Inspired by red lentil dal, this somewhat non-traditional red lentil curry emphasizes convenience and ease, relying on pantry staples and the Instant Pot. Just 5 minutes of prep, then sit back and relax! Comforting and full of flavor, this Instant Pot curry is vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free.
With endless days at home plus a hot and humid summer, lately I'm often so tired by dinner time that even the thought of whipping up one of my go-to weeknight veggie sautés is too much. And that's exactly how this Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry was born.
I also had some pantry items to use up, like fire roasted tomatoes, red lentils, and soy curls.
But mainly, I just wanted to just throw some ingredients in the Instant Pot, press a button, and sit the heck down.
You know what I mean? I wanted zero fuss and zero standing at the stove.
To my surprise, that first experimental batch was AMAZING! It was so delicious I couldn't wait to make it again.
I've changed the recipe a bit each time, trimming down ingredients and choosing only the most essential ones to make this lentil curry as easy and accessible as possible.
I mentioned this is a non-traditional take on red lentil curry. So what liberties did I take? First, it has more tomatoes than it should because I needed to use up a 28 ounce can. But when that turned out to be delicious, I decided to stick with it.
Second, I added soy curls (I also tested TVP) because I had plenty on hand. I've tested the recipe multiple times alternating between TVP and soy curls, and both are great! So use whichever you prefer.
TVP adds a ground meat texture, while soy curls are larger pieces, though you can use your hands to break up the soy curls as you add them to the Instant Pot.
We really enjoy the additional protein source because it makes the curry even more filling and gives it a meaty and hearty bite. But if you don't have either one of those ingredients on hand, simply increase the red lentils to 1 ½ cups.
See the recipe card below for amounts and full instructions.
- red lentils - whole or split, either is fine
- canned diced tomatoes - fire-roasted or regular
- light or "lite" coconut milk - the type in a can, not the refrigerated variety
- TVP or soy curls, optional
- yellow onion
- ginger root
- curry powder
- ground cumin
- tamari or soy sauce
The Easiest Red Lentil Curry
The only ingredients you have to chop to prepare this curry are onion and garlic. How great is that?
If you have a microplane zester, use it to zest the fresh ginger. If not, go ahead and finely mince the ginger, as well.
Now, the fun part:
- Toss everything in the Instant Pot, give it a really good stir, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Place a dish towel over the steam vent, and quick release the pressure.
And that's it. You're ready to eat!
How to Cook Red Lentils
One of the best things about this recipe, aside from the flavor, is that you don't have to worry about pre-soaking the lentils. Red lentils cook up quickly and easily, making them perfect for this easy Instant Pot red lentil curry.
Simply rinse the lentils before adding them to the pot, and you're good to go.
I actually prefer to eat this lentil curry on its own because it's just so good! Of course, it also pairs well with potatoes, quinoa, and rice.
And not that this curry is especially spicy, but a dollop of Instant Pot Cashew Yogurt adds a nice, cooling element.
Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro, assuming you're a fan, and a fresh squeeze of lime juice.
- other veggies - if you have other veggies that need to be used, feel free to add them to the pot. Try chopped carrot, bell pepper, or mushrooms. For something green, stir in baby spinach immediately after cooking.
- spicy - if you're into spiciness, a dash of cayenne plus extra black pepper are also great.
- without TVP or soy curls - the absence of these dry ingredients means you can increase the red lentils to 1 ½ cups, if desired.
This red lentil curry reheats beautifully and is a great dish to add to weekly meal prep. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
The leftovers can also be frozen for longer storage.
You might also like:
EASY Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and zested or minced
- 1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted or regular
- 1 ¼ cups dry red lentils, rinsed - See Notes
- 2 cups soy curls or 1 cup TVP, optional (see Notes) - About 2 ½ ounces by weight.
- 1 heaping tablespoon mild curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon tamari (for GF) or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- black pepper
- 2 ¼ cups water
- cooked rice or potatoes
- cilantro and lime
- Note: to avoid a burn warning on the Instant Pot it's important to measure accurately and avoid major adjustments to the the wet/dry ratio.
- Combine all ingredients in the Instant Pot (onion - water), and stir very well. If using soy curls/TVP, these go in dry; no need to soak first. Lock on the lid, set to sealing, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Carefully flip the toggle to manually release the pressure. Serve with rice or potatoes, a squeeze of lime juice, and fresh cilantro, if desired. Lentil curry is also great with a dollop of plain vegan yogurt.
StorageStore leftover lentil curry in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.
First time using TVP 👍Added some curry leaves, OMG soooo delicious! Thank you.
This was an easy delicious recipe! First time using soy curls and thought it was a great addition. I added a zucchini and some mushrooms as well because I needed to use them up. I think I would like to add cauliflower to it as well … just so I eat more vegies! Thank you!
Made this last night - delicious! So easy for my 1st instant pot recipe. Was nervous about the steam valve being loose then called a friend and he advised it was normal 🙂
This recipe is as promised. Easy and absolutely delicious! The soy curls added perfect dimension. Whenever I lick the side of the bowl at the end, I know the recipe is perfect! Thanks for yet another delicious and nourishing recipe.
Mary J Hahn
Yum! So easy and so delicious. We boiled some red potatoes and steamed some peas to go along with it. We made it in a dutch oven. Thank you!
This sounds great and if I can substitute soy, oat or almond milk for the coconut milk it's what's for dinner tonight. Can I substitute one of those? 🙂
I haven't tried that but I don't see why not. I think soy milk sounds good. Almond milk sometimes takes on a burnt flavor when heated. You could also try half water, half soy milk, and then add another splash of milk after cooking.
Obviously coconut milk is traditional with curries like this, so the flavor will be a little different. If you try it let us know!
I made this recipe last night and it was sooo good! I made it on top of the stove rather than using the Instant Pot but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Will be making this again. Thank you, Lori!
So easy, as promised! Smooth, creamy comfort food. Thanks Lori,
Thanks for these tips. I don't have an instant pot and I'm wondering how you adapted the recipe for regular stovetop cooking?
I'm guessing this was meant to be a reply to Maria's comment. For the stovetop I would begin by sautéing the onion for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, and all dry spices. Cook for 1 minute then add canned tomatoes, water (you'll need more, maybe 3 1/2 cups - or use broth for extra flavor) and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and add the lentils and dry soy curls/TVP. Simmer for about 25 minutes, add coconut milk, and cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until he lentils are fully soft and creamy. Hope that helps!
Okay, I (almost) never comment on recipes, and I rarely make a recipe more than once or twice...but WOW I have made this recipe probably 6-7 times since I discovered it a few months ago, and that is saying something big lol. It is my favourite type of recipe - one that optimizes taste AND health! And it also happens to be very easy, quick, and relatively budget friendly! It's honestly a winner all around and I've recommended it a lot and will continue to do so.
How I make it:
>I have had great success making it on the stove, the one time I made it in the IP wasn't quite as good, but that may have been due to the curry powder used...not sure, and may experiment more, but stovetop is easy and turns out great!
>2 chinese eggplants cubed, instead of the soy curls (maybe will try them sometime, just haven't had them on hand) ((sometimes I've added chopped red pepper and a few chickpeas too, that way is also very good))
>a full carton of regular sodium vegetable broth is used instead of the water (Since I make mine on the stove, the extra liquid is needed)
>add a tsp of sugar
>lime to garnish is a must! I typically leave out the cilantro (even though I like it, I find it's not necessarily needed for this recipe)
>I find the curry powder used makes a big difference! my favourite so far has been, believe it or not, great value curry powder from wal-mart. will continue to experiment here
>I use a can of coconut cream if I have it, otherwise the highest fat canned coconut milk I can find
>double the cumin
And it is DEEELISH!!!!
Thank you so much for this awesome recipe!!! Will continue to make it and share it a lot! 😀
Thank you for the wonderful lunch I just had! I loved this recipe, it was so easy to make and delicious.