Instant Pot Lentil Curry

Curry is one of our favorite comfort foods. It’s hearty but not heavy. Spiced but not spicy. Creamy and silky but not fatty and greasy. Made from pantry-staple ingredients and designed to work with any budget, this Instant Pot Lentil Curry is as easy as it gets!

Is this Curry Recipe Healthy?

YES! The ingredients in this vegetarian/vegan curry recipe have numerous health benefits. The stars in this recipe are the lentils and spices.


Lentils of all varieties are a great source of plant-based protein. They are also high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber is important for digestion, gut health, stable blood sugar, healthy cholesterol, and cancer prevention (1).


Many of the spices in this recipe have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (2). Turmeric in particular has been shown to be especially effective in decreasing inflammation (3). Combine turmeric with black pepper to maximize absorption – black pepper increases turmeric bioavailability by 2000% (4)!

For more information on the health benefits of specific food groups, check out our article on Food As Medicine.

How to Make Curry in the Instant Pot

The Instant Pot allows you to make this easy weeknight curry in a fraction of the time and mess that it would normally take on the stovetop. This recipe is ready in less than 40 minutes – most of which is hands-free time; just set it and forget it!

  • Start with an appropriate-sized pot. We recommend a 6-quart pot, but a 3-quart or 8-quart pot will work too. If using the smaller pot, you probably won’t be able to double the recipe. 
  • If doubling or tripling the recipe, do not fill the pot above the “max” line.
  • Press the “keep warm” button if you won’t be eating right away.
  • Once the timer goes off, allow the steam to naturally release. This is really important for good texture! We promise it’s worth the extra wait.
  • If you receive a “BURN” warning, you probably didn’t add enough liquid. Another cause could be something stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir the ingredients before putting the lid on to help prevent this.

Once the curry is done, enjoy the quick clean-up time – just one dirty pot to wash!

Culinary Tips for the Best Instant Pot Lentil Curry

  • Chop the onion and garlic using a proper knife hold.
  • Measure out all ingredients before heating the pot. Once the onion starts cooking, things move quickly!
  • If doubling or tripling the recipe, don’t double/triple the spices. Use the recommended measurements of spices, then taste after cooking to see if it needs more and adjust to taste. Keep in mind that flavors will continue to develop over time, so don’t go overboard!

Ingredient Substitutions

If you’re missing a few ingredients, don’t worry! There are many easy substitutions that will still ensure recipe success.

  • Curry powder: Use 1 Tbsp. in place of turmeric, cumin, and coriander. 
  • Whole coriander seeds and/or whole cumin seeds: Use 1 Tbsp. whole seeds in place of 1 tsp. powder.
  • Fresh or candied ginger: use 1 Tbsp. grated fresh or chopped candied ginger in place of 1 tsp. ground ginger.
  • Lentils: substitute brown, crimson, black, French, or red in place of green lentils. Increase cooking time to 13 minutes for brown lentils. Decrease cooking time to 10 minutes for crimson lentils, 8 minutes for black or French lentils, or 6 minutes for red lentils. 
  • Canned tomatoes: if you don’t have crushed tomatoes, use diced tomatoes. This will slightly alter the texture and flavor. Alternatively, you can blend diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor before adding them to the pot. Fire-roasted tomatoes also work in this recipe.
  • Reduced fat coconut milk: use in place of full-fat coconut milk.

Curry Recipe Variations

  • Want a bit more heat? Add ¼ tsp. of cayenne powder.
  • Want to turn this into an Instant Pot curry soup? Add 1 more cup of water.
  • Want more veggies in your curry? Toss a few handfuls of spinach in with the coconut milk and let it wilt for a few minutes before serving.
  • Want a bit of crunch? After cooking, top with sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, or crushed whole grain tortilla chips.
  • Don’t have an Instant Pot? Make it on the stovetop. We recommend using red split lentils, as these cook much faster. 

Homemade Curry Serving Suggestions

We recommend pairing this curry with a whole grain to increase plant-based protein and fiber content. Here are some of our favorite pairings:

  • Whole Wheat Pita Bread or Naan
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Basmati Rice

What to Do with Leftover Curry

Be sure to let the curry cool completely on the counter (within 2 hours) before placing it in the fridge. Leftover curry is great for an easy, healthy lunch. The curry will thicken as it cools, so you may need to add a splash of water before reheating.

If you don’t plan on eating the leftovers within 3-4 days, cool completely (within 2 hours), cover, then place in the freezer. For optimal freshness, store for up to 3 months in the freezer. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Instant Pot lentil curry recipe and how you made it to YOUR taste!

Instant Pot Lentil Curry
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins

This Instant Pot Lentil Curry recipe is naturally vegetarian and vegan, highly nutritious, and packed with warming and flavorful spices. Made with minimal prep time and easy to clean up, this recipe is perfect for a quick, easy, and healthy weeknight dinner!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 cups
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ small onion, diced (~½ cup)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup green lentils, rinsed, sorted
  • ½ – 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk (slightly less than 1 cup)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (¾ -1 teaspoon salt recommended)
  1. Turn Instant Pot to sauté setting. Once hot, add oil.

  2. Once oil is shimmering, add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Turn off sauté setting.

  4. Add the tomatoes, water, and lentils and stir. Place the lid on, turn the pressure valve to sealing, and cook on HIGH pressure for 12 minutes.

  5. Allow steam to naturally release (let pressure valve drop), then stir in the coconut milk, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle individual servings with desired garnishes. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Serve over quinoa or brown rice, or alongside whole wheat pita or naan bread. 


Optional Garnishes:

  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro or basil


Any lentil will work for this recipe, but cook times will need to be adjusted. 

  • Brown lentils: 13 minutes
  • Crimson lentils: 10 minutes
  • French or black lentils: 8 minutes
  • Red lentils: 6 minutes

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