Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal (Masoor Dal)


Creamy red lentil dal, made in minutes, in an instant pot!

instant pot red lentil dal (masoor dal)

Once upon a time, a girl named Ashley, with a food blog came up with this great recipe for red lentil dal, also known as masoor dal. But she had absolutely nothing interesting to say about the dal other than the fact that it was tasty. When she tried explaining this to the bowl of masoor dal, the dal was quite offended. So masoor dal decided HE would take over Ashley’s post and talk a little about himself.

Hi. I’m Red Lentil Dal, but feel free to call me Masoor. I’m taking over Ashley’s blog post today because, frankly, I don’t trust her to do me justice. She thinks the only thing interesting about me is the fact that I taste good. 🙄To be quite honest, as a lentil, I feel a bit misunderstood, and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about the real me.

I know what you’re thinking. But Masoor, you’re so popular. You’re everywhere! You’re in every grocery store. Everyone LOVES you.

Yes, it’s true. I’m basically a lentil celebrity. But that doesn’t mean I feel UNDERSTOOD. I sort of feel like no one really knows the real me. I mean, even my name. They call me Red Lentil, but I’m really more orangey-pink/salmon in color, and then after you cook me, I turn into a beautiful shade of gold. Yes. Gold.

And I know everyone knows OF me, but no one really appreciates how truly special I am. I’m not the lentil you bring to a party or introduce to family/friends. Why is that? Everyone loves chana dal for its texture and for how nutty it is, and ugh, don’t get me started on the bigger guys, kidney, and chickpea… they are so full of themselves. They show up at every Indian dinner party.

Everyone thinks of me as this mild, sweet lentil, and I have this reputation for turning to mush under any type of pressure. But I mean, it’s not my fault – I’m a sensitive dude—a quality to be admired. Also, I’m low maintenance. You don’t need to soak me (unless you want to) – just give me a quick rinse and cook. Easy, tasty, and filling – what more could you possibly want?

instant pot red lentil dal (masoor dal)

I know I’m a common lentil, but I’m not ordinary, okay? I am really, really special.

Everyone treats me like I’m old news. Yes, I’ve been around for a while (my ancestors were around before domestication – like 11000BCE), but I’m not history… I’m historic. I mean, I’m mentioned a few times in the Bible… someone (Esau) gave up his birthright (to Jacob) for a bowl of ME (RED lentils). Yeah. I’m also mentioned in early Sanskrit lit (along with my buddies, ma (urad) and mung – who also deserve more love, in my opinion).

I’m also still really relevant now. I’m economical – I’ll keep your pockets and your belly nice and full. And I’m good for the environment, so please appreciate my plant-based awesomeness.

WHEW. Alright. I’ve made my case. You see it now, right? I’m one special lentil. So feel free to keep me on your weekly menu but invite me to a party every now and then too, okay?

instant pot red lentil dal (masoor dal)

If you want to learn more about my bean friends, check out this post about the different lentils used in Indian cooking or read this surprisingly fascinating book about beans, or this interesting read about Indian food history. Enjoy!

“This is the best lentil recipe I have ever, ever made or had. I loved it so much I ate it for breakfast! The onion masala is genius and while it requires prep work, once it’s done the recipes using it have a complexity many of the Indian recipes I’ve made at home lack. I will be making all your recipes that use it!”

Marcella W.

Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal (Masoor Dal)

instant pot red lentil dal (masoor dal)

Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal (Masoor Dal)

4.98 from 37 reviews
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  • 1 tablespoon ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 serrano pepper slit in half but still intact
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils masoor dal, rinsed
  • ½ cup onion masala
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne or red chili powder to taste
  • Cilantro garnish


  • Press the sauté button, add oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add cumin seeds and serrano pepper to the pot. Once the cumin seeds start to brown, add the remaining ingredients to the pot. 
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 5 minutes at high pressure. 
  • Naturally release pressure or wait 10 minutes, then release pressure. 
  • Adjust salt to taste and add more water if you’d like a thinner dal. The dal will thicken as it cools so if you are reheating it, you’ll likely need to add more water.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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instant pot red lentil dal (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. Becky says

    5 stars
    I have tried, and really enjoyed, many of your onion masala recipes, but this is the one I come back to the most! It’s so quick and easy, but absolutely delicious! I don’t order take-out dal anymore because I know it won’t taste as good as this recipe

  2. Lisa says

    5 stars
    This recipe is simple and so delicious – truly! I made the onion masala a little while back and so making this recipe was a breeze. Fast and tasty lunch in no time. Thanks so much!

  3. Katherine P says

    5 stars
    Now this…. IS SOMETHING ELSE!!! This is so good it’s probably illegal in 48 of the 50 states and all of the provenances of Canada too.
    I made the onion masala yesterday, and all on its own it was good, but this? I have no word which begin to sugjest how good it is. Next time I’ll be making a double batch, which means the onion masala will be gone in no time, so next time I’ll need to make a double or quadruple batch.
    Where has this been all my life?
    And having made the onion masala ahead of time jus made this ultra simple and fast. One the onion masala is made, the rest is basic pantry staples that are always on hand, with the exception of the serano pepper. I want seconds soooo bad.

  4. Christina says

    5 stars
    this is such a big step up from other dal recipes I have tried! I have enjoyed many of your other recipes and went ahead and made some onion masala so that I could make even more of them. this one is so easy and flavorful. I’m about to make it for the second time tonight and thought I’d leave a comment while I was here checking the recipe.
    incidentally, I know you won’t ever please everybody, but I have really appreciated any discussion of geography, history, etc that go along with recipes.

  5. Anil says

    Ashley, if i don’t have your onion masala, do you have a translation to what 1/2 cup of onion means in terms of the quantity of fresh tomato, onion, ginger and garlic?


    • Karen says

      I hear you as I was just wondering that myself. I’d have thought, as the recipe creator,Ashley would be able to give the equivalent ingredients of the onion masala, as not everybody always has it conveniently available. Especially as so many of her recipes, in particular the dal ones, require this. I wish there could be a symbol by the recipe saying it uses this rather than have us waste out time clicking on a recipe only to scroll down and see we can’t make it due to not having the masala.
      Lovely recipes but not very helpful with an over-reliance on the ready-made onion masala and no alternative given so that others may still make it. I think I’ll just guess in future as she never answers these queries so you’ll probably not recieve a reply.

      • Ashley - My Heart Beets says

        Hi Karen, I try to respond to as many comments as I can, but I’m first and foremost a mom of two and second a blogger. With most Indian recipes, it’s not going to drastically affect taste if you’re off by a few cloves of garlic or tomatoes – you can guess and sauté and it’ll likely turn out great. That said, if you want exact measurements, then you’ll want to use the onion masala. It’s easy, saves time, and provides great results. One day, when my kids are older maybe I’ll have time to go back through all recipes and update them but for now, the onion masala is a lifesaver.

  6. Serena says

    I typically make this daal on the stove but wanted to try to use the instant pot, which I use a lot for other recipes. After 5 mins on high pressure, and natural release for maybe 8 minutes, the daal turned into complete mush. It was not usable so I ended up making rice and turning it into khichdi. Any idea what may have gone wrong? And when I mean mush I mean like it was 2 minutes away from soup.

  7. Wendy says

    5 stars
    I made this today for lunch, and it was lovely! The only change I made was adding about 1/2 cup of coconut milk which gave it a smoother taste. I also made your onion masala a couple of weeks ago which is now frozen, and I have used these frozen jewels in a few recipes already, including this one. I love having this ready to go without worrying about cutting up onions and tomatoes. Thanks!

  8. Iris says

    5 stars
    So easy and flavorful. Plus I always have the ingredients in the pantry. I’ve made this a few times.

  9. Raven says

    5 stars
    This recipe is wonderful, it’s one of my absolute favorite go to recipes! It’s super easy and is packed with so much flavor. I like to roast cauliflower and put this over it, such a wonderful combo. Thank you for your amazing recipes!!

  10. Ellen Peterson says

    Love how Masoor took over your blog to set the record straight 🙂 This dal was the first dal I ever tasted and is comfort food now. Thank you!

  11. MargoLondinium says

    5 stars
    This is the BEST red lentil dhal I have ever made or eaten, by far! The onion masala gives the humble red lentil a delicious richness and the finished dhal is so creamy and unctuous! Yummy! Thanks for this recipe 🙂

  12. Lisa says

    5 stars
    Made a double batch in my 8 qt Instant Pot. Replaced the serrano with half a jalapeño since that’s what I had. Just finished eating some over rice, with a dollop of yogurt, some green chili pickle, and chundo. Delicious! The Prince of Bangladesh (AKA my boyfriend) even asked for seconds!

  13. Andy Dennis says

    4 stars
    Tasty. I have made this a few times now and it has come out very thin and watery (although flavorful). I’m thinking about using less water next time, or draining some water off before I blend it. I prefer the texture and consistency of the Chana dal recipe which is stiffer – more like a squash soup. Thanks, Ashley for your recipes – I got an instant pot earlier this year and dove head first into making Indian food (even though I had never previously attempted it). Your website has been a major resource!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Glad you like it, Andy. I think consistency is a matter of preference when it comes to dal, so feel free to add less water if you prefer. This dal thickens as it sits, so if you use less, you may end up needing to add more when reheating. Glad to hear you like the chana dal as well!

  14. Sana says

    5 stars
    Made this tonight as I needed a quick and easy recipe and had onion masala on hand. Omitted the serrano pepper and red chili for my toddler and despite that, it tasted lovely. Toddler approved too!

  15. Jean M says

    5 stars
    I made the onion masala a couple of days ago and made this last night after a long day at work. So freaking good and so simple to make! My husband and I both loved the soup and are enjoying leftovers for today’s lunch!

    I can’t wait to try other recipes using the onion masala. I love time savers for weekdays.

  16. Betsy says

    5 stars
    Hi! I would like to rate this 7 stars! I used a 1/4 tsp less salt and it was mind boggling!!! Love your recipes, ashley!!!! You are the very best in precision and flavor!!!!!!

  17. Jon says

    Nice short recipe. Few suggestions:
    1. Why the irrelevant video on the top of onion masala? This is a daal recipe.
    2. Cut out the history geography and anthropology.
    3. Just post a video recipe that’s it.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks for the feedback, Jon. The onion masala video is there because this dal calls for onion masala. If/when I make a red lentil dal video, I’ll update the post. Also, I have a “jump to recipe” button that you’re welcome to use – it’ll take you right to the recipe.

  18. Jenny says

    Hi Ashley! I’m not much of a kitchen gadget person (and I’m from Australia so this is the first I’d heard of an “instant pot”, haha!) so is there a way to make this on the stove?

    Just made your stovetop baingan bharta last night and it was splendid!

    Thanks 🙂

  19. Alex says

    5 stars
    I just made this for a potluck and everyone loved it! So, so easy to make. I threw it together right before the potluck very quickly. Now I know they liked it, they will be getting many more of your recipes!

  20. Jenita says

    5 stars
    I made this 2 days ago and my fam & I loved it. I think I like masoor more than toor or moong dal, always used masoor only for sambar. So simple ,easy to make , healthy and a filling dish as well. It sits well too. I ate the rest of it the next day as a soup with a little indian pickle…

    • My Heart Beets says

      Jenita, I’m so happy to hear that you and your fam loved this dal 🙂 Thanks for letting me know how it turned out! And I normally use toor for sambar but I’m going to use masoor the next time I make it – thanks for sharing that!

  21. Jenita says

    I haven’t tried it. The recipe calls for cumin seeds but in the instructions, its says when the “mustard seeds pop”

      • My Heart Beets says

        Hi Ravan, sorry for the delay in answering your question. If you don’t have onion masala, you’ll want to sauté an onion until it starts to turn brown, add a teaspoon each of minced garlic and ginger and then add 1-2 diced tomatoes and sauté until they cook down. You’ll also want to add the following spices that I include in the onion masala sauce: coriander, paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne. Hope that helps!

  22. Maneesha says

    Ahhh soul food! Can’t wait to try this! I love all daals! I also love how you’re advocating for red masoor! 🙂

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