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.

Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) in a speckled plate with a white spoon

“Very yummy and the texture came out just perfect!”

Izza

Meet one of my go-to, quick and easy weeknight dal recipes: Whole Masoor Dal. Not as popular or sought-after as its split counterpart, the red lentil, but one with its own distinct appeal.

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.

Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) in a speckled plate garnished with cilantro and served with a lemon wedge on the side

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 Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) with Basmati rice on a speckled plate with bowls on the sides

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

Marble top with ingredients for making Lentil Curry (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:

  1. Unlike red lentils, brown lentils retain their shape even if overcooked, which makes them an ideal candidate for pressure cooking (no mushiness!).
  2. Pressure cooking naturally gives the dal a rich, creamy texture. Stovetop cooking would require you to manually mash it to achieve the signature creaminess.
Whole Masoor Dal with basmati rice and silverware garnished with cilantro and served with a lemon wedge

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.

Cooked brown lentils (whole masoor dal) in an Instant Pot with green chili peppers and black peppercorns on top

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.

A skillet with a tadka of browned onions with a wooden spoon inside ready to be poured into whole masoor dal
Cooked brown lentil curry (whole masoor dal) in an Instant Pot with a wooden spoon ready for 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.
Brown Lentil Curry (Whole Masoor Dal) served with a chopped salad of crunchy vegetables on the side

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.
Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) and basmati rice in a speckled plate with crunchy vegetables on the side

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!
Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) in a speckled plate garnished with cilantro with crunchy vegetables and a lemon wedge on the side

More Instant Pot Dal recipes you’ll love

Pakistani Chana Dal
Red Lentil Dal (Masoor Dal)
Maash ki dal (Urad Dal)

If you get a chance to try this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. Thank you!

Lentil Dal in a plate
5 (6 ratings)

Instant Pot Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry)

Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) recipe made quick and easy in the Instant Pot. This is a no-soak (unless you want to), dump-and-go recipe you can make using any brown lentils. Healthy and flavorful with only 15 minutes of total hands-on time! Naturally vegetarian and vegan optional.

Ingredients 

To Pressure Cook

  • 1 cup (215 g) whole masoor dal (brown lentils), rinsed and drained*
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (~75-85 g) small tomato, 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

After Cooking:

  • 1 small green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili), chopped
  • 1/4 tsp heaped ground black pepper

For the Tadka (Tempering)

Garnishing

  • 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

Equipment

  • Instant Pot (for cooking Dal)
  • Small to Medium Skillet (for Tadka)

Instructions 

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.

Tadka (Tempering)

  • 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.

Notes

*If you pre-soak the dal for one hour, pressure cook for 18 minutes or less (depending on how long you soaked it).
**If you’d like to thin it out, add around ¼ cup of (preferably) boiling hot water. Adjust salt accordingly.
Note: Cook time includes time to build up pressure.
Calories: 353kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Sodium: 782mg, Potassium: 535mg, Fiber: 16g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 77IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 4mg