Instant Pot Dal Makhani (Vegan and Gluten Free)

Quick, easy, creamy and heaty restaurant style Punjabi vegan Dal Makhani that your family will love.

Dal Makhani (pronounced makh-nee) is probably everyone’s favorite dal, it’s our family favorite for sure. It’s hearty, creamy, rich, with a silky texture and bursting with subtle flavors from Indian spices.  It is probably the most ordered dish at any Indian restaurant. The aroma of dal makhani brings back so many childhood memories for me. It’s traditionally cooked over 7-8 hours for special occasions and loaded with cream and butter, but this faster and healthier version has no dairy whatsoever and 100% plant-based.

Dal refers to lentils in India and makhani means with butter. So, this dish is essentially named “lentils with butter” and as the name might suggest, this dish is not the most vegan-friendly dish. Traditional recipes call for butter and heavy cream.  This vegan version is just as delicious–if not more! It has the richness and creaminess from cashews, heartiness from a mix of lentils and the rich flavors from the spices.

Lentils have been an integral part of the Indian diet for centuries. In India, people eat lentils pretty much every day and it is the main source of protein for many vegetarian Indians.  The most common dals that my mom use to make every day was yellow moong dal and chana dal.  Dal makhani traditionally takes quite a long time to make, starting with soaking the lentils and then cooking and simmer them with spices for hours on the stove (or faster in a pressure cooker). It’s often reserved for special occasions, like birthdays (my mom always made it for my birthday) and holidays (I always make it for Diwali).

The key to a good dal makhani is the mix of lentils – whole green dal (whole moong, green), whole black gram dal and kidney beans. You can buy it from any Indian grocery store or even online.  However, if you are in a pinch, you can use kidney beans with any hearty whole lentil like black beluga lentils, azuki beans or black beans.   Do not use garbanzo beans.  Also, do not skimp on the spices.  Simmering of lentils, with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, along with spices and cashews is what gives this dal a creamy, hearty and subtle flavor.

I always make Vegan Dal Makhani for our annual Diwali meal.  Dal Makhani is a must for a Punjabi celebratory meal.  I always pair it with aloo gobhi (another Punjabi classic) and rice.  And, dessert is almost always carrot halwa, my husband’s favorite.

For a very long time, my mom and I used a pressure cooker to make dals. Indians have been using pressure cookers for centuries. It transforms lentils and spices into a delicious dal faster than it would take on the stovetop.  When I was working, I used a slow-cooker. In the mornings, before I left for work I would dump in the lentils, spices, and water and have a finished dal ready by the time I returned from a long day at work.  However, now, Instant Pot has been a lifesaver of me.  I don’t know how I functioned before an Instant Pot.  It essentially does the work of a pressure cooker and slow cooker without the scary whistles ( my kids thanks me for that), keeps the food warm for you and the clean up easy, the dishwasher does it for you.

This Restaurant Style Dal Makhani

✓ is hearty, rich, creamy, buttery and 100% vegan

✓ quick and easy to make, does not take hours to cook

✓ tastes just like the Dal Makhani from your favorite Indian restaurant

✓leftovers freeze really well

✓ tastes great with naan or rice

Dal makhani is best served the next day after it’s made. So it’s best to make it a day before, store it in your refrigerator and let the flavors soak.  Heat and serve it the next day.

Vegan Dal Makhani tastes just like traditional Punjabi restaurant style Dal Makhani. Make this easy and delicious dal for your next celebration or holiday impress your friends and family and yourself.

Dal Makhani

Quick, easy, creamy and heaty restaurant style Punjabi vegan Dal Makhani that your family will love.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Allergens: Tree Nuts
  • Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole moong lentils (uncooked)
  • 1/3 cup black gram lentils (uncooked)
  • 1/4 cup kidney beans (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dal makhani masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water
  • Plant-based milk (for garnish)
  • Cilantro (for garnish)

Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Instructions

  1. In a colander, mix whole moong lentils, black gram lentils, and kidney beans, then wash under running water for a few minutes. In a large bowl, mix lentils and kidney beans with 5 cups of water, then let them soak for 4 hours or overnight.  

  2. Soak cashews in hot water for 20 minutes then blend them with 1/2 cup water in a high-speed blender to make a paste.

  3. Start the Instant Pot on sauté mode and let it heat up.  Add coconut oil and cumin seeds.

  4. When cumin seeds start to splatter, add onions, ginger, and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.

  5. Add the tomatoes, cashew paste, dal makhani, garam masala, coriander powder, and salt, then stir and sauté for another 2 minutes. 

  6. Add the drained lentils and beans and 3 cups of water and mix well.

  7. Press cancel and close the lid with the vent in the sealing position. Change the pot setting to “Bean/chili,” which will set the timer to 30 minutes of high-pressure cooking. When the pot beeps, do natural pressure release and open the lid once the pressure is released.

  8. Stir in plant-based milk and garnish with cilantro.  Serve with naan or rice.

BON APPÉTIT!

14) Serve with Vegan Naan or rice.