Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Dal Makhni

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a special kick out of being able to imitate restaurant favorites in my home kitchen. Dal makhni (which translates as "buttery lentils"- the name says it all) is one of those classic dishes that is probably on the menu of every generic Indian restaurant I've been in.

The simplest recipes are often the hardest to nail down. But lurking in my bookmark folder was a recipe for Dal Makhani, Oberoi Style- a recipe extracted straight from a restaurant chef! I never ever can muster up the courage to ask for recipes at restaurants, and am eternally grateful to bloggers who do this and save me the trouble of reverse engineering a coveted recipe.

The recipe calls for three kinds of legumes- chana dal, black urad dal and red kidney beans or rajma.


At some point, I have had to grapple with the fact that there are an infinite number of beans and lentils and legumes on this planet, as opposed to a woefully finite amount of space in my pantry, and also a finite limit to how many beans and lentils can be consumed by a family of 2 humans (canines, on the whole, seem indifferent to the joys of beans).

The way I keep things under control is to have only(!) about 10 beans/lentils on hand. Some of these are staples and the others are ones that I love but don't use often, and these are on a rotating schedule. As far as urad dals go, the skinned white urad dal (bottom right in the picture above) is a staple for meals of the idli/dosa variety, and the black urad dal is a brand new arrival in the pantry. It is Vaishali's tempting recipe for spicy urad dal (very tasty, by the way) that prompted me to buy it. And suddenly, I had all the ingredients for dal makhni!

As an aside, English is such an exasperating language. Skinned (which sounds like something that has skin) is the same as skinless. I just had to get that off my chest. Moving on.

I modified the recipe a little and here's how I made it. For the complete and proper recipe, visit the wonderful blog that the recipe is adapted from.

Dal Makhni


Adapted from Dal Makhni: Oberoi Style from a Life (Time) of Cooking

1. Soak ½ cup red kidney beans, ½ cup black urad dal and ¼ cup chana dal. I soaked the kidney beans for 16 hours or so and the other dals together for 6-8 hours. Rinse all the legumes thoroughly to get rid of the soaking water. Pressure cook them together, then mash coarsely and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tsp. oil and splutter 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida and 8-10 fenugreek seeds. Add 1 heaped tsp. ginger-garlic paste and stir it for a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups thick tomato puree. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the cooked legumes, salt to taste and bring to a boil.

4. Stir in 1 tsp. red chilli powder (or more/less to taste), ¼ cup heavy cream and 1 tbsp. butter. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tsp. garam masala (the best you can find) and 1 tbsp. butter for a glossy finish. That's it.

Thrilled. To. Bits. That was me after I tasted the dal makhni. This one is a keeper, people! To be honest with you, I don't know if I have ever tasted good authentic dal makhni, but this recipe yielded completely delicious results. The slippery mouth-feel of the urad dal makes the dish a silky, buttery experience.

A Life (Time) of Cooking happens to be the chosen blog this month for Zlamushka's Tried and Tasted event, so I'm sending in this post to this event.

What's next? If you feel like playing a little guessing game, come back on Saturday!


  1. I am not sure if my earlier comment went through so i am posting it again. This recipe surely looks inviting enough to try. Had a question about the sri lankan egg curry on your blog. How much onions do you add to it if you are adding a can of tomato puree and coconut milk each finish with the srilankan curry powder and its done right.I was thinking of trying this for a potluck so wanted to confirm with you. thanks

  2. That looks really delicious. I will have to try it. Would not have guessed that kidney beans (rajma) were an ingredient in this dish.

  3. Nupur, ur Dal-Makhani looks so delicious and creamy. I make it regularly in my kitchen :)

    Sonu (

  4. The colour is spot on, as must be the taste! And since this one doesn't need much bhuno (my recipe need none!), I will try it the next time I plan to make it.

  5. Delicious looking Dal...Ekdam restaurant style.Thanks for dropping by my blog..pls. thank your Aai on my behalf.

  6. Looks great....This is on my todo list for a long time! Bookmarked!!

  7. I had dal makhani with jeera rice last week!

    It is wonderful when it comes out like the restaurant food... you started me off on a series 2 years ago... about eating out while eating in...when you made naan I think... this fits in so perfectly with that theme! So creamy and nice!

  8. always a favorite. when i was born my dad was working for the oberoi hotels in bombay - the story i am told over and over is that i was practically born in that hotel! as we grew older, i remember when we used to visit bombay mr. oberoi would take us to the hotel and he'd always order dal makhani. it was delicious. nupur this is not only a treasure find but also one that brings up some cool memories and stories! thanks!

  9. This looks/sounds absolutely fantastic. I am a huge fan of beans and lentils and love a hearty soup or stew that includes them (and always looking for an excuse to use my hand-held blender.)

    I suspect I would need to find a specialty market, to find some of these ingredients.

  10. Thanks for taking the photos of the ingredients. I am still lost when ti comes to Indian ingredients (especially to all the names!).

  11. That looks awesome...
    I want to try the simple rajma recipe of the famous andheri dhaba,,,now i have this one too,,,
    and yes ROFL abt your comment on 'skinned' thing,,when i was new to US ,i was so confused,,,same goes true for 'PITTED' which actually is without the pits...! 'SHELLED' meaning without the shells,,,,,,phew!

  12. Nupur! looks beautiful and I am sure tastes delightful. I have to confess I never order dal makhani even in restaurants. for me urad dal is meant for idlis/dosais and not making a dal out of. I have seen an array of makhanis on blogs all delicious looking. Yours is the last straw I am going to make it soon!

  13. Nupur, How long does it take to pressure cook all the dhals together because Red Kidney Beans cooks very slow on its own right and cooking along with other dhals is quite another story...!! What was your experience??
    Btw, both the photos look awesome and especially the makhni looks scrumptious!!!

  14. Thank you for cooking and blogging the Dal Makhani. Your pics are beautiful and I love the idea of photographing the different beans and lentils. I am so glad that you enjoyed cooking AND eating the dal.
    Ganga (A Life (Time) of Cooking)

  15. Hi Nupur,

    As usual I feel compelled (in the very best way!) to leave a long comment about how much I enjoy your blog, your writing, your never-fail yummy recipes... all of which I mean wholeheartedly!

    This time I will shorten it some, and simply say how scrumptious that dal looks in my *favorite* of your serving dishes :):):)

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Love the buttery look! on my list!

  17. Roshni- Please use the comment form for asking questions about older posts.

    spice and more- I always knew that rajma was part of this dish but what surprised me was the inclusion of chana dal :)

    Lakshmi Venkatesh and Sonu- Thanks.

    madteaparty- The taste was wonderful, someone who knows the "real" taste of dal makhni will have to tell me if was spot on!!

    Madhuli- yes, ekdum restaurant style it was!!

    Sharmilee- Thanks!

    Raaga- Well, you, lucky girl probably have access to very good restaurants serving North Indian food!!

    MeetaK- How wonderful to be so immersed in the behind-the-scenes life of such a famous hotel!

    Amy- It is a fantastic recipe and worth trying! You won't need a hand blender for this recipe though, the cooked beans are easy to mash with just a spatula or such.
    You will find all these ingredients in any store that sells Indian groceries, either a small independent store or part of an International market.

    Anh- I agree, there are many different types of beans and other ingredients. But as you cook with them and get to know them one by one, they become old friends! :)

    neeta- Both the rajma recipe and this one are completely worth trying.

    indosungod- LOL yes, but think of it this way, this urad dal is a little different from the skinned urad dal so you can think of them as separate entities. The slippery texture of urad dal is definitely different if you are tasting it for the first time in this form, but you quickly discover how delicious it is!

    BDSN- It took me just two whistles to pressure cook all the dals together. My experience is that once red kidney beans are soaked thoroughly, they cook as quickly as any other bean/lentil.
    I have read that if dried beans are too old, they can take very long to cook so I would suggest trying with a fresh batch to see if they cook quicker.

    vegeyum- Your blog is a treasure! Thank you for sharing your wonderful writing and recipes with us.

    Linda- You are too (too!!) kind :) I wish I knew how much you liked this serving dish- I would have got you one of these little kadhais from India. Next time!!

    Divya Vikram- Thank you!

    Manasi- Put it on the list and then cook it ASAP ;)

  18. Hi, I have been making this dish as per this recepie since a couple of weeks. I can't get over it.. it is so good! I got a bag of tomatoes and slow roasted them.. that idea came to me when I saw your pasta dish. That is excellent stuff! It didn't take me too long to get them roasted in my oven (less than 2 hrs perhaps) and it certainly didn't take me too long to finish them either. Have fun in Boston.

  19. I made dal makani for the first time this year and love it - although it was quite rich - but I think I used even less variety of legumes than you - I don't have many dried ones in my pantry but always have a few tins

  20. Nupur,

    I've enjoyed reading your blog, but never commented before.

    Something about this Dal Makhani recipe made me try it out right away, and it was finger-licking good.

    Thanks a lot for such a wonderful recipe.

    All your posts are detailed and precise which makes it easy to try out. Great work!.

  21. Nupur,the picture looks absolutely delish.The thick tomato puree must add a nice tangy flavor to the makhani dal.thanks for participating in T&T:)

  22. Hi Nupur,

    Your blog has a large variety of great recipes. This is certainly an unusual recipe..i have never used chana dal, and also we generally do not use tomato puree in dal makhani..but this must be the oberoi style :)

    I have seen several variations of this in various restaurants - some serve a tomato intensive version, some serve a black looking one, some add more butter or ghee, some are more creamy than buttery, but in any which way, Dal Makhani is an all time favourite.


  23. Nikhil from Oz- You probably left this comment on the wrong post, you're talking about the pasta salad, right? I'm very glad the recipe worked for you :)

    Johanna- This version is just rich enough without being too heavy, I cut down the butter and cream drastically from the original recipe :)
    Legumes are great to have in the pantry, tinned or dried. I use dried because they are even more economical that way, and I own a pressure cooker which makes it so easy to cook them.

    rv- Thanks for the feedback and I am very glad this recipe worked for you.

    Yasmeen- Thanks for hosting!

    pb- I'd love to see your version, if you ever decide to post it, I'll try it for sure :)

  24. Hey Nupur, will be trying out this dal tomorrow, will update you on how it was...yummy for sure.

  25. Nupur,
    thank you for all your wonderful recipes - I am what they call a 'content lurker' :) love your recipes but never really wrote in!
    I did have a question though- I noticed that you use a lot of tomato puree in your recipes. Do you have preferences regarding brands? anything you use in particular? I am not a big tomato puree/paste/sauce user so often end up having to throw away half used cans.. want to change that and try some more of your recipes in the meantime!

  26. Finally a good dal makhani recipe! Thanks to you. Going to Dallas Indian store this weekend and one of the first things I am going to do is to buy black urad!!!!...recipe seems perfect!I am thrilled to bits too!...

  27. Hi Nupur,

    Great recipe ... this one is for keeps :)
    Thanks for sharing.

    I used canned tomato puree and my dal makkhi turned out looking more reddish than brownish ... how did get that perfect brown color?

    It still tasted divine though.


  28. Looks absolutely yummy - after I have come to Delhi and eaten home made dal makhni have learnt that the restuarant version uses more tomato puree.


  29. Nupur, that dal makhani looks so delicious. Thanks for sharing. I've been daydreaming about this for a while, must try your recipe soon.

  30. hi
    its kinda variation of dal which I eat with baati ( typically rajasthani cuisine known as daal baati churma just barring the red kidnet beans they rn't put in tht receipe) I make dal makhani with sabut urad dal & red kidney beans & a generous amount of white butter & cream & tomatoes, generally most ppl in north mk it using these these, urs is a l'le different, waiting to try this version.....

  31. This looks great and oh-so-easy! Definitely going to try it out!

  32. Thank you for sharing this recipe. This is one of my favorite dishes, but I don’t know how to make it. Now I will surely try your recipe method next time when I make dal makhani.

  33. I have made this numerous times with amazing results everytime and ofcourse well received by guests!


Thanks for leaving a comment- I try to respond to every single one.