If you love Indian food and food with flavour, you’ll love this vegan dal makhani recipe (aka black lentil dal). This recipe is typically made using whole urad dal or black gram that can be found in most Indian supermarkets and online. However, I wanted to use a different legume that is a bit more accessible.
For this recipe, I’ve chosen to use black beluga lentils as they’re available in most bulk food stores and supermarkets. I try and make my recipes as accessible as possible. I don’t like to use too many ingredients that you need to go to speciality stores to find.
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What is the difference between black beluga lentils and urad dal?
The difference between black beluga lentils and whole urad dal is that beluga lentils are more like a disk-shaped smaller lentil and the urad dal looks more like a whole mung bean—but black. They tend to cook for longer and are a little creamier. They do keep their shape very well even when cooked for an extended period of time.
So if you have urad dal handy, feel free to use that instead. You’ll need to soak them overnight and cook them a little longer than instructed in this recipe. I would add about 10-15 minutes extra.
What you see above are the black beluga lentils. There are plenty of health benefits of black beluga lentils. Here are just a few:
- They’re high in plant proteins
- Excellent source of fibre, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and folic acid
- Rich in polyphenols
- Plus so many others!
What is dal makhani called in English?
A very popular dish in India, dal makhani is typically an urad dal, and kidney bean (butter) curry made using butter and heavy cream. Directly translated it means “lentils with butter”.
This vegan version instead uses coconut cream to make it creamy. If you want to take it to the next level and make it even creamier, you can blend half of the beluga lentils before adding them to the pot, so you have a rich and thick consistency.
The other legume used in this dal is the red kidney beans. You can cook them yourself from the dry beans, but I chose to use a can as it cuts down on cooking time in prep for the recipe. As kidney beans are much bigger than beluga lentils, they would have to cook for much longer.
This way, you can rinse them and add them to the pot when you add the cooked beluga lentils.
What can you eat with dal makhani?
When I eat out, I typically crave Italian or Indian food. I struggle to go past a good curry or a beautiful handmade pizza.
You can serve this delicious dairy-free dal makhani with the following:
- Paratha (Indian stuffed bread)—something I might experiment with at some point!
If you can’t have coconut or don’t have any on hand, you can switch it out for cashew cream. Blend a handful of raw cashews and add enough water to just cover the cashews. Add this cream towards the end of cooking time when you add the coconut cream. That will thicken up the dal even more!
A few tips…
Here are a few tips to get this recipe tasting delicious and one that you’ll keep going back to when you’re in the mood for some dal or curry.
- Make sure you cook the spices first in oil to help them release their flavour. Add in the whole spices first, then the ground as you don’t want them to burn.
- Adding the crushed fenugreek leaves (Kasuri or kasoori methi) at the end will really round out the flavour, but if you don’t have them or can’t find them, then you can leave them out. It will still taste delicious!
- When initially cooking the lentils separately, you can add a couple of drops of oil so that the water doesn’t foam as much while cooking.
- The lentils can be cooked in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes on high pressure. Once it finishes cooking, allow the pressure cooker to release pressure naturally, this should take about 10 minutes.
This creamy, traditional Indian dal with a twist is an easy curry that the whole family can enjoy.
- 1 cup dried black beluga beans
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf (preferably the Indian variety)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp garam masala (curry powder will also work)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of pureed tomatoes*
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ⅓ cup cooked red kidney beans (from a can)
- ⅓ cup coconut cream
- 1 tbsp crushed fenugreek leaves (optional)
- Salt to taste
To serve: (optional)
- Fresh red chillies
- Fresh coriander (cilantro)
- Cooked basmati rice
- Fresh red chillies
- Cooked basmati rice
- Soak the Beluga lentils overnight and pick through and remove any little rocks.
- Once the lentils are ready, give them a good rinse and add 3 cups of water to the pot and cook for around 25-30 minutes with the lid half on. (if using the urad dal, cook for an additional 10-15 minutes).
- In a deep bottomed saucepan on medium heat, add the oil, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and cumin seeds. Cook while stirring for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the ground spices—turmeric, coriander, garam masala and cook for a further couple of minutes while stirring.
- Add in the onion and stir together, followed by the ginger and garlic. Cook further until the spices release a deep aroma.
- Add in the tomato puree and cayenne pepper and let it simmer for around 5 minutes.
- Add in the cooked lentils and beans with 1.5 cups of boiling water. Cook for around 30 minutes with the pot lid on. If it seems a little too loose or watery, remove the lid halfway through the cooking time.
- Once cooked, stir in the coconut cream and fenugreek leaves if using, cooking for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste.
- Serve with a sprinkle of coriander (cilantro), chillies and rice. Some naan is also a perfect addition.
* You can use fresh tomatoes, passata or canned tomatoes. Just puree them in a blender before using if they are fresh tomatoes.
Other recipes you’ll love:
- Creamy Red Lentil Curry (Vegan-Friendly)
- Garlic Curry Roasted Potatoes
- Vegan Cauliflower And Potato Curry
- Coconut Red Lentil Dahl
- Palak Sweet Potato Paneer
Interested in more recipes?
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