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Dal Makhani – Indian Lentil Curry

Occasionally I like to pick an area of cooking where I have very little experience and study it until I feel more confident in my skills. Lately this focus has been on Indian cuisine. While updating my site, I realized that I had only posted four recipes in the Indian category, which is kind of a travesty considering how delicious this type of cuisine can be – and how easily it lends itself to plant-based cooking.

In this process of learning more about Indian food, I have been loving a blog called Always Hungry by Salma Navin. In fact, this recipe here – curried mashed lentils and kidney beans – is my own plant-based spin on her amazing Dal Makhan and it’s probably the best Indian dish I’ve ever made.

If you’ve never had anything like this before, it’s kind of the perfect middle ground between a curry, a soup, a stew, and a sauce. The feel of this dish almost reminds me of a classic American Chili, but with huge Indian flavors. I made this for dinner last night with basmati rice and whole wheat naan… it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. If you like Indian food, give this simple recipe a shot. I think you’ll love it.

DalMakhaniHalf

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked black lentils
  • 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried spice: salt, turmeric, corriander, cumin, cayenne
  • 1+ cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (or 2/3 cup soymilk)
  • Cilantro, to garnish
  • Basmati rice or naan, for serving

DalMakhaniNaan

Prep: soak about 1/2 cup raw cashews to make a cashew cream that will add a ton of creaminess to the soup. If this isn’t possible, you can sub non-dairy milk.

Step One

First, cook the black lentils and red kidney beans. You can certainly use canned or pre-cooked ones, but the flavors will be so much better if you start with the dry legumes and cook them yourself (especially with the lentils). Either way, prepare these, drain them, and set aside.

Step Two

In a deep skillet, warm a tablespoon of vegetable oil and add in a diced red onion, 3 minced cloves of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of minced ginger. Allow these to soften and then add in the spices right onto the onions: start with 1/2 teaspoon each salt, turmeric, corriander, cumin, cayenne. Give these 5 minutes.

Also, now would be a good time to start thinking about the rice (or naan bread) that you’ll be serving with this Dal…

Step Three

Next, add in the lentils, beans, and about a cup of pureed tomatoes. Use a fork to mash the lentils and beans right in the skillet. They don’t have to be 100% mashed, just break them up a bit. Then allow this to simmer for at least 25 minutes, stirring regularly and adding water as necessary to maintain the stew-like consistency.

Step Four

Meanwhile, make the cashew cream. Simply blend the cashews with about 1/2 cup of water until completely smooth. Add half of this into the Dal and reserve the other half for garnish.

Step Five

After about 25 minutes of simmering, give this a final taste and feel free to add any additional spices that are needed. Then, divide into bowls, drizzle on some cashew cream, add a garnish of cilantro, and serve with basmati rice or fresh naan (Indian flatbread, pictured).

DalMakhaniTop

DalMakhani

36 Comments

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    • Ah, I’m sure there’s a bunch of recipes online (Google?) but I actually found vegan whole wheat naan at the Trader Joe’s grocery store chain.

  1. OK…checked my cupboard…put lentils, kidney beans and cashews on to soak. Guess what I am having for dinner??? Yummmmmmmm…THANK YOU!

  2. Wow! My fiance is Indian and loved this! He was brought up eating the heavy dairy original one and preferred this one. Great job!

  3. Finally!!!the recipe that I was dreaming of!!!I always order it when I go to an Indian Restaurant! I am going to make it as soon as possible!! Thanks so much! U are the man!!!

    • Black lentils aren’t too hard to find. I’ve seen them at pretty much every grocery store nearby – whole foods, sprouts, even the bigger chains. I’m not exactly sure how much to start with dry… maybe a little more than 1 cup? Either way, it’s not a huge deal if you have a little more/less. This recipe is very flexible. 🙂

  4. Made this tonight and it was a winner. I cut back the cayenne just a little to make it more family friendly. We needed a good bit more salt. I also learned that one cup dry lentils yields about 3 cups cooked.
    Thanks Andrew. Your recipes are excellent and I’ve been recommending them to friends interested in a plant based diet! Keep ’em coming!

  5. Wow! This is so delicious! It’s also pretty easy to create. I made it yesterday. My cashew nut usage has gone through the roof since I discovered your site! Thanks for sharing.

    • Haha, I know I use cashews in *everything* but I can’t help myself… they make the perfect vegan cream sauce. I’m glad you liked this one, Hens!

  6. Amazing!!!! So yummy, so filling, perfect for this snowy first day of spring! Thank you much- this will be a regular in our home!

  7. I came here via udemy. Was looking for the food photography class and landed here and I must say omg:)!!I did not expect dal makhni here. Looks awesome. As a very amateur food photographer, taking up your class with the wish that my food photographs might tell a story soon.Signing up for your class now

    • Thanks Veena! 🙂 Like I said, I’m trying to expand my repertoire of Indian cooking…. I hope you enjoy the photography course! 🙂

  8. My brother in-law is from India & I have never made him a curry dish for fear it won’t measure up. I am going to make your recipe for him & my sister with confidence they’ll like it! This recipe looks delicious! Thank you

  9. Finally getting around to reading this recipe. Sounds wonderful! I LOVE Indian food as it utilizes so many spices. And I have most of these ingredients on hand regularly. I’ll have to make this soon. It looks so warm and comforting. Mmmm

  10. I had this for supper tonight with a roti and baby spinach leaves. It is delicious! This is the best recipe with lentils I have found. I cut down drastically on the cayenne pepper, though. You must have a cast-iron palate, Andrew! Hopefully by next time I’ll have splashed out on cashew nuts to make the cream. It’s enough for four meals for me, so I’ve frozen some. Thanks, Andrew!

  11. I made this last weekend. It was my first venture into cashew cream and it definitely won’t be the last. The dish itself was just incredible. Layers and layers of flavor! The cilantro with cashew cream to finish was the perfect addition. I found traditional Naan at Whole Foods and it was so yummy.

    Whenever there was cream in a recipe, I’d short-cut it with vegan sour cream. I wasn’t thrilled with the taste, but it was better than nothing. But this cashew cream! Oh my. I’ll never buy vegan sour cream again. It was so easy to make and will now be my go-to.

    Thanks for another great recipe, Andrew! 🙂

    • This made me so happy, Michele 🙂 thank you for reporting back!

      You know, I use cashews in wayyy too many of my recipes and people always make fun of me for that… but now you know why! 😉

    • Awesome, Hens! This is one of my favorites – I’m glad you liked it too! 🙂

      P.S. I’m sending you an email about something else right now.

  12. Dear Andrew, this probably sounds like a silly question, but I seem to think that tomato puree in America is not the same as what we call tomato puree in the UK, so I just wanted to double-check the type you use in the the Makhani recipe: is it the thick concentrate (tomato puree in UK) or the runny sieved version (a passata-type)? Would love to try this recipe, just want to make sure I use the right kind, lol 🙂 Thank you!

    • Hi Annelies, that’s a good question. I’m referring to the thin sauce, which is basically just pureed tomatoes – NOT tomato paste, which is the super-thick and concentrated kind, and definitely not ketchup :). I hope that makes sense!

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