comfort/instant pot/mains/meat free/recipes

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe

Posted March 19, 2018 by Stephanie

Looking for a quick and easy Dishoom-inspired Instant pot black dal? Look no further – tender lentils in a rich and creamy tomato gravy seasoned with cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, fennel, garam masala, and more. Finished with just a touch of butter and heavy cream, this vegetarian dish is comfort food at it’s best.

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Ever since I first had black dal at London’s beloved Dishoom, I’ve been low-key obsessed. It was one of the menu items that I was going to pass up even though they tried to sell it hard on the menu:

HOUSE BLACK DAAL
A Dishoom signature dish — dark, rich, deeply flavored. It is cooked over 24 hours for extra harmony.

I mean, okay, looking at it now, I should have just gone with it because it’s a signature dish. But for some reason all the other dishes called out to me more. I think it happens quite often because our server gently suggested we give it a try and I’m so happy that we did because it’s become one of my top comfort foods, especially with some homemade garlicky naan.

If you haven’t had dal, it might be kind of a hard sell. It looks like, well, not much. But, brown food is almost always the best food out there and if you had a taste you might be obsessed too. With a good dal, the lentils are perfectly cooked, holding their shape, yet giving way with just the slightest pressure. They release their starchy goodness into the gravy, thickening and making magic. The spice mix goes a long way, building flavor upon flavor with cinnamon, fennel, garam masala. The tomato paste adds that extra bit of umami and finishing off with butter and cream? Well, that’s just asking for love at first taste.

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

After falling in love, I created a 24 hour copy cat version because Dishoom cooks theirs for 24 hours. But, sometimes, when my freezer stash runs out, I need dal and I need it immediately. The thing about lentils is, they take time. But, after a quick consult with The Google, I realized that Indian grandmas everywhere have been making dal with pressure cookers since the invention of pressure cookers.

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

So, I grabbed the Instant Pot and here we are. The only difference between this recipe and the one on the stove – aside from the 24 hour cook time – is the fact that I didn’t soak or precook the lentils. Taste wise however, the two were quite different. I happened to have a batch of the 24 hour dal in the freezer specifically so I could do a side by side taste test and the results were pretty surprising.

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

left: 24hrs, right: instant

The 24 hour dal had much more depth of flavor. It was smoky and rich and dark. The Instant Pot version was almost light and creamy in comparison. It definitely had something to do with the amount of time the tomato paste had to cook and condense down. The 24 hour dal had just the hint of tomato – you almost have to be looking for it to identify the flavor, where as the Instant Pot version has tomato as one of the first things you taste. I love both so it’s hard for me to say if one is preferred over the other, but if I’m in a dal-rush, I defintely won’t turn my nose up at this Instant Pot version. In fact, I’m going to go have some for lunch, right now ;)

love and lentils,
xoxo steph

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Instant Pot Black Dal Recipe
makes about 2.5 cups dal


  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water

To Finish:

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • salt, to taste
  • cilantro and yogurt, to garnish

In a dry pan, lightly toast the cloves, star anise, coriander, cumin, cayenne, fennel, garam masala, and cardamom, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 – 45 seconds. Remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder or crush with a mortar and pestle and set aside.
In the Instant Pot, with the sauté function on high, add the butter and oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, but not brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring. Stir in the spices, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf.

Stir in the lentils, tomato paste and add up to 2 cups of water. Place the lid on and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Quick release when the time is up. Vent and carefully open the Instant Pot. Stir in butter and cream to finish. Taste and season with salt. Enjoy with cilantro and yogurt.

Note: Sometimes I have this with just rice, but naan is always a good bet!

16 Comments

  1. kat says:

    Hello!

    I just love the aesthetics of your blog and the way you work with your recipes, photos, texts.

    I am vegan and since I changed my diet, my anemia kicked in for good. Lentils are one of the most good sources of iron, so… I was wondering if this recipe could be done the same in a normal pot or in a pressure pot. I don’t have an instant pot. Perhaps it would be better in a normal pot, so the flavours and spices get to mingle slowly and strongly.

    Thank you so much!

    Take care and have a nice week,
    kat

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi kat,

      you can definitely do this in a regular pot, just check this recipe!

  2. Sj Dc says:

    if i may suggest, a variation i frequently make is using ghee in the beginning to sautee onions/spices..and add fresh tomatoes..subsequently cook lentils in a milk and water for a creamier dal (i use 2:1 but you could vary the ratio per your preference..i do thus since i don’t always have cream on hand and actually prefer this to adding cream in the end)
    and finally, in the end i heat butter and add smoked paprika letting it cook for a few minutes before adding to the dal..its adds a mild smoked heat whick complements tge creamy dal

  3. Daniela says:

    Hi
    What type of lentils did you use specifically? I’ve used split urad dhal for a similar recipe and wasn’t impressed with the flavour.
    Thank you
    Daniela

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi daniela,

      i used black beluga lentils :)

  4. Celina Nader says:

    Beautiful!! I’ve made Dal Makhani with black lentils before, but not in a pressure cooker. Must try.

  5. javnika says:

    If you are bored with the regular dals then this will add some taste and flavor to your food. I made this at home, and everyone is obsessed with it now, I have to make it every week, lol…

  6. Dak says:

    Your recipe is delicious; not to mention how wonderful it smelled as it was cooking.

    I used black dal, Urad, unsoaked and it definitely needed a full 1/2 hour time under pressure, at 15 mins it was not cooked. Otherwise, absolutely fantastic, thank you!

    1. Stephanie says:

      so happy you got to try this recipe dak and thanks for the tip on 30 minutes instead of 15!

  7. Dak says:

    I noticed that your 24 hour recipe calls for 1 cup black lentils, while the Instant Pot version calls for 1/2 cup, same amount of spices (that blend is heavenly!). Any particular reason? If I wanted to double the Instant Pot version to 1 cup, do you have any tweak I might add?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi dak,

      it went with more spices and less lentils just because it was an instant pot version and i wanted it have extra oomph. after a couple of tests i liked it that way better :)

  8. Mark says:

    I wonder if you could cook the dish under pressure, then use the slow cooker function to get the effect of the longer cooking time?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i haven’t tried but i think that would definitely help out with the further softening of the lentils and intensify the flavors somewhat. let me know if you give it a try!

    2. Jax says:

      Let me know how it came out – looking forward to your feedback!

  9. Priyanka says:

    I made this using black urad lentils (had to go to my Indian grocery store as the other store didn’t carry any). I had to pressure for 30 minutes to get the lentils soft and I think next time I would do 35-40 to get them even softer and creamier. I also omitted the cream and butter at the end -= stirred in a dollop of yogurt to get the creaminess. The spice blend is great!

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