Coconut Black Lentil Curry (vegan dal makhani)
Coconut Black Lentil Curry is a creamy and crazy delicious vegan curry recipe. Using coconut milk instead of heavy cream keeps this buttery dal makhani dairy free without losing any of the richness you crave.
I've got more lentils coming your way!!
You guys, you've completely surprised me. If you had asked me a year ago what the most popular recipes on this blog would have been, I NEVER would have guessed lentil recipes. I love lentils, but I thought I might have been the only one. My only regret is not finding out sooner that you love lentils as much as I do.
There was always these thoughts in my head that went something like this:
Lentils are soft and creamy and delicious. They're also brown. They're mushy. They're kinda weird. They're not exactly food blog raving material. Except … it turns out they totally are.
This time, I've made us a vegan dal makhani. It's rich and creamy, just like the dal makhani from your fav Indian restaurant. The only difference is that this black lentil curry is made with coconut oil and milk instead of the usual loads of butter and heavy cream.
I've got a story about black lentil curry that makes me laugh every time I think about it. Years ago (so many years ago that it makes me feel old. gahh.) I was traveling around India doing the whole early twenty-something, slightly dirty, broke ass backpacker thing. I was living off of 25 cent bowls of roadside curry, and dal makhani was always my fav. I came to think of myself as a bit of a dal makhani expert, even though I had never in my life made a pot.
One day at my hostel rooftop restaurant in Varanasi, I ordered dal makhani. What came out was a tasty, creamy sauce with these weird hard lumps of things in it. I called the waiter over and explained that something was not right.
If you've ever been to India before, you'll be able to imagine how well that went.
If you haven't been to India before, there are two things you should know:
- A man is never wrong.
- White people are the dumbed down version of super smart Indian people. ← I had nearly that exact phrase said to me so many times.
So this waiter tried to tell me that everything was ok and that I should just keep quiet and eat this hard, lumpy thing that kind of resembled curry. Being the feisty twenty-year-old that I was, that didn't sit so well with me. After voices were raised and I tried to convince the waiter to take a bite of the curry to see for himself how inedible it was, I marched the curry into the kitchen and proceeded to tell the chef how to make dal makhani.
Remember, I had never in my life made dal makhani.
I ended up getting a new bowl of some other kind of curry and am sure I added plenty of fuel to the ‘white women don't know their place in the world' fire. Ha!
Back to THIS black lentil curry …
I'd be lying to you if I said it tasted exactly like regular dal makhani. Coconut milk has a strong flavor, and it comes out in the curry. There is no way around that, and it's not a bad thing.
All my attempts to try and make this authentic tasting without the cream failed. While black urad lentils are very creamy on their own, they lacked the intense creaminess I was looking for. Adding coconut milk gave the richness I was looking for but did change the flavor. I think the flavor change is for the better.
This curry is made using urad lentils, which are a little different than the red, brown, or green lentils you are probably accustomed to. They look like tiny black beans and can be found online or in the Indian section of well-stocked supermarkets.
What is awesome about them is that they don't break down and turn to mush like other lentils. While they cook in about a half hour, they can keep cooking for hours without falling apart. They're very forgiving.
Whole black urad lentils also much creamier than other lentils, which makes them perfect for curries. When you're looking for them, you may find that they are called Sabut Urad dal, Kaali dal, or Black Gram. So many aliases! 🙂
Coconut Black Lentil Curry (vegan dal makhani)
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- 1 cup dried whole urad dal
- ¼ cup dried black chickpeas, see notes
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 2 inch piece ginger, finely minced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
- 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric and chili powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 15 ounce can coconut milk
- Place the urad dal and black chickpeas in a pot and cover with a few inches of water. Set aside to soak for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.1 cup dried whole urad dal, ¼ cup dried black chickpeas
- Drain the water from the pot and add fresh water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot, and let it cook until the chickpeas are soft, about 1 hour. Drain and rinse.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the oil begins to glisten, about 5 minutes.1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 large onion, 2 inch piece ginger, 4 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds, 3 medium tomatoes
- Add 1 cup of water, the garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and the cooked urad lentils and black chickpeas to the pan and stir. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon curry powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric and chili powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Using the back of a spoon, mash a few of the lentils. Stir in the coconut milk and heat through. Taste and add more salt if you'd like.15 ounce can coconut milk