Indian Black Lentils (Kaali Daal)

Black Lentils
Jelena Jojic Tomic/Stocksy United
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Another popular North Indian dish is kaali daal or daal makkhani. Black lentils are cooked with spices, tomatoes, and cream for a wholesome and delicious dish also known as ma ki daal (mom's lentils) for its comfort-food qualities. 

Serve kaali daal/daal makkhani with a vegetable side dish and naan (tandoor-baked flatbread) or with butter chicken and naan.

The lentils will need to soak in water overnight so plan accordingly.


  • 1 cup split urad daal (black lentils), soaked overnight in water to cover

  • 3 cups water

  • 2 large onions, sliced thin

  • 2 green chilies, slit

  • Pinch​ of asafetida

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil

  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, julienned

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped into cubes

  • 2 teaspoons coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whisked

  • 2 tablespoons ghee

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Steps to Make It

  1. Soak the urad daal (black lentils) in a bowl of water overnight.

  2. Boil the soaked lentils with 3 cups of water, 1 sliced onion, green chilies, asafetida, and salt to taste till they are very tender. Set aside.

  3. In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the other onion until soft. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute.

  4. Add the tomatoes, coriander, cumin, and red chili powder and fry for another 5 minutes.

  5. Add the reserved boiled lentils and enough water to make a thick gravy-like consistency and mix well. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  6. Pour in the whisked cream and mix well. Turn off the fire.

  7. In another small pan, heat the ghee and when hot add the cumin seeds and cook till they stop spluttering.

  8. Pour this into the lentils (it will all sizzle) and mix well.

  9. Serve hot with a vegetable side dish and naans (tandoor-baked leavened Indian flatbread) or butter chicken and naan.

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