My Grandma’s Finger-Lickin' Dal Makhani Recipe

Photo Credit: ahmer shahid/Shutterstock


Dal Makhani (ma-kha-nee) is one of the most popular lentil recipes from North India. A much-loved dish for the natives of Punjab and New Delhi, it’s known for its rich, creamy texture and mouth-watering aroma.

Its taste is distinct, and one needs to be mindful of the ingredients added to prepare this dal. I love having Dal Makhani with piping-hot and buttery naan bread and rice. The only person in my family who knows how to prepare this dal with perfection is my paternal grandmother.

I was lucky enough to learn it from her the last time she visited me. It took us time to cook it, but the result was incredible. I will never forget that day with her. So, here’s my grandma’s finger-licking Dal Makhani recipe:


1. Soak 3/4 cup of whole black gram (Urad dal) and 1/4 cup of kidney beans (Rajma) in separate bowls of water for 8-9 hours or overnight, after which you must drain the lentils.

2. Rinse the lentils a couple of times before pouring them into a pressure cooker. Add 2-3 cups of water, but make sure the lentils remain just below the level of water. Otherwise, evaporating the excess water can be a bit tedious.

3. Close the pressure cooker lid and put the lentils on high. Cook until the lentils have thoroughly softened. They should melt in your mouth.

4. Repeat the exercise for kidney beans. But increase the cooking time, because they take longer to soften. 

5. Put the cooked lentils and beans aside and get ready to prepare the masala. 

6. Take three medium-size juicy tomatoes, two small onions, two cloves of garlic, and one tiny piece of ginger and grind into a thick and consistent paste. You can also add 2-3 long green chilies to the mixture if you like.

3. Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and set your burner on low. Let the oil heat for a couple of minutes before adding one teaspoon of cumin seeds to it and a dried red chilli.

4. When the cumin starts to crackle, add the tomato-onion paste to the pan and cook until it is semi-dry.

5. Add one teaspoon of each of the following spices to the semi-dry paste and mix them properly:

  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1-2 tsp. coriander powder
  • ½ tsp. of turmeric
  • 2-3 pinches of black pepper
  • Garam masala or Rajma masala (if available)

6. Keep stirring the contents of the pan occasionally so that all the ingredients merge perfectly with the tomato-onion paste.

7. Add the cooked lentils and beans to the pan and pour one cup of water. Adjust salt to taste, and stir the pan.

8. Put a lid over the pan and let the dal simmer for 25-30 minutes on a low flame. You’ll notice the dish becoming thicker. If you feel the dal is drying up, add 1/3 cup of water. The longer you simmer Dal Makhani, the better it will taste.

9. When the dal has thickened enough, add 1/3 cup of low-fat cream. If you want to use heavy cream, two tablespoons of it should suffice. Stir appropriately until the cream has merged with the dal before taking the pan off the stove.

10. Garnish the dish with chopped coriander leaves and a small piece of butter, and serve hot with naan or steamed rice

The perfect Dal Makhani is cooked slowly until all the ingredients have mixed well. In many Indian eateries specializing in North Indian food, this dish is simmered for hours and often tempered with charcoal for a smoky flavor. Of course, not everyone can do that. But we can invest an hour or two in preparing this dal. 

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