Make this easy Instant pot dal recipe with staple pantry ingredients and enjoy a comfort meal at home in no time. This vegan and gluten-free Indian dal recipe is a keeper as you can make any dal using this.
What is dal
Dal is an Indian side dish with lentils as the main ingredient. Traditionally, lentils are cooked with water and tempered with basic spices.
This recipe uses an Instant pot to make the dal quickly, but it will taste delicious just like authentic dal.
- Dal or lentils: I used split pigeon peas or toor dal in this recipe. This is the most common lentils used to make Indian dal. But you can also use other lentils like yellow lentils (moong dal), brown lentils (sabut masoor dal), and red lentils(masoor dal) to make this Instant pot dal. The only difference would be the cooking times. Please refer to the cooking times section for various lentils.
- Spices: Dal is an everyday dish in most homes, so it just has the basic spices like cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder, and turmeric powder. I sometimes add garam masala powder or curry powder to flavor it more and change the taste.
- Aromatics: This recipe uses finely chopped garlic, ginger and onion to flavor the dal. You can use either garlic, ginger, onion, or all of these to flavor the dal.
How to make Instant pot dal
Rinse and soak the dal
- Rinse the dal in fresh water and soak them for 30 minutes or so. Soaking lentils is optional; they cook quickly even without soaking, unlike beans or chickpeas.
- Soaking makes them easy for digestion, so I soak them when I have time and plan my meals in advance.
Make tempering (tadka)
- Start the Instant pot in saute mode and add oil.
- Once it is hot, add cumin, mustard, minced garlic, chopped ginger, slit green chili (optional), curry leaves, and asafoetida.
- I usually take some tempering and keep it aside for the garnish. So once the seeds splutter, carefully scoop out the tempering.
- To this tempering, add finely chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the finely chopped tomatoes and spice powders - ground cumin, coriander powder, red chili powder, and turmeric powder. And let it cook for a couple of minutes.
- Drain the water from the soaked lentils and add it to the Instant pot inner pot. If you haven't soaked the dal, add the rinsed dal here.
- Add water and mix the dal well.
- Stop the Instant pot saute mode and Close the Instant pot with its lid. Seal the vent.
- Start the Instant pot in pressure cook or manual mode and cook it on high pressure for 6 minutes. Please check the cooking time section for the pressure cook time as it changes from lentil to lentil.
- Once the Instant pot finishes cooking., wait for 10 minutes and manually release the pressure. You can wait for the natural pressure release as well.
Add leafy greens
- If using leafy veggies, finely chop them and add them to the dal.
- You need not cook the dal again if you use baby spinach, baby kale, or any tender leafy greens. The remaining heat will cook the greens.
- If you are using fenugreek leaves or other leafy greens that need cooking, start the Instant pot saute mode and cook it for a couple of minutes.
Garnish the dal
- Stir the dal once, and the delicious Instant pot dal is ready to serve with basmati rice, quinoa, millet, or naan bread.
- Garnish the dal with the tempering that we kept aside. You can add chopped cilantro leaves and lemon juice now if you like. Easy and healthy lunch or dinner is ready in under 30 minutes.
Cooking times for different lentils
- While making this Instant pot dal, you can cook white basmati rice along with daal. Before pressure cooking the dal, place a trivet inside the pot. Place a bowl with basmati rice and water on the trivet and start the Instant pot.
- For 1 cup of basmati rice, I use 1.25 cups of water.
- Soaking lentils is optional. They cook very fast, even without soaking. I sometimes soak brown lentils, especially when they are aged.
- I used coconut oil to make this dal. Traditionally, ghee is used to make the dal tempering. You can use oil or ghee or butter to make this dal.
- In this recipe, I used green chili and red chili powder. You can use any one or both as per your liking. I sometimes even use whole red chili while making the tempering.
- To make the dal spicier, you can also use red chili flakes or freshly ground black pepper.
- Veggies - I like to add veggies to my dal, and it is easy to sneak more veggies into your meals. Veggies like calabash (bottle gourd), ridge gourd, zucchini, and carrot go well with the dal.
- Leafy greens - Green leafy veggies are a great addition to the dal. And the dal taste and flavor will vary accordingly. You can use any leafy veggies like spinach, fenugreek leaves, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, amaranth greens, and sorrel leaves to make the dal nutrient-rich and tasty. I do not pressure cook the leafy greens and add them to the dal after the pressure release. The residual heat will usually cook the green leafy, but if you want to cook more, start the Instant pot in saute mode and simmer the dal for a couple of minutes.
- Aromatics - You can add garlic, ginger, and onion to flavor the dal. As dal is an everyday dish, use any of one or two or all, depending on the availability. If you do not have fresh garlic or ginger, you can add ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder or ginger powder to make this Instant pot dal.
- Spices - Apart from the spices mentioned in the recipe, you can use garam masala powder or curry powder for the dal.
- Coconut milk - Usually, we do not use coconut milk in the Indian dal. But to make the dal creamy and rich, I sometimes add half or one cup of coconut milk to the dal at the end. Coconut milk makes dal earthy, especially the brown lentil dal.
- Herbs - Mainly, fresh cilantro is used to garnish the dal. But I sometimes use mint leaves, and dill leaves to flavor the day. They impart a different flavor but are worth trying.
Always reheat the frozen or refrigerated dal and use it immediately. And dal will change consistency when you refrigerate it. So add more water while reheating it.
Do not consume the dal if the color or odor changes.
- Room temperature - Dal keeps well for about 8 to 10 hours at room temperature.
- Refrigerator - You can store this in the fridge for about two days.
- Freezer - Freeze the dal and use it within three months. And always freeze the dal in portion sizes so you can thaw the required amount. And always consume the thawed dal immediately and do not freeze it again.
Instant pot dal goes best with basmati rice. But you can serve it with millet, quinoa, or any Indian flatbread like roti, paratha, and naan bread.
For a light dinner, thin out the dal with coconut milk and serve it as a soup with some sliced bread or crackers.
I always use 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils. This ratio works perfectly for any lentils. However, if you like thicker dal, try using 2.5 cups water.
Pressure cook time depends on the type of lentils. The most common lentils, split pigeon peas, will take 5 minutes of pressure cook time.
No, we need not soak lentils before pressure cooking. They cook faster even without soaking, but soaking doesn't hurt.
Lentils will have an outer coating called saponins. Rinsing them will remove the saponins.
As you are here, you will like other dal recipes on this blog
Brown lentils dal with coconut milk
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Easy Instant pot dal
- 1 cup split pigeon peas Toor dal (you can use any lentils)
- 3 cups water
- ½ cup tomato finely chopped
- ½ cup onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 green chili optional, use it for spicier dal
- 1 teaspoon ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic grated or smashed
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 6 curry leaves optional
- Hing pinch (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Salt adjust according to taste
- Cilantro for garnish
- Rinse the lentils and keep them aside.
- Start the Instant pot in saute mode and add oil, cumin, mustard, curry leaves, crushed garlic, and asafoetida (if using). Add green chili now if you are using it.
- Once cumin seeds splutter, add finely chopped onions and cook them for a couple of minutes.
- Now add finely chopped tomatoes and let them also cook for 2 minutes.
- Then goes the spice powders - ground cumin, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt.
- Add the rinsed lentils to the Instant pot inner pot and mix it well.
- Add water and deglaze the pot if required.
- Stop the Instant pot saute mode and close it with its lid.
- Seal the vent and start the Instant pot in manual or pressure cook mode and cook it for 6 minutes on high pressure. Please check the cooking times section as time varies for different lentils.
- Once the Instant pot finishes cooking, wait for a natural pressure release or manually release the pressure after 10 minutes.
- Stir the dal and add more water to adjust the consistency of the dal.
- If using any leafy veggies, add them now and cook the dal for a couple of minutes in saute mode. Or close the Instant pot and keep it aside for 10 minutes. The residual heat will cook the leafy greens.
- The delicious Instant pot dal is ready to serve.
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