Creamy Punjabi-style Black Lentils (Dal Makhani)

Black Lentil Dal Makhani.jpg

When I first started dating Ravi, his mother loaded me up with spices, lentils, rice, and a pressure cooker -- because she know I loved to cook and wanted her boy to enjoy homemade Indian food. It took me years to get over my fears of cooking it -- worried I wouldn't meet her standards and trying to understand how to use the different spices (because I definitely didn't grow up with turmeric and black mustard seeds in southern Indiana).

Fast forward to today... I love home cooked Indian food and experimenting with the amazing flavors. Like anything, it just took a little practice + getting used to the newness and initial uncertainty. That's how we grow, right?!

Which brings me to my version of Dal Makhani, a traditionally slow-cooked, cream-based black lentil soup found on most Indian take-out menus.

Here, I simplified things with a warming blend of cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and clove — perfect for these early fall evenings — and finished it all off with coconut cream and a spritz of lime.

Creamy Punjabi-style Black Lentils (Dal Makhani)

Serves 4


2 Tbs. avocado oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. turmeric
pinch cayenne 
8 ounces crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup black lentils
4 cups filtered water
1 bay leaf
1/2-1 tsp. fine sea salt (to taste)
Several good grinds black pepper

To finish: 

Chopped fresh cilantro 
Full fat coconut milk
Lime wedge


Bring a large stockpot to medium heat. Add in avocado oil, onion, and a pinch of salt — then sauté until onion is translucent and starting to brown. Stir garlic and ginger into the mixture and cook until fragrant, 60 seconds. Add garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook another 30-60 seconds, then pour in crushed tomatoes with another pinch of salt and cook 3-5 minutes until tomato starts to reduce and caramelize on the bottom of the pot. Add black lentils, filtered water, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes until lentils are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

When ready to serve, divide hot soup into bowls and top with a swirl of coconut milk, squeeze of lime, and chopped cilantro.

Notes: You can also add 1/2 cup coconut milk directly to the soup at the 25 minute mark.

Soup will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat on the stovetop until hot and just boiling.