Nisha Vora4 Comments

How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

Nisha Vora4 Comments
How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

I love the Instant Pot. I really do. I had been using it for years, but it wasn't until I baked a cake in the Instant Pot that I realized, this thing can do everything! 

I used to never cook lentils (or beans) from scratch because the thought of soaking them overnight, draining them, and watching them on the stove seemed too time-consuming when I could just buy them canned or boxed at the store. But the Instant Pot makes it SO much easier to cook lentils. You can literally throw them in the Instant Pot with some liquid, walk away, and come back to perfectly cooked lentils. If you don't want to read everything I know about lentils and the Instant Pot, just check out the video here

A guide to cooking lentils in the Instant Pot

Types of lentils

Red Lentils: more orange than red, these lentils are commonly used in Indian dal or soft dishes like soups and curries. This is because they break down quickly and become creamy and mushy when you cook them, making them the perfect thickening agent for stews, soups, and purées.

For a soup, I like cooking red lentils for about 10 minutes in the Instant Pot, but if you're just cooking them plain with water or vegetable broth, they really only need 3-4 minutes. 

Brown and Green Lentils: these are the most common lentils, at least in the U.S., that you can find at any grocery store and in any ordinary lentil soup. They're a little bigger than other varieties of lentils and have a mild, earthy flavor.

Brown and green lentils are pretty versatile, so if you want to use them in a salad or wrap, cook them for about 7-8 minutes to keep them whole and firm. If you want them a little softer, you can do 12 minutes, and if you want them to break down and soften, maybe in a puréed dish or a stew, you can cook them up to 15 or even 20 minutes. 

Black Beluga Lentils: these are the fanciest of lentils and are a bit more expensive than ordinary lentils, which are very cheap. They hold their shape well when cooked, so 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. 

I like cooking black beluga lentils for about 8-10 minutes in the Instant Pot. 

French Green (Puy) Lentils: these lentils also hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect in salads. They have a pleasant, peppery taste and tend to be a little more pricier than regular green or brown lentils. 

These take about 8 minutes in the Instant Pot if you want them to be firm and not mushy. 

 How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot

Tips for cooking 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. 

If you are just straight up cooking lentils, I use about 1 3/4 cups liquid (vegetable broth or water) for 1 cup of lentils, along with a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Once you combine everything, just select the Manual mode and cook for the desired cook time. 

Once the cook time is done, you'll want naturally release the pressure on the Instant Pot for about 10 minutes.  After the timer goes off, let the pot sit for 10 minutes without touching it. Then, move the Venting knob from the Sealing position to the Venting position and release any remaining pressure. 

To make your lentils flavorful, you need to add some flavorings (duh). Lentils are sponges, so they absorb the flavors of the ingredients they're cooked in. I always begin my lentils by sautéing some aromatics in oil, such as onion and garlic. And because I like things spicy, I usually sautè some chili peppers too. If I'm cooking Indian food, I'll add in cumin seeds and ginger before adding the lentils. After you cook your aromatics, it's time for seasonings. You can keep it simple with just salt and pepper, or you can add an array of your favorite spices. Finally, I recommend cooking the lentils in vegetable broth instead of water since it'll give the lentils a little more richness. 

Recipe 1: Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

 How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot - red lentil sweet potato soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. Select the Sauté setting on your Instant Pot and heat up the coconut oil. Once it's shimmering, add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. 
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and turmeric and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. 
  3. Add the lentils, sweet potatoes, broth, sea salt, and pepper. Stir to combine all of the ingredients. 
  4. Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Manual setting and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.
  5. Once the 10 minutes is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. 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. 
  6. Once the soup has slightly cooled, top with coconut yogurt and fresh cilantro.

Recipe #2: Indian Spiced Black Beluga Lentils

 How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot - Indian black lentils

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or oil of choice
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds 
  • 1 Serrano pepper, diced with seeds (omit seeds for mild version; use 2 peppers for spicy version) 
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup black Beluga lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or water) 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper 
  • 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional) 
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • For serving: coconut yogurt and fresh cilantro 

Directions

  1. 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 a minute or two until the seeds are sputtering.
  2. Then add the diced Serrano pepper and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic.  
  3. Cook the diced onion for 2 minutes and then add the garlic, ginger and spices, cooking for 2-3 minutes and scraping up any bits that are stuck.
  4. Add the lentils, broth, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Stir to combine all of the ingredients. 
  5. Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Manual setting and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the 10 minutes is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the vegan butter, stirring until it's melted and mixed through. 
  7. Serve lentils with coconut yogurt and fresh cilantro.

Recipe #3: Simple Brown Lentils

brown lentils lm (1 of 1).jpg

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or oil of choice
  • 1 chili pepper such as Serrano or jalapeño, diced with seeds (omit seeds for mild version; use 2 peppers for spicy version) 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste 
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (or water) 
  • For serving: lemon juice, parsley, and white rice  

Directions

  1. 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.  
  2. Add the diced onion and season with sea salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook until the onion is softened and browned. 
  3. Add the lentils and broth and stir to combine.  
  4. Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and seal. Select the Manual setting and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.
  5. Once the 15 minutes is up, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the lemon juice and parsley. 
  6. Serve lentils with white rice.