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Dal makhani

Take your lentil game to the next level with this flavour-filled dish! 



  • 1 cup black dal (whole urad dal), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dried red kidney beans (rajma), rinsed and picked over
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 piece of cinnamon, 1 1/2 inches long
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or ground to a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 inches fresh garlic root, peeled and grated on a microplane or ground to a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 green chilies, split along their lengths, stem intact
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, optional
  • 1 cup puréed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • A small bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems, minced
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • Red onion, thinly sliced for serving
  • Cooked rice, chapati, or naan for serving


  1. The night before you want to eat, cover the dal and beans with water in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or similar pot. Pop on the lid and leave overnight.
  2. The next day, uncover the pot. Stir the lentils and beans, drop in the bay leaf, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until everything is tender, periodically skimming and discarding any scum off the surface of the liquid, and stirring now and again. Top up the water as needed. The cooking time will vary, anywhere from 70 to 90 minutes.
  3. While the dal simmers, prepare the seasonings, or tardka. Melt the ghee in a karahi (an Indian wok) or heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the ghee is liquid, add the cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom pods and stir until the seeds crackle about 20 seconds.
  4. Tip in the onions and cook, stirring all the while. Once the onions are tender and translucent, maybe five minutes, scrape in the garlic and ginger pastes, and fry for 30 seconds more, still moving the vegetables around constantly – the aim is for the tardka to develop colour slowly, if at all.
  5. Stir in the chillies and chilli powder, followed by the turmeric.
  6. Finally, add the tomato paste and fry for about ond minute, so that the paste darkens and dries out. Pour in the tomatoes, and leave to bubble until the purée has thickened and looks to split. By this I mean, the ghee will separate and rise to the surface of the liquid. Stir periodically as cooks, five minutes or so more.
  7. Tip the tardka into the cooked dal. Stir in half a cup of cream. Simmer, partially covered for a few minutes for the flavours to meld. If the dal is too thick at this point, add water to reach your desired consistency.
  8. Season dal well with salt.
  9. Garnish with chopped cilantro, additional cream if so moved, and lots of fresh lime and onions at the table, along with rice, chapati or naan. Enjoy! 

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