Recipe For Dal Makhani – Veganised
Surprisingly, despite the fact that I love curry, I had never eaten Dal Makhani until I went vegan and saw a recipe for the traditional dish pop up on one of the foodie groups I am a member of.
Like most dishes and recipes, I always try and put my own spin on things, so converting the traditional dish to a vegan one was a natural progression for me.
While I have cooked my veganised version of the traditional Dal Makhani, today, I changed it up a little to add some coconut cream instead of my usual cashew cream.
For those, like me (who didn’t know), Dal Makhani is an urad dal and kidney bean butter curry.
Urad dal is a black lentil, not to be confused with the black beluga lentil, which, while good in a pinch, don’t result in the same rich, thick gravy that the whole urad dal gives you.
If you have trouble finding them in the grocery store, you should be able to find them in an Asian, or Indian grocer, which is where I buy mine locally.
Make sure you use the whole black urad dal, not the split white ones, although the trick I use, is to add both, in the ratio of 1 cup of whole urad dal to 1/4 cup of white split urad dal, this to me makes the gravy even thicker and creamier when finished.
Dal Makhani (pronounced makh-nee), roughly translates to pulses (Dal), which are typically lentils. Makhani means with butter.
Now, “lentils with butter,” doesn’t really go close to describing the richness of flavours in this Punjabi dish.
As the makhani names suggests, the traditional recipe calls for butter and loads of it; as much as 8 tablespoons, plus cream to boot. Being vegan, we won’t be using dairy, nor anywhere near that much vegan butter, as it doesn’t really need that much in this recipe to still hit the mark.
As I said previously, I normally use cashew cream when making my veganised Dal Makhani, but for this dish, I thought I would change the flavours up a bit and use coconut milk.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any coconut milk on hand, but I did have some coconut cream, so that is what I went with.
Unlike other lentils, where you can get away without soaking them for hours and speeding things up in the pressure cooker, with urad dal, this isn’t an option, it really does need a long slow soak in water.
I have soaked them for as little as 6 hours and as much as 24, with no real difference to the end result.
Now, you can just plonk them in some water and let them soak, but I like to rinse mine as well and I have a trick that make soaking and rinsing the lentils so much easier; I simply pore them into a 950ml wide mouth mason jar, fitted with a stainless steel mesh lid. This way, I can rinse and change the water as much as I want, without messing any other bowls or sieves, plus, I can leave it sit on the cupboard, soaking in the water, without having to worry about any insects or nasties getting in the mix.
I like to rinse mine as much as possible, which is as easy as tipping it in the sink and refilling, without having to remove the lid or lentils.
While I use whole dry lentils for this dish, I do cheat and use organic red kidney beans from a can, as it saves having to soak and cook two seperate lots and end result is still great.
Cooking Your Urad Dal
Once your dal has soaked for 6 – 24 hours, it is time to cook it.
If you haven’t cooked urad dal before, it is not the same as cooking rice, you do not add any salt into the water to infuse flavour, as this can toughen the lentil, giving a poor result to the rest of the meal.
Simply place 1 cup of urad dal in 4 cups of water, bring to the boil, then lower heat to simmer, with the lid on for about 30 – 50 minutes,, or until the dal is very tender.
They must be tender at this stage, as they will not become much softer with further cooking later, without overcooking the rest of the dish.
Turn off heat and strain the lentils; I reserve the liquid for using later in the recipe.
Sticking with the coconut theme of this dish, I decided to serve with some coconut rice.
While not a typical accompaniment for Dal Makhani, the addition of coconut rice actually turned extremely delicious and a nice twist on the traditional dish.
You can see my recipe here for cooking coconut rice.
If you prefer to stick more with the traditional dish, you can just omit the coconut cream from the rice cooking and have plain rice instead.
- 1 cup dry whole urad dal, debris removed and soaked in plenty of water overnight or for at least 6 hours
- 1/4 split urad dal
- 4 cups water
- 400g can organic red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tsp vegan butter
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 2 medium bay leafs
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced or finely cut
- 1-2 chiles, finely sliced
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 400g can organic crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups water (use water reserved from cooking urad dal) and add any extra clean water if needed
- 1-1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1-1 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp cayenne, optional & more or less to taste
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup coconut cream or coconut milk, added near the end
- Add the soaked urad dal to a saucepan, along with 4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, with the lid on for 30-50 minutes or until dal is very tender. Turn off heat and strain the lentils, reserving any leftover cooking water.
- In a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil and vegan butter over medium heat. Add the cumin and bay leafs and fry until they crackle and turn slightly dark. Add the garlic and chiles and cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the onion and fry until golden and soft, 4-6 minutes.
- Add the can of crushed organic tomatoes, the reserved dal cooking water + fresh water to equal 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tsp pf pepper, garam masala, cayenne and turmeric and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the urad dal and the kidney beans. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 - 50 minutes, stirring occasionally so the lentils don't stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Cook down the liquid enough to add the coconut cream, as you don't won't it to be too runny.
- Stir in the coconut cream and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes.
- Garnish finished dish with a swirl of coconut milk and minced parsley.
- Serve with coconut basmati rice.