Gravy side-dishes

Dal Makhni – the Queen of dals

It has been ages since I prepared this dal, one of my favourites. So long that I don’t remember the last time I made it. I’ve had such a big craving for this dal in the last month or so that I’ve ordered it each time we ate out. I got a packet of the black urad dal (it is made with whole urad dal/ulundu/black gram that has the black skin still on) close to two weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to prepare it. I bought the split variety since the whole variety was out of stock at the shop I went to.

So, when my mother-in-law said this morning that she planned to prepare rotis for dinner tonight, I jumped at the opportunity and said I’d make this dal. It tastes good with both rice as well as rotis. It is also known as kali dal or dal maharani, and not for nothing! It really is the queen of dals – rich with a nice earthy nutty flavour, it isn’t too spicy and is prepared with whole spices (khada masala) and very little ground masala to bring out the flavour of the dal itself.

I recently read somewhere that this dal was one of the mainstays at the royal menus of Mughal kings along with rich gravy paneer dishes. At one five star hotel in Chennai where I ordered this dish last week, I noticed they also added some pomegranate juice (I did not discover this fact from the taste, it was mentioned in the menu)! I’m still on the lookout for the recipe of that version. But the version I prepare, taught to me 4 years ago by my zealous foodie neighbour inBangalore, is not any poorer for the lack of pomegranate juice in the ingredients. It is as rich and tasty as any dal makhni you’d find anywhere. Here goes…


Dal Makhni/Dal Maharani/Kali Dal


(serves 4)

Whole black Urad dal/ whole ulutham paruppu – 1 cup

Rajma/red kidney beans – 2 tbsp

Tomatoes – 3-4

Onion – 1

Garlic – 2 cloves

Ginger – 1 inch piece (grated/finely chopped)

Cumin seeds/Jeera/jeeragam – 2 tsp

Cumin powder – ½ tsp (optional)

Red chilli powder – 2 tsp

Coriander powder (dry kothamalli podi) – 1 tsp

Turmeric powder (Manja podi) – ¼ tsp

Garam masala – 1 tsp

Cinnamon stick/dalchini/pattai – 1 inch piece

Cloves/ laung/lavanga – 4-5

Bay leaf/tej patta/brinji elai – 1

Milk – 1 cup (you can also use ¼ cup of cream)

Butter/Oil – 1-2 tbsp

Coriander leaves – 2 tbsp (chopped)

Salt to taste


PS: I left out onion and garlic today and it still turned out very tasty



Soak dal and rajma overnight or for 6-8 hours

Pressure-cook dal-rajma in adequate water for 5-6 whistles, then reduce heat and cook for another 10-15 mins. Mash dal with the back of a ladle while still warm

Finely chop tomatoes, onions and garlic. You can grind them if you wish, but I like the texture of the dal when these are finely chopped

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan

Add cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves and cumin seeds

When spices turn fragrant (not more than 30 sec), add onion and garlic

Add tomatoes, turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder when onion turns translucent

When tomatoes start to leave the sides of the pan, add cooked dal and a cup or two of water

Cook on medium heat for 10 mins. Keep stirring every few mins

Add milk and cook for another 10 mins

Add garam masala and salt and cook for 2 mins, adding water to adjust consistency as required

Add cumin powder (if using) and mix well

Take off heat and serve topped with chopped coriander leaves

One thought on “Dal Makhni – the Queen of dals

  1. Pingback: Rajma aur Kali Dal « foodiliciousnan

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