Dal Makhani is a decadent Indian dal, made from creamy black lentils and lots and lots of butter and cream.
It’s a very popular item on Indian buffets and menus. I was fortunate to try this back in my vegetarian days, so that I knew exactly what taste and texture I was after when I veganized this dish!
Truth be told, my first attempt at veganizing this didn’t work out well – the obvious substitution of soy creamer instead of cream didn’t work at all!
I persevered, however, and came up with this creamy, satisfying version.
It differs from the original in that it is dairy-free, with considerably less calories.
It also differs from the original in that dal makhani traditionally has a few spoonfuls of rajma (red kidney beans) mixed with the black lentils. I’ve modeled this recipe on the restaurant version without kidney beans.
Ingredients for Vegan Dal Makhani:
1 cup Sabut Urad (whole black lentils)
6 cups Water
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 large Yellow or Red Onion, chopped as finely as you can
2-3 Green Thai Chili Peppers, finely chopped
6 cloves pressed Garlic
1 spoon Ginger Paste (or about 1 inch of ginger, diced as finely as you can)
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon Sea Salt, or to taste
1/2 -1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Earth Balance
Instructions for Vegan Dal Makhani
Sort your lentils carefully. Out of all the lentils, these tiny black lentils are the ones most likely to have small stones. Then rinse the lentils 2-3 times with cold water.
Place the lentils in a large pot and add 6 cups of water. (This may seem like a lot of water, but trust me, these lentils will expand!) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a high simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but are still holding their shape.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until they start to brown and “pop.”
Add the onions and green chilies. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to become translucent. Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook an additional 5 minutes or so. Be careful not to let this burn!
Add the chopped tomato and cook until the tomato is very, very soft and mostly pulp. Your whole masala mixture should be very well-done and soft – that’s part of what is going to give your lentils such a creamy texture. You definitely do not want “tender crisp” onion like you might with American cooking.
Once the lentils are done, add the onion masala to the pot and stir.
Add the garam masala and salt. Let simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes.
By this time it should appear as if there is a creamy gravy surrounding the lentils. Press a few (just a few!) lentils against the side of the pot with a spoon. This will make the “gravy” even creamier.
When lentils appear done, add a teaspoon of Earth Balance. Stir into the lentils until melted. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
Then serve and enjoy!
- Don’t skip the Earth Balance, thinking to save calories or make the dish a little healthier. There’s a reason Dal Makhani exists – the butter flavor truly does something magical to these lentils. For special occasions you may even want to add a little more – up to a tablespoon.
- We prefer to eat dal makhani with roti, but you could also serve with jeera rice.
- You can buy ginger paste at any Indian grocery. It’s a great time saver. The reason I recommend it here is because it helps with the overall smooth creaminess of the masala.