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.


Makes 6 servings


  • 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


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).




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