Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

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With just a few minutes of hands-on cooking, this Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry will become your go-to for weeknight meals. It’s hearty, healthy comfort food at its finest (and easiest).
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
5 from 46 votes

Being a food blogger is great. I get to try out new recipes on a regular basis, my fridge is perpetually stocked, and I always have leftovers. I am literally never hungry. But the food blogging life has its downsides. For instance, I am always trying out new recipes, so I rarely get to make the same dish more than once or twice.

But, this Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry was so good and so easy to make that not only did I make it more than once, I made it three times in just two weeks.

And if you want more than 90 incredible vegan Instant Pot recipes, be sure to order my 5-star-rated cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook!

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

Why you’ll love this Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

First, it has a low-effort, high-reward ratio. Thanks to the Instant Pot, there’s just 5ish minutes of hands-on cooking involved, so it’s one of those meals you can easily throw together on a weeknight. Once you sauté the aromatics for a few minutes, you can just toss everything in the Instant Pot and let the machine do its pressure cooking magic.

If being able to prepare a delicious, healthy, and crowd-pleasing dinner on a weeknight with minimal work isn’t motivation enough to finally buy an Instant Pot, I don’t know what is. Even better, it makes for fabulous leftovers!

Don’t have an Instant Pot? Try this Thai Butternut Squash Curry or this Vegan Pumpkin Curry instead!

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

Another reason I love this curry so much is that it is incredibly flavorful but has a fairly minimal ingredient list and is made with commonly available ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

Another selling point: this curry is creamy and hearty AF, making it the perfect winter comfort food. The Instant Pot magically transforms plain old lentils into creamy morsels bathing in a velvety stew made of coconut milk and cashew butter.

But to keep this curry on the lighter side, I opted for “lite” coconut milk instead of the full-fat variety. While you can definitely use the full-fat variety, I find that “lite” coconut milk is sufficient to yield a rich, creamy texture.

As for cashew butter? No, it’s not a traditional ingredient in curries, but it does add a nice, rich creaminess, just like almond butter does in my Red Lentil Curry, which you all love so much.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

This curry, however, isn’t just indulgent comfort food – it’s healthy, too. This is the kind of comfort food that will nourish your soul and your body. This butternut squash lentil curry starts with anti-inflammatory powerhouses ginger and turmeric, then gets a healthy dose of vitamin-rich butternut squash, followed by heart-healthy lentils and cashew butter, and finally a generous sprinkling of antioxidant-rich kale.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

Substitutions for this recipe

A few notes on substitutions. I use whole cumin seeds because I love the aroma and extra depth of flavor that whole spices bring to a curry, but if you don’t have cumin seeds, you can just use the same amount of ground cumin and add it along with the turmeric and curry powder (skip the first step).

If you can find fresh turmeric (Whole Foods usually stocks it), that would make this curry even better. Grate or mince 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fresh stuff, and add it along with the garlic and ginger.

Regarding butternut squash, you can use any winter squash you like, such as kabocha squash or red kuri squash. Red kuri squash, also known as hokkaido pumpkin, makes the prep work even easier because you don’t have to peel the skin.

And if you’re having trouble finding cashew butter, just substitute almond butter or tahini (peanut butter has a much stronger taste and might be overwhelming in this curry).

That’s all there is to say about this easy Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry, so I hope you give it a try and enjoy it!

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

5 from 46 votes
With just a few minutes of hands-on cooking, this Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry will become your go-to for weeknight meals. It’s hearty, healthy comfort food at its finest (and easiest).
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian-Inspired
Diet Vegan
Keyword: black beluga lentils, butternut squash, curry, gluten-free, instant pot, soy-free
Serving size: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined virgin coconut oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for spiciness)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 5-6 cups (700-850g) peeled and roughly chopped butternut squash, (can buy pre-cut squash)*
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup brown lentils or green lentils
  • 1 (15-ounce/ (400 mL) can “lite” coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons cashew butter (can substitute with almond butter or tahini)
  • 4 ounces baby kale or baby spinach (or 4-5 large handfuls)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 large handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • For serving: white rice and/or flatbread

Instructions

Instant Pot Directions

  • Rinse the lentils and drain them.
  • Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and after a few minutes, add 1/2 tablespoon of the coconut oil, followed by the cumin seeds. Toss for 30-60 seconds until lightly browned and very fragrant.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, followed by the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Stir in the the curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne (if using) for 30 seconds, adding the 2 tbsp water to prevent the mixture from drying out too much.
  • Add the chopped butternut squash and stir to coat it in the spice mixture. Pour in the vegetable broth and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Then add the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, the lentils, and coconut milk. Scoop the cashew butter on top but do not stir. This helps prevent the nut butter from sinking to the bottom and possibly triggering the Instant Pot burn warning.
  • Secure the Instant Pot lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook or Manual setting and set the cook time for 10 minutes.
  • Once the timer goes off, allow a natural pressure release. Once the pressure has released, open the pot and stir in the baby kale. Select the Sauté setting and heat for about 2 minutes or until the kale has wilted, then select Cancel. Add the lemon or lime juice and the cilantro and stir to combine.
  • Serve the butternut squash lentil curry over white rice or with flatbread.

Stovetop Directions

  • Heat a deep, heavy skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of the coconut oil, and once hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for 30-60 seconds until lightly browned and very fragrant.
  • Add the onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden and fragrant. Stir in the curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne (if using) until well incorporated.
  • Add the butternut squash, vegetable broth, lentils, coconut milk, and cashew butter. Stir well to combine.
  • Bring the curry mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the squash is cooked through, stirring every few minutes.
  • Add the baby kale and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until wilted. Add the lemon or lime juice and the cilantro and stir to combine.
  • Serve the butternut squash lentil curry over white rice or with flatbread.

Notes

  • If using the stovetop method, cut the squash into smaller cubes

Did you make this recipe?

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101 comments on Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

  1. Vidya

    5 stars
    This came out amazing I am shocked that I (who has a history of being a disastrous cook) made it. Loving the flavors and texture. I used tahini instead of cashew butter and spinach instead of kale. Also only used half the amount of coconut milk but the recipe was absolutely stellar. I also added green chilies for additional heat.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Vidya!

  2. Maria

    5 stars
    This recipe turned out delicious, with multiple levels of flavour! I made it as written, except used some regular kale instead of baby kale, and no cilantro. I did find it took quite a while to make, with all the chopping, grating, slicing, etc. But it was for Sunday dinner and now we have leftovers!

    One question- do you need to add the cashew butter beforehand, or can it be stirred in after the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is done?

    Thanks!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      So glad you loved it, Maria! We want to say yes, you can add the cashew butter after the curry is done being cooked. We are a bit nervous the cashew butter won’t completely separate and you’ll be stuck with chunks of cashew butter throughout. If you try it out please let us know how it works for you!

  3. Kelly

    5 stars
    This is delicious, simple and quick to make, and freezes well! Made it with kale this first time and with spinach the second, both were great. I’ve only recently started using an Instant Pot and your recipes always turn out well. I did have the “burn sensor” come on a couple times the first time I made this but no issue the second time, not sure what I did differently, maybe mixed it better before topping off with the cashew butter. Thanks for all of your delicious recipes!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Kelly. We are glad to hear you’re having better luck with the Instant Pot! Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  4. Ryan

    This is delicious. I have your cookbook, which I love and recommend to everyone, and am now exploring some of your site’s recipes. I’m such a fan and appreciate the depth of flavor in all of your dishes. Thank you!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Ryan, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoy the recipes! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  5. Paulina Zyskowski

    5 stars
    Yum! I didn’t have cashew butter so I added a bit of the tahini and threw whole cashews into the instapot. I wanted to immersion blend the curry anyways and after it cooked they blended really well! Another good one Nisha

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Great, Paulina! Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Ell

    5 stars
    Perfect amount of liquid! One of the best instant pot recipes I’ve found, thanks!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Ell, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  7. E.S.

    Can you freeze leftovers?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, yes you can! Freeze them in single serving portions for up to a few months and defrost in the fridge!

  8. Paula

    Which curry powder are you using?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Paula, we just get curry powder from our local Indian market! Feel free to use any you can find, though.

  9. Heather Roffey

    5 stars
    Super simple and yummy.
    Eating it while I type this. :)
    I made this without coconut milk because I did not have any. I added an extra tablespoon of almond butter to compensate, but that may have been unnecessary.
    Without the coconut milk, this stew is plenty rich in flavor.
    I also used bok choy instead of kale as it was the only green thing left in the fridge. I think this is a forgiving recipe that can easily handle modification.
    Thanks Nisha for another winner.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for sharing, Heather! We’re pleased you loved the curry!

  10. sb

    This came out great! Not as yellow as your pics show but still good :-)
    The salt was not enough but it was an easy fix.
    Great recipe overall…thank you for sharing!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi SB, we try to err on the salt of less salt and encourage readers add salt to taste. Glad you loved the recipe though!

  11. Ava

    5 stars
    Delicious! I made it with a mixture of butternut and sweet potatoes.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yum, Ava! That’s a great idea! We are so happy you love the curry!

  12. Oscar

    5 stars
    Two rounds of “Burn Sensor” going off on the InstantPot! Third time was a charm.
    Probably should’ve cut the butternut squash in smaller chunks…?
    Served with Naan and rice.
    Tasty and worth the effort!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Glad you still enjoyed the meal, Oscar! The burn sensor usually goes off if the pot hasn’t been adequately deglazed before pressure cooking, or if the ingredients are too thick. The size of the squash cut shouldn’t matter too much. Next time, when you pour the broth in, make sure you really scrape up those browned bits on the bottom of the pot before pressure cooking. And not sure if you did this, but try not to stir too much after adding the ingredients and before pressure cooking – this prevents the nut butter from sinking to the bottom and possibly triggering the burn notice.

  13. Sophie

    5 stars
    I was looking for a new recipe for butternut squash soup and this one did not disappoint. I did change a couple of things: because my husband, who is usually my designated butternut squash cutter, was out of town, I roasted the squash in the oven instead of adding it cubed. I halved and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roasted it for about 45 min. Then I cubed it and added it to the broth. The squash was delicious this way, more tender and sweeter. I also used Trader Joe’s cooked lentils instead of dry because I bought extra by accident. It was phenomenal. My son ate it and said it was “alright,” which is actually huge praise because he normally boycotts anything with any type of squash. My husband, mom, and work wife loved it, and I sent the recipe to two friends and my daughter. Thank you for another delicious meal, Nisha!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Sophie! Thanks for sharing the recipe with all of your loved ones!

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