Instant Pot Dal with green or brown lentils simmered in bold aromatic broth is balanced out by the creaminess of coconut milk for an unforgettable taste explosion. A gluten free, vegan 30 minute one pot meal!
You can enjoy other Instant Pot meat free meals too, like Instant Pot vegetarian chili, mac n’ cheese, or minestrone!
Table of contents
Dal is traditionally simmered for a long period until the beans, lentils, or peas (also known as pulses) have split and become tender and creamy. The pressure cooker does it in just 30 minutes!
The bold and flavorful seasoning blend of earthy spices like garam masala, coriander, cayenne, and chili powder gives this comfort food an unforgettable flavor. The cooling effect of the creamy coconut milk brings a lovely balance to the entire Instant Pot dal recipe.
Why Make Instant Pot Lentil Curry Recipe?
- Budget-friendly: Instant Pot dal is a one pot meal that uses cost effective lentils you can buy in bulk!
- Easy: These dried beans require no pre-soaking!
- Highly nutritious: Provides protein, complex carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals like iron, potassium, folate and are loaded with antioxidants.
- Authentic flavor: Made with beautiful aromatic spices that taste just like you’d find at your favorite Indian restaurant (or you know, India).
What is dal? A variety of ways to prepare dried lentils or other pulses. It usually resembles a thick puréed soup. There are also many ways to spell it (dahl, dhal, or daal included)!
Ingredients for Instant Pot Dal
- Onion, garlic, and ginger: Chopped onion. Minced fresh garlic and ginger.
- Seasonings: Garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder, salt, and cayenne.
- Oil: Can use olive oil, or coconut oil. If you are OK with regular butter or ghee, you can use that too, keeping in mind it will no longer be vegan.
- Liquids: Low sodium vegetable broth and tomato paste. Coconut milk, either light or full fat.
- Lentils: Green, brown, black or red lentils, rinsed, and drained. When you become a pro at making dal, you can branch out and use many other times of pulses (peas, beans, or lentils).
- Optional: Cilantro, naan or pita bread, and yogurt for serving.
What Type of Lentils Are Used for Dal?
Dal is a way of cooking pulses and each type of dal comes with a different type of lentil. Each lentil has a name! These are just a few of many to get you started on your deep dive into learning about lentils 🙂
- This Instant Pot dal recipe: Use green, brown, black, or red lentils.
- Dal tadka or dal fry recipes: Use yellow split pigeon peas (also called toor dal or arhar dal).
- Dal makhani: Also called black dal and uses black lentils.
- Indian lentil curry – Use brown lentils (also called whole masoor dal).
How to Make Instant Pot Dal
- Sauté: Press the sauté button on the Instant Pot. When the display says Hot add the oil (or butter), onion, garlic, and ginger and stir occasionally.
- Add spices: To the pot, add in garam masala, coriander, chili powder, salt, and cayenne and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally.
- Deglaze: Add in the broth to deglaze the pot. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot so that they don’t burn. Press cancel.
- Pressure cook: Pour in the lentils and stir. Close the lid, set valve to Sealing, and pressure cook on high pressure or manual for 8 minutes. 10 minutes if you like your lentils very soft.
- Release pressure: Quick Release the pressure by turning the valve to Venting.
- Thicken the dal: Turn on saute mode again and add the coconut milk and tomato paste. Stir and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally until dal has thickened and the smell is mouthwatering.
Serve it up! Garnish cooked dal with fresh cilantro and serve with naan bread or some brown basmati rice.
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
So versatile! Instant Pot dal is very customizable to your taste preferences.
- Substitutions: Instead of garam masala you can use curry powder. You can also combine 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin and 1/2 tsp allspice.
- For heat: Add some green chili or dry red chili powder to up the heat a bit. Mustard seeds will add a bit of pungency.
- Other aromatic spices: Turmeric powder, coriander powder, ground mustard, or ground ginger if you don’t have fresh ginger.
- Dal gosht: Which means lentils with meat and add lamb or chicken to this recipe.
- Add veggies: Throw in some spinach or kale for some leafy greens. Peas and diced carrots would be great too.
Tips for Best Results
- Lentils: I like a bit of bite to my pulses, so I used green lentils at 8 minutes. For a mushier softer dal, use red lentils. Black lentils will remain intact and have a heartier texture.
- Consistency: Dal will thicken over time. If you are keeping it on the warm function or reheating the next day, add a bit of water or broth. Adjust the consistency to your liking.
- Coconut milk: I added to milk at the end vs. before cooking as an experiment and quite liked it. Coconut milk has a creamy soothing effect as well, for those occasions when you may be adding too much spice (perfect for this chicken curry)!
- Lemon juice: Think about squirting in some lemon juice just before serving. It will brighten it up just a bit!
Ways to use the rest of your lentils: Try my lentil casserole, chicken lentil soup, green lentil curry, and Instant Pot lentil soup!
Yes, follow similar instructions and once you’ve added the lentils and liquids, cover and lower the heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
If you’re not trying to keep it vegetarian or dairy free you can add some plain yogurt in there. Some others have tried cashew milk, oat milk, and heavy cream. You could also omit it completely.
That usually means it’s undercooked and is more likely to happen with brown or black lentils than it is with red. Cover with the lid and allow to sit and continue cooking for a bit.
Absolutely. Onion and garlic are aromatics that impart flavor, of course, but this dish has so many other flavor elements you’ll be fine without it.
How to Serve Instant Pot Dahl?
- Bread: Roti, naan, and pita bread are all great for dipping and eating with your hands!
- Greens: For a low carb option, enjoy with a salad, some steamed vegetables, or balsamic marinade for grilled vegetables.
- Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, basmati rice, or jasmine rice for a complete protein!
Meatless Monday! You don’t need to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy a bowl of dal all on its own as a twist to slow cooker lentil soup or Instant Pot split pea soup!
How to Store Leftovers?
Store: Dal will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Will make great leftovers for healthy lunch ideas and dinners throughout the week.
Freeze: Once fully cooked and completely cooled, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. If you have made a big batch, store it in smaller batches and only thaw what you need.
Can I make this dal recipe as a freezer meal? To make this a healthy freezer meal, you’ll want to sauté the garlic, onions, and spices first. Then freeze everything except broth, coconut milk, and tomato paste in a freezer friendly airtight container. This way you can skip the initial sauté step and just dump with broth and set it to cook!
Reheat: In a covered pot, simmer on low. Stir occasionally. You might need to add more water or broth to achieve your desired consistency.
More Lentil Recipes
- Instant Pot lentil soup
- Red lentil soup
- Lentil spinach soup
- Chicken and lentil casserole
- Slow cooker lentil vegetable soup
You might also enjoy browsing through my complete collection of vegetarian Instant Pot recipes!
Instant Pot Dal
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp ginger minced
- 1 tbsp oil or butter
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- Pinch of cayenne to taste
- 2 cups vegetable broth low sodium
- 2 cups green brown, black or red lentils, rinsed & drained
- 14 oz can coconut milk light or full fat
- 3 oz tomato paste low sodium
- Cilantro naan or pita bread and yogurt, for serving
- On Instant Pot, press Saute and wait until display says Hot.
- Add oil or butter, onion, garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garam masala, coriander, chili powder, salt and cayenne. Saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Add broth and deglaze the pot. Press Cancel.
- Add lentils and stir. Close the lid, set valve to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 8 minutes. If you like very soft lentils, do 10 minutes.
- After release pressure right away using Quick Release by turning valve to Venting.
- Press Saute and add coconut milk and tomato paste. Stir and cook for 10 minutes uncovered and stirring occasionally. This is when dal will thicken.
- Serve hot garnished with cilantro and naan bread or rice on a side.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat in small pot on a stovetop covered on low and stirring occasionally. You might have to add a bit more water or broth to dilute dal to your desired consistency.
- Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- Freezer meal: Sauté the garlic, onions, and spices first. Then freeze everything except the broth, coconut milk, and tomato paste in a freezer friendly airtight container. At cooking time, add broth, proceed with cooking instructions.
- Lentils: I used green lentils and 8 minutes as I like a bit of a bite to my lentils. Black lentils will stay more intact and red will almost become a mush.
- Consistency: Add more water or broth if using Keep Warm or next day as dal thickens. Generally, adjust consistency to your liking.
- Garam masala substitute: Use curry powder entirely or combine 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin+1/2 tsp allspice.
- Coconut milk after: I experimented and really liked adding coconut milk after pressure cooking. Stew comes out more creamy and milk doesn’t separate.
This was SO good! I’m a newbie to lentils, but this was really easy and tasty. No idea what it’s supposed to taste like because I’ve never had dal before, but now I’ll HAVE to get it at an Indian restaurant because I liked it so much! My husband did, as well. Not so much the toddler and preschooler, but we’ll work on that 😉
I’m so happy to read this! Thanks for your positive feedback! I get it about the kids, they will get there.
Incredible recipe. Doubled the garlic, heavy handed with the ginger, and added significantly more cayenne than the recipe called for as we like spicy. Otherwise, followed the recipe and cooked for 9 minutes, the perfect consistency for us. Not too mushy, with some bite. Finish with liberal amount of cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime.
I’m so happy to read this! Thanks for your positive feedback!
I added 2 tablespoons of Gojuchang to this recipe and it was AMAZING! Thank you so much!
That sounds like a delicious addition! Thanks for sharing!
Is there a substitution for coriander?
Fast, easy, flavorful meal from pantry staples. My teens and hubby all enjoyed. : )
So happy to hear this Elissa!
I love Dhal and used to order at the restaurant as I didn’t know how to cook it. This Instant Pot recipe is affordable, accessible, and very flavourful! This is one of my top vegetarian recipes.
Thanks for sharing Anna!