Indian Brown Lentil Dal (Whole Masoor Dal)

Indian Brown Lentil Dal (Whole Masoor Dal)

Whole masoor dal or sabut masoor dal or Indian vegan brown lentil dal made in the Instant Pot in 20 minutes.

It needs minimal ingredients, does not use a lot of spices, is gluten-free, rich in protein and makes a healthy meal when served with rice, roti, quinoa, millets, or a slice of bread.

Indian brown lentil curry or whole masoor dal served in a green bowl with cilantro, lemon wedges against a blue background.

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Dal is an integral part of Indian cuisine. There are so many varieties of dal made using different lentils specific to each region of India.

Growing up, it was mostly Toor (Split Pigeon Peas) or Moong (Split Yellow Lentil) dal that mom made. I was not much exposed to whole masoor dal as such, since it is not so popular in Karnataka, a south Indian state I come from.

Thanks to the exposure on social media, and the Indian store here, I have now explored many more varieties of lentils and legumes.

Whole masoor dal has definitely become one of my husband’s and my favourite dal varieties!

What is Dal

Dal is similar to an Indian curry but made of a lentil, a legume, or a combination of lentils or legumes. Dal also has way fewer spices than a curry does.

Everyday dals do not generally have a ton of spices or oodles of cream and butter, like a lot of people assume.

The lentil(s) is/are cooked until soft either in an open-pot or a pressure cooker with or without vegetables and a tempering is added to finish it off.

The choice of oil, spice powders and whole spices used in the tempering can vary based on the region.

Some dal varieties like dal makhani also use whole spices that include cinnamon, cloves, black cardamom, etc.,

About This Recipe

Whole masoor dal or sabut masoor dal, known as brown lentils commonly, is quite popular in the northern states of India.

While the basic concept of making this dal is the same, the spices/spice powders can be altered based on one’s preference.

I love to keep this dal really simple and use only cumin seeds for the tempering with turmeric and red chili powders as the spice powders. No other whole spice or spice powders because the flavor of whole masoor dal is brilliant and unique and I do not like to overpower it with other flavors.

Although the spices are minimum, this dal is comforting and exceptionally good, no exaggeration!

However, you can include other spice powders (cumin, coriander powders, and/or garam masala) if you prefer.

This recipe is a one-pot version of the dal, without using a frying pan for the tempering. From tempering to pressure cooking the dal, everything happens in the Instant Pot.

You can make the dal in a stove-top pressure cooker or an instant pot, either way, it will be a one-pot dish. The advantage with the Instant pot is that you do not have to monitor it, unlike the regular pressure cooker. Plus, in smaller pressure cookers you cannot cook rice along with the dal, which you can, using the Instant Pot.

One-pot two dishes, zero monitoring, and zero mess, Instant Pot to the win?

Ingredients Required

Whole Masoor Dal ingredients placed on a dark background

Note: The picture above does not depict actual quantities of the ingredients used in this recipe.

Masoor Dal/ Brown Lentils, obviously. You should be able to find it at the Indian stores or your grocery store.

Oil- you can use any oil of your choice, I used peanut oil. Ghee can also be used for a vegetarian version.

Garlic- you will need about 2 tsp minced fresh cloves. Minced garlic adds in so much flavor, especially because we would be browning it. So I highly suggest you don’t skip it unless you are not fond of its taste. Also, do not substitute with garlic powder or store-bought garlic paste, they lack the fresh flavor that freshly minced garlic has.

Onion- any variety of onion can be used, I used the pink variety. This dal is good with or without onion and both have a slightly different taste. My vote would be for the one with onion.

Turmeric Powder- adds that beautiful yellow color to the dal. If you skip this, the color of the masoor dal would change to brownish. You can also add a pinch of pepper to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin into the body. I missed adding the pepper powder though.

Red chili powder- I used Kashmiri red chili powder (it is low on heat but bright red in color). If you use the spicy red chili powder, you will have to reduce the measure accordingly. You can use paprika powder instead.

Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)- these are popularly used in north Indian cuisine. They enhance the flavor of any curry but mind the quantity as they will be slightly bitter. They should be available at the Indian stores or also online.

Salt, of course, lemon/lime, and cilantro, if you like. I did not have enough cilantro while making this dal, so skipped it.

I do not prefer adding ginger and tomato in this, because the base will then be the very common onion-tomato-ginger-garlic tempering. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to make this dal slightly different, so this method works for me the best. You can, however, add them (finely chopped) in the tempering if you like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I soak the brown lentils?

As a general rule of thumb, always soak any lentils in water for at least 30 minutes so that it reduces their phytate levels, which can otherwise inhibit the absorption of nutrients in lentils.

However, in terms of cooking, it is not required, unlike legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, etc). The lentil will cook well even without soaking. You will have to just rinse and use.

On soaking the lentil, it cooks well in 10 minutes in the Instant pot and would need 2 more minutes without soaking them.

Can I use canned brown lentils?

Yes, you can. Since they will already be cooked, you need not have to pressure cook them again. Discard the water, and rinse the lentils.

Follow the steps to make the tempering until cooking onion with spice powders, and then dump in the rinsed and drained canned lentils. Add just a cup of water and salt to taste, simmer in saute mode for 5 minutes so that the dal starts thickening. You can also mash a few lentils to help the dal thicken further.

Finish it off with dried fenugreek leaves, cilantro, and lemon juice.

Can I add in the tempering once the dal is cooked?

Yes, of course. Traditionally, the tempering (tadka in Hindi) is done in a small frying pan and always added once the dal is cooked. This way, the flavors of the tempering will be more prominent for sure.

You can do the tempering twice as well, once to saute the raw lentils in it and pressure cooking them all together like in this recipe, and again after the dal is cooked.

Since this is a one-pot recipe, I chose to do the tempering only once so that there is no need for a frying pan to do the tempering.

This method is super helpful especially when you are out on a trip and all you have is an Instant pot or simply when you do not wish to use an extra dish.

Is this recipe Vegan and Gluten-free?

Yes, it is naturally vegan and gluten-free.

What can I do if the dal is too thick or thin in consistency for my liking?

The ratio I have mentioned in the recipe makes the dal moderately thick, as per my liking, that is suitable to eat with rice.

This whole masoor dal gets thicker on cooling, so keep that in mind if you want to serve this after a few hours.

If it has turned too thick, add more water, turn the instant pot on saute mode and simmer it for about a minute or two so that the flavors are well absorbed again. Do not simmer for too long though, will get thick again then.

If it is too thin, mash some lentils using the back of a ladle/spatula or a potato masher. Turn the instant pot on saute mode and simmer it until the desired consistency is reached. It will get thicker on cooling down.

Will the recipe work without oil?

Yes, it will. Simply dump all the ingredients (except oil) and pressure cook as mentioned in the recipe. The taste would differ slightly as onion and garlic would not be sauteed in oil.

How long does it stay good in the refrigerator?

The dal would stay good up to 3 days for sure. I have not stored longer than this in the refrigerator. Ensure you are refrigerating it only after it has come down to room temperature.

Also, if you have made the dal in bulk, store it in two or three smaller air-tight containers. This way you can take out the portion as required and reheat it instead of reheating all of it over and over again.

How to freeze this dal?

Once the dal has cooled down to room temperature, transfer it into smaller air-tight containers, especially if you have cooked it in bulk. Freeze the individual containers.

To reheat this, take out the portion as required, transfer it onto a cooking pan or the inner pot of the instant pot, add a little water and simmer it for 10 minutes or so until it has reached the right consistency. You need not thaw it prior to heating.

Another way is to freeze it is in ice trays so that they form cubes, and when you want to use it, simply remove as many cubes as you like, based on the portion you need, and heat as per the above instructions.

Freezing as cubes is super helpful to take out the portion only as required without the fuss of having to break it if it is stored in a larger container and you need a smaller portion size.

How to make Whole Masoor Dal in the Instant Pot: Step by Step

Step 1: Preparation to be done

Note: 1 cup = 250 ml

Wash 1 cup of masoor dal 2 to 3 times so that the water runs clear. Soak it for 30 minutes in 2 cups of water.

Meanwhile, mince (finely chop) 2 large cloves of garlic and finely chop 1 medium-sized or large onion.

We will need about 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onion, so adjust the number of garlic or onion as required, based on their sizes.

Step 2:

Turn your Instant pot on saute mode. Add in 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of oil of your choice. Once it is hot, add in 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and let them sizzle.

Next, add in the minced garlic and saute until they turn golden brown in color. Make sure you don’t burn it, if the pot is too hot, take it off the saute mode, the heat will be sufficient to fry the garlic.

Once the garlic is done, stir in the chopped onion and saute until they soften a bit.

Step 3:

Add in the spice powders- 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika powder. You can add a little less Kashmiri red chili powder if you want the heat to be really low. Saute the spice powders for a few seconds, adding a teaspoon more oil if required.

Discard the water used to soak the lentils and transfer the lentils into the instant pot. Give everything a good mix.

Step 4:

Add 2 cups (500 ml) water and 1 to 1.5 teaspoon salt as per your taste. Add 1 teaspoon salt initially, mix it well and taste the water. If you need more as per your taste, adjust accordingly. I added 1.5 teaspoons of salt in total.

Close the lid of the instant pot, put the vent on sealing mode, and set it on pressure cook or manual mode for 10 minutes.

Step 5:

Let the pressure release completely naturally, or manually release it after 10 minutes of natural pressure release.

Mix it well, and then stir in 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi), cilantro if using, and then squeeze half a lime or lemon juice (around 2 teaspoons). Lime/lemon juice is not mandatory though.

Give a quick mix and serve it hot with rice, roti, naan, quinoa, or toasted bread.

How to make this Dal in a Stove-Top Pressure Cooker

Heat a pressure cooker with some oil.

Temper it with cumin seeds, minced garlic, and roast until it turns brown, followed by chopped onion, and saute them so that they soften.

Add in turmeric powder and red chili powder or paprika powder making sure the heat is on low, and toast the powders for a few seconds.

Stir in the washed whole masoor dal, with water and salt. The lentil to water ratio remains the same as that used in the instant pot method, 1:2, you can add up to 2.5 cups of water also.

Close the lid of the pressure cooker, place the whistle and pressure cook up to 4 whistles if you had soaked the lentil earlier, or up to 5 whistles if you hadn’t.

Let the pressure release naturally, add some kasuri methi, cilantro, and lemon/lime juice. Mix it all in.

How to make Pot-in-Pot Dal and Rice

You will need a long leg trivet to cook dal and rice together.

Once you have stirred in the lentil and added in water, place the trivet, and on top of that place the bowl of rice with water. Close the lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes with the vent in sealing mode.

I used sona masuri white rice. However, brown sona masuri rice would work best for the cooking time of 10 minutes. White rice would turn a little softer, I did not mind it though.

Possible Variations

Mixed Lentils:

You can include a combination of lentils- red lentil (split masoor dal), yellow lentil (moong dal), split pigeon peas (toor dal). Make sure to use 1: 2 or 1:2.5 ratio of lentils: water, that is 1 part of the total amount of all lentils with 2 to 2.5 parts of water.

Addition of Vegetables:

Make it more wholesome by adding chopped vegetables of your choice- carrot, beans, potato, peas, beetroot would work well.

Addition of Coconut Milk

Want to make it more like a curry with coconut milk? Super simple, stir in coconut milk once the dal is cooked. Mix it well and simmer it for a minute or two in saute mode.

Addition of Fresh Cream

For a vegetarian version, add some fresh cream at the end and stir it in. You need not have to simmer the dal again.

Serving Suggestions

This dal goes perfect with rice- sona masuri brown or white rice and basmati brown or white rice.

You can also serve it with whole grains like quinoa, millet, broken wheat.

Chapati/ roti or any other Indian flatbread like tandoori roti, naan, paratha, kulcha can also be served to scoop the dal and enjoy.

I also enjoy it as sandwiches by spreading the dal between two bread slices toasted.

And lastly, it would also taste good with dosa, ragi roti.

Indian brown lentil curry or whole masoor dal served in a green bowl with cilantro, lemon wedges against a blue background.

Other Vegan Curries You Might Like

Green gram curry north Karnataka style

Green gram coconut milk curry

Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas Curry

Recipe Card

Indian brown lentil curry or whole masoor dal served in a green bowl with cilantro, lemon wedges against a blue background

Indian Brown Lentil Dal (Whole Masoor Dal)

Praneetha A Goutham
Brown lentils Indian Dal cooked in the Instant pot is a one-pot vegan, gluten-free, high-protein dish that can be served with rice, roti, naan, quinoa.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 230 kcal



Note: 1 cup = 250 ml

  • 1 cup brown lentils (whole/sabut masoor dal) - 200 grams, 0.44 lb
  • 2 medium sized onion - 1/2 cup chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves - 2 tbsp finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil of your choice - I used peanut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder - or paprika
  • 1.5 tsp salt - adjust as per taste
  • 2 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro - finely chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon/lime juice


  • Wash 1 cup of the brown lentils two to three times, and soak them in 3 cups water. This step is optional, the lentils can just be washed and used directly without soaking.
  • Turn on the Instant pot in saute mode. Pour in 2 tsp oil and let it heat.
  • Once the oil has turned hot, add in 1 tsp cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
  • Next, add in 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic and saute until golden brown.
  • Add in 1/2 cup finely chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent.
  • Next, add in the spice powders, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder along with the remaining 1 tsp oil and toast the spice powders for a few seconds.
  • Drain the water used to soak the lentil (if you have soaked) and stir in the lentil.
  • Add in 500 ml (2 cups) of water.
  • Season it with salt, I used 1.5 tsp, you can add as per your taste by tasting the water. Mix it all well.
  • Close the lid, turn the vent to sealing mode, pressure cook for 10 minutes if you had soaked the lentils or for 12 minutes if you had not.
  • Once it is done, let the pressure release completely naturally, or quick release after 10 minutes of manual pressure release. The cooked lentil will be brownish in color, and once you stir it, it will look as shown in this picture.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp kasuri methi and 1 tbsp chopped cilantro along with lime/lemon juice, if using. I did not use cilantro and lime juice this time. Mix it well and serve.


  1. Adjust salt and red chili powder as per your taste. 
  2. You can skip lemon/lime juice. 
  3. You can add in more water to make the dal thinner. 
  4. If you want the lentil to be softer, increase the cooking time accordingly. With 30 minutes of soaking, 10 to 12 minutes of pressure cooking works well.  
  5. The nutrition values are approximate for 1 serving of the dal. 


Calories: 230kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 13gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 879mgPotassium: 575mgFiber: 16gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 279IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 49mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Brown Lentil Curry, Instant pot Whole Masoor Dal
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I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed preparing it and writing it down for you all. 🙂

If you have any questions about the recipe, kindly post them below under comments.

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I would love to see your recipe recreations. 🙂

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