Quick and easy Red Lentil Curry, also known as Masoor Dal, made in the instant pot and stovetop. This super delicious, healthy and budget friendly vegan meal can be made in less than 30 minutes! 

Red Lentils served in 3 bowls over rice and topped with cilantro

If you want a quick and satisfying vegan dinner for weeknights, you have come to the right place. Just some basic ingredients, onions, tomatoes and spices, make this red lentil curry an easy dinner. Cook rice pot-in-pot along with the lentils and you have a whole meal ready in one go!

You might be thinking, “why do these red lentils look yellow?”. I get it! I want to assure you this is exactly how the color looks after cooking. Most recipes add way too much tomatoes, which makes the finished lentils look red in color 🙂

What are lentils?

Lentils, also known as Dal or Dhal are a mini legumes. They are a good source of protein, fiber and minerals.

There are many varieties of lentils such as yellow (moong and toor), green (moong), red (masoor), brown (whole masoor) and black (urad) lentils.

Red and yellow lentils are the quickest to cook and have a creamy melt in the mouth texture. They are great in soups, curries and for making baby food purees.

Curious about pulses used in Indian cooking? Check out my detailed guide about Indian Pulses.

What are Red Lentils (Masoor Dal)?

Red Lentils are the quickest cooking lentils. They have a mild subtly sweet flavor. As they cook so quickly, they are perfect for soups, stews, and curries. They can be cooked without soaking in just 15-20 minutes.

Red lentils are called Masoor Dal in Hindi. You can find whole or split red lentils.

Lentils are also perfect to make when cooking on a budget. They are healthy and satiating. Add some veggies while cooking them and enjoy with rice for a complete nutritional meal.

Red Lentils Nutrition

Red lentils (or any lentils) are a nutrition powerhouse. They are rich in protein and fiber. Lentils are also packed with folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and potassium. They are a perfect protein for vegans and are also gluten-free.

Red lentils in a bowl along with a packet of red lentils from Thrive Market

Red Lentils v/s Brown Lentils

Did you know that red lentils are actually brown lentils with the outer skin removed. Hence you will find that brown lentils are also called Masoor Dal.

Red lentils cook very quickly and lose their shape. If you prefer texture or are cooking lentils to add to a salad, then use brown lentils.

Where to buy Red Lentils?

Red Lentils are quite easily available at grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts or on Amazon.

This time I got these red lentils from Thrive Market. I like the convenience of getting pantry staples at home, rather than having to go looking around in stores. Thrive Market is known for selling organic foods and natural products at 25-50% below traditional retail prices. Now who does not like that..and don’t forget delivery to your doorsteps! Give them a try if you have not already. Here is a special discount from Thrive for my readers – 25% first order + one month free trial!

How to cook Red Lentil Curry in Pressure Cooker?

Let’s start with gathering the ingredients. This Masoor Dal recipe uses very basic ingredients – red lentils, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chili pepper and spices to make the dal.

You can use whole or split red lentils in this recipe.

Ingredients to cook dal - onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spices, red lentils
  1. The first step is to rinse the lentils. In this case, soaking the lentils is not necessary as these red lentils cook very quickly.
  2. Start the pressure cooker in sauté mode and let it heat. Add oil and cumin seeds. Sauté for 30 seconds.
  3. When the cumin seeds change color, add green chili, onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes until the onions become golden brown while stirring frequently.
  4. Then add tomatoes and spices. Stir and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  5. Now we are ready to add the lentils and water. The red lentils to water ratio for cooking is 1:3 in the instant pot. Then pressure cook for 5 minutes at high pressure.
  6. After the cooking time is done, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then quick release the pressure.
Red lentils being cooked in the instant pot

How to cook Red Lentils & Rice together?

One of the big advantages of the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) is – the option to do Pot-in-Pot Cooking or PIP. This means being able to cook multiple things at a time, by also cooking in a small pot inside the main pot. To do pot-in-pot cooking, you need a tall trivet and stainless steel containers that you can use within the main pot.

Learn more about the instant pot pot-in-pot method with this comprehensive guide!

After adding all the ingredients for the lentils. Place a trivet. Then a steel bowl with rice and water on the trivet.

The cooking time for white basmati rice is similar to the cooking time of Masoor Dal. You always want to match things that cook in approximately the same time when doing pot-in-pot cooking.

The cooking time for white basmati rice is similar to the cooking time of Masoor Dal. You always want to match things that cook in approximately the same time when doing pot-in-pot cooking.

Pot-in-pot rice with lentils in the instant pot

Stir in the lime juice and garnish with cilantro.

The lentils are perfectly cooked and so creamy!

Perfectly cooked Red lentils in a ladle filled from the instant pot

How to make Red Lentils (Masoor Dal) in Stovetop Pressure Cooker?

Traditionally, lentils were first boiled in a pressure cooker and then mixed with tempering (tadka) made in a fry pan. However this recipe makes Masoor Dal as a one-pot recipe.

Follow the same steps as above. In the stovetop pressure cooker, cook for 1 whistle (about 5 minutes) and let the pressure release naturally.

How to cook Red Lentils in a Pot on Stovetop?

In a large pot  over medium heat, follow the same steps as the recipe above. After adding lentils and water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover to cook until the lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Red Lentils served in 3 bowls over rice and topped with cilantro

Variations for Red Lentil Curry 

Red lentils with coconut milk

Traditionally coconut milk is not used in cooking dal. However coconut milk is a great addition to make the dal creamier. It is also a perfect addition to add more nutrition while keeping the recipe vegan.

Red lentils with Spinach or Kale

We love to add leafy greens to lentils. They add good nutrition and help to make the dal a well-rounded meal. Chop spinach or kale and stir into the lentils are pressure cooking. Let the dal rest for 5 minutes until the greens become tender. Here is my Spinach Dal recipe with Toor Dal (yellow lentils).

How to serve Red Lentils?

These Red Lentils (Masoor Dal) pair perfectly with basmati rice. You can also pair with quinoa or cauliflower rice.

Sometimes we also like to add a bit of tempering on the dal when serving. This is the red color oil (or ghee) along with sautéed garlic you see on the top of the bowl of dal in the pics.

To make the tempering, in a small pan, heat ghee or oil. Add some cumin seeds and sliced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute until the garlic becomes golden in color. Then take the pan off heat and add a pinch of red chili powder. I prefer Kashmiri red chili powder, as it is not spicy.

Drizzle this tempering over the dal when serving. It adds such a beautiful pop of color!

Try these easy & delicious Red Lentils and let me know how they turn out.

Check out other lentil recipes I have posted in the past:

4.87 from 189 votes

Red Lentils Curry (Masoor Dal)

Quick and easy Red Lentil Curry, also known as Masoor Dal, made in the instant pot and stovetop. This super delicious, healthy and budget friendly vegan meal can be made in less than 30 minutes! 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

Spices

For Basmati Rice

Instructions 

  • Start the pressure cooker in sauté mode and let it heat. Add oil and cumin seeds. Sauté for 30 seconds.
  • When the cumin seeds change color, add green chili, onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes until the onions become golden brown while stirring frequently.
  • Add tomato and spices. Stir and sauté for another 2 minutes. 
  • Add the lentils, water and stir well. 
  • (For pot-in-pot rice) Place the trivet. In a bowl, add all ingredients for basmati rice and place it on top of the trivet. Close the lid with vent in sealing position. 
  • Press cancel and close lid with vent in sealing position. Change the instant pot setting to manual or pressure cook mode at high pressure for 5 mins. 
  • After the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then release the pressure manually (5 minute NPR). 
  • Open the pot. Add the lime juice and stir the dal. 
  • Garnish with cilantro. Serve dal with roti, naan or rice. 

For stovetop pressure cooker

  • Follow the same steps as above. In the stovetop pressure cooker, cook for 1 whistles (about 5 minutes) and let the pressure release naturally.

For stovetop pot

  • In a large pot over medium heat, follow the same steps as the recipe above. After adding lentils and water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover to cook until the lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

Optional Tempering when serving: In a small pan, heat ghee or oil. Add some cumin seeds and sliced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute until the garlic becomes golden in color. Then take the pan off heat and add a pinch of red chili powder. I prefer Kashmiri red chili powder, as it is not spicy. Drizzle this tempering over the dal when serving. It adds a beautiful pop of color!
Make it less spicy: Skip the green chili and red chili powder. 
Which Green chili to use? I typically use Thai, Birdeye or Serrano Chili Pepper in my recipes. Don’t forget to adjust to your taste. 
Vegan Variation: Skip ghee and use vegan oil of your choice.
Created: This recipe was created in a 6qt Instant Pot DUO60 Multi-use Programmable Pressure Cooker.

Nutrition

Calories: 217kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 12gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 640mgPotassium: 556mgFiber: 15gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 430IUVitamin C: 11.8mgCalcium: 44mgIron: 4mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, North Indian
Diet: Gluten-free, Vegan
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

Hi..I’m Meeta. I am a former product specialist by profession, and a foodie at heart. I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need some inspiration to explore the ingredients and create great food. I share simple step-by-step recipes made using instant pot and other gadgets in the modern kitchen. I primarily cook Indian food, but I also love to cook global cuisines such as Italian, Thai, Mexican and more. Enjoy the world of awesome food!

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Recipe Rating




117 Comments

  1. Tried this with my Power Q pot in rice setting with the basmati on a trivet andnit was soo quick and turned out so good. I didn’t have Kashmiri Red pepper so I replaced with some smoked paprika and cayenne. Worked well.

  2. Cooked this recipe using the Instapot method. Turned out creamy, full of flavour with a hint of heat. I ate it with naan bread for dinner and will have some leftovers for tomorrows dinner too! Thank you Meeta! I will try some of your other recipes soon!

  3. I’m not sure what to say! I won’t leave a star rating, but…

    I made it exactly as directed (with 2x because I wanted to meal prep), and it tasted like absolutely nothing. I felt like I was eating plain boiled red lentils. I tried to alleviate this by upping the salt, which certainly made it a lot saltier, but not a lot more like curry. I threw in a bunch of curry powder and increased the coriander powder/turmeric, and now it somewhat resembles a curry flavored dish.

    My spices are brand new (I bought them just to make this recipe) and my sense of taste/smell are fine with other foods. I’ll probably try to make the recipe with the single amount next time, but keep the spices a bit higher.

    In everything but its flavor, the recipe went beautifully. The consistency of the lentils and soup are perfect. I just think it could use with a much bigger dose of spices, unless I’m missing something.

    1. Hi Joe – Thank you for sharing back your honest experience. I usually like to use basic spices in my cooking. But please feel free to add more spices and curry powder. You can also add in a green chili pepper if you like. Another variation could be to add in some diced carrots and celery to the dal before pressure cooking.

    2. Maybe your tomatoes were GMO, I find home grown or organic tomatoes come full of flavour. Maybe try using diced canned tomatoes? Hope this helps!

    3. As it’s a lentil stew not a curry, Dal is not meant to have the flavor kick of a curry, it’s more subtle. I like to eat it when I want something light and easy on my stomach. That said, I agree that this Dal can be kind of bland, and generally I like a lot of flavor/spice. After making this recipe a lot of times I have some suggestions for adding more flavor:

      1) Use vegetable broth instead of water – this makes a BIG difference, not only adding salt but an umami savory flavor
      2) increase the amount of sauteed cumin seeds at the beginning of the recipe. I also add some mustard seeds (about half as much as the cumin). Sauteeing whole spices at the beginning of a recipe adds a huge amount of flavor.
      3) Garnish with raita or just plain thick yogurt (I use greek yogurt; you can mix in garlic and herbs if you like), cilantro,
      4) Don’t bulk it up by eating it over rice, as this dilutes the flavor of the lentils and makes them taste bland. Instead, make a side of some naan/chapati (or do what I do and fry some whole wheat tortillas with garlic)

  4. I have made this a number of times in my Instant Pot. I like it very much as it is easy to prepare, very tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive. I usually serve it over Basmati rice. I find it keeps well in the fridge and find it is just as good the next day for lunch. I’ve even had it for breakfast with a couple of soft boiled eggs on top. Thanks Meeta!

  5. This easy recipe was perfectly delicious, comforting, and satisfying without being too heavy. I didn’t have any green chili, but I the Indian red chili powder I used was plenty spicy for the dish (I didn’t want it to have too much of a kick anyway). I also didn’t have any garam masala or cardamom on hand, so I added a couple dashes of cinnamon and allspice. I noticed that another commenter mentioned using mustard seed, and that a couple other recipes called for it, so I added 1/2 tsp mustard seed with the cumin seed and oil at the beginning. Finally, one commenter said the amount of water was too much, so I subtracted 1/2 a cup (total 2.5 cups) of water. I don’t know if it’s just because I had the heat on too high (I cooked this on an electric stovetop, not an instant pot), but I ended up needing MORE water than the recipe called for in the end, like an entire cup extra. That concludes the adjustments I made to this fantastically EASY and delicious recipe. I will definitely be making this again.

    1. Hi – So happy to hear that. Thank you for sharing back your experience 🙂. It does take more water when cooking the lentils on the stovetop. So you are correct that it will need about 1 more cup.

      1. We love this recipe. It’s really easy, quick and alway turns out well. If I’m out of either tomatoes or green chili, I’ve found that Rotel with Habaneros works wells and it’s closer to one cup than other canned tomatoes. ( the Serrano pepper, green chili or lime and ciliantro flavors work well for less heat). Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.!

      2. Hi Margie – So glad to hear you enjoy this dal. Thanks for sharing back the adjustments you made for tomatoes!

  6. Lovely recipe! I love making lentils in the IP and I have found so many great recipes on this site. The only reason for the lost star is that I think 3 cups was a bit too much water for 1 cup of red lentils. I will probably use 2.5 (or maybe a can of coconut milk!) the next time I make it and see how that goes. I also had to change a few things based on what I had on hand. I don’t think it affected the moisture level but correct me if I’m wrong: coconut oil for the oil, a dried chile de arbol instead of a fresh green pepper, powdered ginger instead of fresh, chopped cherry tomatoes which gave a sweeter flavor, Aleppo pepper for the chili powder. Also added more salt and some cayenne at the end to turn up the savory flavor and heat to my taste but that was to be expected. Thanks so much! ❤️

    1. Hi Kait – Thank you for sharing your review and the changes you made. This dal gets thicker as it cools down, which is why I use 3 cups of water. Usually in India, people also prefer dal a bit thinner consistency, so that could also be a reason. I am sure it will work well with 2.5 cups of water. You can also add lesser water while cooking and add 1/2 cup of coconut milk after pressure cooking is done.

  7. Made this tonight with ingredients on hand (no mustard seeds, so I subbed more cumin seeds; cayenne for red pepper; and lemon juice for lime), and everyone scarfed it down (including my 11 and 13 year olds). It was fast and easy to make, and it tasted delicious. Thank you!

  8. Very tasty and very easy! My kids helped me make it and they were all screaming for the dal to be ready!

  9. How much coconut milk do you add when you use it? A half cup or the whole can?

    Thank you. I love the website and recipes

    1. Hi Greg – I would suggest to add 1/2 to 1 cup depending on your taste. You can reduce the amount of water when cooking the dal by 1/2 cup. Just simmer for 2-3 minutes after adding the coconut milk. Glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes.

      1. I absolutely love this recipe!! I have adjusted spice levels to suit my family, but with the decadent inclusion of a can of coconut milk this dal is everything you need to go into comfort food territory. Everyone loves it. I add no salt added chicken broth for a heartier batch. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe with us. 🙂

      2. Hi Maha – So glad to hear you all enjoyed the dal. Thank you for sharing back the changes you made!