Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal Recipe

This creamy and flavorful dish comes in many varieties, according to The Better India, with each region in India embracing their own favorite. Registered dietician and recipe developer Kristen Carli loves serving this plant-based dish on busy weeknights because it is quick and healthy since lentils are full of protein and fiber and contain little fat. Die-hard meat fans can add cooked shredded chicken just before serving if they want. 

With the Instant Pot, you'll have dinner ready in no time at all, including prepping your ingredients, cook time, and garnishing the dish. All you need is olive oil, an onion, two carrots, water, red lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, ground cumin, paprika, curry powder, salt, pepper, a can of coconut cream, brown rice, lemon juice, and cilantro. Dal is easy, healthy, and delicious ... what else could you want?

Prepare your ingredients for this dal recipe

First, gather your ingredients together. You'll need to dice an onion and two carrots (or make the recipe even quicker by purchasing your veggies pre-cut). The dish also requires some olive oil, red lentils, a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, ground cumin, paprika, curry powder, salt, pepper, and a 15-ounce can of coconut cream. Before you serve, take a bowl of brown rice and top it with the dal. Garnish with lemon juice and cilantro.

Red lentils do not require soaking prior to preparing the recipe, but you should wash them off before using.

Start the stock with the oil, carrots, and onions

While this recipe is cooked in the Instant Pot, according to Carli, you could also make the dish on the stove top if you prefer. She advises simmering it for at least 20 minutes if you choose to use this method. With the Instant Pot, you'll prepare the carrots and onions on the sauté setting. This high heat will cook the vegetables quickly without losing any of their flavor or texture. 

Start by heating up a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the diced onion and carrots. Cook until the onion looks soft. This should take about five minutes.

Add the remainder of the ingredients

The next step is where your kitchen becomes scented with spices. Add to the Instant Pot four cups of water, two cups of lentils, the 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and a teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika, curry powder and salt. Add the half teaspoon of pepper. 

Turn off the sauté setting because it's time to get cooking. Make sure the silicone ring of your Instant Pot is aligned properly since it can sometimes shift. You'll want to ensure there is some wiggle room so it can expand during cooking. Then you'll close the lid and set the valve to sealing. Set the pressure cook for four minutes.

Put in the coconut cream and stir

Soon, you'll smell the pungent curry, the peppery paprika and the nutty cumin as the dish finishes cooking. Don't rush things — you should allow the Instant Pot to naturally release. This allows the pressure to lift slowly without any effort from you. When it fully dissipates, the lid unlocks and opens.

When this occurs, it's time to add the 15-ounce can of coconut cream. Be sure you get coconut cream and not milk, which is made with water so it's much thinner than the cream. Stir all the ingredients well until the coconut cream is fully absorbed.

Get ready to enjoy your efforts

Serve the dal over brown rice for a whole grain option. Alternatively, you can make this with vegetable paratha or naan bread for dipping, said Carli. The secret, though, is to top the dal with the lemon juice ("It makes all the difference," insists Carli) and cilantro, which will enhance the fresh, citrusy flavor.

Enjoy the dal immediately after you remove it from the Instant Pot, or store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days and have it all week long. This recipe also freezes well and can last for three months. It's a perfect dish to cook and save for a rainy day.

Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal Recipe
5 from 34 ratings
We love serving this plant-based dish on busy weeknights because it is quick and healthy since lentils are full of protein and fiber and contain little fat.
Prep Time
Cook Time
red lentil dal served
Total time: 11 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce can) coconut cream
Optional Ingredients
  • Brown rice, for serving
  • Lemon juice, for serving
  • Cilantro, for topping
  1. In the Instant Pot on the sauté setting, add olive oil.
  2. Add diced onion and carrots. Saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add water, lentils, diced tomatoes, and spices. Turn off the sauté setting. Close lid and set valve to sealing. Pressure cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Allow to naturally release. Open lid and pour in coconut cream. Stir well.
  5. Serve over brown rice. Top with lemon juice and cilantro.
Calories per Serving 456
Total Fat 8.8 g
Saturated Fat 4.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 73.1 g
Dietary Fiber 15.3 g
Total Sugars 8.2 g
Sodium 633.5 mg
Protein 25.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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