As far as my family is concerned, these are Lentils with a capital “L”. My Instant Pot Quick Lentil Curry is loosely based on Indian dal, but with ingredients from my American pantry. When I try to make lentils some other way - Italian style, say, or with bacon, I get an earful. “What’s this? It doesn’t taste right. These aren’t lentils.”
These lentils are my daughter’s comfort meal. When I ask “does anyone have any requests for dinner next week?“, she always says “Lentils!” The rest of the family enjoys it, too…except for my oldest, my picky eater. He despises it. His note in my birthday card, just last week:
You’re the sweetest. Unless you make me lentils. Just kidding. ❤️
(He’s not kidding - he wrote this before I started cooking this recipe.)
With three kids, I know some recipes will split the vote...but none are quite this divisive, loved and hated in equal measure. I enjoy these lentils too, so I use Lord Vetinari’s rule of Democracy: “One man, one vote. I’m the one man; I have the vote.”1 And I vote for lentils.
I cooked lentils for years on the stovetop, but I switched to the pressure cooker version, and I never looked back. The set it and forget it Instant Pot makes this a mostly hands-free meal. Most of the active time is dicing and sauteing the onions; once I set the pressure cooking time, I can walk away and trust the lentils to be ready to serve in about 20 minutes. (That said, don't skip the sauteing step - cooking the onions and toasting the spices adds a lot of flavor to the recipe.)
So, here it is: our family favorite Lentils, Instant Pot Quick Lentil Curry. Enjoy!
This is a simple dried bean recipe, so the ingredients list is pretty basic
- Brown Lentils
- Curry Powder
See recipe card for quantities.
Lentils: Brown lentils are just "lentils" in my area. You can substitute green lentils if you want a firmer lentil in your curry.
I use a standard "curry powder" from Penzeys spices, but the curry powder at your local grocery store will work great in this recipe.
There isn't any heat in this dish. If you want a hotter curry, go with a hot curry powder, or add up to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper with the curry powder.
A 6-quart pressure cooker. Pressure cooker dried beans are one of the reasons I became a pressure cooker convert, and love my Instant Pot. Try them - you’ll never go back to canned beans. (OK, maybe you will, for convenience - but see the Storage section for tips on make ahead freezer beans.)
This recipe scales down easily - cut everything in half if you don’t need as many beans, or have a 3-quart pressure cooker. Scaling up runs into space issues; if you have an 8-quart pressure cooker, you can double this recipe, but it’s too much to fit in a 6-quart pressure cooker.
🤨 Soaking lentils?
I get the “to soak, or not to soak?” question all the the time. Don't soak lentils. They cook too quickly - if you soak them, they fall apart when pressure cooked.
💡Tips and Tricks
- Salt your lentil water! “Salt toughens beans” is a myth. Salting before cooking helps season the beans all the way through as they cook.
- Try to buy lentils from a store with lots of bean turnover. Beans dry out as they age, which makes them a little tougher to cook.
- Quick releasing the pressure thickens the broth. The sudden pressure release shocks the water into a vigorous boil, which roughs up the lentils and releases starch into the liquid. If you don’t want the mess or noise of a quick release, cut the pressure cooking time back to 10 minutes and go with a natural pressure release, and then puree a cup of the lentils and stir them back into the pot to thicken the broth.
- Basmati rice is the traditional side dish, but I usually serve it with Jasmine rice, which has a similar taste, but is much cheaper.
Instant Pot Quick Lentil Curry. Comforting lentils with curry powder from my Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker).
- 1 pound lentils, sorted and rinsed (brown lentils are "lentils" in my area)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
- 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (optional)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
- 6 cups water
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- Rinse the lentils: Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Let stand to drain while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Sauté the aromatics and spices: Melt the butter in the pressure cooker over medium heat until the butter stops foaming. (Use sauté mode in an Instant Pot). Add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the pot, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon curry powder. Sauté until the onion softens and the curry powder starts to smell toasty, about 5 minutes. Stir the lentils into to the pot, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned onions or spices. Pour in the 6 cups of water and add 1½ teaspoons of salt. Lock the lid.
- Pressure cook the lentils for 12 minutes with a quick pressure release: Pressure cook on high pressure for 12 minutes in an electric PC (Use “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot), or for 10 minutes in a stovetop PC. When the cooking time is done, quick release the pressure.
- Serve: Remove the lid from the pressure cooker, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam. Stir the lentils, and taste for doneness. If the lentils aren’t soft enough, simmer for another five minutes or so (don’t bring back to pressure – use simmer mode on the cooker or simmer on the stovetop). Serve with rice.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Weeknight Dinner
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: Instant Pot Lentil Curry, Pressure Cooker Lentil Curry
These lentils will last in the refrigerator for a few days, and freeze for up to 6 months. I freeze leftovers in 2-cup containers, and they're ready to eat after about 5 minutes in the microwave.
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- Um...unless my wife doesn’t agree. Hi, honey! ↩