Here’s an authentic Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) recipe made quick and easy in the Instant Pot. This is a no-soak, dump-and-go recipe with a simple tadka of browned onions. Healthy and flavorful with only 15 minutes of total hands-on time! Naturally vegetarian and vegan optional.
Not only is whole masoor packed with an extra dose of fiber, but its earthy, wholesome taste makes it one of the most comforting, feel-good dals. It has a chewy, buttery texture and I think it’s the tastiest of whole lentils.
What is Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Dal)?
Whole Masoor Dal is a Brown Lentil Dal topped with a simple tadka (tempering) of browned onions and other spices of choice.
Though it’s not actually made with black lentils, Pakistanis often refer to it as Kaali dal (or black lentils) because of the dark hue it takes when cooked.
Whole Masoor Lentils vs Brown Lentils
Whole masoor lentils (also called Sabut Masoor) are the whole version of red lentils (Masoor dal). In other words, remove the skin (hull) and split it in half, and you get split red lentils. If you look carefully at whole masoor, you’ll be able to see the orange tint of red lentils peeking through.
There are many types of lentils, and whole masoor dal is a just a type of brown lentil. For this recipe, you can use any standard brown lentils (for example, Spanish Pardina) found at grocery stores and it’ll cook perfectly fine.
Ingredients for Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal
Basic South Asian pantry staples are all you need to make this recipe. A small onion, garlic, ghee/oil, and a handful of spices are the only non-negotiables. Other than that, this is a versatile and adaptable recipe you can make to suit whatever you have on hand.
Why make Whole Masoor Dal (or any brown lentils) in the Instant Pot?
Besides the obvious reasons (i.e. quicker and hands-off), I only cook this dal in the Instant Pot because:
- Unlike red lentils, brown lentils retain their shape even if overcooked, which makes them an ideal candidate for pressure cooking (no mushiness!).
- Pressure cooking naturally gives the dal a rich, creamy texture. Stovetop cooking would require you to manually mash it to achieve the signature creaminess.
How to make Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal
First, you dump the ingredients in the Instant Pot. This takes 5-7 minutes, 10 minutes on a bad day.
Once it’s cooked, get the tadka started.
While you’re sautéing the onions for the tadka (this takes a good 8-9 minutes), open up the Instant Pot, Select Sauté, and set it to Less. This allows the dal to simmer and thicken while you’re getting the onions nice and brown.
Add green chili and black pepper.
Once the onions are nice and deeply brown, transfer them over to the simmering dal. This simultaneous-cooking thing may seem tricky, but trust me, the lentils don’t stick to the bottom even if you don’t stir them at all. If you’d rather not worry about it, simply turn off the Instant Pot while you prepare your tadka.
After you transfer over the browned onions, garnish with the garam masala, lemon/lime, and cilantro.
How to make Whole Masoor on the Stovetop
Though I haven’t tested this particular recipe over the stovetop, here’s a rough guideline: First, soak for an hour just so it’s easier to cook. Then, add all the ingredients for pressure cooking to a pot with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40-50 minutes, or until the lentils are completely cooked through.
Variations of this recipe
- Most traditional masoor dal recipes forego the addition of tomatoes, but I couldn’t help myself (after all, I even added tomatoes to korma). After testing with and without, I decided to keep them because I love the slight tang and vibrance they add.
- Some versions of Sabut Masoor dal include tamarind paste. If you use tamarind paste, try omitting the tomatoes so the tart flavor isn’t overpowering.
- Cream! Though this isn’t the same as dal makhani, a little cream gives it a richer finish.
Some Final Tips for a pretty self-explanatory recipe
- If the dal is getting too thick while you’re preparing the tadka, add (preferably boiling) water to get a thinner consistency. Adjust salt accordingly.
- The onions for the tadka should be deeply golden brown before you add them to the dal. You know they’re done once you’re concerned that they’ll start burning (#protip).
- If you choose to soak the dal, decrease the cooking time to 18 minutes.
Whole Masoor Dal Serving Suggestions
Whole Masoor Dal goes perfectly with plain, basmati rice, roti, paratha, or anything, really. On the side, you can serve:
- Kachumber Salad, or fresh, crunchy vegetables chopped up with a bit of salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- Yogurt or raita.
- Achaar (mixed pickle).
- More lemon or lime!
More Instant Pot Dal recipes you’ll love
Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry)
- Instant Pot (for cooking Dal)
- Small to Medium Skillet (for Tadka)
To Pressure Cook
- 1 cup whole masoor dal (brown lentils) ~215 g rinsed and drained*
- 3 cups water
- 1 small tomato ~75-85 g finely chopped (optional, but recommended)
- 4-5 garlic cloves leave whole – will be crushed later
- 1/2 tbsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 small green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili) chopped
- 1/4 tsp heaped ground black pepper
For the Tadka (Tempering)
- 3 tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
- 2 tbsp ghee or butter or sub more oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion (~150-180 g) quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/4-1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice or more to taste
- 2 tbsp cilantro or mint leaves (or a blend of both) chopped
To Pressure Cook
- Add all the ingredients listed under ‘To Pressure Cook’ to the Instant Pot and mix to combine.
- Secure the lid and set valve to Sealing. Select the Manual/Pressure Cook setting and set time to 20 minutes (18 if pre-soaked) on High Pressure.
- Once dal is cooked, allow pressure to release for 5 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure.
- In a medium skillet, heat oil and ghee over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and onions and sauté until they turn deeply brown (~8-9 minutes). While onions begin sautéing, move on to the next step.
- Meanwhile, uncover the lid and select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and set to Less. Crush the garlic by mashing it to the side using a wooden spoon. Add the green chili pepper and ground black pepper listed under ‘After Cooking’. Stir and allow to cook. (It's natural to stir occasionally, but don't worry, it won't stick to the bottom.)
- Transfer the tadka to the dal in the Instant pot. Continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until you reach the desired consistency.** Use a wooden spoon to mash dal against the edges to enhance texture.
- Select Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot. Taste and adjust salt, if needed. Add the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro and give it a stir. Serve hot.