Dal makhani was a staple in United India before partition. It was popularized in India following partition, when many people from the Punjab migrated to the northern regions of India. As the Punjabi diaspora migrated across India and internationally, the dish was introduced to local consumers by entrepreneurial Punjabi migrants Kundan Lal Gujral who opened the Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj, Delhi, India. Dal makhani is now universally recognized as a quintessentially Indian dish, and variations of the fare are served in a wide variety of eateries and restaurants internationally. Dal Makhani’s popularity is due in part to its versatility and the rich vegetarian dish can be served as a main meal, included in a buffet (thali) or as an accompaniment to a principal meal. In India, soups and curries with a red or yellow lentil base are an important staple; however, due to dal makhani's rich texture and lengthy preparation process, many Indians only consume the dish on days of significance, such as birthdays, national holidays, weddings and religious observances.
The traditional preparation of dal makhani involves a series of time-consuming procedures, which can take up to 24 hours to complete. However, with the availability of modern cooking equipment, including electric pressure cookers, the preparation time of the dish has reduced significantly to 2–3 hours.