Vegan Dal Makhani

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Dal Makhani is one of the most popular Indian dals, and this vegan version makes no sacrifices. The flavors are complex and the texture is velvety and luxurious. It's a special occasion dish that will blow your mind! Stovetop and Instant Pot instructions.
Prep 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook 1 hour 30 minutes
Total 3 hours
5 from 196 votes

My parents are verrrry picky eaters who eat primarily home cooked, gourmet Indian food, so I was beyond thrilled when they devoured this vegan dal makhani. And since I’ve gotten so many requests for a vegan dal makhani recipe in the last year, I figured it was about time to share one with you!

This recipe is a labor of love and is not a weeknight, Westernized version of an Indian recipe. That’s because traditional Indian recipes are not quick; they layer so many different spices and flavors, and cooking them together takes time to meld into a harmonious dish that will delight your tastebuds.

So, if you’re looking for authentic, gourmet, restaurant-quality Indian food that will blow your mind, this recipe is a must-make. The flavors are complex and linger on the tongue, and the texture is unctuous, velvety, and luxurious. It’s a whole experience. And an even better one when paired with my homemade vegan naan (it’s fluffy, pillowy, chewy, and buttery!).

If you have an Instant Pot, I highly recommend making the Instant Pot version because it’s much quicker and just as tasty! And you can find several more Indian and Indian-inspired Instant Pot recipes in my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook.

bowl of creamy vegan dal makhani with spoon and naan on blue background

What is Dal Makhani?

In India, dal refers both to the ingredient–pulses, such as lentils, split peas, chickpeas (chana), kidney beans, and more–as well as the dish. If you want to read more about dal and the different pulses used in dal, please read my Restaurant-Style Dal Tadka blog post.

There are everyday dals, the kind I ate most nights as a kid. And then there are dals for fancy times, and Dal Makhani squarely falls into the latter camp. It’s incredibly rich and sumptuous and quite possibly my favorite dal.

Dal Makhani is a North Indian dal that originated in the Punjab region of modern-day India and Pakistan. It was officially “invented” by well-known chef and restaurateur Kundan Lal Gujral in the mid-20th century, but has origins dating further back (read more about the history of Dal Makhani here).

Fun fact: Dal Makhani has the same flavors as the popular “butter chicken” (i.e., murgh makani).

Dal Makhani is made with (1) whole urad dal (also known as black gram). Whole urad dal look like black lentils and are often marketed as such, but they’re not actually lentils. They’re the seeds of a leguminous plant called Vigna mungo, and have a thin black coating and an inner white seed.

Many recipes, including mine, also include a small amount of (2) kidney beans, commonly referred to as rajma.

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The pulses (i.e., lentils and beans) are simmered with spices, aromatics, and tomatoes for several hours, or even overnight. The slow simmering is what lends the creamy, viscous texture. It also features a generous amount of butter and cream (makhan = “butter” in Hindi). Traditionally, it’s simmered in a tandoor (clay) oven or in big pots over large wood fires, which lend a slightly smoky flavor.

Keep on reading to learn how to make authentic-style but vegan Dal Makhani at home (including how to achieve that subtle smoky taste without using a tandoor oven!).

Want more gourmet veganized Indian recipes? Don’t skip these!

Aloo Gobi: Roasted potatoes and cauliflower are coated in a fragrant and flavorful masala.
Palak “Paneer”: An easy but gourmet plant-based take on palak paneer that’s indulgent but nourishing.
Tofu Tikka Masala: A creamy and complex spin on chicken tikka masala that’s wow worthy.
Malai Kofta: Crispy dumplings in a creamy, spiced curry. Perfect celebratory dish!

bowl of creamy vegan dal makhani with naan, yogurt, and cilantro on blue background

How to make Vegan Dal Makhani

Note: you can find Instant Pot instructions in the recipe card below.

Start by rinsing the dried whole urad dal and kidney beans several times, scrubbing them as you go. This helps remove some of the color from the black “lentils” so the end color of the dal is a nice reddish-brown color, and any debris.

Add to a large bowl, cover with a few inches of water, and add a teaspoon of baking soda. Soak 8 hours, or overnight. Drain the pulses and rinse several times until the water runs clear.

soaked urad dal and kidney beans (rajma) in a bowl

Add the pulses to a saucepan, cover with water, and season with salt. Boil for 10 minutes; reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for 80 to 90 minutes until both are very soft.

Note: if using the Instant Pot method, you need to soak the beans but you can skip this step of pre-cooking the beans.

cooked whole urad dal and kidney beans (rajma) in a bowl

Fit a colander over a bowl and drain the pulses, reserving the cooking liquid. Measure out the cooking liquid and add enough water to make 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Roughly mash the pulses with a potato masher, large wooden spoon, or fork.

whole urad dal and kidney beans (rajma) in a colander

Heat a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat with a bit of oil. Once hot, add the whole spices (cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, cumin seeds, bay leaf). Toast briefly until aromatic.

Add the finely diced onion and cook until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Stir in the ground spices (coriander, nutmeg, Indian red chile powder), salt, pepper, and tomato paste. Cook down for 60-90 seconds, stirring frequently.

Add the diced tomatoes (and their juices). Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.

Pour in the bean liquid/water, mashed pulses, and bring the mixture to a boil.

vegan dal makhani simmering in a saute pan

Once boiling, reduce to a gentle simmer and simmer for 70 to 90 minutes, stirring every 10ish minutes. If it starts to dry up, add freshly boiled water from a kettle.

This is what it looked like after 45-50 minutes.

texture of vegan dal makhani after simmering for 45 minutes

This is what it looked like after 80ish minutes.

texture of vegan dal makhani after simmering for 90 minutes

Once the dal is quite thick, add the coconut milk or cashew cream. Simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking.

The dal should be very creamy by now. If it’s too thick for your liking, stir in a bit of freshly boiled water.

Smoke the dal (optional). See the next section for instructions on the Dhungar method.

Stir in the chopped cilantro and lemon juice, and taste for seasonings, adding salt as needed. Fish out the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.

Make the tadka. Heat the vegan butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Once melted and frothy, crush the kasoori methi (i.e., fenugreek leaves) with your hands into the dal, and add the garam masala and Indian red chile powder. Stir and swirl the pan frequently for 30 seconds, then take off the heat.

Pour the tadka on top of the dal and stir in.

stirring tadka into vegan dal makhani

How to infuse a smoky taste into Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani is traditionally cooked in a clay oven or over a wood fire, which brings a smoky taste. To replicate that at home, I use the dhungar method, a South Asian technique of coal smoking food. The smoky flavor is subtle but makes the dal even more irresistible and gives it that je ne sais quoi.

Dhungar method instructions

  1. Position a small glass or stainless steel bowl in the middle of the cooked dal. If you don’t have either, slice an onion along its orbit and hollow out one half. Use the cavity as your bowl.
  2. Take a 1- or 2-inch piece of all-natural lump charcoal (you can buy this at many grocery stores and hardware stores). Using tongs, hold the charcoal directly over an open flame (I use my gas burner). Rotate it occasionally and cook for a total of 2 to 3 minutes, until red hot in some spots and a few white markings appear on the charcoal.
    1. Note: I don’t recommend heating the charcoal for more than 3ish minutes, especially if this is your first time doing this. During one of my many recipe tests, I heated the charcoal for 5 minutes and the smoky taste overpowered the dish.
  3. Working as quickly as you can, transfer the hot charcoal to the small bowl in the dal and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of oil onto the charcoal. The charcoal will start smoking immediately (see the below photo). Cover the pan to trap the smoke and let it infuse the dal for 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the charcoal.

For more visual details, please watch the YouTube video (or below) around the 06:00 mark.

If you don’t want to do this step, rest assured, this dal is still very delicious! You can also try adding ½ to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika to the ground spices for a smoky taste.

dhungar method (coal smoking) for vegan dal makhani

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

Kidney Beans. If you are cooking the stovetop version and want to speed it up a bit, you can (a) omit the kidney beans and use an additional 1/4 cup of whole urad dal; or (b) use canned kidney beans.

If using canned kidney beans, a few changes: (1) when cooking the whole urad dal, you don’t need to boil it for 10 minutes, and the dal will get soft in a shorter period of time, about 40 to 60 minutes (instead of 80 to 90 minutes); (2) use about 3/4 to 1 cup of canned kidney beaans; (3) roughly mash the beans before adding them to the pot when you add the cooked urad dal and liquid.

Whole urad dal. While these are often referred to as black lentils, they are not lentils and are quite different from the black lentils used in Western cooking (e.g., black beluga lentils). When cooked, black beluga lentils do not get creamy, and therefore aren’t the best option for this sumptuous dal.

If you have a South Asian grocery store in your area, I encourage you to visit it and buy whole urad dal (and lots of spices!). You’ll be supporting what is most likely a family-run small business, the prices are much better than at Western grocery stores, and you’ll be able to enjoy this dish as it’s meant to be.

That said, if you really want to make this dish but don’t have a South Asian grocery store nearby and don’t want to purchase them online, you can substitute a different lentil, like black beluga or green/brown lentils. Again, they don’t soften in the same way, so you’ll get a less creamy result. To rectify some of that, you might want to use less liquid.

PS: you’re looking for whole urad dal (split urad dal is white and smaller).

Cashew cream vs. coconut milk. Since Dal Makhani typically has cream, the best vegan substitutes are cashew cream and full-fat canned coconut milk (you don’t need much, just 1/2 cup), from a fat content and a creaminess content. I’ve tried this recipe with both and it’s really tasty either way.

I do particularly love it with cashew cream. The neutral yet nutty flavor of cashews works so well with the Indian spices and lentils (cashews are fairly common in Indian cuisine), and the creamy texture is even better than coconut milk.

Of course, making cashew cream requires you to get a blender dirty and soak some cashews (or least boil them for 15 minutes). Since this dish is requires a long simmer time, I just make the cashew cream during the simmering. But, if you want to do less work, use the coconut milk.

Vegan butter. Again, traditional Dal Makhani is known for its butter, so I use a few tablespoons of vegan butter. If you prefer to not use vegan butter, you can sub a neutral-flavored oil (though you won’t have the exact same rich, buttery mouthfeel).

ingredients for vegan dal makhani on a cutting board with ingredients written in text

Tips for making Vegan Dal Makhani

Be patient, or use your Instant Pot. As mentioned, slow simmering is what yields that unctuous, luscious texture, so this dish can’t be rushed (at least on the stovetop).

If you want to make this recipe much more quickly, use the Instant Pot method. You don’t need to pre-cook the pulses, the pressure cook time is 35 minutes, and it’s hands off, so you don’t have to stir ever so often. And the results are remarkably similar in texture and taste.

If making the stovetop method and you don’t want to cook everything all in one day, you can pre-cook the beans and lentils 1 to 2 days in advance.

When pre-cooking the dried kidney beans, be sure to let them boil (not just simmer) for the first 10 minutes. Kidney beans contain lectin, a protein that’s hard to break down in digestion. If kidney beans are eaten undercooked, they can cause you to get quite sick.

When pre-cooking the whole urad dal and kidney beans on the stove, if the water starts to evaporate quite a bit, add freshly boiled water from a kettle to keep them covered. If you leave the pot for 90 minutes and don’t check on it at all (like I did a few weeks ago), the beans and lentils will burn and will be unusable. Same thing for the dal makhani itself – if it starts to dry out, stir in some freshly boiled water.

When making the stovetop version, I find that it’s necessary to de-seed the whole cardamom pods. Otherwise, you might get one big concentrated taste of cardamom in a single bit, or chew on a pod. If making the Instant Pot version, just keep the pods whole (the high pressure will disintegrate and evenly mix them).

This dal gets really creamy, but if you want it to be even thicker, use an immersion blender through a third or a half of the dal after adding the cashew cream/coconut milk.

bowl of creamy vegan dal makhani with naan on blue background

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to serve Dal Makhani?

With rice or an Indian flatbread (or a combination of both, if you really love carbs like I do lol). I always serve my dals with basmati white rice, but you could do brown rice for a nutrition boost.

As for Indian flatbread, my vegan naan is an epic pairing. For something quicker, you can find vegan naan at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Trader Joe’s. They’re certainly not as good as homemade, but if you lightly char them over an open flame and brush them with the vegan garlic butter in my homemade naan recipe, it’ll make them a lot better.

How long does this dal last in the fridge?

This dal will stay good in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Can you freeze Dal Makhani?

Yes! I like to freeze in smaller portion so they defrost more quickly.

If you are making this ahead of time, just make the dal and freeze as it – don’t add the tadka at the end. Instead, when ready to serve, make the tadka fresh.

To reheat, you can pop it in the microwave, or heat over medium heat on the stove. If it thickens quite a bit, just add a bit of water while heating.

closeup bowl of creamy vegan dal makhani with spoon and naan on blue background

Watch! How to make Dal Makhani

I tried making dal for my Indian parents
I tried making dal for my Indian parents

If you try this epic vegan Dal Makhani recipe and love it, please be sure to rate and review it below!

Vegan Dal Makhani

5 from 196 votes
Dal Makhani is one of the most popular Indian dals, and this vegan version makes no sacrifices. The flavors are complex and the texture is velvety and luxurious. It's a special occasion dish that will blow your mind! Stovetop and Instant Pot instructions.
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (205g) whole urad dal (aka black gram)*
  • ¼ cup (44g) dried kidney beans**
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Whole Spices

  • 1 ½ tablespoons grapeseed oil or neutral oil
  • 1 2 to 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods, seeds only (¼ heaping tsp of seeds)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Aromatics and Ground Spices

  • 1 medium-large red onion, very finely diced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • teaspoon nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated, but ground is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon Indian red chile powder**** (1 tsp for a spicier version; 1/4 tps for a mild version)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt*****
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes (8-10 oz, 230-280g), diced

Other ingredients

  • 3 ½ to 4 cups (840-960 mL) liquid (water + bean cooking liquid)
  • ½ cup (120 mL) Cashew Cream (recipe below) or full-fat coconut milk***
  • 1 cup (12g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar (as needed)

Dhungar method (for smokiness; optional)

  • 1 to 2- inch piece of lump charcoal
  • ½ teaspoon neutral-flavored oil

Tadka

  • 3 tablespoons (42g) vegan butter
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks (optional; only if you love ginger)
  • 1 tablespoon kasoori methi, crushed with your hands
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon Indian red chile powder

Cashew Cream (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (70g) raw cashews
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) water, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the whole urad dal and kidney beans and scrub them with your hands; drain the water and repeat this process a few times.
  • Cover the lentils and beans with a few inches of cold water. Add the baking soda. Soak for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain and rinse several times, until the water runs clear.
    Note: you can quick soak them by covering them with boiling water for 4 hours.
  • Cook the lentils and beans. Transfer them to a medium saucepan and cover with 1 to 2 inches of water and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface once it starts to boil.
    Boil uncovered for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and simmer for 80 to 90 minutes until the beans and lentils are very soft. If the water evaporates during simmering, add freshly boiled water as needed.
  • Fit a bowl underneath a colander and drain the lentils and beans, saving the cooking liquid. Measure out the cooking liquid and add enough water to make 3 1/2 cups (4 cups for a slightly looser dal). Mash the lentils and beans with a potato masher, fork, or large wooden spoon. Set both aside for now.
  • Start cooking the dal. Heat the 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a deep saute pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and cumin seeds. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds, swirling the pan frequently, until aromatic and sizzling.
  • Add the onions with a pinch or two of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add in a few splashes of water towards the end to pick up the fond and to prevent them from getting too brown.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 minute, tossing frequently. Add the tomato paste, nutmeg, coriander, red chile powder, 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Stir frequently for 60 to 90 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and cook until broken down and softened, 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour in the bean liquid/water mixture and scrape up any browned bits to deglaze the pan. Add the mashed lentils and beans, and stir well.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir every 10 minutes for at least 60 minutes, or up to 80 minutes (slow cooking enhances the flavors and makes it extremely creamy). During simmering, add more freshly boiled water, as needed, if it looks like it’s drying up.
  • Pour in the cashew cream or coconut milk and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Dhungar Method (optional, for smokiness). Take a small stainless steel or glass bowl and position it in the middle of the cooked dal. If you don't have such a bowl, take a medium onion and cut it in half, around the orbit. Hollow out one half.
  • Using tongs, take a 1 to 2 inch piece of lump charcoal and hold it directly over an open flame (I use my gas burner). Rotate it from time to time and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until it turns red hot in spots and has a few white markings.
    Note: I don't recommend heating it for more than 3ish minutes, as the smoky flavor can become overpowering.
  • Working as quickly as you can, transfer the charcoal to the small bowl and pour ½ teaspoon of neutral flavored oil on top of the charcoal (it will start smoking immediately). Cover the pan with the lid and steam for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid and use tongs to remove the small bowl. Discard the charcoal. Stir the dal again.
  • Add in the cilantro and lemon juice and season to taste with salt. If it’s a bit too acidic for your taste, add the sugar. Fish out the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
  • Make the tadka. Heat the vegan butter in a medium frying pan on the stove over medium high heat. Once melted, add the ginger (if using) and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Crush the kasoori methi with your hands into the dal, and add the garam masala and red chile powder. Cook for another 30 seconds, swirling the pan frequently. Pour the tadka over the dal and serve.
  • If making the cashew cream. Cover the cashews with some water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse cashews (Or soak overnight in cool water).
    Transfer the drained cashews to a food processor. Add the water, lemon juice, and salt. Blend for 3-4 minutes, scraping down as you go, until all cashews are pulverized and the mixture is smooth.
    Note: you can double this recipe and make it in a high-powered blender (the amount here doesn't have enough liquid for most blenders)

Notes

* Whole urad dal is sometimes called “black lentils” but is not the same as black beluga lentils. 
** See the “Ingredient Notes” section for how to use canned kidney beans
*** My preference is cashew cream over coconut milk, but both versions are tasty. 
**** Note: Indian red chile powder is made exclusively from chili peppers; it is not the same as Western chile powder sold in standard grocery stores (a blend of chili peppers and spices); it is significantly spicier. 
**** Use a little more than half the amount of salt if using sea salt. 

Calories: 412kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 943mg | Potassium: 586mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1482IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 7mg

Instant Pot Vegan Dal Makhani

5 from 157 votes
Dal Makhani is one of the most popular Indian dals, and this vegan version makes no sacrifices. The flavors are complex and the texture is velvety and luxurious, but made simpler with the Instant Pot.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (205g) whole urad dal (aka black gram)*
  • ¼ cup (44g) dried kidney beans**
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Whole Spices

  • 1 ½ tablespoons grapeseed oil or neutral oil
  • 1 2 to 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Aromatics and Ground Spices

  • 1 medium-large red onion (8-10 oz, 230-280g), very finely diced
  • 1- inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • teaspoon nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated, but ground is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon Indian red chile powder**** (1 tsp for a spicier version; for a mild version, use ¼ tsp)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt*****
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes (8-10 oz, 230-280g), diced

Other ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (600 mL) water
  • ½ cup (120 mL) cashew cream (recipe below) or full-fat coconut milk***
  • 1 cup (12g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus more as needed
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar as needed

Dhungar method (for smokiness; optional)

  • 1 to 2- inch piece of lump charcoal
  • ½ teaspoon neutral-flavored oil

Tadka

  • 3 tablespoons (42g) vegan butter
  • 1- inch piece peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks (optional; only if you love ginger)
  • 1 tablespoon kasoori methi, crushed with your hands
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon Indian red chile powder

Cashew Cream (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (70g) raw cashews
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) water, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the whole urad dal and kidney beans and scrub them with your hands; drain the water and repeat this process a few times.
  • Cover the lentils and beans with a few inches of cold water. Add the baking soda. Soak for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain and rinse several times, until the water runs clear.
    Note: you can quick soak them by covering them with boiling water for 4 hours.
  • Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, and once the oil is hot, add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaf, and cumin seeds. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds, stirring frequently, until aromatic and sizzling.
  • Add the onions with a pinch or two of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add in a few splashes of water towards the end to pick up the fond and to prevent them from getting too brown.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 minute, tossing frequently. Add the tomato paste, nutmeg, coriander, red chile powder, 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Stir frequently for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and cook until broken down and softened, 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour in the water and scrape up any browned bits to deglaze the pan. Add the soaked lentils and beans, and stir well.
  • Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure for 35 minutes and seal the Instant Pot. Once the 35-minute timer goes off, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining steam.
  • Pour in the cashew cream or coconut milk and select the Sauté setting. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Dhungar Method (optional, for smokiness). Bring the Instant Pot close to the stove. Take a small stainless steel or glass bowl and position it in the middle of the cooked dal. If you don't have such a bowl, take a medium onion and cut it in half, around the orbit. Hollow out one half.
  • Using tongs, take a 1 to 2 inch piece of lump charcoal and hold it directly over an open flame (I use my gas burner). Rotate it from time to time and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until it turns red hot in spots and has a few white markings.
    Note: I don't recommend heating it for more than 3ish minutes, as the smoky flavor can become overpowering.
  • Working as quickly as you can, transfer the charcoal to the small bowl in the dal and pour ½ teaspoon on top of the charcoal (it will start smoking immediately). Cover the Instant Pot with its lid and steam for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid and use tongs to remove the small bowl. Discard the charcoal. Stir the dal again.
  • Add in the cilantro and lemon juice and season to taste with salt. If it’s a bit too acidic for your taste, add the sugar. Fish out the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
  • Make the tadka. Heat the vegan butter in a medium frying pan on the stove over medium high heat. Once melted, add the ginger (if using) and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Crush the kasoori methi with your hands into the butter, and add the garam masala and red chile powder. Cook for another 30 seconds, swirling the pan frequently. Pour the tadka over the dal and serve.
  • If making the cashew cream. Cover the cashews with some water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse cashews (Or soak overnight in cool water).
    Transfer the drained cashews to a food processor. Add the water, lemon juice, and salt. Blend for 3-4 minutes, scraping down as you go, until all cashews are pulverized and the mixture is smooth.
    Note: you can double this recipe and make it in a high-powered blender (the amount here doesn't have enough liquid for most blenders)

Notes

* Whole urad dal is sometimes called “black lentils” but is not the same as black beluga lentils. 
** See the “Ingredient Notes” section for how to use canned kidney beans
*** My preference is cashew cream over coconut milk, but both versions are tasty. 
**** Note: Indian red chile powder is made exclusively from chili peppers; it is not the same as Western chile powder sold in standard grocery stores (a blend of chili peppers and spices); it is significantly spicier. 
**** Use a little more than half the amount of salt if using sea salt. 

Calories: 412kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 943mg | Potassium: 586mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1482IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 7mg

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299 comments on Vegan Dal Makhani

  1. Manal

    5 stars
    Absolutely luxurious, creamy, and decadent. Love love love!!!

  2. Phoenix Marshall

    5 stars
    Half way through I wasn’t sure about this one, it tasted like chilli… added coconut milk. It did not help. Then… the magic tadka!!! Man did this dish turn around!! Absolutely delish another dynamite dish!!!

  3. Diane

    I appreciate you sharing this recipe. I’m going to make it but first will make a trip to the city where I know there is an Asian market where I can hopefully buy the whole urad dal. I’m looking forward to trying this.

  4. chris

    5 stars
    Well that was pretty decent (to use a British understatement). Actually awesome.
    Used smoked paprika powder instead of charcoal, and coconut cream.
    Will reduce the cinnamon next time as I found it a bit overpowering.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Chris, we are happy to hear you had success with the recipe. Thanks for taking the time to leave a review!

  5. Pat Veno

    5 stars
    I was intrigued by these tiny beans at the Indian grocers so I bought a bag but had no idea what to cook with them. I’ve made years of Dahl using lentils but this Dahl really had flavors different from. my usual and really was very creamy. The beans did need lots and lots of rinsing and the recipe does take much longer than lentil Dahl, but it made a really delicious soup especially for the cold winter

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Pat, we’re thrilled you enjoyed the recipe!

  6. s

    5 stars
    this is genuinely such a beautiful recipe – i’ve missed dal makhani so much since going vegan and i and my entire family loved this!! i used 1 tsp of smoked paprika and made the cashew cream. it was divine with your vegan naan :) thank you so much for this!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi S, Thank you for the kind words! It’s so awesome to hear the recipe was loved by the whole family :)

  7. Tara

    5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight, and it is honestly the best thing I’ve ever cooked! I couldn’t easily find black lentils, so I used brown ones, and it still turned out AMAZING. My partner made your naan recipe to go along with it, and I could have cried at how fantastic the meal was. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yay, we’re delighted to hear you loved the Dal Makhani, Tara! :) Thanks for trying it and leaving a review.

  8. Pam McCarl

    5 stars
    Question: how does one crush the Fenugreek seeds by hand? I bought a bag of them from my local Indian store but they are so hard that I couldn’t even crush them with a heavy duty stone mortar and pestal. Did I use the wrong ingredient?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Pam, I think you bought fenugreek seeds instead of leaves. Fenugreek seeds are indeed quite hard and would be impossible to crush by hand. They have a different flavor profile and use, so for this recipe, I would just omit them (the dal is still delicious without the fenugreek leaves).

  9. Emily

    5 stars
    This Dal Makhani was fantastic, so full of flavor, and much better than the one I’ve had at my favorite Indian restaurant! It was easy to find the ingredients I needed at our local Indian grocery store (i.e. kasoori methi and black gram). It is well worth the time and effort to make this – thank you for sharing the recipe!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Emily, Thank you for your thoughtful review! We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed the dal makhani.

  10. Pam McCarl

    5 stars
    Amazing. Simply amazing. It might be a good idea to note that kasoori methi is Fenugreek for us non Indians, lol. I was so happy that I googled this ingredient and had it on hand to make the Tadka! I had no way to ignite a hunk of charcoal so I skipped that part this time but the next time we have a fire I going to do it! Maybe I’ll build one tonight… yes, I think I will! I love that I can try any of your recipes and KNOW that it will be full of flavor exactly the way it is written. Thank you for making a whole food plant based diet FUN, rewarding and DELISCIOUS!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely lengthy review, Pam! It makes us happy to know you enjoyed the recipe. :)

  11. Maria

    5 stars
    Amazing! Definitely worth the time and effort! I didn’t know how good Indian food could be until recently and I’m obsessed! It’s so delicious, but definitely a special occasion meal due to the time it takes. I used a half cup of country crock plant cream and a spoonful of sunflower butter instead of cashew cream. It wasn’t spicy even with the full amount of kashmiri chili powder so I sprinkled some scorpion pepper salt on my bowl to give it that extra zing of spice. Used a can of kidney beans since I didn’t have fried ones, and smoked paprika and 5 drops liquid smoke to emulate the smokiness from charcoal. My partner loves it too! Definitely don’t skip or alter the kasoori methi because it is the finishing touch that brings it to perfection. Lovely recipe, thank you for sharing!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Maria, Thank you for your thoughtful review! We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed the Dal Makhani :)

  12. Michael

    5 stars
    Absolutely gorgeous. I used coconut cream as I had it and added a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Michael!

  13. Madeline Stanford-Maseyk

    5 stars
    Great recipe, thank you!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for trying it, Madeline!

  14. LuthienZ

    5 stars
    Nisha, how can all your recipes be so amazing? You made being vegan so easy and fun, you taught me how to eat! This recipe (just like all other recipes i cooked from you) is freaking delicious! <3 Everyone who eats the food I cook is impressed and everytime I tell them it's all thanks to Nisha <3

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, we’re thrilled you’re such a fan of all of the recipes. Thank you for trying them and sharing them with others! :)

  15. Jan

    5 stars
    Hi Nisha, this Dal is absolutely delicious. I added half a teaspoon of smoked chipotle as I have an induction cook top and couldn’t do the charcoal. It worked really well. Thanks for another amazing recipe.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so happy that the Dal Makhani turned out well for you, Jan. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for trying out the recipe!

  16. Paula

    5 stars
    Adding another comment because I forgot to give it 5 stars. :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks, Paula!

  17. Paula

    This just might be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I used the smoked paprika substitution instead of the charcoal and the coconut milk substitution instead of the cashew cream. I made the naan as well to serve with it. Thank you for another amazing recipe.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Paula, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  18. Demi

    I use induction to cook :( Any recommendations for the charcoal?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Demi, if you have an induction or electric stovetop, unfortunately you can’t use the dhungar method! If you don’t do this step, rest assured, this dal is still very delicious! You can also try adding ½ to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika to the ground spices for a smoky taste.

  19. Patti

    I sent the wrong email asking about kasoori methi -what is it & it’s substitute & where can I get it.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Patti, Kasoori methi refers to dried fenugreek leaves. They add a bold, savory flavor to the marinade and the masala and are often used in North Indian dishes to add a complex richness. Unfortunately, there’s no real great substitute, so we recommend just omitting it if you can’t get it, or you can try using a small amount of celery seeds or celery leaves. You can find kasoori methi at Indian grocery stores and online stores like amazon. Hope that helped!

  20. PB

    Is it okay to use split urad dal instead and just skip the soaking overnight part?

    1. Anon

      No – it would be a completely different dish. The skin adds flavour. I don’t know much about urad dal… but I think urad dal chilka/split urid dal with skin on would be a better substitute as the only difference would be texture (whole vs split) and cook time (much shorter).

    2. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi PB, the taste and texture will be a bit different, but yes you can use white urad dal. They will take less time to cook though, so I’d recommend using canned kidney beans instead of dried kidney beans, since split urad dal will cook much more quickly than dried kidney beans two will have very different cook times.
      As for the ground kasoori methi powder, we’d suggest only adding 1 teaspoon because it is more potent than the leaves. After tasting it, you can add more if needed.

      1. Helene

        Unfortunately I live in an area with not that many international grocery stores, and I was only able toget the split variety of ural dal. From the comments above, I realize it might not be the same, but I’m eager to try the recipe anyway – any recommendations as to what I need to alter to make it work as well as possible?
        Also, I was only able to find ground kasoori methi (powder). What would be the recommended amount for the tadka?

        1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

          Hi Helene, the taste and texture will be a bit different, but yes you can use white urad dal. They will take less time to cook though, so I’d recommend using canned kidney beans instead of dried kidney beans, since split urad dal will cook much more quickly than dried kidney beans two will have very different cook times.
          As for the ground kasoori methi powder, we’d suggest only adding 1 teaspoon because it is more potent than the leaves. After tasting it, you can add more if needed.

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