Alternative:Dal Makhani

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Dal Makhani is a delicacy from Punjab in India. Traditionally this dal was cooked slowly, for hours, on charcoal. This gave it a creamier texture. It had ‘malai’ (cream) or fresh butter added to it. When cooked at home these days, more moderate amounts of cream or butter are used. When prepared in restaurants, it is cooked slowly on low heat and often has a large amount of cream and butter added. Lentils and beans were soaked overnight for at least 8 hours and gently simmered on low heat along with ginger, garlic and a few other spices (garam masala). These are then combined with a tangy masala base which includes onions, tomatoes (chopped or puree) or dried mango powder or even pomegranate seeds.

Dollops of fresh cream and butter lend the rich finishing touch. It is garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves and fresh cream. It is a sumptuous meal and a staple diet in Punjab and most of Northern India. It is commonly eaten with roti, rice, naan chapatis.


  • 1 cup whole urad or black gram lentil
  • 1/3 cup kidney beans (Rajma)
  • 1/3 cup chick peas (kabuli channa)
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground fennel seeds
  • Red chilli powder (accord to taste)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 3-4 tbs. ghee or clarified butter or oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • A large pinch of hing (Asafoetida)
  • 2 bay leaves, 1/2 cinnamon stick and 3 cloves
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger and garlic
  • 1 medium onion (thinly chopped, optional)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Garam Masala (this can be altered as per taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cream.
  • 10-12 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 tbs. chopped coriander leaves (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 5-6 cups water (to cook dal)


  1. Wash and soak black urad (bean) and rajma (red kidney bean) and chick peas (kabuli channa) overnight in adequate amount of luke warm water.
  2. Cook the soaked dal and rajma and chick peas in 5-6 cups of water with salt, red chili powder, fennel seeds powder, turmeric, and grated ginger and 1/2 tsp of garam masala untill soft. If you use Indian pressure cooker, it will be 4 whistles.
  3. Keep the cooked dal aside.
  4. Heat oil or butter in a thick bottomed pan.
  5. Add cumin seeds and hing, let it crackle.
  6. Add 2 bay leaves, 1/2 cinnamon stick and 3 cloves, add curry leaves (optional) and chopped onions and cook till light golden brown in color and just when onion start becoming brown add giner garlic paste and saute.
  7. Add chopped tomatoes. Sauté and add garam masala, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp of coariander powder, remaining half quantity of the red chilly powder as per taste and saute till tomatoes are well mashed and fat starts to leave the masala.
  8. Add cooked dal generally addition of water is required only if the amount of water in cooked daal is not sufficient to ahieve desired consistency.
  9. Mix it well and simmer at very slow flame for 15-20 minutes.
  10. This daal generally requires more salt then we usually put for other daal and this should be added as per taste.
  11. Add fresh cream and 1 tbsp of clarified butter and let it simmer for 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.
  12. Serve hot with Naan or Paratha or with rice.

Other Facts

This dish is extremely popular not just in North India but elsewhere as well. It tastes very good the following day after reheating properly. Soaking the beans overnight reduces cooking time. You can make it in slow cooker but make sure that you boil it briskly in a pan for the last 10 minutes, to neutralise the toxins in kidney beans / Rajma.

Alternative recipe

You can substitute garam masala with cumin-coriander powder and cream with sour cream or low fat yogurt. This dal is rich in starch and minerals, it is also considered heavy for digestion, however ginger solves this problem and makes it easy to digest. Use olive oil instead of ghee or butter and omit cream.

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