Love Dal Makhani? See How It Became A Legend

If you have grown up in a Punjabi household, you must know what Maa ki dal is. It is not just your regular dal but an emotion. It is the Punjabi version, we must say, of ubiquitous urad dal known as Maash ki dal in Sanskrit and Maa ki dal in the local dialect.

The original dal makhani was actually made by the Peshwaris in the western part of Punjab which is now in Pakistan. This dal was initially sold with flat unleavened bread in local dhabhas. When they migrated to India during the partition, they brought this dal with them just to write a new page in the history of food. Originally made of whole urad dal, this dal is simmered in handi or clay for quite some time.

I am a Punjabi and whenever my friends come home, they ask my mother to make her special Maa ki dal. The craze of this dal is very much as in Punjabi households, it is cooked like nowhere else. It is also a commonly served food in Langars in Gurudwaras. Now, dal makhani is nothing but a buttery and creamy version of this ancient old Maa ki dal. Whenever we go to restaurants, we don’t find Maa ki dal but dal makhani. Let us now see how this Maa ki dal became dal makhani.

Since we told you that Peshawaris cooked this with whole urad dal, there was another version too. The other version made in Eastern Punjab had urad dal, rajma, and chana dal and this concoction were more popular. Dal makhani has a similar history to that of butter chicken. Kundan Lal Gujral, the owner of the Motilal chain of restaurants, was the one behind coining the dal which is, till date, the most amazing thing we have ever had. Kundan Lal thought of adding some shahi ingredients to make a richer combination. Besides, adding lots of fresh cream and milk always worked. With dollops of ghee, this dal ki makhani is everything you are looking for. Now you get how this Maa ki dal turned makhani. 

Let us take you through a quick recipe of how to make the tastiest and the creamiest dal makhani at home (just like served in Moti Mahal restaurants). Have a look. 


  • ½ cup whole urad dal
  • ¼ cup rajma (wash and soaked overnight)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Chopped ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 green chilies slit
  • 2 tomatoes blended
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder


  • Boil whole urad and rajma in three cups of water with salt and half the red chilli powder and half the ginger. Cook for three whistles in a pressure cooker or until the rajma is completely soft.
  • Heat butter and oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds. When they begin to change colour, add ginger, garlic, and onion and sauté till golden brown.
  • Add slit green chilies, and tomatoes puree and sauté on high heat. Add the remaining red chilli powder and sauté till the tomatoes are reduced to a pulp.
  • Add the cooked dal and rajma along with the cooking liquor. Add some water if the mixture is too thick. Add garam masala powder and adjust the salt.
  • Simmer on low heat till the dals are totally soft and well blended.
  • Serve hot. Garnish with a swirl of cream and sprigs of fresh coriander.