Dal Makhani (Black Gram and Kidney Bean Curry)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
dal makhani

I was once told that dal makhani is "truck stop food" in the Punjab, but as far as I'm concerned that's an endorsement of Punjabi truck stops and not a criticism of the dish. Warm, creamy and spicy, variations of this once humble north Indian staple have become signature dishes in fine Indian restaurants over here, and it's my husband's favorite curry when eating out.

Like other famous dal curries, dal makhani — literally "buttery" lentils — invites experimentation. The essentials of whole urad beans or black gram, and red kidney beans, ginger, garam masala and cream remain the same, but otherwise the dals are a canvas upon which to work your seasoning art. Even if I do say so myself, my version here improves upon some of the best dal makhanis I've ever eaten. The earthy and nutty flavors of the dals are layered with the bittersweet aromatic tastes of cinnamon, cardamom and mace, followed by a complex but subtle heat from chilies, Kashmiri chili powder and garam masala, with a little tang from tomato and amchoor powder, all tempered by a sweet thick cream. One mouthful is such a fusion of wonderful sensations that no one will believe it is so incredibly simple to make!

The creamy texture of dal makhani comes from the whole urad beans, small round dark-skinned beans that become very glutinous with cooking — quite unique to beans — and impart a wonderfully rich and earthy flavor. They're easy to find in Indian or Asian grocers, as is the wonderful paprika-like Kashmiri chili powder and other spices in this recipe. Pair this flavorful dal curry with hot fresh cooked rice and Indian flatbreads for a completely satisfying vegetarian dinner, or substitute coconut cream or reduced almond milk to make this a vegan dal makhani.

Dal Makhani (Black Gram and Kidney Bean Curry)Dal Makhani (Black Gram and Kidney Bean Curry)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on October 6, 2012

The classic Punjabi warm, creamy and spicy curry of black gram and red kidney beans

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

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  • 3/4 cup dried whole urad dal (black gram)
  • 1/4 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 black cardamon pods, slightly crushed
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 2 to 3 fresh green or red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • small handful of dried curry leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream, whisked
  • Rinse the beans and soak overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a medium saucepan and cover with 3 cups of fresh water. Add the turmeric, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and about 1/3 of the ginger and 1/3 of the garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally, adding more water as needed.

  • While the beans are cooking, heat the ghee or oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, stirring for about 30 seconds. Add the rest of the garlic and ginger and the fresh chilies and stir and fry for a minute or two. Toss in the spices, stir for 30 seconds, and then add the tomato, curry leaves and salt. Simmer until the mixture thickens somewhat — about 5 minutes.

  • When the beans are cooked, mash them a few times with a fork or potato masher. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the cooked beans, stir well to combine and cook the beans for another 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamon pods, taste and adjust for seasoning.

  • Swirl some whisked cream into each portion and sprinkle with a bit of garam masala.

Makes 4 servings

dasl makhani

More dal curries you will enjoy:
Dal Kootu
Tangy Red Lentil Dal with Goda Masala
Spicy Urad Dal with Tomato and Fennel Seeds
Marwadi Mixed Dal

Audio Accompaniment: Mozart Requiem in D minor, K626 FULL PERFORMANCE Herbert von Karajan


Rosh said...

That is cooked to perfection Lisa! Looks delicious :) Dal makhani and soft phulkas - my favorite meal!

Lisa Turner said...

Thank you Rosh. I was really quite pleased with the result after years of trying to get just the right blend of flavours.

Venera@veggykitchen said...

I love kidney bean curry! I tried it once and it was delicious. Now thanks to you I have a recipe for that! Great!

Lisa Turner said...

I love kidney bean curry too. I think you will enjoy this one Venera. Thanks for stopping by.

AJ said...

Goodness, that does look amazing.

Johanna GGG said...

I love dah makhani - have only had it in my own kitchen but it was one of the most memorable dals I have made - wish we had those sort of truck stops here - interesting to hear how the beans change the texture of the dal - must look into the black gram

janet @ the taste space said...

Hey Lisa, Rob made this (without the cream) and really liked it. We had to substitute split urad instead of whole urad, though. For me it was too spicy but it mellowed as leftovers.. but then I found it a bit too earthy for my liking. I have no clue what made it earthy but at least Rob liked it!

Lisa Turner said...

It is the combination of beans in the dish here that make is earthy and the spicing. Glad Rob liked it.

TheSimpleKitchen said...

This is one of my favourite dishes. Your recipe is nice. And pic looks very tempting

Anonymous said...

I want to try it this week.