4 Amazing Dal Makhani Tips (Restaurant Style)

Dal Makhani

Dal MakhaniThis Dal Makhani recipe is a restaurant style version with subtle smoky flavors and creaminess of the lentils. If you love authentic Punjabi food then you are going to love this Dal Makhani even more.

Dal Makhani is one of the most popular lentil recipes from the North Indian Punjabi cuisine made with Whole Black Lentils (known as Urad dal or Kaali Dal in Hindi) and Kidney Beans (known as Rajma in Hindi). you can also make makhani by using  diffrent varieties of dal  or else can try paneer makhani

For this recipe, I have used a pressure cooker to cook the lentils, but I have explained the method of cooking the lentils in a pan or pot below.

Whole spices

 Fragrant and aromatic whole spices make this dal makhani more flavorful.

fragrant and aromatic whole spices make this dal makhani more flavorful.

In my experimentation with this dish earlier, I remember making dal makhani without whole spices many times and hoping to get restaurant like taste and flavors in the lentils.

But it never matched and my experiments continued.I once found a black cardamom and clove in dal makhni. I thought may be it is the black cardamom and clove giving that lovely aroma and flavor.

Thereafter I tested dal makhani many times adding whole spices and realized that they do add a good flavor and faint aroma to the dish. But I still felt something was lacking.

Butter and cream

Cream and Butter make Big Difference.

Thus I kept on experimenting and when I was testing the recipe of Dal Bukhara I realized it was the cream and butter giving a rich taste, apart from the slow cooking.

The richness in the dish comes from the fats in the butter and cream. The amount of butter and cream added is not copious and just enough to lift the dish in its richness.
You could still make dal makhani with less butter and cream. Just remember to slow cook it for longer periods of time, to get the real deal.

Slow cooking

The more slow cooked dal makhani is the better it tastes.

In most Indian restaurants specializing in authentic North Indian food, Dal Makhani is simmered overnight or for many hours.
Basically you can call it slow cooking of the lentils. This slow cooking makes a world of difference to the consistency of the lentils.

The lentils are slow cooked in a tandoor. The tandoor is a cylindrical shaped oven made of clay. The fire in the tandoor comes from lit charcoal or wood.
Overnight simmering of the dal makhani gives some smokiness in the dish from the charcoal or wood.
In most Indian homes you will not find tandoor. But you will easily find a pressure cooker.
The fastest way to cook the lentils are in a pressure cooker. In this post, I have used a stove-top pressure cooker, but you can cook the lentils in an Instant Pot too.
I have cooked the lentils & beans in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes. Later I have slow cooked them on a low heat for 25 minutes.
You can slow cook for more time than what I have done. Slow cooking makes the lentils viscous, creamy and the end result is a finger-licking dal makhani.

Smoky Flavors

For that restaurant style smoky aroma and flavour is the key.

Like I mentioned above the smoky aroma in the dal makhani comes from slow simmering and cooking dal makhani on wooden or charcoal fires or embers.

To replicate this smokiness in the dish, I have two tried and tested methods for you.

    1. Charcoal infused smoke: This is also called as Dhungar in Hindi language. It is a charcoal smoking technique. It works fabulously for any recipe where you need some smoky flavor.The dal makhani smoked with this method tastes exactly like the restaurant one.
    2. Use smoked paprika: Using smoked paprika is the easiest method and especially great when you cannot get charcoal.
      Just replace the red chilli powder in the recipe with smoked paprika. I have added smoked paprika so many times to dal makhani to get that smoky flavor.

How to make Dal Makhani?

Soaking lentils

1. Soak both ¾ cup whole urad dal (whole black gram) and ¼ cup rajma (kidney beans) overnight in enough water for 8 to 9 hours. Drain them well. The below photo shows the soaked whole urad dal and rajma

2. Rinse the urad lentils and rajma legumes a couple of times in water.

3. Drain well and then add them in a pressure cooker.

4. Add 3 cups water and stir well.

5. Pressure cook for 18 to 20 whistles on a high flame, till both the whole urad dal and rajma have cooked thoroughly and softened. If they are not cooked, then add about ½ cup water again and pressure cook for 4 to 5 whistles more. 

6. The urad dal should melt in the mouth and should not give any bite or resistance when eaten.
You can also just mash the urad dal with a spoon or with your fingers to check the doneness.

The same rule applies for kidney beans too.
7. In a blender or mixer jar, take chopped tomatoes. 2 large tomatoes or 200 grams of tomatoes, chopped. No need to blanch the tomatoes

8. Blend to a smooth puree. Keep aside. You can also use the store brought 1 cup tomato puree instead of blending the tomatoes.

Making Dal Makhani

9. In a pan, now heat 3 tablespoons butter. You can use salted butter or unsalted butter.

10. Add the whole spices – ½ tsp cumin seeds, 2 to 3 cloves, 2 to 3 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon, 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf). Fry till the spices become aromatic and sputter.

11. Then add ½ cup finely chopped onions.

12. Stir and saute the onions on a low flame often.

13. Saute the onions till they become light golden.

14. Then add 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste. Stir again and sauté till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.

15. Add 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies and stir for a minute.

16. Then add the prepared tomato puree.

17. Mix again.

18. Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder.

19. Then add about 2 to 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder.

20. Mix very well and sauté this mixture on a low to medium heat, till you see fat releasing from the sides. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes on a medium-low to medium heat.

21. Then add the cooked urad dal and rajma beans.

22. Add the remaining stock. Add 1 cup water or more if required.

Slow cooking

23. Mix very well and simmer the dal uncovered on a low heat.

24. Keep on stirring often, so that the lentils don’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan. The lentils become viscous and start to stick at the bottom if not stirred. Mash a few lentils too while stirring.

25. Once the dal makhani has begun to thicken, add salt as required.

26. Mix very well and continue to simmer on a low heat. Keep on stirring when the lentils are simmered on low heat. When simmering you can add more water if the consistency looks thick or dry.
The longer you keep dal makhni to simmer, the better it tastes. The lentils become creamy, viscous and the consistency of the dal will keep on thickening as you simmer.
I kept for about an overall 25 minutes on a low flame. Do keep on stirring at intervals.

27. When the gravy has thickened enough, then add ¼ to ⅓ cup low fat cream or half and half. If using heavy cream, then add 2 tablespoons of it.
The consistency of Punjabi dal makhani is neither too thick or too thin. It has a medium consistency with a viscosity coming from the thoroughly cooked lentils.28. Mix the cream very well. Then switch off the heat.

29. Now add ¼ teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed. Stir again. Cover and keep the dal makhani aside and now your dakl makhani is ready to serve.

Expert Tips

  • Soaking: For any kind of dried whole beans or dried peas it is always helps to soak them overnight or for 8 to 9 hours. Soaking beans reduces the phytic acid which causes indigestion and flatulence thereby makes them more digestible. Soaking also helps the beans to cook faster.
  • Rinsing: Before cooking, rinse the soaked beans in water a couple of times. Then drain all the water and cook the beans with fresh water. Doing this also reduces the phytic acid.
  • Cooking: When you soaking beans and lentils the cooking time considerably reduces by 25%. You can then cook the soaked beans in a pan or in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
  • Freshness of lentils: Beans & legumes should be fresh and not aged. Beans which are too old or beyond their expiry date (shelf-life) will take a lot of time to cook and perhaps not cook well enough to give a melt in the mouth texture. Undercooked beans upset the stomach too.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an important ingredient in this recipe. You could use canned tomatoes too or packaged tomato puree (1 cup). For fresh tomatoes, choose the sweet and ripe variety. Do not add highly sour or tart tomatoes.

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