This vegan dal makhani is a hearty staple in North Indian cooking. This dish gets its creaminess from smashed lentils, beans and coconut milk.
This vegan black lentil curry recipe is as comforting and satisfying as the original. It’s filled with wonderful warming spices that make your kitchen smell amazing. Make a big batch and enjoy leftovers for days.
While you would generally use heavy cream and butter, some households in India also make a version without cream.
But I will be using coconut milk as a substitute. The result is just as flavorful, and the texture is just as rich and buttery.
Key Tips to Follow
- Save the black lentil cooking liquid. There will be tons of flavor, nutrients and starches to help thicken the stew.
- For a thicker curry, mash some of the cooked beans and lentils. You can use a potato masher or wooden spoon to crush them for a nice creamy texture.
- Don’t skip out on any of the spices. They all add so many layers of flavor to this dish. There are some acceptable substitutes listed below, if you are unable to locate certain ingredients at your local shop.
- If you have time, let the pot simmer for several hours. Simmering this curry for longer allows for more flavor development. However, if you don’t have the time, it’ll still taste delicious.
Ingredients You’ll Need
(Summary and brief info. Full details at the end.)
- Cooked black lentils – I used Black Beluga Lentils, although traditionally, Urad Dal is used. They are a bit bigger and take longer to cook.
Use any type you can find for this recipe.
Soak 2 cups overnight then discard the water before boiling in 5 cups of fresh water. Black Lentils cook in about 15 to 20 minutes while Urad Dal may take up to 45 minutes.
- Red kidney beans – I used canned.
- Vegan butter or oil
- Tomato purée – fresh or canned
- Bay leaves
- Coconut milk or cream – Use the unsweetened version. Regular, not light, for more creaminess.
- Fresh coriander
- Kashmiri chili powder
- Ground coriander
- Garam masala
- Ground fenugreek
- Cinnamon stick
How to Make Vegan Black Lentil Curry
1. Brown the onions in the oil in a large pot on low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Add the minced ginger and garlic.
2. Add in turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, cinnamon stick and ground fenugreek. Toast until fragrant.
3. Stir in the tomato purée and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
4. Add drained canned kidney beans and cooked black lentils along with the cooking liquid to the pot. Add the bay leaves. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Stir in most of the coconut milk and simmer for 10 more minutes.
6. Garnish with a dollop of coconut cream and fresh coriander leaves before serving.
Recipe Variations or Substitutions
- You can use only black lentils or only red kidney beans in this recipe. The kidney bean version is similar to Rajma Curry.
- If you do not have Kashmiri chili powder, you can mix smoked paprika with some cayenne powder for a close substitute.
- If ground fenugreek is unavailable at the local store, you can use ground mustard seeds to get similar earthy, bitter notes. Or add fenugreek leaves.
- To substitute a whole cinnamon stick, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
Store this curry in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Alternatively, it can be stored in a food storage bag or heatproof dish in the freezer for up to 6 months. Label with the expiry date.
How to Reheat
Allow the curry to thaw in the fridge for several hours before reheating, then follow the aforementioned instructions:
- To reheat on the stovetop, add to a pot with a splash of water. Bring to a simmer on low heat.
- If it’s in a heatproof dish, reheat it in the microwave. It will take about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the batch you’re reheating. Stir halfway through the heating time and add a splash of water if needed.
Serve lentil curry in a bowl alongside some vegan naan bread and steamed basmati rice for the ultimate hearty meal.
More curry recipes
Black Lentil Curry (Vegan Dal Makhani)
Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, use Metric measurements and measuring spoons.
- 2 cups (400 g) black beluga lentils, dried. See Notes for preparing and cooking.
- 1 can (260 g) red kidney beans, about 1½ cups
- 2 tablespoon (30 g) vegan butter or oil
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 2 tablespoon (30 g) minced ginger
- 2 tablespoon (30 g) minced garlic
- 1 cup (262 g) tomato puree
- 3 Bay leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoon (7 g) salt, or to taste
- 1 can (400 ml) full-fat unsweetened coconut milk or cream, reserve 2 tbsp for garnish
- 1 handful (4 g) Chopped fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
- 2 teaspoon (10 g) turmeric
- 2 teaspoon (10 g) Kashmiri chilli powder
- 2 teaspoon (10 g) cumin
- 4 teaspoon (20 g) ground coriander
- 2 teaspoon (10 g) garam masala
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) ground fenugreek
- 1 (1) cinnamon stick
- Heat the oil in a large pot on low heat. Add the sliced onions. Cook for about 10 minutes or until browned.2 tablespoon (30 g) vegan butter or oil ,2 large onions
- Add the minced ginger and garlic and cook until the garlic browns.2 tablespoon (30 g) minced ginger ,2 tablespoon (30 g) minced garlic
- Stir in the turmeric, chilli, cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, fenugreek and cinnamon stick. Cook stirring constantly until they are toasted and fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices.2 teaspoon (10 g) turmeric ,2 teaspoon (10 g) Kashmiri chilli powder ,2 teaspoon (10 g) cumin ,2 teaspoon (10 g) garam masala ,1 teaspoon (5 g) ground fenugreek ,1 cinnamon stick ,4 teaspoon (20 g) ground coriander
- Stir in the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir constantly to prevent burning.1 cup (262 g) tomato puree
- Drain the canned kidney beans and add to the pot. Then add the cooked black lentils with cooking liquid to the pot.1 can (260 g) red kidney beans ,2 cups (400 g) black beluga lentils
- Add the bay leaves and salt. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.3 Bay leaves ,1 ½ teaspoon (7 g) salt
- Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.1 can (400 ml) full-fat unsweetened coconut milk or cream
- Remove from heat. Garnish with coconut cream and coriander before serving.1 handful (4 g) Chopped fresh coriander leaves
- I used Black Beluga Lentils, although traditionally, Urad Dal is used. They are a bit bigger and take longer to cook. Use any type you can find for this recipe.
- To prepare, soak 2 cups overnight then discard the water before boiling in 5 cups of fresh water.
- Black Lentils cook in about 15 to 20 minutes while Urad Dal may take up to 45 minutes. Do not discard cooking liquid.
- Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to crush some of the beans. This will help make the curry thicker.
- A good Tandoori Masala blend would contain most, if not all the individual spices listed. Use 4 to 5 tablespoons for this recipe.