Instant Pot Lentil Curry

Let’s talk dinner beauty. One-pot, WOW-flavor, inexpensive, how-can-something-this-easy-taste-this-good? meal gorgeousness. This simple, healthy Instant Pot Lentil Curry could be a dinner pageant queen!

Easy, CREAMY Instant Pot Lentil Curry. Amazing flavors, not too spicy, and it’s hands free, vegan, and healthy! Made with green or brown lentils, Indian spices, and coconut milk.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that if every recipe to come out of my kitchen could strut the red carpet, Instant Pot Lentil Curry would be the one to land the cover of Vogue. I’m talking meal inner beauty here.

Lentil Curry is humble. Her appearance is understated. She does not demand attention. Take one bite, however, and you’ll see immediately why this dinner rocketed to the top of the favorites list around here. (See also this humble yet amazing lentil curry: Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry.)

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Don’t be fooled by Instant Pot Lentil Curry’s modest appearance. Every bite is rich and lively, courtesy of fresh ingredients such as ginger and garlic and captivating Indian spices such as turmeric and curry powder.

In addition to its flavor, what I love most about this lentil curry is its indulgent, creamy texture. This is due in part to the addition of coconut milk but even more so to the way the lentils are cooked. I used light coconut milk and was worried the curry wouldn’t be creamy enough. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised! The texture was PERFECT. (Coconut milk is a go-to curry ingredient in this amazing Coconut Curry and this Chickpea Curry! No coconut milk on hand? Kathryn’s Quick and Easy Vegetarian Curry is made without.)

This Lentil Curry was the very first recipe I tried in my Instant Pot. Cooking lentils in an Instant Pot isn’t a huge time saver because lentils are fairly quick cooking already, BUT using the Instant Pot did make an incredible difference in three important ways. (I’ve since compiled a list of my favorite 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes! Check it out!)

The best Indian Lentil Curry, made in the instant pot! Easy, creamy, and healthy!

One, TEXTURE. Cooking lentils in the Instant Pot makes them marvelously creamy while maintaining just enough texture so that they do not taste mushy. If you’ve ever cooked lentils (and you definitely should—they are one of the most delicious, healthy, and inexpensive ingredients you can buy), you know this can be a tricky balance to strike. Cooking the lentils in the Instant Pot resulted in textbook creamy lentils, and I never even needed to stir the pot.

Two, ONE POT. Most lentil curry recipes require two pots, one for cooking the lentils and one for simmering the coconut curry sauce. With this recipe, everything happens right in the Instant Pot, so you only have one dish to wash at the end.

Three, HANDS FREE. As soon as the aromatics were sautéed, all I needed to do was stir in the lentils and coconut milk, seal the Instant Pot, and walk away. After 15 minutes of cooking time, our creamy Lentil Curry was ready to serve.

Easy Instant Pot Lentil Curry. An easy, healthy, vegan recipe that cooks in ONE POT! Green or brown lentils with flavorful Indian spices and coconut milk. It’s fast, hands free, and you’ll love the leftovers!

The finishing touch to this recipe is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice after the lentils have cooked. Don’t skip it! Its brightness is needed to balance the coconut curry flavors.

If you don’t yet have an Instant Pot, I do think this recipe could be adapted to the stove. I’ve included my best thoughts in the recipe notes below.

Instant Pot Lentil Curry Dal. Easy, healthy, vegan, and SO CREAMY! Made with Indian Spices and coconut milk.

As far as different types of lentils, if you are using an Instant Pot, I’d recommend sticking with green or brown lentils. (I’ve done the recipe both ways and each was delicious.) Red and yellow lentils are more delicate and didn’t hold up as well in the Instant Pot, so I wasn’t *as* smitten with their final texture. That said, if red or yellow lentils are all you have on hand (and you don’t mind a slightly mushier lentil curry), feel free to use them. If you are cooking the curry on the stove, the color of the lentils is less important. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

An Instant Pot Lentil Curry Recipe Update

HAPPY NEWS! This Instant Pot Lentil Curry has become one of my most popular recipes. It turns out you all love curry flavors in the Instant Pot as much as I do ❤. I’ve also added a recipe for Instant Pot Butter Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken and Rice, AND Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala. All are super flavorful, easy, and healthy Instant Pot recipes!

Recommended Tools to Make Instant Pot Lentil Curry

  • Instant Pot (other pressure/multicooker brands with a similar sauté and pressure cooking function should work too)
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Instant Pot Lentil Curry

Easy, creamy Instant Pot Lentil Curry. Amazing Indian flavors, not too spicy, healthy, and vegan! One pot recipe that’s completely hands free.

Yield: about 3 cups (4 to 6 servings)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use more for more spice or omit if sensitive to spice)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain the lentils, then set aside. Set the Instant Pot to sauté and add the coconut oil. Once the oil has melted, add 1 tablespoon water, the shallot, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until very fragrant and the shallot is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, coconut sugar, salt, turmeric, and cayenne and stir vigorously. Stand back and try not to breath in any of the steam coming from the pot (it’s spicy!). Add the lentils, coconut milk, and 1 cup of water. Stir to coat the lentils completely with the liquid.
  2. Hit cancel to stop the sauté function, seal the lid, then set to cook on HIGH pressure for 15 minutes. (It will take about 8 minutes for the pressure to build, then the timer will begin.) Once the timer has stopped, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then vent to release the pressure completely. Open the lid and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. If the curry is too thick, add a bit more water to loosen as needed. Serve hot with rice, sprinkled with cilantro.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days or freeze for 2 to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. The lentils thicken as they cool, so to reheat, sprinkle with a little water, vegetable or chicken stock, or coconut milk, then rewarm gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding more liquid as needed.
  • I do not recommend using red or yellow lentils in the Instant Pot, as their texture is more delicate and they tend to fall apart.
  • To make on the stove: Cook the lentils (you can use any kind of lentils you like). In a separate large, rimmed shallot, sauté the shallot, ginger, garlic, and spices as directed over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, then add the coconut milk and coconut sugar. Let simmer gently for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice and cooked lentils.

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

// All images and text ©Erin Clarke/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1/2 cup cooked lentils with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 315 Calories
  • Total Fat: 12g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 237mg
  • Carbohydrates: 59g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Sugar: 8g
  • Protein: 7g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

98 comments

  1. I just recently bought French green lentils from HomeGoods, and I cooked some last night. I believe I have just the right amount left to make this. Looking forward to it, especially since chilly temperatures are making themselves known! This would warm me right up. :)

  2. LOVE Curry and LOVE the IP. So making this!

  3. Oh this might make me want to buy an instant pot! Total beauty inside and out!

  4. Heather S Christo Reply

    I absolutely LOVE Lentil Curry, and will be making this very soon!

  5. Do you have a favorite curry powder? I’m sure they are not all the same. 
    Thanks,
    Ann

    • Hi Ann, I don’t have a favorite—you might ask the store for a recommendation, but above all, it should be fresh! I got my last bottle at Trader Joe’s and have been happy with it.

  6. This sounds wonderful, and like maybe a reason to think about getting an Instant Pot…  I don’t want to eat Indian curry with standard curry powder very often (just had it for lunch today), but when I want it, this recipe would be  a good choice.

  7. Yum! Love a good lentil dish! I need to start making healthier alternatives like this! (:

  8. Lentils are so filling, I love em’

  9. I can’t wait to try this!

  10. Another Instant recipe…I have GOT to get me one! I do love lentils, and put some curry with them? That is my kind of dish! I know the light coconut milk is healthier, but I sure do love the full fat version! The flavors here just sound so delicious!

  11. Yum! Perfect weeknight meal!

  12. YUM! Loving everything about this dish, Erin!  

  13. This sounds great! If you want to double the recipe are there any changes to time or anything else to consider?

    • Hi! Just make sure that you don’t fill the Instant Pot past the max fill line. Otherwise, I think you are fine to double. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  14. I’m going to show this recipe to my wife, even though I know that means I’ll need to buy her an Instant Pot. :-)

  15. I don’t have an instant pot. Yet. Would you tell me how I could make this using a slow cooker? Thanks!!

  16. Is this with unsoaked lentils?

  17. Made this dish yesterday for dinner. It doesn’t look very pretty, but the taste is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Kathy, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe, despite its humble appearance! Thanks so much for giving it a try and reporting back!

  18. Wow! I got an instant pot for Christmas and this is only my third recipe I’ve tried… needless to say it will be going on the rotation! It was SO good, so flavourful. I added a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne because I like it a bit spicier but wow, the flavours were amazing. I have a (recent) gluten/wheat allergy so I’m on the constant hunt for satisfying and filling weeknight meals and lentils are a new favourite. Thanks for sharing your recipe! Can’t wait to explore more.

    Rating: 5
    • WOOHOO Lauren! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this fabulous review. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the curry!

  19. This is so so good. The best I have ever had. I love my instant pot. I am so glad I made this dish.  Thank you so much for sharing. 

    Rating: 5
    • HOORAY Joanie! I’m glad to hear this recipe was a winner for you too! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  20. Made this tonight and we all LOVED it. Thank you so much for the recipe. I have 2 picky eaters and they said it was delicious. I served it without rice, just like that with a piece of garlic bread. Definitely a keeper.

    Rating: 5
    • HOORAY Melissa, I’m so happy to hear this recipe was a winner for your family! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this wonderful review!

  21. Very tasty.   Serve over brown rice. 

    Rating: 4
  22. Do you think this would freeze well? I’m looking for some new freezer recipes and this looks yummy!

  23. this is so delicious! I tried this once and I was hooked! This is now our favorite dahl recipe and we always make it this way now!

    Rating: 5
  24. Just purchased an Instant Pot and this was my first time using it. Turned out great! Thanks so much for the recipe.

    Rating: 4.5
  25. Wow! Great recipe. Easy and quick and so delicious. Love the flavors. This one is a keeper for sure!

    Rating: 5
  26. This dish is amazing and so easy! It is fast becoming my family’s favorite. We always have the ingredients on hand so it works for any night. I can not get enough! So creamy and perfect. Also I feel so great afterwards no matter how much I might “over eat” it. Thanks! 

    Rating: 5
    • HOORAY Blair, I’m glad to hear this recipe is a new family favorite! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this awesome review!

  27. When my (mostly meat-eating) daughter sent me a text and said the lentils were “amazing” I knew I found a winning recipe. I was pretty impressed myself. Thanks for all the great instructions and tips.From a wanna be vegetarian

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks so much for taking the time to report back, Penny! I’m so glad you and your daughter enjoyed the recipe.

  28. Can I substitute a jar coconut curry sauce and how many jars should I use for 1 and a half cups lentils?

    • Hi Dex, I haven’t tried the recipe any other way than as written, but if you want to give a jarred sauce a try, I’d suggest using about the same amount as the can of coconut milk, so around 14 ounces (a little more or less shouldn’t hurt) of sauce.

  29. Hi Erin, Thank you for the recipe! I’ve made it three times now and LOVE the flavors, and is one I’ll make for years to come – I was wondering if I could your thoughts on some challenges I’ve been having, mainly that I haven’t gotten through a cook without getting the burn error message. I’ve experimented with adding thinner ingredients (mainly different coconut milks) and a little bit with adding more water each time and trying to get things to the same consistency that I’m at with say, instant-pot rice for example. My only thought would be that maybe I’m letting the shallots/garlic sear to the pan a bit too much which leaves residue on the lower part of the pan, but I ‘ve vigorously scraped the bottom with a wood spoon after that step to try to eliminate any sticking caused by that. Looking forward to my 4th batch of super tasty lentils soon, truly is a fantastic recipe, and thanks for any pointers!

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Guthrie, I’m so glad to hear the recipe is a new favorite of yours! Unfortunately I haven’t run into the burn notice, so I’m afraid I don’t have any specific advice to offer. There may be additional troubleshooting resources to read through with an online search. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

      • Thanks Erin!

        All good re: advice (and no worries!) – I’ll keep experimenting :)

        Cheers,

        • I am getting the burn message as well. I also have some burned lentils to remove from the bottom of the pot. I did ‘coat’ the lentils in the liquids and added another cup and a half of water and got a second burn message. This is my second recipe with my instant pot. I put the lentils in the microwave to finish them off (they are a bit hard still).

          I have the 8 quart so maybe it’s that there is more area to ‘pressure’. The second time I got the burn error the pot had just reached the ‘pressure’ stage and then gave the burn error. Too bad. I bought my instant pot to add more legumes and lentils to my cooking :(

          If I can figure out what’s going on but will post again if I can figure this out. I thought perhaps I should have used canned lentils instead but I am sure that’s not the intention of the recipe. I am surprised with anybody who does not get the burn message on their pot as I have removed black lentils from the bottom. FYI, I did check the vent was closed too.

          • Lance, I am sure the size of the IP could have something to do with it. I haven’t had any issues with lentils burning in the 6 quart (and you definitely want to use dry as you did, not canned). I’d suggested looking online to see if you can find some lentil direction for an 8 quart, then adjust from there.

          • Hey Lance!

            I’ve made a few adjustments to this recipe that helped me out – I add about 1-1.5 extra cups of water after the saute step, and keep the saute very moist w/a bit of water plus the coconut butter. After the saute step, I add all ingredients except the lentils, then use Saute function to bring the mixture temp up to where it’s giving off steam/almost boiling. At this point, I stir in the lentils, and seal the lid. – I think the biggest factor for why I was getting the burn message was that the mixture had to heat up too much while the lid was set to seal, bringing it closer to temp, then tossing the lid on for final seal has eliminated the burn message entirely. – Hope that helps!

          • Thank you so much for chiming in Guthrie!!

          • Thanks very much Guthrie and Erin! I will try those modifications from Guthrie for certain. This is my second foray into this IP thing (the first was a rendang curry which turned out fantastic). I had also read that if one sautes too long then the bottom of the inner pot becomes very hot and burns more easily. I will keep plugging away but Guthrie’s suggestions make sense.

  30. This was my new Instant Pot’s maiden voyage and it was SO delicious!!! Thank you : ))(Also, I really appreciate the nutritional info…)

    Rating: 5
  31. Oh wow, this was YUMMMMMY!!! The fresh lemon on the end was fresh and perfect. I love to cook but I never cook lentils. I’m trying to branch into more vegetarian dishes that are hearty and packed with flavor. This is definitely going in my book of favorites. We absolutely love curry dishes and this did not disappoint. Thanks Erin! It was my first recipe to try from your blog, but there will be many more :) Also from a newbie on the instantpot, thanks for the very clear and helpful instructions! Perfection.

    Rating: 4.5
  32. I plan to try this using red lentils. They are much prettier than the green or brown. 

    • Hi Valerie! You can definitely try this with red lentils, but be aware that because they are more delicate than brown or green, they tend to break down more quickly and the curry could be a little mushy.

  33. This was SO good.  Made with white basmati rice and full fat coconut milk (personal preference), otherwise followed recipe to a T with the help of my youngest (5).  Easily served 4 people (3 big eaters).  Flavors are delicious, and I don’t usually like coconut milk curries.  My 5 year old licked his plate clean.  This recipe is a keeper!  Will add hard boiled eggs to it in the future when we need a little extra protein. 

    Rating: 5
    • Laura, I am so thrilled to hear that this was a hit with every member of your household. THANK YOU! So much for sharing this wonderful review!

  34. Could I use the coconut milk that comes in a carton? It has 4.5 g fat per cup.

    • Hi Suzan! This kind of coconut milk is different (I’m assuming you mean the kind that is sold by the almondmilk) and I’m afraid it will be too thin. Look for Thai-style coconut milk in a can in the Asian food section of the grocery store. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

  35. Cooked this last night for my family and we all loved it! It was absolutely delicious, but I had to throw in the towel because I kept getting the BURN notice. I followed the recipe exactly with the exception of the coconut milk. I used regular coconut milk rather than light. Do you think this affected the recipe. I had to add so much water that I was so concerned I was ruining the recipe, but in the end it tasted great. It wasn’t creamy, but the consistency was still great. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Rating: 5
    • BTW the cilantro is a must! I loved loved the way it complimented this dish.

      I”m looking forward to trying a number of other recipes you’ve shared.

    • Lisa, I do think the full fat coconut milk had something to do with it. Higher fat, creamy sauces burn really easily (and by the time you added water, it basically turns the regular coconut milk into light coconut milk anyway). If you want it richer, next time I’d follow the recipe, then you can always stir in some coconut cream (the solid part from the full fat coconut milk—you can also buy it separately in a can) at the end.

      • Ohhhhh…..Thanks! I’ll go on the hunt for the light milk. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but there’s no way I want to give up on this dish. It was delicious. Tomorrow, I’ll try the butter chicken that was referenced in the article.

  36. I made this tonight and absolutely loved it. I used the full fat coconut milk and a small onion in place of the shallots, but other than that followed the recipe. I found I preferred the taste without the lemon juice as well. I loved how fast and easy this was to put together too. I will certainly make this again!

    Rating: 5
  37. This was sooooo good! I made it for dinner tonight but had to have some for lunch because I couldn’t help myself! I made some pearled barley(cooked with 2 cinnamon sticks)on the side and they go great together! This will for sure be on the rotation!

    Rating: 5
  38. This was absolutely delicious. It was my first Instapot recipe and every instruction was included. I came back to the website to look for more recipes. This one is so good I assume all the other recipes will be too. 

    Rating: 5
  39. These are the best lentils I have ever made! Perfectly spiced and the Instant Pot makes them so easy! Everyone go try this dish! Yes it has a humble appearance but the flavors are spectacular.

    Rating: 5
  40. This was delicious. First recipe I made in my Instapot and I couldn’t have been happier. Just the right amount of spice and creamy. Will definitely make again. 

    Rating: 5
  41. For some reason, I had to add a little bit more water than called for – about 1/4 cup; my IP (6qt Duo) went into ‘burn’ mode. Other than that, great recipe!

    Rating: 4.5
  42. I made this last night and it was fantastic! I added two diced sweet potatoes just to use them up and they did turn a bit mushy (as I assumed they would but just went for it anyway) but it was still great. The lemon juice at the end really brightens it up too. Great recipe!

    Rating: 5
    • YAY Stephanie! I am so so happy to hear it! Thanks for taking time to share this lovely review. It means a lot and is so helpful to others considering the recipe!

  43. veronica l duggan Reply

    Made this last night for the family and it was great. So much flavor. Only thing was I thought it would be slightly more creamy to pour over the rice better. Not much liquid at all. Can you suggest a way to make it a little soupier? Add water or coconut milk? Thanks

    Rating: 5
    • Veronica, I’m so glad you loved the flavors in this dish! If you’d like it soupier, you can add more liquid at the beginning. Or, if you have leftovers, I think you could even mix them with some extra water, coconut milk, or broth to help thin them out.

  44. Have you ever tried adding tofu to this? I want to bulk up the protein a bit!

  45. One of my favorite instant pot recipes! 

    Rating: 5
  46. I make this so frequently now. So easy to make, and it’s the best and tastiest dish ever!!!!

    Rating: 5
  47. Wow! Delicious! I made this dish in the IP tonight and it was a hit!  Definitely a keeper. I followed Guthrie’s advice to Lance since I have an 8 quart IP.  I also used 1 1/2 cans of lite coconut milk. I served it with quinoa and steamed carrots. Thank you for this recipe! I will be checking all of your others out as well. 

    Rating: 5

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