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! It’s creamy, not too spicy, and can be either a brown lentil curry or green lentil curry recipe, depending upon which lentils you use.
Since this time of year is especially busy (and I expect a few of you might have an Instant Pot on your wish list!), I wanted to take a moment to share this lentil curry coconut recipe. It takes mere minutes to prep, the entire thing cooks in one pot, and it yields a generous batch that reheats beautifully.
Like my Tofu Curry, this creamy lentil curry also manages the tricky feat of being both stick-to-your-ribs warm and comforting (what my body wants) AND feel-great nutritious (what my body needs).
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 earned a coveted stop on the regular dinner rotation around here.
Why I Love This Instant Pot Lentil Curry
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 perceived richness 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.
If coconut milk isn’t an ingredient you regularly keep in your pantry, consider picking up a few cans, which are sold in the Asian or international food aisle of most grocery stores. You can use one for today’s Instant Pot Lentil Curry, then the others to make other quick, healthy dinners like this fabulous Coconut Curry and this Chickpea Curry.
Those looking for a vegan lentil curry without coconut milk could swap it for a nut milk, such as cashew milk or almond milk, though coconut milk is my overall recommendation. It’s worth it here.
How to Make the Best Lentil Curry
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 when compared to other curry recipes.
- 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 pressure cooker, 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.
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.
If you do have an Instant Pot, don’t miss these 15 Healthy Instant Pot recipes!
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 lentil curry on the stove, the color of the lentils is less important. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
More Easy Indian Recipes and Lentil Recipes
- 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!
- For an Indian recipe without the Instant Pot, try this Curry Lentil Soup or Tofu Tikka Masala.
- If you’re gaga over lentils in the Instant Pot too, don’t miss this Instant Pot Lentil Soup.
- If you want to try lentils in the slow cooker, make sure you try this Crockpot Lentil Soup!
For Lentil Curry in the Slow Cooker
Recommended Tools to Make This Curry
- Instant Pot (other pressure/multicooker brands with a similar sauté and pressure cooking function should work too)
Instant Pot Lentil Curry
- 1 1/2 cups lentils green or brown
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water divided
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic about 6 cloves
- 1 tablespoon curry powder plus 1 teaspoon
- 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 can light coconut milk about 14 ounces
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice about 1/2 large lemon
- Cooked brown rice for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
- 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.
- 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 skillet, 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.
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