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:

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4.87 from 197 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

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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122 Comments

  1. Thank you Meeta, for your excellent recipes and directions demystifying Indian food. I consider myself a pretty good cook (of Chinese food), but boy oh boy those instincts are no good at figuring out Indian food. I had been trying to replicate the dal I’ve had at restaurants, seems like such a simple dish but that taste and texture was so elusive. Too pasty, too bland, I just couldn’t figure it out. But then I found your website. This recipe was the answer! Your palak paneer recipe was also a big success, can’t wait to try more! Thank you for your generous gift of cooking wisdom!

  2. Do I drain the lentil or add the lentil with the water I boiled it in, into the pan after sautéing the onion and spices?

    1. Hi Rebecca – Add lentils along with the liquid they were cooked in. No need to drain. Hope you enjoy the dal!

  3. This is so delicious! I just made it for lunch because I happened to have the stuff on hand, googled them, landed here and BOOM a half hour later I had awesomeness with minimal dishes to do. I’ll be back.

  4. I’ve made this recipe several times, both as written, with additions and substitutions. It’s easy, almost impossible to mess up and absolutely delicious. My hubbie loves it! Thanks for a great recipe

  5. I did not even have the ingredients and this recipe was delicious. Thank you for making them so easy to follow.

  6. I needed to use a lot more lime than I initially guessed, but with the citrus, the flavors really came out. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ireem – Sure, I would suggest to thaw the spinach before using in the recipe. Add the spinach after pressure cooking is done, and you open the instant pot. Then put on sauté mode and give a quick boil. Hope you enjoy the dal.

  7. 11/10 delicious! It took me about 30 minutes to let the pressure release, but it was so worth it for the flavour! Extremely rich, creamy and tasty. I did it with chopped tomatoes instead of fresh ones and it worked just fine.

  8. This was really good, and the spices were well balanced. I didn’t have any garam masala so used Chinese five spice and was out of cayenne so used berbre spice for the heat. I accidentally tossed out my lime juice so used natural lemon flavoring, but it still turned out amazing. I served with Jasmine Rice in veg. better than Bouillion for the liquid and toasted English muffins.

  9. Love your recipes and am keen to try the PIP technique. Could you recommend a tall trivet and inner pot (the ones currently linked are out of stock).

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Elizabeth – I added links to the trivet and containers in the equipment section of the recipe card. Hope you enjoy the lentils!