Slow Cooker Dal Makhani

I was at the Indian grocery store the other night and spotted a tub labelled ‘Makhani’ at triple the price of regular butter. I found it so intriguing as I always thought Makhani was just the Indian name for butter. Why wouldn’t you just buy butter instead? Which self-respecting miserly Indian would spend thrice the amount on just butter?

I was so curious, I picked up a tub, and then put it back, and then changed my mind and finally caved in and bought it. Mangy (who was waiting in the car) flipped when he saw the tub. He put the fear of God in me and convinced me that Makhani in a tub imported all the way from India would be something akin to rancid cream.  I sank further and further into the car seat wondering if I’d just blown my future children’s college fund.

As soon as we got home, I removed the lid and resolved to eat the damn thing even it killed me. Guess what folks? It was lovely! Very similar to whipped butter, slightly tangy, super light and creamy. I had whole spoonfuls of it, it was incredible! Even Mangy was in awe, he couldn’t believe it was that good.

Could there be a better dish than Dal Makhani to pay homage to this lovely dairy product? This recipe is adapted from the great Vah Chef’s Dal Bhukara.  In the video, chef mentions a slow cooking technique that I’d love to try. Unfortunately we don’t have a Tandoor oven, so the next best thing was our slow cooker. It’s a really easy recipe and the end result is worth every minute spent.

You’ll need:

(a) Dals (soak overnight, drain and rinse thoroughly):

  • 150 grams whole black gram (urad dal)
  • 50 grams channa dal
  • 50 grams kidney beans (rajma)

(b) Tadka:

  • pinch of hing
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 piece mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon makhani or regular butter

(c) Other stuff:

  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons makhani or regular butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil

(d) To finish:

  • 1 tablespoon makhani
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • salt to taste
  • chopped fresh coriander


Add dal in the slow cooker and cover with water at least 4 inches above dal. Cook on high heat for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the water and stir occasionally.

After 2 hours, in a small pot, prepare tadka, by melting makhani. Once hot, add tadka ingredients. Stir well. Add to dal. Cook dal for another 3 hours until very soft and creamy.

After 3 hours, in a pan prepare the ‘other stuff’. Heat oil, add ginger garlic paste and fry till golden brown. Add tomatoes, turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and fry well. Add butter and keep stirring until the oil rises to the surface of the paste. Add this paste to the slow cooker, stir well.

Cook dal for another 2 hours. By this stage, the dal should be very soft, thick and creamy.

To finish the dal, add ingredients (d), allow too cook for another 20 minutes in the slow cooker. Serve with rotis or rice with extra cream and butter if desired (why wouldn’t you?). Enjoy!


If the dal is drying out at any stage, add hot water and stir well.

Click here for printable version.

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