Dhal makhani is the most indulgently, rich and creamy dhal from the Punjab region, and it literally translates as “buttery lentils”. It’s usually made with urad dal, a small black lentil which you would be unlikely to find in the supermarkets. It should also contain red kidney beans, along with industrial quantities of butter and cream, and be simmered for a very long time. I’d only ever eaten it in restaurants before (Dishoom does an amazing one) and I fancied making it, but after a brief look at some recipes online, they all required ingredients I didn’t have, so I just took the main flavours, and then made it up using the ingredients I had to hand. If we weren’t in lock down I might have gone hunting for the urad dal, but it’s all about using what you have at the moment.

So, this is highly inauthentic (so much so that I hesitate to even whisper the name dhal makhani in relation to this) but it is delicious, and much quicker to make than the real deal, so if that sounds good to you, read on for the recipe.

And if you’re wondering how to make those delicious looking flat breads in the foreground of the picture, they’re from a brilliant Smitten Kitchen recipe you can find here. I just added nigella seeds when I rolled them up, which I’d highly recommend.

Buttery Lentil Dhal

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 150g dark speckled lentils (also known as Puy)
  • Splash vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 hot red chilli
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 80ml double cream
  • 20g butter (unsalted or salted, it doesn’t matter as you’ll season it after)
  • Pinch sugar
  • Salt and black pepper


  • Put the lentils into a saucepan, cover them with cold water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until tender, topping up the water if it boils away. Drain and then use a stick blender (or food processor on pulse) to blitz half the lentils to a course mush – not pureed, just roughly mashed. Leave the other half of the lentils whole, and set aside.
  • Since you’ve already dirtied the food processor/stick blender, use this to blitz the tinned tomatoes with the garlic, chilli and tomato puree.
  • Heat the veg oil in a large pan, and add the onion. Saute until soft and translucent, then add the garam masala, cumin, ground ginger, coriander, mustard seeds and tumeric. Cook this out for a few minutes until really fragrant, then add the tomato mixture, mashed and whole lentils, and 250ml hot water. Bring everything to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently, and adding a touch more water if it starts to get too thick (you’ll know if it’s getting to thick as it will start to spit) After 40 mins, add the cream, butter and sugar, then season well with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and serve immediately.