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 15 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Total 1 hour
5 from 88 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.

For even more terrific dishes featuring lentils, check out my round-up of lentil recipes. Or if it’s instant pot recipes you’re after, there are more than 90 incredible vegan Instant Pot recipes in 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!

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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.

Looking for more nourishing Indian recipes? Try my Dal Palak, Saag Aloo or Vegan Palak Paneer, which are all loaded with greens!

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 88 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 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian-Inspired
Diet Vegan
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

Calories: 344kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 678mg | Potassium: 959mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 14316IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 5mg

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4.97 from 88 votes (37 ratings without comment)

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165 comments on Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry

  1. Michelle

    I can’t wait to try this! I was wondering if you have any recommendations for making this on the slow cooker setting instead? I’m hoping to make this on my lunch break to eat for dinner.
    Thanks :-)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Michelle, sorry for such a late response.

      We haven’t tried this ourselves so don’t know for sure how it would turn out. If we did try it, these are the steps we might take:
      Follow steps 1-5 as normal
      Step 6 cook on slow cooker settings: low heat for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours
      Step 7: 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.

  2. Heller An Shapiro

    5 stars
    Easy and delicious. Perfect combination of lentils and squash. Seasoning was just right.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Heller, it’s great to hear you had success with the recipe. Thanks for the review!

  3. Hannah

    5 stars
    One of my all-time favourite recipes. We probably make this once a month. Love the texture. I always add firm or extra firm tofu. So goood.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hannah, So glad to hear you love this recipe! :)

  4. Cindy Hansen

    I don’t have brown lentils on hand, do you think it would ruin the recipe if I used red lentils instead?

    Thanks!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Cindy! Red lentils should work well. They will break down more, but since it’s a curry, it should be fine. They do have a tendency to stick a bit more in the Instant Pot, so I would give them a rinse and be sure to deglaze the pot very well before pressure cooking. You might also want to add an additional ¼ cup broth or water to be on the safe side.

  5. Patrick

    Hi,

    Did anyone other than me experience really long times for the instant pot to pressurize and seal in this recipe? This is the 2nd time I’ve tried this recipe and after 25 min, my instant pot still had not pressurized and sealed. I thought it was the device but I tried making rice in it after and it worked with no problem. Any tips?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Patrick, the time it takes for the instant pot can be kinda tricky. The time it takes to pressurize is variable not only across types of recipes (the more liquid in a recipe, the longer it takes; a cup of rice usually only takes 5ish minutes to pressurize) but also across machines, depending on the model and the age of your machine. So it’s hard to estimate what a normal time would be for this recipe to come to pressure. Did the machine eventually come to pressure after the 25 minutes?

  6. Monica

    5 stars
    This dish tasted great and was satisfying. The lentils needed an additional 3 minutes in the instant pot so I added my greens and pressure cooked for the additional time.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Monica. Thank you for leaving a review!

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