Instant Pot Brown Lentil Curry (Whole Masoor Dal)


instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

This simple brown lentil curry is an everyday dal that you’ll find served in Indian homes. While it’s not going to make an appearance on the menu next to dal makhani at your local Indian restaurant, it’s still a very comforting and well-spiced dal, perfect for an ordinary day.

instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

Do you have a “happy place,” and if so, is it food-related?

I have a few happy places (most involve food, lol). One of them is really easy for me to get to. It’s me sitting by myself on my couch, wrapped up in a big blanket, holding a bowl that’s nearly filled to the brim with piping hot dal and fragrant basmati. At the very edge of my bowl sits a plop of cold yogurt and a spoonful of spicy achar (Indian pickle). I wait for the kids to go to bed so that I can silently eat, smell, and savor every single bite. It feels like home. Which I guess makes sense… considering it’s actually in my home.

I like to shake things up now and then, though. Nothing crazy. Just switch out the dal for another dal after some time. Lately, I’ve been all about these chubby little brown lentils, also known as whole masoor dal (or sabut masoor dal).

Tell me all about brown lentils, Ashley (said no one ever).

Brown lentils are chubby little lentils that keep their shape even after pressure cooking. Did you know that when you disrobe a brown lentil… it’s actually red underneath? Now I’m imagining a naked lentil. Here red lentil, take my coat. Ah, too late. Poor thing got so embarrassed it turned to mush. 🙈

That’s the thing with red lentils. They turn into (a tasty) mush when you cook them. But somehow, when red lentils keep their outer brown shell (and are therefore actually brown lentils…), they keep their lens-like shape.

As far as flavor, the brown shell gives the sweet and nutty red lentil a bit of earthiness. Though when doused in Indian spices, it’s really the texture of a lentil that matters most. And as we’ve established, brown lentils can hold their own under pressure (cooking).

instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

(Want to learn more about legumes often used in Indian cooking? You can read this post).

There’s a lot to love about lentils. They’re delicious, nutritious, economical, and thanks to the instant pot and my onion masala, they are quick and easy to cook.

Speaking of onion masala…

If you haven’t made my onion masala yet, what’s going on, friend? Do you not want to save hours spent in the kitchen? Do you enjoy standing around every day waiting for onions to brown and tomatoes to reduce?

Please make some of this masala and then use it in all of my recipes that call for onion masala.

It’ll save you loads of energy and time. You will be happier for it.

instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

You can serve this dal with roti, basmati rice or jeera rice.

Instant Pot Brown Lentil Curry (Whole Masoor Dal)

instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

Instant Pot Brown Lentil Curry (Whole Masoor Dal)

5 from 9 reviews
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  • 1 cup whole masoor dal brown lentils, soaked for 1-2 hours
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ serrano pepper minced (adjust to taste)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup onion masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • Cilantro garnish


  • Soak the lentils for a couple hours (or overnight). Drain, rinse and set aside.
  • Press the sauté button, add the ghee/oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add cumin seeds and green chili pepper to the pot. Once the cumin seeds brown, add lentils and remaining ingredients to the pot.
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve.
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instant pot Indian brown lentil dal (whole masoor dal)

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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Manjit Marlow says

    Hi…when I cancel the saute and put the pressure cook button on for 15 mins, the saute button comes on as well…is that supposed to happen?

  2. Kay Martin says

    5 stars
    I just discovered your website. I made these brown lentils last night, after making the onion masala. Holy flavor explosion! My mind is blown. I’m super excited to try more of your recipes. This one is over-the-top good.

  3. Sarah Patel says

    5 stars
    You guys, this stuff rocks. This is the easiest weeknight meal that I have made so many times it feels like homey comfort food. Even better, it is the perfect cook time to but some brown rice on a trivet and everything is ready at once! After trying *several* dal recipes and combinations, this is the one my husband always asks for. Thank you Ashley!

  4. Scott Snyder says

    5 stars
    Have been making many of the dals from this site, inspired by several trips to India for business and access to the full range of ingredients from some good local Indian grocery stores. All are great, and this dal is absolutely a family favorite. Made without the pepper and just a touch of chili to keep it spice-level friendly for my 4- and 7-year old. Great paired with roti, garlic naan, or even some sourdough bread for those who have been making lots of that during these past few months! For anyone questioning making the onion masala, it is such a major time saver! Thanks for this recipe as I use it all the time and one large batch has let me make 12 dal recipes.

  5. Reena says

    5 stars
    Wow, Ashley. Thank you so much for this recipe and the onion masala. I try to cook Indian for my family 2-3 weeks with the onion masala in tow, I am able to make authentic Indian dishes ( palak paneer, gobi and Masoor dal) in a matter of minutes! So glad I found your blog!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Reena! I’m so glad you made and liked this! And happy to hear you’re liking the onion masala as well 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you think of other recipes you try!

  6. Dianne says

    Can I substitute any of the following for the masoor dal – urad whole matpe beans, good dal split pigeon peas, or split chana dal? Would prep and cooking times change?

  7. Tracy says

    Thank you so much for the modification. It turned out beautifully and I will definitely be trying more of your recipes. Delicious!

  8. Tracy says

    The onion masala recipe sounds like a great time saver. However, this is the first recipe I’m going to try from your website. I don’t want to have to make two recipes just to try one. Can you please let me know how to modify it without making the onion masala?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hey Tracy, totally get it… after the cumin seeds brown, add 1 onion and sauté until caramelized, then add 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced ginger, stir, then add 2 diced tomatoes and cook them down. Then add the lentils, water and the rest of the ingredients listed. After you make (and hopefully like this) I hope you’ll give the onion masala a try!

  9. Sarai says

    5 stars
    My husband doesn’t normally eat vegetarian, also he didn’t seem very happy with the onion masala idea.
    He tried this recipe yesterday and he loved it! Then I said: “I made it with the onion masala!” Haha
    I’ll make it again for sure! Quick, convenient and delicious!
    Thank you for your recipes!

  10. Christy Paul says

    5 stars
    I remember onions in my mom’s version of masoor Daal so I added onions after the cumin seeds and then followed the rest of this recipe! It turned out really good. Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

  11. Maneesha says

    5 stars
    This was my first time cooking with brown masoor daal (usually I cook with the mushy red masoor), and this turned out so well! Deeelicious! And the Daal holds its shape well too! Thanks Ashley! Nom nom success!

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