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Indian Butter Lentils

Indian Butter Lentils

indian butter lentils recipe

Despite its extended preparation time, butter lentils are best homemade and served with naan.
By Faith Gorsky
Butter Lentils recipe

Indian Butter Lentils
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 cup (140 g) dried whole black lentils (urad dal)
  • ½ cup (70 g) dried small red beans or kidney beans
  • 8 cups (1.9 L) low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, crushed using a mortar and pestle or grated on a microplane
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole pods cardamom, cracked open
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 dried small hot red chilies (more or less to taste)
  • 1½ tablespoons garam masala spice mix
  • ¾ teaspoon each ground coriander, cumin, chili powder, and sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon each ground fenugreek and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 (14 oz/400 g) can petite diced tomatoes (preferably no-salt-added)
  • 1 (6 oz/170 g) tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter (preferably grass-fed), cut into 4 pieces
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  1. Add the black lentils and red beans to a large bowl; fill the bowl with room temperature water and soak overnight. Rinse and drain the next day.
  2. Add the lentils and beans to a 5-quart pot along with the vegetable stock. Bring up to a boil, then cover the pot, turn heat down to simmer, and cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and deep caramel in color, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a splash of water or turn the heat down at any point if the onions start to get too dark or the pan starts to get too hot.
  4. Once the onion is caramelized, turn the heat to medium (if it wasn’t there already) and add the garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, red chilies, garam masala, coriander, cumin, chili powder, sweet paprika, fenugreek, and black pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  6. Once the lentils and beans have cooked for 1 hour, stir in the onion/spice mixture, the salt, the diced tomatoes, and the tomato paste.
  7. Gently simmer (uncovered) until the sauce is somewhat thickened and the lentils and beans are fully tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring frequently. (Of course you can cover the pot if the sauce gets too thick before the lentils and beans are tender.)
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and cream.
  9. Serve with rice or Indian flatbread (such as naan or chapatis), garnished with anything you like. (I garnished mine with thinly sliced red onion, jalapeno peppers, and curled scallion; to curl the scallion, thinly slice it and soak it in ice water for 15 minutes, then pat dry.)

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