How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

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How to cook lentils in the Instant Pot! Includes different lentil varieties, suggested cook times, the proper water:lentil ratio, and two easy lentil recipes to make in your Instant Pot!
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 32 mins
4.7 from 42 votes

Learning how to cook lentils in the Instant Pot literally changed my life. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it really took my meal prep and batch cooking game to the next level. But it wasn’t always that way.

I never used to cook lentils before I got an Instant Pot. The idea of soaking them overnight, draining them, and babysitting them on the stove felt too time-consuming. Instead, I just bought canned or boxed lentils at the store.

But the Instant Pot makes it SO much easier to cook lentils, not to mention so much more flavorful. You can throw them in the Instant Pot with liquid, walk away, and come back to perfectly cooked lentils.

Over the last few years, I have cooked literally hundreds of pots of lentils, so now I’m sharing all my tips on cooking lentils in the Instant Pot. And, this blog post also features two incredibly easy Instant Pot lentil recipes!

As for the Instant Pot itself, even the most basic model will cook your lentils perfectly. For most home cooks, the 6 quart DUO60 or DUO60 Plus is the best option. If you want a more recent version that has nifty features (like a lid that automatically seals), try the DUO Evo Plus.

Watch! How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

Types of lentils and how to cook them in the Instant Pot

Red Lentils: These are commonly used in Indian dal and soft dishes like soups and curries. Red lentils break down quickly and become creamy, making them the perfect thickening agent for stews, soups, and purées. If you’re new to red lentils and open your pot to see a pile of mush, don’t be alarmed. That’s exactly what red lentils do!

For a soup/stew/curry, I like cooking red lentils for about 10 minutes in the Instant Pot at high pressure. This gives them plenty of time to disintegrate and melt into the other ingredients, thereby naturally thickening the texture. But if you’re just cooking red lentils in plain water, they need just 2-3 minutes. And they’ll still get mushy in this short amount of time.

Note: At Indian grocery stores, you will also find “split red lentils,” AKA masoor dal. These are red lentils that have had their skins removed and therefore cook a bit more quickly. You’ll also find “split yellow lentils,” AKA moong dal. If you’d like to learn more about the varieties of lentils used to make Indian dal, check out this blog post on Restaurant-Style Dal Tadka.

two bowls of Indian red lentil sweet potato soup with naanBrown and Green Lentils: These are the most common lentils (at least in the U.S.), and you can find them at any grocery store. These lentils are a little bigger than other varieties of lentils and have a mild, earthy flavor. Bonus: they’re one of the cheapest foods you can buy at the grocery store!

Brown lentils and green lentils are pretty versatile, so the ideal cook time depends on your use case. If you want to keep them whole and on the firmer side, cook for 6-8 minutes at high pressure. This is great when you want to add lentils to salads, grain bowls, or in a wrap. If you want them a little softer, you can cook for 12 minutes. And if you want them to break down and soften, you can cook for 15 or even 20 minutes. This last option is great for a puréed dish, soup or, stew.

bowl of brown lentils cooked in the instant pot, flavored with parsley and thyme.
French Green (Puy) Lentils: These lentils also hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect in salads. If you find brown or green lentils to be too mushy for your taste or use, try these French green lentils instead. They have a pleasant, peppery taste.

French green lentils take 6-8 minutes in the Instant Pot and will stay nice and firm. I prefer to cook them for 6 minutes.

Black Beluga Lentils: These are the fanciest of lentils and are a bit more expensive than ordinary lentils. Similar to French green lentils, they hold their shape well when cooked. They make a great side dish or a bed on which you can serve your meal. Black beluga lentils have a hearty, full-bodied flavor.

Cook black beluga lentils for about 6-8 minutes in the Instant Pot, or up to 10 minutes for a softer texture. As with French green lentils, I prefer to cook beluga lentils for just 6 minutes.

An instant pot resting on a table with carrots in the background

Tips for cooking lentils in the Instant Pot

Basic Lentils

Unlike cooking lentils on the stove, you don’t need to soak lentils in advance when you make them in the Instant Pot. Another benefit is that you don’t have to watch the lentils to make sure they don’t burn or get too mushy. You can simply toss all the ingredients into the Instant Pot, walk away, go take a nap, and come back after the pressure has been released.

Water:Lentil Ratio

  • 1 3/4 cups liquid (vegetable broth or water) for 1 cup of lentils

    • Plus 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    • You can also add other seasonings like bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dried chile peppers, etc., depending on what flavor you’re going for.

Method

  • Once you combine everything, select the Pressure Cook setting and cook for the desired cook time (see the previous section for recommended cook times based on lentil variety).

  • Once the cook time is done, allow a natural pressure release on the Instant Pot for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining steam.

    • In practice: once the timer goes off, let the pot sit for 10 without touching it. Then, move the pressure release valve from from the Sealing position to the Venting position to release any remaining pressure. Once the pressure has been released, the float valve will drop and you can open the pot.

.Sweet potato lentil soup in a bowl

Adding Flavor to Lentils

But if you want to make your lentils more flavorful, you’ll need to add some more flavorings (obvi). Lentils are sponges, so they absorb the flavors of the ingredients in which they’re cooked.

I like to begin my lentils by sautéing some aromatics in oil, such as onion and garlic. And because I like things spicy, I often sauté some chili peppers too. If I’m cooking Indian food, I’ll also add in cumin seeds and ginger before adding the lentils. Or, if I’m making Mexican-flavored lentils, I might sauté an onion, green pepper, and jalapeño pepper.

After you cook your aromatics, it’s time for more seasonings. You can keep it simple with just salt and pepper, or you can add an array of your favorite spices, such as cumin, paprika, or turmeric. The exact spices will depend on the flavor profile/specific cuisine you are cooking. I also love adding fresh herbs to the cooking liquid for more depth of flavor. Sturdy herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, and bay leaves work excellently.

Finally, I like to cook the lentils in vegetable broth instead of water since it gives the lentils a little more richness and flavor.

Below you will find four incredibly easy recipes for Instant Pot lentils. And in case you are a fan of other legumes (why wouldn’t you be??), here are more Instant Pot recipes featuring lentils and other legumes!

And if you want more than 90 incredible vegan Instant Pot recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook! Here’s a sampling of just some of the recipes featuring lentils in my book.

  • Spiced Lentil, Kale and “Sausage” Soup
  • Red Lentil Almond Curry
  • Red Curry Rice Noodle Soup
  • Lentil-Walnut Gyros with Vegan Tzatziki
  • Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
  • Khichdi / Kitchari (Indian Rice and Lentil Porridge)

How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

4.7 from 42 votes
How to cook lentils in the Instant Pot! Includes different lentil varieties, suggested cook times, the proper water:lentil ratio, and two easy lentil recipes to make in your Instant Pot!
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 32 mins
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan
Serving size: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils (see recipe notes for details on varieties)
  • 1 3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Other seasonings as desired (bay leaves, fresh or dried herbs, whole spices, chopped onions, garlic cloves, etc.)

Instructions

  • Add the lentils and water or broth to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Add salt, pepper, and any other seasonings of choice. Stir to combine.
  • Secure the lid and select the Pressure Cook setting. Set the timer to 6 to 8 minutes for al dente lentils, or 10 minutes for softer lentils.
  • When the timer beeps, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Perform a manual pressure release to vent any remaining steam. Open the pot, discard any aromatics, and transfer the lentils to a bowl or tupperware using a slotted spoon.
  • Store cooked lentils in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days, or freeze for 4-6 months.

Notes

This cook time range works well for most lentil varieties, including brown, green, French green ("Puy"), and black beluga lentils. However, it does not work for red lentils, split red lentils, and yellow split lentils (i.e., lentils that are commonly used in Indian dal recipes). 
For a guide on different lentil varieties and how to use them in the Instant Pot, refer to the blog post above. 

Indian-Spiced Black Beluga Lentils

4.5 from 26 votes
Give lentils an upgrade with Indian spices and aromatics! Just sauté onions, garlic, ginger, chile peppers and Indian spices before adding black Beluga lentils to the Instant Pot. The lentils remain somewhat firm but they’re cooked in a soft, gravy-like mixture so you get the best of both worlds.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Course: Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or oil of choice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper diced with seeds (omit seeds for mild version; use 2 peppers for a spicy version)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Indian red chile powder (use 1 teaspoon for a spicy version; can sub with half the amount of cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 cup black Beluga lentils
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro (for serving)
  • Coconut yogurt (optional, for serving)

Instructions

  • Select the Sauté setting on your Instant Pot and heat up the coconut oil. Once it's shimmering, add the cumin seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until the seeds are sputtering.
  • Cook the diced onion for 3 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, coriander, garam masala, red chile powder, turmeric, and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping up any bits that are stuck.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pot, using a wooden spoon or scraper to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Stir to combine all of the ingredients. Select the Cancel setting.
  • Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Pressure Cook (or Manual, depending on your model) setting and cook at high pressure for 6-8 minutes, depending on your desired firmness (I prefer 6 minutes).
  • Once the timer is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes before switching the pressure release valve from Sealing to Venting. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the vegan butter (if using), stirring until it's melted and mixed through. The butter adds more creaminess and richness to the lentils, but they are still good without it.
  • Serve the lentils with fresh cilantro and coconut yogurt, if desired.

Simple Brown or Green Lentils

4.6 from 27 votes
This is my go-to recipe when I want a simple pot of lentils to eat throughout the week, but I want to jazz them up just a bit and not simply cook them in water. You can use brown or green lentils, or if you prefer a firmer texture, use French green (Puy) lentils or black Beluga lentils.
Prep Time: 7 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 42 mins
Course: Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chili pepper, such as serrano or jalapeño, diced with seeds intact (omit seeds for mild version; or use 2 peppers for a spicy version)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup brown lentils or green lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 small handful of fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (for serving)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions

  • Select the Sauté setting on your Instant Pot and heat up the coconut oil. Once it's shimmering, add the diced chili pepper and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic.
  • Add the diced onion and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook until the onion is softened and garlic is turning golden, 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pot, using a wooden spoon or scraper to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils, sea salt, pepper, thyme sprigs (if using), and bay leaf (if using). Stir to combine. Select the Cancel setting.
  • Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Pressure Cook (or Manual, depending on your model) setting and cook at high pressure for 6-10 minutes, depending on your desired firmness (I prefer the 6-8 minute range).
  • Once the 10 minutes is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes before switching the pressure release valve from Sealing to Venting. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the lemon juice and parsley.

Spiced Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

4.6 from 27 votes
This is a creamy and spiced soup/stew inspired by Indian dal. It gets its natural creaminess from red lentils, which break down and mushy when pressure cooked, and sweet potatoes, which melt into the soup thanks to the high pressure of the Instant Pot.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Keyword: instant pot, red lentils, sweet potatoes
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or oil of choice)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper, diced (remove seeds for mild version)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth*
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt + more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
  • For serving (optional): coconut yogurt, fresh cilantro, and flatbread or rice

Instructions

  • Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and heat up the coconut oil. Once it's shimmering, add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, garam masala, curry powder (if using), cumin, and turmeric and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pot, using a wooden spoon or scraper to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils, sweet potatoes, sea salt, and pepper. Stir to combine all of the ingredients. Select the Cancel setting.
  • Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Pressure Cook (or Manual, depending on your model) setting and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Once the 10 minutes is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes before switching the pressure release valve from Sealing to Venting. Open the Instant Pot and give the soup a stir. Taste for seasonings. You may want to add more salt, or to balance the acidity, you may want to add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup or sugar.
  • Once the soup has slightly cooled, top with coconut yogurt and fresh cilantro. If desired, serve with flatbread or rice.

Notes

*This soup is quite thick and creamy, almost like a stew, so if you prefer a soupy texture, just add more vegetable broth or water. You can do that before pressure cooking when you add the vegetable broth, or after pressure cooking once you see the texture so you can add as much liquid as needed.

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72 comments on How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

  1. JiYoung

    5 stars
    This was really good! I used non-coated cripsy onions instead of cooking onions, and omitted peppers. This will be my go-to recipe for lentil salad.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      JiYoung, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  2. Michelle

    5 stars
    DELICIOUS! Thank you! What if you double the batch, for example do 2 cups lentils. Does the Instapot cooking time change?

    Thank you!
    M

  3. Holley Bennett

    Delicious! I chopped spinach and put the lentils on top with the yogurt and cilantro and it was very satisfying! Thank YOU! Can’t wait to get the cookbook!
    Every single recipe I’ve made from you has been wonderful!

  4. Sunny White

    I love your recipes, my only problem with them is that I like to copy and paste a picture of them when I save them but with Pintrest I can’t seem to find a way to do that. Is there a way? If not can you have at least one picture that can be copied and pasted?

  5. Steve

    5 stars
    Made the Indian spiced black lentils in the instant pot – really delicious! Thank you!

  6. Bev

    2 stars
    I cooked large green lentils for the recommended 6 minutes(wanted them firm). They actually came out too soft and creamy for a salad.
    Should reduce time to 3 minutes if you want lentils with texture/bite.

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