These Instant Pot Madras lentils are a toned-down, everyday lentil curry (also known as dal) that is very comforting and nourishing. It captures the essence of a rich Indian dal but with a lighter, more tomato-based sauce and the addition of potatoes and carrots (sometimes beans can be added). Great to serve over rice or quinoa or to enjoy with some naan bread. This simple family dinner is full of fragrant spices, plant-based protein and fibre and is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Have you ever heard of Madras curry?
Madras curry, or at least its name, is associated with the city of Madras in the south of India. However, it was developed in curry houses of Britain during the 1960s and is somewhat based on other Indian curries and sauces.
Madras curry can be vegetarian or made with meat or seafood and is often quite hot and served with yogurt. However, that are many variations, some mild and some rich and robust. Most of them feature familiar Indian spices of turmeric, chili, paprika, cumin, as well as ginger, garlic and onion. Many will also have curry leaves and garam masala spices.
Our Instant Pot Madras lentils version is a simple, everyday curry using staple ingredients and spices you are most likely to have at home. You might say it’s a slightly toned-down version but it is by no means less tasty.
HOW TO SERVE MADRAS LENTILS
As this is a lentil curry similar to a dal, it can be served over rice or quinoa or with some soft naan bread. You can prepare the rice and naan bread while the lentils are cooking but for a speedy dinner hack, we love using 2-minute rice packets and store-bought naan bread, which you can reheat in the oven (brush it with a little olive oil or butter, you can also sprinkle some garlic or cheese on top).
Madras lentils are lovely with yogurt on top. We decided to make it a little more special by making yogurt-based raita (with grated cucumber and spices). It’s similar to Greek tzatziki and is a very cooling and refreshing condiment that works well with spiced curries. For a vegan version, you can use dairy-free yogurt or coconut cream and lemon juice.
If using yogurt raita, make it while the curry is cooking. It can also be done ahead of time as it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.
HOW TO MAKE MADRAS LENTILS IN INSTANT POT
You will find the full list of ingredients, detailed instructions and nutritional breakdown for this dish in the recipe card below. Here are step-by-step photos to guide you along.
Step 1. Prepare all the ingredients for the curry. You will see that our carrots and potatoes are quite chunky but we recommend that they are diced a little bit smaller. It’s totally up to you!
Step 2. Set the Instant Pot to Saute, add the oil once hot, and cook the onions, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Stir in the spices and salt and cook for a few seconds to release the aromas and then pour in the stock. Press Cancel to stop the Saute function key.
Step 3. Stir through and add the potatoes, carrots and dry lentils. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir gently. See that everything is covered well in liquid.
Step 4. Secure the lid and press Manual/Pressure Cook and set to 10 minutes at HIGH. Once the timer is done, allow 5-10 minutes of natural pressure release. Open the lid and stir the lentils, taste for salt. Stir in the lemon or lime juice and cilantro. If you like more richness, you can stir in some cream, coconut cream or butter but we like it nice and light.
Prepare raita and other sides while the lentil curry is cooking in the Instant Pot.
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Learn how to make Instant Pot Madras lentils – a simple, everyday dal-like legume curry with added potatoes and carrots for a nourishing dish the whole family can enjoy. Lightly spiced and cooked in a tomato-based sauce, this lentil curry is healthy and nutritious. Serve with rice, quinoa or naan bread. It’s gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 onion, chopped very finely
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 tablespoon, grated or minced ginger (a thumb-sized chunk of ginger)
1 teaspoon hot red chili (less or more depending on how spicy you like your curries)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large potato (or 2 medium), cut into small-medium cubes
1 carrot, diced into cubes
1 cup dry brown/green lentils, rinsed but not soaked
1 can (14-15 oz) canned chopped tomatoes
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
To serve: a dollop of yogurt or raita, rice, naan bread
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped or grated cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Turn the Instant Pot and press the Saute function key. Add the oil and once hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute stirring a few times.
- Stir in the spices and salt and cook for a few seconds to release the aromas and then pour in the stock. Press Cancel to stop the Saute function key. Stir through and add the potatoes, carrots and dry lentils. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir gently. See that everything is covered well in liquid, add a little more stock if needed.
- Secure the lid and press Manual/Pressure Cook and set to 8 minutes at HIGH. The Instant Pot will show ON on the display which means it’s in the process of coming to pressure (this should take about 10-12 minutes). Then the timer will show on the screen. Once the timer is done, allow 5-10 minutes of natural pressure release, simply let the IP sit for a while. Then use the manual release to let off the remaining pressure (aka quick release, point the steam handle to Venting or press down on it on newer models).
- Open the lid and stir the lentils, taste for salt. Stir in the lemon or lime juice and cilantro.
- If using yogurt raita, make it while the curry is cooking. It can also be done ahead of time as it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. You may also prepare the rice, quinoa or naan at this time. For a speedy trick, use 2-minutes rice packets and store-bought naan bread, which you can reheat in the oven (brush it with a little olive oil or butter).
- To make raita, squeeze the grated cucumber to remove excess juice and combine with yogurt and other ingredients. Sti through and set aside.
- Serve Madras lentils with extra cilantro and a dollop or two of yogurt or raita.
You can use brown, green, yellow or red lentils/split peas in this recipe. No need to soak them beforehand, just give them a rinse if you like.
For a stronger flavor, you can add more chili and an additional teaspoon of garam masala spices.
- Serving Size: 1 cup lentil curry + 1-2 tablespoons raita
- Calories: 335
- Sugar: 6.8 g
- Sodium: 767.4 mg
- Fat: 8.1 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 52 g
- Fiber: 9.1 g
- Protein: 16.9 g
- Cholesterol: 3.7 mg
Keywords: Lentils, Dal, Curry, Indian, Instant Pot, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
This recipe was tested and shot by our US-based contributing photographer Progna Ghosh of Whiff Of Spice.