Dal Makhani - Creamy Buttery Lentils

In rural Punjab in northern India, al fresco eating mainly occurs in self-service roadside joints called dhabas, frequently by truck drivers and travellers. They always serve dal makhani. which is cooked on a slow fire, often simmering for hours until the lentils turn creamy and are well flavoured with spices. The dal is sometimes rounded off with cream and lashings of butter. This dish is traditionally made with skinned split black lentils but I’ve made this dish with brown lentils for a lighter feel.


Serves 8

225g brown lentils

50g butter, plus extra for garnish or 3 tbsp sunflower oil

2 bay leaves

2 onions, finely chopped

4-6 garlic cloves, chopped

A generous pinch of asafoetida

2 green chillies, chopped

1 tbsp peeled and grated root ginger

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1 x 400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed 

140ml double or single cream (optional)

1/2 tsp garam masala

A few washed and chopped coriander leaves, for garnish


Soak the lentils in water for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse them.

Put them in a saucepan and boil the lentils in 800ml water for 15 minutes until almost tender. 

Meanwhile, heat another pan large enough to hold the lentils. Add the butter or oil and tip in the bay leaves and stir for a few seconds. Then add the onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Tip in the garlic and continue to sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the asafoetida and the chillies. Stir in the ginger and the ground coriander, cumin and salt. Cook on a low heat for a minute. Pour in 800ml of just boiled water and the lentils with any of the surplus water. Tip in the kidney beans and simmer for 20 minutes more until thickened.

Stir in the cream, if using. Dot with a little butter. Sprinkle over the garam masala and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with Cumin Rice.

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  • asafoetida
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  • brown lentils
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  • kidney beans
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