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This vegan dal makhani is made with black lentils, kidney beans and spices in a creamy coconut tomato sauce. A delicious and comforting Indian-inspired curry that you’d never guess was dairy-free!
Dal makhani was always one of my favorite dishes to order at Indian restaurants. It’s so rich and creamy and loaded with flavor!
If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s a type of dal that’s made with black lentils (urad dal) and often goes by the nickname “butter lentils.” Butter would be one of the reasons it’s so rich and delicious. Heavy cream is the other.
So traditional dal makhani isn’t vegan. But it’s not that tough to veganize at all! I made my version with vegan butter and coconut milk, and it turned out super decadent and delicious.
- Ingredients You’ll Need
- How It’s Made
- Leftovers & Storage
- More Vegan Indian Recipes
- Vegan Dal Makhani
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Urad dal. This is a variety of black lentil that’s common in Indian cuisine. Look for it in the international foods section of your supermarket, or at an Indian market. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute another type of lentil, which will still give you a delicious curry. Many common varieties of lentils such as green and brown do not need to be presoaked and will cook faster than urad dal, so this option can save time as well.
- Red kidney beans. We’re using dried red kidney beans. Normally I’m a canned beans kind of girl, but since we’re soaking the urad dal anyway, I figured why not soak the red beans too! Use canned kidney beans if you opt to substitute a faster cooking variety of lentil.
- Vegan butter. Look for this near the regular butter at your supermarket. Earth Balance and Miyoko’s are a couple of popular brands to try.
- Whole cumin seeds. I don’t recommend substituting ground cumin. Whole seeds will give your dal a different flavor as well as adding some texture. Look for them in the international foods section at the store, or take a trip to an Indian market.
- Canned tomato puree.
- Garam masala.
- Cayenne pepper. Skip this if you prefer a heat-free version of the recipe.
- Sugar. Use organic sugar to keep the recipe vegan.
- Coconut cream. Many stores sell this in cans. If you can’t find it, simply chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, then scoop out the solids — this is the cream.
- Fresh cilantro.
How It’s Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!
- Soak your lentils and beans for at least 4 hours. Simply place them in a bowl, cover them with a few inches of water, and let them sit.
- When they’re done soaking, drain them, place them in a pot with some water, and boil them until they’re soft.
Time saving options: Your beans and lentils can be soaked and cooked in advance, so they’re ready to go when you want to make this dal. You could also substitute canned beans and lentils, skipping soaking and cooking them altogether.
- Melt your butter in a large skillet and add diced onion. Cook it for a few minutes to soften it up.
- Add minced garlic, grated ginger, and cumin seeds. Sauté everything briefly. Be careful to avoid burning.
- Stir in your cooked lentils and beans, tomato puree, water, garam masala, cayenne pepper, and sugar. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for about 30 minutes to thicken up.
- Mash up a few of the lentils and beans with a fork or the back of a spoon. This will thicken the sauce and give it a creamy consistency!
- When your vegan dal makhani has finished cooking, turn off the heat and stir in the coconut cream and salt.
- Give it a taste test and add more salt if you’d like.
- Serve the dal with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. It goes great with some basmati rice or vegan naan.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan dal makhani will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about 4 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.