simple and delicious. Served soup style in bowls with bread on the side. The butter and cream finish off the dish perfectly, be sure not to skip that part, very important.

  61. Ali

    This was amazing! I cooked it in my instant pot for 15 minutes with 8 cups of water for a double batch. I can’t have dairy (touchy nursing baby) so I finished it with canned coconut milk and earth balance. So , so delicious!

  62. Jamie

    This sent me down a rabbit hole of Indian meatless Monday recipes, and I landed at the bottom remembering how much I miss dosas. I thought they might be simple to make, but I found a NYT recipe that seems kind of scary. I realize you live a stone’s throw from dozens of fantastic dosa restaurants, but… ever tried to make dosas at home?

    1. Rucha

      Hi! There is a way less scary option to make Dosa at home..Most Indian grocery stores sell pre-made dosa batter which you can just pour and spread directly over a non stick pan to make make dosas..(just as you use batter to make pancakes) There is a little technique needed for spreading the batter thin for crispy dosas and I’m sure you can learn that from youtube!
      The Dosa batter is stored usually in the freezer sections..and tastes pretty close to authentic dosas..Good luck!

        1. Aisha

          I’m sure the pre-made batter is good, but honestly don’t be intimidated by the whole fermentation thing. It is actually far easier than it sounds and even if your first attempts don’t turn out perfectly, you will still have something delicious that comes out of it, at relatively low cost and the experience to boot. If you’ve made sourdough bread or even regular bread, you’ve had an experience with fermentation. I’ve made my own idli/dosa batter for a few years now and find it easier than bread, more foolproof and more forgiving (the batter, I mean… I still need to practice my skills at making thin and round dosai). And when you’re comfortable with the batter, you can customize it (I’ve added fenugreek leaves, used brown rice instead of white, whole mung beans instead of husked urad, used a similar process to ferment buckwheat etc etc)

  63. Olivia

    I love it sooooo much when you post Indian recipes! My husband is originally from India and while I’m really the one who loves Indian food, I am still trying to teach myself how to make it. Also, the rajmah recipe posted a while ago is Indian mother-in-law approved. I’m sure this one will also be a hit. :-)

  64. Hi:
    I picked up some whole black lentils add an Indian grocer, also called Urad on the package. These are definitely not the same as beluga lentils. Do you know what the distinction is? They definitely have their own flavor, and take at least 20 to 30 minutes to cook in a pressure cooker, I’m curious if you or anyone out there knows the distinction. Thanks so much

  65. Megha

    Hi, Being from North India, I love dal makni. I make it on special occasions and yes in a pressure cooker. If you want, next time, midway, just take 1/4 cup of the lentils out, grind it and then add back and stir. This will make the end dal makhni more creamy just like they serve in restaurants in India.

  66. Anne

    By accident I bought black beans instead of black lentils: could that work as well? I know I will have to soak the black beans first….

  67. This looked so delicious that I had to make it last night immediately! Luckily it was no problem to find beluga lentils, and well, this is kind of random but I have to say, they are so wonderful to run your fingers through (before cooking them I mean)! Total sensory delight. And of course, the finished meal was delicious!

    Regarding the recipe, just wondering, does it say on purpose “(…), cook, tomato, (…)” without any further specifications or is that a typo?

  68. I’m currently fasting for Orthodox Easter and keeping a diet which abstains from meat, dairy and eggs….so a lot of beans, including lentils. Recently found these beautiful black lentils in a local bulk store, bought them, and then found this recipe. Serendipity! I used olive oil and sadly omitted the cream – still delicious! Thanks for this :)

  69. Jennifer

    Wow! Dal Makhani is one of my favorite dishes from our local Indian restaurant (which isn’t really that local). I made this with some roasted cauliflower and Indian spice rubbed chicken thighs and it was a great meal. I’ll never replicate the restaurant naan, but if I’d had some the meal would have been perfect. I’m so glad I doubled the recipe too–it makes a LOT, but I’m happy to bring it to work for lunches. Thanks Deb, you just saved me a trip out when craving my favorite dal.

  70. Prea

    Hello Deb! I came across your blog when searching for biscuit recipe, and have visited it on and off. Love your recipes, photographs and stories that go with them. I wanted to comment, because there is a lesser known ingredient that is used sparingly, much as saffron is, that adds a lovely smokey…almost maple syrup like taste notes and can lift this recipe to another level. Kasuri methi ( Kasur is a town in Pakistan that is famous for this, but now it also grown in other parts of India. And methi is Fenugreek). These are dried leaves, that need to be crushed between your palms to release flavor. They add a great depth of flavor to this recipe and to recipes that have a lot of cream, or are cashew based gravy. Do try that addition if you get your hands on that spice :)

  71. L from G

    Think you once again, that was delicious! I already had everything at home and only had to buy the fresh coriander leaves (cilantro to you), and while I was at it I also bought salted butter. At first I thought the dal was going to be too liquid, but in the end it was just right. I was a bit dubious about adding the butter in the end, but found it really added an extra something. I will definitely make this again!

  72. RJ in Bk

    This dish was A-MAZ-ING! Made it for the first time to serve guests, who loved it and took home leftovers. Luckily I also doubled the recipe to freeze half for later. I’ve never cooked black lentils before, and I left out the butter and cream. After reheating twice, it was so creamy that it didn’t need any milk fat.

    Made it with your fav cailiflower-potato dish that you linked to in the archive, and that was an even bigger hit than the lentils. Loved it.

    I’ve never seen garlic/ ginger paste – but I am a big fan of grating garlic cloves, and I keep my ginger in the freezer, cut into 1-2″ pieces, to grate as well.

    Do you all think grated ginger and grated garlic is different than the paste, besides in the amount of effort exerted by the cook?

  73. Hey there Deb,

    I’m sorry to come with a slightly picky comment, but the effect of dietary fat on arterial fat has been debunked pretty thoroughly (Gary Taubes has done a ton of really great work on this subject), and I try to make people aware as often as I can. Sugar is most likely the culprit of the majority of Western diseases, which is great news because this recipe has none! It looks divine, I can’t wait to try it.

  74. Black lentils are aptly named, “Beluga Dal”, as the price rivals caviar here. I bought them, to try, as a change from our regular lentils, but it won’t be a staple.

  75. NOLA transplant

    Long time lurker- first time commenter. Looks amazing! I am Indian, and chopping up ginger is arduous for me. My hack is to do it in bulk. use the small bowl of the food processor and process equal amounts of garlic and ginger, emulsified with a little olive oil drizzled in. (I peel and roughly chop the ginger first so it is half the size of garlic cloves for ease.) processing takes about 5-10 minutes to get that smooth texture. Then I freeze it in tablespoon dollops- or ice cube trays if feeling fancy. They last several months and super easy to pop into any dish- you can either thaw on the counter in a bowl while you prep other ingredients, or just pop into the sautéing onions. Let me know how it works!

  76. rebwey

    Supper last night and an unqualified success! My college student on spring break took the leftovers back to school after declaring them the best lentils she ever ate.

  77. Nicole Muir

    I made this overnight in my slowcooker- I didn’t soak the lentils and kidney beans- just gave them a 10 minute boil on the stove before putting them in the slowcooker. but, next time i’m definitely going to soak my lentils because they just weren’t as soft as I’d like. But overall, super delicious! I also didn’t add cream or butter; just a teaspoon or two of greek yogurt to each bowl! Thanks Deb!

  78. Heather

    I made this, but waaaaay over did it on the chile powder. It was the spiciest thing I’ve ever made. But when cut with a scoop of basmati rice and a dollop of sour cream, it was not only edible again, but quite good! I will make it again, easing up on the spice so it can be eaten alone in a bowl or as a side dish with other foods.

  79. Jeannine

    This was so delicious, so I am making it again tonight. I put in about 1/4 tsp chili powder instead of 1/2, and it was perfect and warming. I also added dried fenugreek leaves and asafoetida. I have been trying to cook Indian food from a food blog called Monsoon Spice, but many of the dishes call for frying the whole spices, and it all seems like a delicate balance that I can’t quite get right. This was super easy and came together beautifully. It is officially in my rotation! Thanks for another winner!

    I stumbled upon this blog a number of years ago when I insisted to myself that of course you can put butternut squash in a galette, and lo and behold! There you were. I was so bored with everything I was cooking at that point, this website revitalized – and continues to do so – my love for cooking tasty food!!

  80. Judy

    This was fabulous! The little pat of melted butter and the swirl of cream were sinfully delicious. The only thing I did a little different was I grated the ginger with a microplane rather than chop it. It melted into the broth. Such a flavorful dish! Thanks so much for the recipe.

  81. Very delicious! And that’s coming from a so-so lentil lover. The spices meld together to create a new flavor greater than the parts. Cooked up exactly as written with al dente lentils in the thickened broth. I served this over fluffy quinoa and alongside bake yam. Colorful, healthy, and a new go-to dish. Thank you!

  82. Annette Barbasch

    I made this last night with regular green lentils and it was wonderful on a cold winter night. Upped the salt and chili powder and threw in lots of chopped spinach, which I highly recommend. Served with brown rice. So fulfilling! Thank you, Deb!

  83. leaehret

    Can’t wait to make this!

    Deb, since you seem to love black lentils as much as I do: I’ve been making Melissa Clark’s Meat & Potato Skillet Gratin (https://goo.gl/7r3fv3) with black lentils instead of the meat, and it has become our weeknight go-to favorite. With haricots verts on the side, it is the one-pan winter comfort food of my dreams.

  84. Made this for dinner tonight and it was WONDERFUL. It wasn’t too different from a lot of other lentil dishes I’ve had over the years….until I added the butter and cream. Those two small additions made an enormous difference. Unfortunately I had to leave out the garam masala because I forgot I was out of it until I was midway through cooking. Will add it next time!! Served it over rice. My only regret is that I didn’t double the recipe.

  85. Lisa Thomas

    I made these last week & just finished them up last night. They were wonderful! Even better the next day(s). I used this recipe as an excuse to go visit the Indian market in my area to track down the black lentils (which were labeled as beans so I’m glad you referred to them as urad as well!). I saw the ginger garlic paste & meant to grab it, somehow ending up with just garlic paste instead. I will just have to go back!

    Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Lisa Thomas

      hm, reading the comments I realize I didn’t actually buy the right lentil! Anywho, for those who want to know, this recipe works with Urad beans, but takes a bit longer :)

  86. JC

    Absolutely delicious! Made exactly as described, thanks to a trip to Kalustyan’s. Served over wildly inauthentic Jasmati rice to make a more filling dish for teenagers. It was devoured!

  87. janmorrison12

    I commented when I saw this recipe and forgot to come back and say how it turned out. Well, fabulous! My very picky fella loved it (and he does most of our Indian cuisine around here) and I loved it. As I said to him while we were enjoying both the dal dish and the cauliflower potato one, I never ever worry for one second at trying Smitten Kitchen dishes. I know they will turn out. I love that. And I love how generous you are with your time, Deb. You are generous with your time, your obsession with good food and and good writing too. You are generous with those of us who would have you blog every damn day if we were in charge of the world. You are generous with your knowledge and you are even generous enough to share your vulnerability with us – telling us when you are overwhelmed – even if you do it with a light touch. Thank you. I appreciate you so much and just like I know your recipes will turn out, I know I’m not alone in my admiration of you.

  88. This was so delicious! I cook with red or green lentils usually, so I was happy to use this as an excuse to try out beluga lentils. Followed the recipe exactly except I only had canned tomato sauce – the outcome was still successful.

    The butter and cream at the end truly pushes the dal over the edge in terms of tastiness. Don’t skip out on this step! If you’re feeling calorie-guilty, just remind yourself that heavy cream is a healthy fat! :)

  89. Martie

    I seldom ever leave a comment on anything. This recipe is amazing and super easy. It’s a must try if you were remotely interested.

  90. Caroline

    I have followed your blog for years and love all the recipes that I’ve tried (so many are favorites in our home!) I have never commented, but had to for this post. I think it’s serendipitous that you posted this at the same time that I was on my first trip to Delhi. I had the luck of having dal makhani almost daily. I can’t wait to try this with the black lentils I brought back home to CA. :)

  91. Oh my god. Made this last night and was literally muttering, I MADE THIS? to myself while stuffing it in my face. Just divine. Fantastic as usual Deb. It was an easy, straightforward recipe with tons of flavor. I never regret making a smitten kitchen recipe.

    1. Bree

      Aha! I am in the midst of making this but also didn’t have tomatoes on hand, just tomato paste. Glad to see it’ll still pack a punch :)

  92. I’m eating this for lunch right now and it is SO good! We finished it as shown last night for dinner, but to make a desk lunch easier, I swirled in the butter and cream before putting it away last night. Still delicious! Just not quite as pretty. I imagine this will become a regular. Thanks!

  93. cindyhappykid

    I made this wonderful recipe last weekend, along with the cumin roasted potatoes and cauliflower as suggested. My only change was reducing the water to 3 cups instead of the 4 1/2 as written. This was a perfect amount of liquid for our tastes. I also made the yogurt flatbreads from Ottolenghi’s Plenty. This was a perfect accompaniment! Great mix of spices and flavors – a fun meal to make and eat!

  94. Megan Rinaldi

    I made this last night as my first foray into Indian cuisine and it was so easy and so delicious! I will be making this one again and again. Although I did accidentally put 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of cream in at the end, but it was well worth it. I loved learning about monter au beurre and will definitely be trying it out on other things. Thank you!!

  95. backupinyour

    I made this in my instant pot pressure cooker with green french lentils. I followed the recipe without soaking them, using canned pureed tomatoes. After adding and cooking all the ingredients, I closed the lid and cooked on high pressure for 11 minutes. Once that was done, I unplugged the instant pot, waited ten minutes, and released the pressure.

    Really, really good. When it first came out of the pot, it tasted too sharp, but I made it a little in advance and after sitting for about an hour, it mellowed and tasted perfect.

  96. adrianne castro

    just made this last night and it’s a hit! husband and son were both onboard and i thought it was a huge improvement on my lentils made with mostly curry powder. i used reduced sodium stock instead of water but forgot to adjust the salt and it was a bit much but still delish…thanks for this!

  97. gonzo

    I made this dish last night and my wife and kids loved it! I was shocked because my 4 year old and 2 year old typically refuse to eat anything other than rice when it comes to indian food.

    I have to say however that the water to daal ratio is completely off. When the lentils were done cooking I was left with a watered down soup with very little flavor. I was able to salvage the dish by move the cooking liquids to a separate pan and reducing for another 20 minutes to get to the right consistency. I’d say the recipe is off by at least 1 – 1 1/2 cups. Next time I’m doing 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of water.

    1. jehnnarunnin

      I agree! I should have been more conservative and started smaller, but I put in 4 C water. I will try your solution to reduce the excess liquid w/o the lentils. I only added the one cup of tomatoes, and I strained them, so I don’t think that was the problem.

  98. carolynt41

    This bring back memories for me of my one and only trip to New Zealand. My husband and I were going to eat out and Indian food won. I asked for a recommendation and the concierge suggested a restaurant on the main street of Christchurch. Easy to find. Two other couples on our trip decided to join us, none of whom had ever had Indian food. I ordered for all of us. When I asked the waiter to also bring some kind of side vegetable, he hemmed and hawed a little, and said oh yes, he’d bring something. He brought dal makhani. Not exactly a vegetable, but oh well. There was just enough for all of us to have a few tablespoons of it. It was unembellished, but served in a little copper bowl. It was sublime. I’ve tried countless times since to recreate that flavorful little bowl of humble dal and none have come close. I’ll try yours, but thank you for conjuring up the fun memories of a trip gone by.

  99. JLG

    Is there something missing in the instructions? It says to add the ginger and garlic, then “the rest of the spices, cook, tomato cook for three minutes more…”

    1. deb

      Yes, that’s definitely jumbled. Should say “the rest of the spices, tomato, and cook for three minutes more…” Now fixed, thank you.

  100. Susan

    This was a great dreary Sunday night dinner – a few minutes of prep and then just sit around letting your house smell more and more awesome. I think black lentils will be a staple in my pantry from now on and I’m excited about lunch leftovers this week!

  101. Anna

    I’ve been craving lentils and came across this recipe – it’s so good. The butter and cream at the end is perfect. You made this pregnant lady’s tummy very happy, Deb! Thank you!!

  102. Bill

    Hi, I was at the Indian grocery today, and a some earlier posters, found Urad lentils that are black , both whole and split. But they need a long soak, not like the type in this recipe. Could you please advise the best type of lentils/beans to match this recipe, especially one that might be found in an Indian market…they have a wall of beans and lentils..I just don’t know which to get

    1. deb

      Sorry for the confusion; it’s tough because what I used here are sold as “black lentils.” Some people advise soaking them but I find you can skip it (with these cooking times). I have bought them in the past from Bob’s Red Mill but bought this bag at Kalustyan’s, an international grocery store in Manhattan with a heavier Indian and Middle Eastern focus.

    2. Deepa

      Hi Bill, the urad/”Indian black lentils” you found in the store are actually beans, so they take longer to soak/cook than the lentils that Deb used, which are Beluga lentils or just “black lentils” in non-Indian grocery stores. I have not seen the Beluga/black lentils that Deb uses in this recipe in my Indian grocery store, but I have found them in grocery stores with a decent international section and/or Middle Eastern focus.

  103. I don’t normally comment on your posts (I just cook them!) But I had to say WOW. (Also, re:ginger-curry paste – it is a staple in our house, and it’s available in most grocery stores in the International section. There’s something about it that adds extra je-ne-sais-quoi). I’ve been making similar curries for years (I had an Indian roommate for a little while who taught me a lot). This addition of butter at the end though (montée au beurre) – GAME CHANGER. Thank you so much for this – I would have never thought such a small change could make such a big flavour difference.

    1. deb

      Not sure where you live; I got them at Kalustyan’s in Manhattan but they’re available online lots of places, and my local store has them too. But again, this is NYC, it might be easier.

  104. Sandy

    I made this recipe last night and followed the directions exactly. I’m eating the small amount of leftovers now at my desk. The dish is delicious and hearty and will now be a go-to for meatless dinners. It’s simple to prepare and beautiful, too. We ate it with homemade garlic herb bread, sopping the bowl for the last bits of lentils and sauce. Next time I make it, I may throw a fried egg on top of each bowl just for fun, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you for posting the recipe.

  105. Ginny

    This recipe is fantastic! So easy to make, flavorful, hearty, versatile. I added a heaping teaspoon of chipotle chile and the flavor meshed well. Thanks so much for this!

  106. I made this last night and found it to be just ok. I also made a spicy beef curry and chicken biryani so maybe the flavour of the lentil dish just got lost in amongst the other brighter flavours of the other dishes. I’ll probably make it again because it’s a healthy side dish but I’ll always mix it in with something else in order to eat it

  107. Bree

    In the process of making this… with red lentils, tomato paste instead of chopped tomato, and vegetable broth instead of water. I’m in the midst of packing to move, found these lentils, thought of how FANTASTIC this recipe looked, and was happy to see I’ve got everything except the tomatoes to make it. I’m not sure if the red will cook differently than the black, and I didn’t soak before adding them to the pot (as I’ve now seen other commenters did). In about 40 minutes I will report on the results!

    1. Bree

      Hey guess what they turned out AMAZING. That dab of putter and drizzle of cream really does add that layer of richness without compromising on the other flavors that developed. And with the spices in your pantry, the rest of the ingredients are so easy to come by (if you can’t find black lentils then the ones I subbed worked just fine!) and affordable! I finally have a use for these lentils that have been sitting in my pantry waiting for use!

  108. I’ve​ made this a few times now and it’s definitely my breakout vegetarian meal of the year.

    I wanted to tell you that I successfully froze leftovers – with rice on top of it (not mixed in) – and it defrosted and reheated perfectly in the microwave covered in wax paper, rice and all.

  109. Julie

    But Deb? why use beluga lentils rather than whole urad? I have both and other than both being black, they look and taste different. The urad (black dal) have a bean flavour and are oval rather than round. The beluga lentils are round and slightly different flavour. Not grumbling, just cuurious. Love your blog, hope you are there forever. Julie

  110. Dee

    OMG this recipe is DELICIOUS. Currently living north of 60 in Canada…perfect antidote to this fall like weather in August. THANK YOU!