Dal Bukhara, a rich, flavorful lentil preparation made famous by the ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi can be rightly called as the close cousin of Dal Makhani. The major difference is unlike dal makhani, Dal Bukhara is made only with whole black gram (urad dal) sans kidney beans (rajma). The robustness in a Dal Bukhara recipe is brought by slow-cooking it overnight on a tandoor and the addition of few other ingredients, but originally the recipe consists minimal ingredients. This is what brings out the best in it.
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About Dal Bukhara
Dal Bukhara, the more refine version of the very well-known dal makhani, is nothing but whole black gram (urad dal) slow-cooked with tomato puree, choices of spices and herbs, and finished with copious amounts of cream and butter. This is exactly how it should be kept, for the real essence of the dish can only be experienced this way.
Dal Bukhara as a dish rose to fame when Chef Madan Jaiswal of the renowned Bukhara restaurant at ITC Maurya, New Delhi created it for its guests and patrons. It was well-received by all and has been associated with many accolades since then.
Traditionally, Dal Bukhara is slow-cooked on charcoal ovens in restaurants. But this version is recreated at home and hence involves pressure cooking the lentils in the initial stage, followed by slow-cooking the dish on a stove-top.
I call this version of Dal Bukhara as my ‘labor of love’ towards cooking and food in general. Since the time I had a rendezvous with this simply amazing dish, I’d wanted to recreate it in my home.
To begin with, I experimented and made Dal Bukhara twice and felt something was missing. The third time it came close to the original one. The only aspect missing was the charcoal flavor.
So, I read more and more on how to bring that touch of uniqueness and got myself accustomed to the technique of smoking, popularly known as dhungar. Details on this are in the notes section after the recipe card. You can also find more about this technique in my recipe of Dal Tadka.
I have not slow-cooked the lentils overnight on tandoor, because neither I have wooden or charcoal embers nor do I have a tandoor at home. I don’t even have a slow-cooker that would do a similar job.
So, I have pressure cooked the lentils first and then slowly simmered the dal with tomato, cream, butter and ginger-garlic for 1 hour 25 mins, on low heat.
This Dal Bukhara recipe is quite rich because of the amount of butter and cream that goes into the preparation. I did try with a lesser amount of butter and cream and it just had that ‘something is missing or just not right’ thing about it.
To get the real taste and feel, I would recommend not to reduce the cream or butter. Just make sure to run an extra mile or exercise a bit more to burn all the ‘sin’ that you are going to consume!
I have used unsalted white butter and 25% low-fat cream (a.k.a light cream). You can use any good brand of butter and 25% to 35% light cream or whipping cream. I served this Dal Bukhara with jeera rice and some onions by the side.
You can also try it with naan, lachha paratha, phulka, tandoori roti or khasta roti, and decide for yourself which combination is the best.
How to make Dal Bukhara
Prep and Cook Lentils
1. Soak 1.5 cups whole black gram (urad dal) in enough water overnight or for 7 to 8 hours. Drain them later and add to a 3 or 4-litre stove-top pressure cooker.
Add 4.5 to 5 cups water and pressure cook the lentils for 16 to 18 whistles or about 18 to 20 minutes. The photo below is of the soaked and drained lentils.
Note that you can choose to cook the lentils in an Instant Pot instead of a stove-top pressure cooker. For cooking in Instant Pot, add 4.5 cups of water or as needed and pressure cook lentils on high for 25 minutes. Wait for natural pressure release and after 18 to 20 minutes open the lid. Lift the pressure valve first to release any steam or pressure and then only open the lid.
2. As the lentils are getting cooked, make a smoooth and fine puree of 250 grams tomatoes (3 medium to large tomatoes) in a blender.
Crush 1 inch ginger and 4 to 5 medium garlic cloves to a paste (2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste) in a mortar-pestle.
3. When the pressure settles down naturally in the cooker, then only open the lid of the pressure cooker. The lentils should be cooked well and softened.
4. Now add the prepared ginger-garlic paste, tomato puree, 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, 6 to 7 tablespoons white butter, 7 to 8 tablespoons low fat cream or light cream, 1 to 1.5 cups water and salt.
If using heavy cream or whipping cream add 3 to 4 tablespoons of it.
Make Dal Bukhara
5. Mix very well and keep the pressure cooker on low heat on the stovetop, without its lid.
For the Instant pot, after the lentils have cooked, use the sauté function and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or more until you get the desired consistency. Stir often.
6. Let the dal simmer for about 1 hour or more. Meanwhile keep on stirring often, so that the lentils don’t stick at the bottom of the cooker.
7. Towards the end, check the taste and add more red chili powder or salt if required. Lastly, sprinkle ½ teaspoon garam masala powder and stir well.
The consistency of dal bukhara is not runny or watery. So if your dal bukhara looks runny, then continue to cook further.
8. While serving Dal Bukhara, dot with 1 tablespoon butter or cream. Serve hot with Jeera Rice and onion salad.
My Journey with Dal Bukhara
I first came across this simple, but celebrated lentil dish in Femina magazine many years ago. The recipe section featured some chef’s chosen ones from ITC Maurya, in which the Dal Bukhara recipe was also shared.
When I read the Dal Bukhara recipe first time, I was surprised that it bore close resemblance to butter chicken or paneer makhani. Also, dal makhani was not in my repertoire then.
Today, I can say that the sauce made for Dal Bukhara and dal makhani is similar to butter chicken. What I felt and thought many years back is confirmed in an excellent informative piece here by Vir Sanghvi.
I had started collecting recipe cut-outs and keeping them safe in my dairy. But with we shifting our home a few times and along with usual changes in life, Dal Bukhara became a forgotten recipe.
When I started food blogging, I went back to my diary for the recipe and could just find a few pages left of the many that I had kept. Out of the pages that were misplaced amidst the hustle-bustle, one of them had the authentic Dal Bukhara recipe of the ITC Maurya fame. This really hurt me back then.
But due to my innate nature of not giving up and a true fondness for food, I was able to recollect the ingredients that were used in the original recipe. Just to be sure, I also bought a ready-to-eat Dal Bukhara pack to cross-check the list. It helped me confirm about the ingredients, and then I never looked back. It did take me a few trials and a lot of patience until I developed a Dal Bukhara recipe that I could be proud of.
- While cooking the dal on simmer, the lentils become viscous and start to stick at the bottom of the cooker if not stirred. The lentils would become creamy and the consistency of the dal will keep on thickening. You can add some hot water to avoid the dal from getting too thick. Also, sake sure to keep mashing some of the lentils while stirring.
- Use lentils that are within their shelf life and fresh. Do not use aged lentils as they take a lot of time to cook and do not taste good.
- The consistency of Dal Bukhara is similar to dal makhani.
- You can garnish Dal Bukhara with ginger juliennes and also serve with Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha or roti.
Dal Bukhara is a rich, creamy dal. Not adding the cream would result in some flavor loss. So, it is best to add the cream.
You can use whipping cream instead of fresh cream in this recipe. But make sure to add the whipping cream in lesser quantity, about 3 to 4 tablespoons as it is higher in fat content.
You should cook this dal on low heat as this recipe calls for cooking of the dal slowly.
This recipe will give you a Dal Bukhara that is very close to the restaurant style one. Also, in order to bring in an exact richness as the restaurant one, make sure you don’t omit adding the cream and butter.
Yes, you can.
This dish is called Dal Bukhara after Chef Madan Jaiswal of the world-famous Bukhara restaurant at ITC Maurya, New Delhi created it for its diners.
The major difference is that the main ingredient in Dal Bukhara is whole black gram or urad dal and it does not have kidney beans or rajma in it. On the other hand, dal makhani has both these as the main ingredients of the dish. Dal makhani is also less rich as compared to Dal Bukhara.
Please be sure to rate this recipe in the recipe card below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Dal Bukhara Recipe
- 1.5 cups whole black gram or whole urad dal (black matpe, urad bean)
- 250 grams tomatoes or 3 medium to large tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste or 1 inch ginger + 4 to 5 medium garlic cloves- crushed finely in a mortar-pestle
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or deghi mirch – if using a hotter variety then use ½ teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- 90 to 100 grams white butter or regular butter – about 6 to 7 tablespoons white butter
- 7 to 8 tablespoon light cream or 25% to 30% fat or 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 4.5 to 5 cups water for pressure cooking the lentils
- 1 to 1.5 cup water – to be added later
- 1 inch ginger – julienned for garnish, optional
- 1 tablespoon butter or cream for garnishing, optional
- salt as required
- Soak the lentils in enough water overnight or for 7 to 8 hours.
- Drain them later and rinse a couple of times. Transfer the lentils to a 3 or 4 litre pressure cooker.
- Add 4.5 to 5 cups water and pressure cook the lentils for 16 to 18 whistles or about 18 to 20 minutes on medium heat.
- When the lentils are getting cooked, make a fine, smooth puree of the tomatoes in a blender and crush the ginger and garlic to a paste in mortar-pestle.
Making dal bukhara
- When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid of the pressure cooker.
- Then add the ginger-garlic paste, tomato puree, Kashmiri red chili powder, butter, cream and salt. Also add 1 to 1.5 cups of water.
- Stir very well and keep the pressure cooker on low heat, without its lid on. Let the dal simmer for about 1 hour or 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Keep stirring often, so that the lentils don't stick at the bottom of the cooker. Also mash some of the lentils while stirring.
- If the dal becomes thick, then add some hot water. Once done, check the taste and add more red chili powder or salt if required.
- Lastly sprinkle garam masala powder and stir well.
- While serving Dal Bukhara, dot with butter or cream. Garnish with ginger juliennes (optional).
- Serve hot with jeera rice or with Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha or roti.
How to bring charcoal flavor in Dal Bukhara
- Secure firmly a small piece of coal between tongs.
- Heat it in the flame till it becomes red hot.
- Now place the red hot coal in a small steel bowl. Place this bowl on top of the cooked Dal Bukhara in the cooker.
- Pour a few teaspoons of ghee (oil or butter) on the coal and quickly cover the lid of the cooker tightly.
- Keep for a few minutes and then open the lid. If you want a pronounced charcoal flavor in the Dal Bukhara, then you have to keep for a few minutes more.
Instant Pot Dal Bukhara
- Transfer the rinsed and soaked lentils to a steel insert of an 8 quart Instant pot. Add 4.5 cups water or as needed. Pressure cook on high for 25 minutes.
- After the pressure cooking is complete allow for natural pressure release. So wait for 18 to 20 minutes. Later lift the pressure valve to check if there is any pressure or steam. Open the lid.
- Add in the tomato puree, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, cream, butter, salt and water as needed.
- Mix thoroughly. Press the sauté function and simmer lentils for about 12 to 15 minutes or more until you get the desired consistency which is nether thick or thin. Stir often so as to ensure that the lentils do not get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Lastly add the garam masala powder and mix well. While serving garnish with some cream or dot with butter.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Dal Bukhara post from the blog archives first published in April 2014 has been republished and updated on 24 April 2022.