Usha’s Slow Cooker Dal Makhani

I bought a slow cooker/crockpot years ago when I used to eat meat, tempted by all those promises of perfectly tender stews that cooked up by themselves while you slept or went to work. I probably used it a half a dozen times and then, once I turned vegan, it went right into the kitchen graveyard along with my poultry roaster, turkey baster and tenderizing mallet.

Then recently, browsing through Usha’s blog, I saw her recipe for Dal Makhani made in a crockpot. I had been looking for a recipe to send to Nupur’s Blog Bites: Cookers event, and I love Dal Makhani which I usually just make on the stove top, so everything seemed to be just fortuitously coming together.

I’ve never used my crockpot for cooking beans, partly because most recipes I saw require you to boil the beans and lentils beforehand which — I think– pretty much defeats the purpose of one-pot cooking. But in her recipe, Usha just asks you to soak the beans and lentils for about eight hours, which sounded doable. (You do need to saute the onions and tomatoes and spices separately before adding them to the lentils in the crockpot).

I made just a couple of changes to Usha’s recipe. For one, I added a handful of kasoori methi leaves to the makhani halfway through the cooking, at the stage where she recommends adding salt.

And of course, since mine is a dairy-free kitchen, I finished the dish with a tablespoon of vegan butter or margarine (I use Earth Balance), which gave it a creamy flourish that was just perfect.

The makhani was rich and flavorful, and the slow cooking really enhanced the richness of the lentils and the spices while also allowing them to meld smoothly with each other. Wonderful.

Thanks, Usha, for a delicious recipe. And thanks, Nupur, for your motivating event!

Since it’s St. Patty’s Day tomorrow, I couldn’t help but repost a link to my totally vegan, totally delicious whole-wheat Irish soda bread. Enjoy it with a pat of vegan margarine or by itself.

Enjoy, all!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

20 thoughts on “Usha’s Slow Cooker Dal Makhani

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    March 17, 2010 at 12:25pm

    Oh, Vaishali, that looks so good, and I am very glad you were able to use your slow cooker again. Thanks so much for an excellent entry- I have added it to the round up.

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    March 17, 2010 at 2:39pm

    Vaishali I am so glad you tried and liked my recipe. Its turned out wonderfully ! Thanks for letting me know….I love the idea of adding kasuri methi to this, will do that the next time I make this !

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    March 17, 2010 at 4:47pm

    That sounds awesome..sure it will be much more tastier than the normal one. Great Irish bread too :-)

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    March 17, 2010 at 5:02pm

    It is so nice that you had tried it and given us a feed back. I try stuff and never blog about it.

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    March 17, 2010 at 11:29pm

    Nice tempting dish in a slow cooker. looks so good :)

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    March 18, 2010 at 12:29am

    Dal makhani looks really tasty….I have never tried this with slow cooker though I too have a very small one hiding somewhere in the kitchen :) may be I can try this in small quantities in my slow cooker.

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    March 18, 2010 at 1:40am

    I don’t own a slow cooker but u guys make me rethink! This one looks delicious and perfectly blended!

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    March 19, 2010 at 4:59am

    Hey Vaishali, great entry! Nice to see you actually got your stashed-away cooker out for this event! :)

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    March 26, 2010 at 1:53am

    I attempted this recipe (somewhat) unsuccessfully. It tasted pretty good considering I used the terrible tomatoes that we get here in Edmonton during the winter, however, the dal didn’t cook right. Rather than softening, breakening down and thickening the dal, the lentils remained intact, almost dry in texture, and seperate from the water/”gravy” rather than incorporated into it like dal should be. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong? I even left it going an extra hour and a half with no improvement.

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    March 26, 2010 at 1:29pm

    Liam, Here are a couple of thoughts:
    Did you soak the dal and beans long enough?
    Also, did you wait until you were at least halfway through the cooking to add salt, because salt does disrupt the cooking of lentils.
    Other than that, I cannot imagine what may have happened– it is true that the dal will not break down and become as mushy in the slow cooker as it does in a pressure cooker or even on the stove top, but it does cook up really tender.

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    March 26, 2010 at 1:43pm

    I soaked the lentils overnight (I think about 12 hours) and actually did not end up adding any salt. Maybe I’ll just stick to stovetop then. Thanks!
    p.s. I’m in love with your soda bread! I used to make it all the time with butter and buttermilk before I went vegan – I’ve made yours a couple times since, and it’s pretty darn close to the real thing!

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    December 26, 2010 at 11:04pm

    Love the idea of slow cooker Indian!! I just discovered Anupy Singla’s “The Indian Slow Cooker” book which is mostly vegan or easily vegan adaptable and they are SIMPLE! She uses dried beans, unsoaked and most of the recipes you dump everything in at once and push the button. A couple have you cook the mustard seeds, etc…on the stove at the end but SO EASY!!
    I have some of my totally NOVICE experience with slow cooker and Indian food written about at
    But you might LOVE this book!! I stumbled upon it upon accident because I only look in the vegan book sections.

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    July 2, 2011 at 3:18am

    Came to check for a recipe of dal makhni since i remembered vaguely that I have seen one. one word of HUGE Caution. Do not cook rajma in a slow cooker. Quoted from wiki

    “Raw kidney beans, and to a lesser extent some other beans (such as broad/fava beans), contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin, which is destroyed by boiling for at least ten minutes, but not by the lower temperatures of a slow cooker, so dry beans must be boiled prior to slow cooking to avoid poisoning. Even a few beans can be toxic, and beans can be as much as five times more toxic if cooked at 175 °F (80 °C) than if eaten raw, so adequate pre-boiling is vital. Cases of poisoning by slow-cooked beans have been published in the UK; poisoning has occurred in the USA but has not been formally reported. This risk can be avoided entirely by using canned cooked beans, adding them towards the end of the recipe’s cooking time”

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