Dal Makhani (Kali Dal) – Buttered Black Gram Beans

Dal Makhani / Kali Dal - with Cream and Cilantro

Poke around my burgeoning list of recipes and you may notice that outright lack of knowledge and unpronounceableness haven’t deterred me in the least from trying out new foods. In keeping with the spirit of blissful ignorance, here are a handful of things I know about dal makhani, a slow-cooked lentil stew with black gram and red kidney beans.

  • Julie Sahni calls it “The most exquisite of dal preparations.”
  • A triple batch fits perfectly in a 7-quart dutch oven. It’s that good.
  • Dal makhani is easy to prepare but takes about 8 hours to cook, much like simmering stock, which is another good reason to make a triple batch. It will be worth it.
  • It has a consistency similar to chili. Even if I’m not vegetarian, I’d choose a bowl of dal makhani over chili any day.
  • Calling dal makhani “buttered” is a mild understatement. See recipe below.

recipe adapted from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking
My Legume Love Affair
hosted by Sra of When My Soup Came Alive

Dal Makhani (Kali Dal)
Buttered Black Gram and Red Kidney Beans

makes 8 servings

Dal Makhani / Kali Dal - Coriander, Cardamom, and Urad Dal
Dal makhani ingredients: coriander seeds, sabut urad dal, and cardamom pods

For Soaking the Beans:

1 cup dried whole black gram beans (sabut urad dal or kali dal), about 1/2 pound
2 tablespoons dried red kidney beans
4 cups of water

For Cooking the Beans

1 cup onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger root, finely chopped
3/4 cup fresh tomatoes or 1/2 cup canned drained tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons ghee or 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)

For the Tarka (Perfumed Butter):

4 tablespoons ghee or light vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 cup onions, finely chopped

For Finishing:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro / coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

To Clean and Soak the Beans:

On a half-sheet pan or large serving platter, spread out the black gram beans and kidney beans. Pick out foreign objects such as small pebbles and sticks. In a strainer, wash under cold running water for a few minutes or until the water runs clear.

Place the black gram beans and red kidney beans in a heavy pan, preferably an enameled cast iron dutch oven. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the beans soak while covered for about 2 hours.

The soaking liquid will be used to cook the beans so do not drain and discard it.

To Cook the Beans:

Add all of the ingredients for cooking the beans to the pot containing the soaking liquid and beans. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Simmer with the lid slightly ajar for about 5 hours. If feasible, stir the beans gently every half hour.

Take about 2 to 3 cups of the cooked beans from the pan and puree in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed beans to the pot. This gives dal makhani a smoother and creamier consistency.

Keep the dal makhani simmering over low heat while you prepare the tarka (perfumed butter).

Dal Makhani / Kali Dal - Slow Cooked
Dal makhani after slow-cooking for 5 hours.

To Prepare the Tarka (Perfumed Butter):

Heat the ghee or oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet. When it is very hot, add the cumin seeds and cook until it turns dark brown, about 10 seconds. Add the onions and cook while stirring continuously until light brown, about 10 minutes. Pour the tarka over the warm cooked beans.

Dal Makhani / Kali Dal - Onion Cumin Tarka
Dal makhani with onion and cumin seed tarka.

To Serve:

Top with the heavy cream and cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve warm with rice or bread.

Storage and Reheating:

Dal makhani keeps in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and also freezes well. Defrost thoroughly before reheating over low heat.

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57 Responses to “Dal Makhani (Kali Dal) – Buttered Black Gram Beans”

  1. Rosa says:

    A scrumptious vegetarian dish! It looks really flavorful and highly satisfying!



  2. Arundathi says:

    Jude – that looks brilliant – better than most Dal Makhani’s I’ve seen in India! :) Kudos to you for making unpronounceable food!

  3. PG says:

    Wonderful! What a coicidence, I’ll be making it too in a couple of days. I also love to add the onion cumin tadka on top. But, I’ve never used green caradamom before for it.

  4. Windy says:

    What a healthy meal to have. It sounds wonderful.

  5. yasmeen says:

    Jude,that bowl of creamy Spicy dal is one of the most crowd pleasing recipes of Indian cuisine. You made it just perfect, cardamom and coriander do add a succulent flavor to the dal:)

  6. maybelles mom says:

    One of my husbands favs. I should really make it soon.

  7. rainbowbrown says:

    Dal Makhani is a very favorite Indian fare of mine. Keeping piles of the stuff in the freezer is really the way to go, so I’m with you on the triple batches. This looks like a wonderful recipe.

  8. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    ;0) Eating shouldn’t depend on being able to pronounce it. After eating it I think I’ll need to be able to pronounce it as I’ll sure want more. This looks really super good.
    Now I’ve got to find whole black gram beans (sabut urad dal or kali dal) – hey I don’t need to pronounce it, I just need to have it written down!

  9. lauren says:

    Interesting technique! Very different from typical homemade dal. Thanks for posting the recipe. It looks really good and I can’t wait to try it.

  10. Fearless Kitchen says:

    This looks really delicious – and, coincidentally enough, can be cooked entirely with what I have in the house right now.

  11. noble pig says:

    I’m sure the flavor here is wonderful and I love the technique!

  12. Sweatha says:

    I was surprised when I visited.I love this dal.Warm,comforting and healthy.

  13. Life Chef says:

    Jude, this is simply wonderful. Dishes like this are the reason bowls were designed in the first place! Once again, well done! I can’t WAIT to try this recipe! And again, great job on the instructions and photos. Love your site.

  14. Caitlin says:

    This looks amazingly comforting – just like chili, only more interesting! And everything’s better with butter. Lots and lots of butter. Lucky me for you to have posted this recipe, since I just polished off my last batch of dal :)

  15. Caroline says:

    Looks good, reminds me of munggo.

  16. Katie says:

    This dish looks FANTASTIC! I have always loved beans.

  17. grace says:

    it’s a very…interesting looking dish. yes, interesting. looks aside, i know i’d love it since beans can do no wrong in my eyes.
    meanwhile, unpronounceableness? awesome. :)

  18. Shaheen says:

    Wow this looks good. Really something like what we get in restaurants in India. When it’s nice and thick it’s perfect with naan or paratha and when made a little runny it’s delicious with some plain boiled rice.

  19. Miri says:

    I’ve never had any dal dish, but your photos really make me wanna. Looks so much YUM and comforting!

  20. Natashya says:

    That looks like a lot of work (maybe more tending than work) but well worth the effort.
    I love to have good veggie dishes in the arsenal for my veggie daughter. :)

  21. DebinHawaii says:

    I used to get a dal dish like this in an Indian restaurant in Puerto Rico of all places but have never been able to recreate it exactly–I think I haven’t used near enough butter! This looks almost exactly the same. I’m going to have to try this one.

  22. sweetbird says:

    Look at how adventurous you are! You never cease to amaze me with the variety of recipes you try. This looks divine, I’m really going to have to try it out.

  23. Duuuuude says:

    I’ll have to try it with coconut milk (I’m allergic to cow milk).

  24. Dee says:

    Jude, this looks brilliant! And I really like the Suji Halwa too. My grand aunt makes a carrot halwa that she spreads out in a tray, and cuts into wedges. Unbelievably moreish.

    By the way, I’m wondering if you have any good South Indian cookbooks to recommend; I didn’t find anything I fancied at Amazon.

  25. kittie says:

    What a wonderful dish – definitely one for my wannaeat pile ;)

  26. Dragon says:

    I love that you’re daring in the kitchen! If you weren’t daring, I’d never learn about all these amazing foods. :)

  27. Soma says:

    WOW looks great. Dal makhani is our all time favorite. I cook it in a little different process, but this actually looks easier and equally delicious. Will try this out next time I make it.

  28. Susan says:

    Rich, colorful and comforting – love it ladled over basmati rice. I have Sahni’s “Indian Regional Classics.” Her recipes are enjoyably easy to follow.

  29. Amber says:

    Did you say butter? Ooohh!
    Lots of depth in flavor. I live around a lot of East Indians so this is quite interesting.

  30. johanna says:

    this looks lovely! just the kind of comfort food i need at the moment! i have a bag of beans at home waiting to be cooked, so this recipe comes in handy!

  31. sra says:

    Hi Jude! Thanks for the entry, the round-up’s on my blog.

  32. trupti says:

    wow…does that look beautiful!

  33. Kathleenben says:

    Brother dear, your sister dearest is now back in Pinas after spending 11 months in Vadodara. The place is hardly a foodies haven, but Mumbai, of course, is far, far more indulgent (where culinary scene is concerned).

    Turned veg during my stay there; one thing about Dal Makhani, it’s served best with roti or chapati ;) … Now, am starting to miss Rajasthani, Punjabi, South Indian dishes, atbp.

    More masala-laden recipes, please… Too bad I missed your homecoming :(

    Love you,

  34. Dal Makhani (Indian Butter Lentils) from Mike's Table says:

    [...] had many inspirations for this [...]

  35. Glinda Fogus says:

    My brother suggested I might like this website. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  36. Gurpreet says:

    Nice post. I love dal makhni, but as I am weight conscious i like to cook it diet style. Check the recipe for diet style dal makhni here – http://www.gdayindia.com.au/dal-makhani-diet-style

  37. Amelia says:

    When ever I have tried to use my slow cooker to cook with yougurt or coconut milk I ended up with a sour curdled mess. Any suggestions for avoiding that problem?

  38. Zara says:

    amazingly favorable what a taste mouth water I just cooked and my husband loved it very delicious .


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