Are you looking to embrace meatless meals and on the hunt for healthy dinner options? Look no further than this delicious Indian dhal makhani recipe. Packed with flavour and nutrition, this coconut lentil curry will become a new family favourite. Plus, it’s easy to make on the stovetop. This lentil recipe is vegan, high in protein and gluten free.

A close up of a serving bowl of brown lentil soup on a gold tray with red flowers and flatbread in the background.

As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, I love helping folks enjoy nourishing, balanced meals. And I jump for joy when pulses (of any sort!) are on my plate! Lentils, a type of pulse, are a versatile and nutritious source of plant-based protein, making them a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets.

More often than not, when we fancy whole food plant-based (WFPB) meals, we turn to daal. Because it’s hearty and super comforting. And if you savoured the flavours in my Daal with Roasted Butternut Squash or Slow Cooked Lentil Curry with Rhubarb, there’s no denying that lentils make for an amazing healthy vegan dinner. It’s pretty epic, alongside an Indian roti!

What is dhal makhani?

Dhal makhani, also known as dal makhani or Indian lentil curry, is a flavourful dish originating from the Punjab region of Northern India.

A medley of creamy coconut milk, butter along with aromatic spices create an irresistible blend of flavours and textures. Makhani is undoubtedly the epitome of luxury, as its name translates to “buttery” in Hindi.

While traditional recipes contains butter, I’ve created a vegan alternative using coconut cream (you could also use coconut milk).

Similarly, this lentil curry incorporates a number of spices like turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and curry powder that help give the dahl its signature flavour profile.

The end result?

A hearty vegan coconut curry that is richly spiced and totally satisfying!

A perspective close up image of a serving bowl of brown lentil soup with kidney beans on a gold tray with red flowers in the background.

How healthy is dhal makhani?

It’s as healthy as your definition of ‘healthy’! I firmly believe that one meal doesn’t wholly define your health – either in a positive or negative way. But generally speaking, the ingredients used in this dish are all nutrient-dense — rich in dietary fibre. As well, lentils are a source of protein and may be beneficial for stabilizing blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetes management. Not to mention, lentils contain plant compounds with powerful disease-fighting properties.

Let’s not forget about the incredible blend of spices! The wide range of seasoning in this dish not only enhances its flavour but also bolsters its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Our family enjoys a balanced meal by complementing this dish with an Easy Salad Recipe and Flax and Hemp Paratha.

Ingredients

Each ingredient contributes to the tantalizing flavour combination this dish offers. So I wouldn’t advise you to cut any corners when you make it at home; all the components truly enhance its unique taste.

An assembly of food ingredients on a white surface, presented in bowls and ramekins.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Coconut oil: I use unrefined cold pressed organic coconut oil instead of butter to keep this recipe vegan.
  • Whole spices: a mixture of South Asian food pantry staples like cumin and coriander seeds, bay leaves, green and black cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks bring out the richness.
  • Onions: two medium-sized onions add sweet deliciousness.
  • Garlic: I prefer to use lots of fresh garlic for the ultimate burst of flavour.
  • Ginger: grated ginger is a must; it takes this dish to another level.
  • Curry powder: I love to add curry powder for an extra oomph of flavour and spice.
  • Turmeric: a dash of turmeric spice adds a beautiful hue and, of course, health benefits to this dish.
  • Tomato coulis: I like to use a thick tomato passata or sauce. You could crush fresh tomatoes into this recipe – if you have them on hand.
  • Coconut cream: lends a silky texture and deepens the flavour – which I love!
  • Salt: sea salt is my pick. You could certainly adjust the salt to suit your needs.
  • Water: depending on how thick you like your dish, adjust the amount of water to get a consistency that’s right for you.
  • Lentils: I prefer to use brown lentils, but you could also use split mung beans or a combination of both.
  • Red kidneys: the addition of cooked kidney beans (canned) makes this recipe easy to prepare. Not to mention, you get added protein and dietary fibre.
  • Chillies: I like to add in a few green or red chillies for extra heat and flavour.
  • Cilantro: fresh cilantro is a must; it adds freshness that seals the deal.

What is the best way to make dhal makhani on the stovetop?

It’s probably the most common way to prepare it. Some of the key steps are outlined below:

The complete recipe with step-by-step instructions and amounts can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Nutrition highlights

One serving of this vegan dhal makhani is:

  • an exceptional source of dietary fibre (80% DV)
  • an excellent source of iron (39% DV)
  • an excellent source of potassium (25% DV)
  • a great choice for those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes – 27 g of net carbs
  • plant-powered, providing 19 g of protein

*Nutrient claims based on a 2000-calorie diet.

A serving bowl of brown lentil soup on a gold tray with red flowers and flatbread in the background.

Tips and substitutions

  • To maintain flavour and avoid a bitter taste, be sure to keep the flame on low or medium heat while tempering the whole spices.
  • If you’re not as fond of spicy flavours, don’t worry – reduce the intensity by eliminating green chillies or keeping them on the side.
  • If you’re looking for a milder flavour, I’d recommend using mild curry powder. That way, even the kids can enjoy it. The coconut cream and sweet tomato sauce also help to balance out the spices and heat.
  • For a creamy texture, use full-fat coconut cream.
  • By allowing your daal to simmer slowly on low heat, you will achieve an incomparably creamy and delicious consistency. Don’t forget to stir occasionally so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • The kidney beans can be substituted with other types of cooked legumes like chickpeas or black-eyed peas.
  • If you don’t have brown lentils on hand, you can also use green or red lentils. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, as they will likely cook faster than the brown lentils.
  • To add more protein and nutrients to your creation, you can top it off with a dollop of yogurt or sprinkle some chopped nuts on top. This will also add a lovely texture and crunch to the dish.

Storage

Once cooled, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze and enjoy for one month.

A perspective image of a serving bowl of brown lentil soup topped with kidney beans on a gold tray with red flowers in the background.

If like me, you have devoted carnivores in your home and are looking for meat-free Monday meals that they’ll still enjoy, then dahl makhani is the ideal solution. I hope you’ll give this easy vegan recipe a try and enjoy it as much as my family and I do.

What are your favourite curry recipes?

If you try this vegan coconut lentil curry, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment, rate it, or share a photo and hashtag with #desiliciousrd on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! I can’t wait to see your photos. 

Desi~liciously Yours, Shahzadi
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A perspective image of a serving bowl of brown lentil soup topped with kidney beans on a gold tray with red flowers in the background.
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Get the Recipe:

Stovetop Dhal Makhani (Vegan Coconut Lentil Curry)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 8 people
Are you looking to embrace meatless meals and looking for healthy dinner options? Look no further than this delicious Indian dhal makhani recipe. Packed with flavour and nutrition, this coconut lentil curry will become a new family favourite. Plus, it's easy to make on the stovetop. This lentil recipe is vegan, high protein and gluten free.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, unrefined, cold-pressed, organic
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, whole
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, whole, roughly crushed
  • 2 ½ inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 green cardamoms, grind seeds
  • 1 black cardamom, grind seeds
  • 2 bay leaves, large
  • 2 onion, medium, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 inch ginger, fresh, grated
  • 1 cup tomato puree, not tube kind
  • 1 tbsp curry powder, madras
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup coconut cream, thick
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 cups water, adjust accordingly
  • 2 cups brown lentils, uncooked, rinsed several times in water.
  • 2 cups kidney beans, cooked, canned
  • 2 green chillies, fresh, finely chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, fresh, washed, finely chopped

Instructions
 

  • Heat a large pot over medium and temper whole spices in coconut oil.
  • Once the spices release their aroma, add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté until lightly golden. It should take about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in curry powder and turmeric, and add tomato puree, coconut cream, salt and water.
  • Once the water boils, carefully add lentils and beans before bringing it all to a simmer. Cover and cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through. You can add more liquid if needed.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of chillies and fresh cilantro, stir well and serve.

Notes

  • To maintain flavour and avoid a bitter taste, be sure to keep the flame on low or medium heat while tempering the whole spices.
  • If you’re not as fond of spicy flavours, don’t worry – simply reduce the intensity by eliminating green chillies or keeping them on the side.
  • If you’re looking for a milder flavour, I’d recommend using mild curry powder. That way, even the kids can enjoy it! The coconut cream and sweet tomato sauce also help to balance out the spices and heat.
  • For a creamy texture, use full-fat coconut cream.
  • By allowing your daal to simmer slowly on low heat, you will achieve an incomparably creamy and delicious consistency. Don’t forget to stir occasionally so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • The kidney beans can be substituted with other types of cooked legumes like chickpeas or black-eyed peas.
  • If you don’t have brown lentils on hand, you can also use green or red lentils. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, as they will likely cook faster than the brown lentils.
  • To add more protein and nutrients to your dhal makhani, you can top it off with a dollop of yogurt or sprinkle some chopped nuts on top. This will also add a lovely texture and crunch to the dish.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 348kcal (17%)Carbohydrates: 47g (16%)Protein: 19g (38%)Fat: 11g (17%)Saturated Fat: 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 784mg (33%)Potassium: 883mg (25%)Fiber: 20g (80%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 239IU (5%)Vitamin C: 9mg (11%)Calcium: 80mg (8%)Iron: 7mg (39%)

Keep in mind that the nutritional values provided are approximations and suggestions, and might fluctuate depending on ingredient variations, portion sizes, and recipe adjustments. This nutrition facts table cannot account for your individual needs. Your body — including your hunger and satiety cues — change daily. It’s perfectly fine to eat more or less on different days. Instead of letting food guilt take over, consider mindful eating.

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cuisine: Indian
Course: Main
Did you make this recipe?Mention @desiliciousrd on Instagram or tag #desiliciousrd.