Punjabi-Inspired Black Gram Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Punjabi-Inspired Black Lentil Dal

Cooking with dals is a fun experience for me in the kitchen, especially if they feature in an Indian-inspired creation, and I often go into the kitchen armed with only a scant idea of how I am going to cook the dals, with some thought beforehand in case I need to soak the dals ahead of time or require any additional items that I don't happen to have on hand already. Of course, this is not always the case, and many of the dal recipes that I make are well drafted and thought through in more detail and then revised as I cook.

But this Punjabi-inspired creation is an example of the former, knowing only that I wanted whole urad beans as the focal point of the dish as I have been quite smitten with them lately, and also wishing to prepare something easy for dinner that required little fuss. And so this earthy, creamy and nourishing urad bean dish was served up for dinner in hardly at time at all.

The smoky and spicy flavor and creamy texture of this dish is reminiscent of dal makhani, which is also Punjabi in origin but includes red kidney beans and sometime chana dal in addition to whole urad beans; typically it is served with a good swirl of heavy cream (or coconut milk to keep the dish vegetarian). Here I have included coconut milk in the spiced tomato gravy in which the beans are simmered because I was aiming for the same creamy texture that is so unique to dal makhani, but use more water or include another tomato if you are looking for something less creamy and slightly more tart.

Whole black urad beans, or black gram, are also known as black lentils, though black gram is not actually a lentil and should not be confused with beluga lentils. You can find them in any Indian grocer. The bean has a unique glutinous texture when cooked and should be soaked overnight to ensure that it cooks through. Black gram in this Punjabi-inspired creation adds a creamy and distinctive quality to the dish.

Punjabi-Inspired Black Gram DalPunjabi-Inspired Black Gram Dal
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on February 25, 2019

Simple creamy black lentils simmered in a spicy and smoky tomato gravy

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  • 1 cup dried black gram (whole urad beans)
  • 2 tablespoons oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 to 2 fresh red chilies, seeded and minced
  • small handful dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri or other chili powder, or to taste
  • 2/3 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)
  • Rinse the black gram and soak in enough water to cover for 6 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse when ready to cook.

  • Heat the oil or ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the cumin seeds and stir for 1 minute, then add the onion. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the garlic, ginger, chilies and curry leaves, and cook for another few minutes. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder and garam masala, and stir for another minute until the spices are fragrant. Add the tomato and cook, stirring often, until the tomato begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

  • Pour in the coconut milk and water and stir in the drained black gram. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gram is tender — about 45 minutes. Add more water to the pan for a soupier dal.

  • Stir in the salt and adjust for seasonings. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot alongside fresh cooked white rice or flat breads and a vegetable side.

Makes 4 servings

Punjabi Black Urad Dal

Other dishes featuring black lentils:
Classic Dal Makhani
Classic Dal Makhani with a Vegan Twist
Black and Yellow Chickpeas in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce

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