Classic Dal Makhani with a Vegan Twist

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Classic Dal Makhani with a Vegan Twist

Creamy and rich dal makhani — literally "buttery lentils" — is probably one of my husband's very favorite dishes on those rare occasions when we do eat or order out. This Punjabi dish usually consists of whole urad beans, kidney beans, butter, cream and, of course, spices.

Popular at roadside stops and food stalls in North India, this dish is now a classic that has extended beyond the borders of India. If only we could get such delights at quick stops and stalls here in North America! Luckily, it can be made at home without too much fuss and bother. I've made several attempts myself to create this dish in my own kitchen and this time around, I skipped the dairy component and went with coconut milk for the creamy element that adds to the texture of the velvety legumes. I honestly think this version is the best one I have made so far. You won't miss the dairy. Even better than restaurant versions, because in my opinion, homemade in your kitchen with fresh ingredients and tender loving care makes for a more enjoyable meal.

The earthy flavors of the dals are layered with the aromatic tastes of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg, along with a complex but subtle heat from chilies, Kashmiri chili powder and garam masala, with a little tang from tomato, all tempered by creamy coconut milk and completed with a bit of bitterness from dried fenugreek leaves. One mouthful is such a fusion of wonderful taste sensations that no one will believe it is so straightforward to prepare. Serve with rice and favorite Indian savory breads, such as naan.

Classic Dal Makhani with a Vegan TwistClassic Dal Makhani with a Vegan Twist
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on November 20, 2015

A classic warm, creamy and fragrant spiced Punjabi bean curry turned into an equally delicious vegan preparation

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  • 3/4 cup whole dried urad beans (black gram)
  • 1/4 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 red or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 green cardamon pods
  • 2 black cardamon pods
  • small handful of dried curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • small handful of dried fenugreek leaves (methi), crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Rinse the urad beans and kidney beans and soak overnight in enough water to cover. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and add the cinnamon stick, turmeric and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer for 50 minutes.

  • While the beans are cooking, combine the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chilies, paprika, coriander, liquid smoke if using, and garam masala in a small food processor or blender. Pulse until a smooth purée is formed. Add a little water if necessary.

  • Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamon pods and curry leaves. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chili powder, nutmeg or mace and asafetida to the pan. Stir for a minute. Now add the puréed tomato mixture and cook, stirring often, for about 10 to 12 minutes until thickened. Add this mixture to the beans and pour in the coconut milk. Mash some of the beans with a fork or potato masher and simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring often.

  • Add the fenugreek leaves and salt, stir well, and serve hot with fresh cooked white basmati rice.

Makes 4 servings

Dal Makhani

You might perhaps want to try these recipes featuring urad dal:
Spicy Urad Dal with Cauliflower and Peas
Urad Dal with Toor Dal and Spinach and Parsley
Urad Dal Tomato Soup
Savory Rice and Urad Dal Pancakes (Dosas)

On the top of the reading stack: Eat Like You Give A Damn: Recipes for the New Ethical Vegan


Jagruti said...

We absolutely adore daal makhni , i make vegan too but only using olive oil and still comes out creamy, will try your version maybe next Saturday as we Indians eat URAD or URAD daal specifically on saturday :)
Have a great weekend !

Pooja said...

I love this recipe.