Here’s a traditional Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) recipe made quick and easy in the Stovetop OR 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

Want to save this post?

Enter your email below and get it sent straight to your inbox. Plus, get recipes & tips every week!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

“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/Daal. 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.

Whole Masoor Dal 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’ or unhusked 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.

Whole masoor dal is a just a type of brown lentil. For this recipe, you may use any standard brown lentils (for example, Spanish Pardina) found at grocery stores and it’ll cook as intended. I have tested it with several different varieties and it cooks the same + tastes amazing!

Ingredients

Basic South Asian pantry staples are all you need to make this recipe.

Marble top with ingredients for Whole Masoor Dal

A small onion, garlic, ghee/oil, and a handful of spices are the only non-negotiables. Other than that, this recipe is versatile and adaptable, and you can make it work with 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 usually 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 Whole Masoor Dal

Update 1/15/24: Officially triple tested the stovetop version and updated the recipe!

Details are in the recipe card, but here’s a quick run-through:

  1. First, dump the ingredients in a regular pot or Instant Pot. Cook until the lentils are tender and break easily once you press them between your fingers.
  2. Add green chili and black pepper to the cooked lentils.
  3. Reduce the heat and get the tadka started. For IP: Select Sauté, and set it to Less. This allows the dal to simmer and thicken while you’re getting the onions nice and brown.
Cooked lentils in an Instant Pot with green chili peppers and black pepper on top
  1. Sauté the onions for the tadka (this takes a good 8-9 minutes). Be patient here. Cranking up the heat may lead to unevenly browned onions.
A skillet with a tadka of browned onions with a wooden spoon inside.
  1. Once the onions are nice and deeply brown, transfer them over to the simmering dal. This concurrent-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 heat or Instant Pot while you prepare your tadka.
Cooked whole masoor dal in an Instant Pot with a wooden spoon ready for tadka
  1. After you transfer the tarka, garnish with the garam masala, lemon/lime, and cilantro.

Variations of this recipe

  • Skip tomatoes: 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.
  • Make it tangy: 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.
  • Make it creamy: Though this isn’t the same as dal makhani, you can give it a richer finish. Add 2-3 tbsp cream OR 1/3 cup milk before adding the tarka.
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. If it’s too thin, sauté it down to your preferred 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).
  • Once the dal is cooked, use a wooden spoon to crush it by mashing it along the edges of the pan. It enhances the texture and flavor of the dal.
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. This is an essential whenever I make this dal.
  • 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 Dal recipes you’ll love

Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you. Thank you!

Lentil Dal in a plate
5 (21 ratings)

Whole Masoor Dal – Brown Lentil Curry (Stovetop + Instant Pot)

A truly easy and wholesome Whole Masoor Dal (Brown Lentil Curry) recipe you can make with any variety of brown lentils. This is a dump-and-go recipe that includes stovetop and Instant Pot instructions. Healthy and flavorful with only 15 minutes of total hands-on time! Tested to perfection!

Ingredients 

To Cook the Dal

  • 1 cup (~200 g) whole masoor dal (brown lentils), rinsed and drained – See Note 1
  • 5 cups (3 cups for IP) water
  • 1 small (~75 g) tomato, finely chopped (optional, but recommended)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped – See Note 2
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili powder, or sub kashmiri red chili 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), sliced widthwise or chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

For the Tarka (Tempering)

Garnish

  • 1/4 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

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

Instructions 

To Cook the Dal – Stovetop

  • Stovetop: Soak the dal for at least one hour, up to overnight.
  • Drain the dal and add it to a medium pot along with the remaining ingredients listed under 'To Cook the Dal'. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer (medium-low). Use a slotted spoon to remove any white scum that rises to the top. Cover with the lid ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes, until the dal has no bite to it and can easily be mashed. – See Note 3)
  • Reduce the heat to low so that it gently simmers. Use a wooden spoon to mash the dal along the edges to enhance the creamy texture. Add the green chili pepper and ground black pepper listed under ‘After Cooking’. Stir and allow to gently simmer while you proceed to the Tarka. (It's natural to stir occasionally, but don't worry, it won't stick to the bottom. – See Note 4)

To Cook the Dal – Instant Pot

  • Instant Pot: Add all the ingredients listed under ‘To Cook the Dal’ to the Instant Pot and stir 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.
  • Uncover the lid and select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and set to Less. Use a wooden spoon to mash the dal along the edges to enhance the creamy texture. Add the green chili pepper and ground black pepper listed under ‘After Cooking’. Stir and allow to simmer while you prepare the Tarka. (It's natural to stir occasionally, but don't worry, it won't stick to the bottom. – See Note 4)

Tarka (Tempering)

  • In a medium skillet, heat oil and ghee over medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and onions. Sauté, stirring often, until they turn deeply brown (~8-11 minutes, depending on the amount of onions).
  • Pour the tarka over the simmering dal. If the dal is too thin, simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until you reach your ideal consistency. Continue to mash the dal against the edges to enhance texture.
  • Turn off the heat (or 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 with basmati rice and Kachumber Salad (or any chopped crunchy vegetables).

Notes

Note 1: Any variety of brown lentils works for this recipe. If making on the stovetop, it’s best to soak this dal for at least one hour, up to overnight. For Instant Pot, if you pre-soak the dal for one hour, pressure cook for 18 minutes or less (depending on how long you soaked it).
Note 2: In the original IP recipe, I left the garlic cloves whole because they mash easily with a wooden spoon. Bonus: Mashing them allows you mash the dal along with them, ensuring a creamier texture. I tried leaving them whole in the stovetop method, but it took extra effort to break them down with my wooden spoon (still works, just not as easily). To avoid that, I’ve asked for finely chopped garlic. You can still leave them whole if you’re making the IP version, just be sure to crush after.
Note 3: The age of lentils will determine cook times. Older dried whole lentils can take up to 1 hour, while very new can take 40 minutes. Treat cooking lentils is like cooking pasta. Just cook until they can easily be mashed, adding water if needed.
Note 4: The dal should still be soupy at this point, with plenty of liquid above it. If it’s getting too thick, thin it out with 1/4-1/2 cup of (preferably boiling) water. Adjust salt accordingly.
Note on Cook time: Cook time is for Instant Pot, and 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