Dhal Makhani

I saw the recipe for Dhal Makhani on Andrea’s lovely blog ‘Can You Stay for Dinner’, and immediately knew I had to make it. It’s been far too long since I made Indian food, and this recipe was too easy to be true. Plus, it would use up some of the lentils that have been kicking around in my pantry–my husband is on a ‘clean out the pantry’ mission and has been requiring me to make recipes that use what we already have. A wise choice, since there is still no ice cream space in our freezer.

If you have never made Indian food before, this is a perfect place to start. There are practically no ingredients (OK, well, there are nine of them counting the water), and the ingredients that are in it are totally basic items: ginger, garlic, cayenne–nothing that will require a special trip to an international grocery store. Basically, Dhal Makhani = the most amazing lentils I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve made a lot of lentils in my day.

Which brings us to the question–what the heck is a lentil?

I realized with shock while drafting this post that I had no idea. Was it a pea? Or a bean? Does it qualify as a vegetable? Wikipedia tells me it is a legume, in the same family as peas and beans and peanuts and chickpeas and tofu (soy beans) and (wait for it) it is a fruit. Whaaaa . . . ?

Let’s not get caught up in technicalities here–it’s incredible and wonderful in every way.

I made very few changes to the original recipe, and it is so delicious. It has very few ingredients, but the depth of flavor that emerges when they are brought together into this vegetarian harmony is just amazing. Even though the cook time is 1 hour and 20 minutes, the prep time is virtually nonexistent, so it’s still the perfect dinner for a busy weeknight . . . as long as you can control your hunger pangs for a little longer than usual.


(serves 3)

1 cup dried lentils

15 oz can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

water (up to one cup)

3 tablespoons heavy cream

fresh cilantro for garnish

OK, first let’s grab our lentils. I used Dupuy lentils, which are French and dark green and tiny. But any kind of lentil would work.

Now, put the cup of lentils into a pot. Cover them in cold water by 2 inches, then slap that baby on the stove over high heat.

Bring it to a boil, decrease the heat to medium high, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.

While it’s cooking, prep your other ingredients: open your can of tomato sauce, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, measure out the cayenne, and grab that butter.

After 20 minutes the lentils should be a little softer, but not mushy. Drain them in the sink . . .

. . . and then return them to the pot with the ingredients you just prepped.

Mix that deliciousness in.

Cover the pot and turn the heat on low. Cook for an hour, stirring occasionally and adding water (up to a cup) when needed. If you don’t stir them, your lentils will probably burn to the bottom (that could also mean your heat is too high)–I stirred them 3 or 4 times throughout, and added the full cup of water.

At the end of an hour they will look something like this:

Now it’s time to taste and adjust the seasoning, with more cayenne for those of you who like a jolt of fire on your tongue.

The next step is very important. Grab your best friend:

That’s right–we’re BFF’s and not ashamed of it!

Stir in the cream and sigh at the delights to come. While you’re at it, add a serious handful of chopped cilantro.

Heck yes.

Serve it over rice.

So satisfying! So hearty! So flavorful!

Seriously guys, the ratio of ingredients (few) to flavor (lots) is so surprising. Plus, it’s eating on the cheap–lentils and tomato sauce are grocery-budget friendly, which is great news for us grocery budget transgressors.

So pretty–the red, the yellow, the green . . .

Just because my life has been a barren wasteland because of the lack of Dhal Makhani up to this point doesn’t mean yours has to be. Learn from the mistakes of your forefathers! Make this dish!

Click here for printer-friendly version: Dhal Makhani

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39 Responses to Dhal Makhani

  1. Dhal is awesome! I’ve never seen cream in them before–yum!

  2. Wendi says:

    My butter chicken and your dhal makhani…we’ve got a theme going this week.

  3. Love dal makhani! Nice idea to use the french lentils.

  4. giselle says:

    Do you think this is something most people would like (or people like us with sophisticated palates only?). I have Bunko at my house this Sunday night and I was trying to find an easy, vegetarian, budget friendly meal that I could make. This sounds tasty!

    I also need your yellow rice recipe, thanks and love. Pls email me if you have time.

    Giselle :)

    • Jenna says:

      Heh heh, ‘sophisticated palates’– love it! I think anyone would like this as long as you go easy with the cayenne (if they’re sensitive to spicyness). I think this is fabulous and the flavor would be pretty friendly to anyone.
      The yellow rice: Put 2 c basmati rice, 4 c water, 2 TBS butter, 1 TBS turmeric, 1 tsp salt in a rice cooker and cook! Then stir in frozen grean peas when it’s done (the heat of the rice will thaw them perfectly).

  5. Vesselina says:

    ooooh, how I love lentils! Nice twist with the cream- you can rest assured I’ll be cooking this… SOON :o)

  6. Sukaina says:

    this looks pretty amazing. i’m not usually a fan of black lentils. i prefer the orange or yellow kind but you make these look pretty appetising.

  7. skippymom says:

    Yum, yum, yummy. This looks so good, easy and cheap. Thanks for an awesome recipe.

  8. biz319 says:

    I didn’t see that recipe before on Andrea’s blog before – must it missed it! Putting on the list of things to make next week! :D

  9. biz319 says:

    I just saw that you live in Chicago – I live in the NW suburbs – in Cary, near Crystal Lake – but I grew up in River Forest and went to Oak Park River Forest High School – um, many, many years ago!!

  10. Twinky says:

    You were right: this looks totally delish! Shoot… I just came back from running errands, but maybe I should go back out and get some cilantro, cream, and frozen peas (that I actually had on a list the other day and forgot to grab…). On the other hand, with as full as our little fridge is, I better do what Adam is doing, and that is to make sure we eat up what’s there before I do something new….

  11. kristastes says:

    This dish looks sooo delicious – I am definitely trying it soon!! :)

  12. This looks insanely delicious! I think it’s the third or fourth Indian recipe I’ve spotted on blogs this week, which I’m taking as a sign that I need to cook some Indian food this week :) I also need more lentils in my life right now (I think it’s been a couple months since I’ve made any!). Thanks for sharing such a tasty recipe :)

  13. Katerina says:

    This is such an exotic recipe. I love lentils. I bet I will love this dish too.

  14. mangocheeks says:

    I’ve grown up eaten version of this recipe. I’m of South Asian background, but i’ve never seen it being made with cream. I like it and will be making it this way soon. Thanks.

  15. Tanvi says:

    Seeing an Indian recipe on your page makes me feel like home..may be coz I am an Indian & we share the same wordpress theme :)
    The dal looks totally like the one served at immensely popular Indian dhabas [roadside eateries]…U ‘ve made me crave it with those pics!

  16. This looks hearty and delicious. I’m so glad I have whole urad dal in the pantry. In fact, I’ve been wanting to try this dish for a long time.

  17. Joanne says:

    Okay. So you have blown my mind on so many levels with this post. First of all. Lentils? A fruit??? How can I have lived my whole life up to now not knowing that? And also, while we’re at it. How have I lived my whole life up to now without this dish? It looks fantastic.

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks Joanne. =) In terms of it being a ‘fruit’ . . . well, I’m trying to trust Wikipedia’s accuracy . . . it does just sound truly bizarre. And this dish is amazing–if you make it, let me know how you like it.

      • Sarah Konet says:

        Maybe they were using the word ‘fruit’ in the botanical sense, which just means the part of the plant that holds the seeds. You should talk to Steven if you want more info, Jenna. Just don’t ask him about strawberries unless you really want to have your definition of ‘fruit’ blown out of the water. :)

      • Jenna says:

        Now I’m intrigued . . . I’ll have to ask him about strawberries as soon as possible. =)

  18. So gorgeous over that rice! I’m needing to make this soon. Thanks!

  19. eatspinlive says:

    This looks delicious :) I love all of the close up pictures! It made me REALLY want to try this!!

  20. Oh my goodness, how did you know? I’m on a clean-out-the-pantry mission this week too, and it just so happens that I have three bags of lentils! I have clipped this recipe and will definitely try it this week. Thanks!

  21. Weighting For 50 says:

    What a fabulous looking dish!!! We’re on a clean out the pantry kick too, so I may have to give it a go!!! Thanks for this!!!

  22. Jessica says:

    This sounds fabulous! Yum!

  23. I’ve always enjoyed Indian food and wanted to cook more with lentils. This looks delicious!

  24. rsmacaalay says:

    That looks yummy, the flavours in your ingredients are a fab. I remember the first time I tried dahl I cannot recognize whats the main ingredient until my Bangladeshi friend told me that those are lentils.


  25. grace says:

    i wouldn’t have guessed that there was heavy cream in this, but i’ll bet it adds so much! what a comforting and delicious dish. :)

  26. Pingback: From Cali to Philly: A Love Story « kristastes

  27. kristastes says:

    I made this dish with some minor substitutions — FABULOUS!! :) Thanks Jenna!

  28. Veronica says:

    I made this for dinner last night and I was nervous since my husband is rather picky and doesn’t like new things. And neither of us like lentils. But I had a feeling I would like this and I was right! It was just delicious over saffron rice and my husband loved it even more than me! I was really impressed. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Christina says:

    Oh man, I want this for dinner tonight!

  30. Mads says:

    Indian food is beyond delicious. I just found out an awesome place nearby delivers (uhm, don’t even ask why I can’t drag my lazy ass 10 blocks to get food)! But how come Indian food refuses to look good for the camera?
    I mean, no matter the dish, it all looks like a pile of *you know what*.
    You managed to make it look edible, so hats off to you fair lady. Bravo

    • Jenna says:

      So funny–because you’re right! It is hard to photograph Indian food. Hey, delivery is awesome when you’re really tired, even if it’s only coming from 10 blocks away. =)

  31. Pingback: Dal Makhani with Baked Saffron Rice « Recipe Rhapsody

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