Easy Dal Makhani Slow Cooker Recipe for Rich, Creamy Flavor

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

Imagine coming home to the rich aromas of dal makhani, a beloved North Indian dish known for its velvety texture and robust flavors. This traditional recipe typically simmers for hours, allowing the black lentils and kidney beans to soak up the exotic blend of spices and creamy goodness. But what if you could achieve that same depth of flavor with less fuss?

Thanks to your slow cooker, you can. Transforming this labor-intensive dish into a set-it-and-forget-it affair makes dal makhani accessible even on your busiest days. Prep in the morning, and by dinner, you’ll be savoring a dish that’s both comforting and thrillingly tasty. Let’s dive into how you can bring this staple of Indian cuisine to your table with ease and flair.


To make your slow cooker dal makhani, gather the following ingredients. Make sure to prep them as listed before starting:

  • 1 cup whole black lentils (urad dal), soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/4 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped (adjust based on your spice tolerance)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk for a vegan option
  • 2 tablespoons butter or a vegan alternative
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Collect these ingredients and have them ready as you proceed with the cooking process. This setup ensures that your cooking experience will be streamlined and enjoyable.

Required Equipment

To prepare dal makhani in a slow cooker successfully, it’s essential to have the right equipment ready. Since you’re using a slow cooker to simplify the cooking process and enhance the flavors, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Slow Cooker: An obvious necessity for this recipe, a 6-quart slow cooker is ideal. It offers ample space for all your ingredients and allows the lentils to cook evenly, developing a deep flavor.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: For chopping onions, tomatoes, and ginger, make sure you have a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measuring ensures that the spices and seasonings are perfectly balanced, enhancing the overall taste of your dal makhani.
  • Wooden Spoon: A wooden spoon is perfect for stirring the ingredients together. Its sturdy build ensures that you can stir the thick lentil mixture without any splashes or spills.
  • Can Opener: If you’re using canned tomatoes, a can opener will be needed to smoothly open the cans without any hassle.

Gathering these tools before you start cooking will help streamline your cooking process, making it more enjoyable and efficient. Make sure everything is clean and within easy reach to facilitate your slow-cooking journey.

Preparation Steps

Now that you have your essential tools ready, let’s dive into the preparation steps which are vital for creating a delectable dal makhani in your slow cooker.

Soaking the Lentils

Begin by thoroughly rinsing 1 cup of whole black lentils (urad dal) under cold running water until the water runs clear. This helps remove any impurities and enhances the flavor. After rinsing, soak the lentils in enough water to cover them by several inches—preferably overnight. This soaking process is crucial as it softens the lentils, ensuring they cook perfectly in the slow cooker. If you’re pressed for time, a minimum of 4 hours of soaking will suffice.

Prepping the Onions and Spices

While the lentils are soaking, you can prepare the onions and spices. Start by finely chopping 2 large onions. This size offers a nice balance where the onions will meld into the sauce without disappearing completely. Next, gather your spices. You will need:

  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Peel the garlic and ginger, then mince and grate them respectively. Having these spices prepared and ready to go not only saves time but also ensures that you can add them quickly to the slow cooker, preserving their flavors and aromas.

Cooking Instructions

Now that you’ve prepped your ingredients and gathered all your tools, you’re ready to start cooking the dal makhani in your slow cooker. Follow these step-by-step instructions to ensure a smooth cooking process and delicious result.

Layering the Ingredients in the Slow Cooker

  1. Begin by spreading the soaked and drained whole black lentils evenly at the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Next, scatter the finely chopped onions over the lentils.
  3. Sprinkle the minced garlic and grated ginger evenly on top of the onions.
  4. Now, add the cumin seeds, garam masala, chili powder, and turmeric powder, distributing them uniformly across the other ingredients.
  5. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and lay them over the spices.
  6. If using, place dollops of butter or spoonfuls of cream on top to enhance the creaminess and flavor.
  7. Lastly, pour in enough water to cover the ingredients, which will help in cooking the lentils thoroughly and melding the flavors together.

Slow Cooker Dal Makhani Cooking Instructions

  1. Cover the slow cooker with its lid to ensure that no steam escapes, which is crucial for maintaining the cooking temperature and moisture.
  2. Set your slow cooker to high if you wish to cook the dal makhani within 4-5 hours, or set it to low if you prefer a longer cooking time of 8 hours. Cooking it longer on low heat can lead to more developed flavors.
  3. After the cooking time is up, check the lentils for doneness; they should be soft and buttery in texture. If they are not yet at this stage, cook for an additional hour or until the desired doneness is achieved.
  4. Stir the dal makhani thoroughly to mix all the ingredients well, allowing the flavors to blend beautifully.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional spices if necessary.

Following these steps, you will achieve a creamy, flavorful dal makhani that perfectly captures the essence of this classic North Indian dish, all with the ease of using your slow cooker.

Serving Suggestions

After your dal makhani has reached its perfect, creamy consistency, it’s time to think about how best to serve it. This rich and hearty dish pairs wonderfully with a variety of sides that complement its deep flavors and smooth texture.

With Indian Breads

Serve your dal makhani with warm, fresh Indian breads such as naan, roti, or paratha. The soft texture of the breads makes them ideal for scooping up the dal, and their mild flavor balances the richness of the makhani sauce.

With Rice

Basmati rice is another classic pairing for dal makhani. Spoon the dal over a bed of fluffy, steamed basmati rice for a comforting meal. The rice soaks up the sauce beautifully, making every bite a delightful experience.

Topping Ideas

Enhance the flavors of your dal makhani with some fresh, aromatic toppings. A sprinkle of chopped cilantro or a dollop of cream can add freshness and richness, respectively. For a bit of crunch, consider adding a few slivers of ginger or some chopped red onions.

For Special Occasions

If you’re serving dal makhani during a festive meal or a special occasion, consider accompanying it with a few more elaborate sides. A platter of mixed vegetable dishes, some papadums for crunch, and a selection of pickles and chutneys can elevate the entire dining experience, allowing everyone to customize their plate according to their personal preferences.

Choosing the right accompaniments, you ensure that the deep, rich flavors of the dal makhani are perfectly highlighted, making your meal truly memorable.

Optional Variations

Explore these variations to tailor your dal makhani to your personal taste or to experiment with new flavors.

Making It Creamier

To achieve an even creamier texture, consider adding more butter or cream than the original recipe suggests. Start with an additional tablespoon of butter or a splash of cream, and adjust according to your preferences. For a vegan alternative, blend soaked cashews into a smooth paste and stir it into the dal during the last 30 minutes of cooking. This not only enhances the creaminess but also adds a subtle nutty flavor that complements the lentils beautifully.

Adjusting Spice Levels

Adjusting the spice levels in your dal makhani allows you to control the heat and depth of flavor. If you prefer a milder dish, reduce the amount of chili powder and garam masala by half. For those who enjoy a spicier palate, consider adding chopped green chilies or a bit more red chili powder. Do this incrementally to ensure you achieve just the right level of heat without overpowering the other flavors.

Make-Ahead Tips

Preparing dal makhani in a slow cooker can be even easier with these make-ahead tips. By planning ahead, you not only save time but also enhance the flavors in your dish.

Pre-Soak the Lentils and Beans Overnight

Start by rinsing the black lentils (urad dal) and kidney beans under cold water until the water runs clear. Soak them in enough water to cover them by several inches, as they will expand. Leaving them to soak overnight will significantly reduce the cooking time and improve their texture.

Prepare Spices in Advance

Measure out all your spices, like garam masala, chili powder, and cumin seeds, and store them in a small, airtight container. This not only saves you time but also keeps you organized when you’re ready to start cooking.

Chop Onions, Tomatoes, and Ginger-Garlic Paste

You can chop your onions and tomatoes up to a day in advance. Keep them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. Prepare your ginger-garlic paste and store it in the fridge as well. These steps help streamline your cooking process the next day.

Preparing Cream or Vegan Alternatives

If you’re using cream, measure it out and keep it refrigerated. For a vegan version using cashew paste, prepare the paste the previous day by soaking cashews in warm water for a few hours, then blending them until smooth. Store this in the fridge until you’re ready to add it to the dish.

With these preparations done beforehand, all you need to do when you’re ready to cook is to layer your ingredients in the slow cooker and let it do its magic. This approach not only simplifies the cooking process but also allows the flavors to meld beautifully, resulting in a more delicious and robust dal makhani.


With your slow cooker ready to take on the challenge of making dal makhani you’re all set to enjoy this delightful dish with ease. Remember the beauty of this method lies in its simplicity and the rich flavors that develop over the slow cooking process. Whether you’re spicing it up or keeping it mild adjusting the creaminess or sticking to a vegan version your dal makhani is sure to impress. So gather your ingredients prep ahead and let your slow cooker do the heavy lifting. Your next meal could be a delicious testament to the flavors of North India right from your own kitchen. Enjoy the cooking journey and the delicious results!

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