This Instant Pot Lentils recipe is quick, easy, and perfect for meal-prepping. Using just 6 simple ingredients, this meat alternative is high in protein and naturally gluten-free. This is one my favorite foods because it’s super versatile, especially in soups . If you love lentils, check out my Instant Pot Lentil Soup recipe and my Easy Lentil Salad recipe.
What Exactly Are Lentils?
Let’s start with the basics. What are lentils, anyway?
First and foremost, lentils are edible seeds (like quinoa) that are classified as legumes, meaning they’re related to beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts. While they’re an often overlooked and discarded pantry item, they’re budget-friendly, packed with nutrients, and full of culinary potential. Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian, or vegan, this is a great plant-based protein for a filling meal!
There are four types of lentils, all of which you should be able to find at your preferred grocery store:
- Brown Lentils: This is the most common type of lentil found in North American grocery stores and are known for their mild nutty flavor. These are great options for veggie burgers or on their own as a side dish.
- Green Lentils: They are known for their nutty taste. These traditionally take longer to cook than other varieties, which makes them perfect for this quick and easy Instant Pot recipe. Ideal for salads or as a side dish.
- Red and Yellow Lentils: These sweeter lentils are often used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes like curry and koshari. They cook quickly, but do get soft quickly, so they’re best suited for soups or purees.
- Black Lentils: This type of lentil is known for its earthy flavor and low cooking time of 25 minutes. They pair well with meaty proteins or vegetables like steak, chicken, or mushrooms. They’re a bit coarser in flavor, but hold up to cooking and reheating.
Are Lentils Healthy?
The short answer is … yes! The long answer is that they’re packed with nutrients like protein, iron, and fiber, making them a great plant-based option for a healthy, filling meal.
Lentils contain the highest amount of natural plant-based protein — up to 35% — which makes it comparable to red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. They’re also a great source of fiber with relatively low calories, as well as nutrients like folate, manganese, iron, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, and potassium.
This superfood is also a great source of phytochemicals and phenols, which are widely known for their health benefits like supporting a healthy nervous system and improved digestion.
Be warned, though, that lentils can cause gas from fermenting in your stomach during digestion. Pay attention to how you feel the first hour or so after eating them to gauge your legume tolerance. (Soaking before cooking can help here).
Should I Soak Lentils Before Cooking?
Many legumes, like dried raw beans, are typically soaked for several hours, even overnight, to neutralize lectins. However, lentils are low enough in PHA that they don’t require soaking.
For this Instant Pot Lentils recipe, both soaked and unsoaked lentils will work. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking times. Personally, I always soak my lentils. I’ve found they’re much easier to digest this way. Plus, lentils soak quickly compared to most other legumes, only requiring 2-4 hours of soak time. If you’re pressed for time, then you can quick soak your lentils with some boiling water for 20 minutes or so before rinsing and cooking.
How Long Do I Have To Cook Lentils In The Instant Pot?
- Soaked green/brown/black lentils require a 1 to 1.25 ratio of lentils to liquid when cooking in the Instant Pot. Cook them at HIGH pressure and then wait for full natural pressure release.
- 2 minutes for salads
- 3 minutes for softer lentils (ideal as side dish)
- 5 minutes for mushy lentils (best for soups and purees).
- They can be cooked up to 30 minutes without disintegrating.
- Unsoaked green/brown/black lentils require a 1 to 2 ratio (lentils to liquid) when cooking in the Instant Pot. Cook them at HIGH pressure and then wait for full natural pressure release.
- 6 minutes for salads
- 8 minutes for softer lentils (ideal as side dish)
- 10 minutes for mushy lentils (best for soups and purees)
- Up to 45 mins without completely disintegrating.
- Avoid cooking soaked or unsoaked red or yellow lentils on their own in the Instant Pot, as they’ll get mushy after only a few minutes. They can be cooked 1 minute or up to 30 minutes on HIGH if cooked with other ingredients that require a longer cooking time.
Can I Eat Lentils Raw?
Absolutely not! Forget the fact that they wouldn’t taste good, but like most legumes, uncooked lentils contain a toxin called lectin that binds to your digestive track and makes you feel sick, resulting in diarrhea and/or vomiting.
What’s My Secret Ingredient?
The same secret ingredient I use in the majority of my soups, sauce, and grain recipes — homemade chicken bone broth! This makes all the difference and results in flavorful, savory lentils. You can also use water or your preferred broth.
For this super simple Instant Pot Lentils recipe, you only need 6 ingredients:
- Green or brown lentils
- One yellow or white onion
- Bone broth
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
How To Make Instant Pot Lentils
- Sauté onion and garlic in oil in your Instant Pot using the SAUTE function until translucent and starting to brown.
- Add the lentils (either soaked and rinsed or unsoaked and rinsed).
- Add broth, sea salt, and pepper, then stir to combine.
- Secure the lid to your Instant Pot, set release to full NPR, and cook for 3 minutes for soaked lentils or 8 minutes for unsoaked lentils.
- Garnish as desired, serve, and enjoy!
If making lentils to serve on a salad, only season with salt and omit the garlic and onion.
I love to serve this homemade lentils recipe with fresh chard and white rice to create a filling meal. You can also add as many dried or fresh herbs and spices as you like. Cumin, turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, and garam masala are some of my favorites.
If serving as the main course like my Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup recipe, for example, you can garnish with sour cream, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds. If making a curry, you could top with coconut cream and chopped dry roasted peanuts.
Storage, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions
Homemade lentils are perfect for meal-prepping, freezing, and making ahead.
- Store cooked lentils in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze cooked and cooled lentils in a freezer-safe, airtight container or plastic bag, and store in your freezer for up to 3 months.
- Reheat thawed or refrigerated lentils in the microwave for 2-4 minutes or until warmed, stirring halfway through. If you have time, reheat in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through. This ensures even heat distribution. They will get thicker over time, so add a splash of broth or water before reheating if needed.
More Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed this Instant Pot Lentils recipe, then you’ll love these other quick and easy dishes:
- Instant Pot Chili
- Instant Pot Vegetable Soup
- Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Instant Pot Sweet Potato Curry
- Instant Pot Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Instant Pot Lentils
- 1 cups dried green/brown/black lentils
- 1.25-2 cups liquid - water or broth
- sea salt - optional
- 1 onion - optional
- 2 cloves garlic - optional
- Soak lentils for 2-4 hours or overnight, OR rinse and drain them in a colander.
- FOR SALADAdd green, brown, or black lentils, liquid, and sea salt to the Instant Pot, seal it and set to:soaked lentils: 2 minutes on high pressure (1.25 cups liquid)unsoaked lentils: 6 minutes on high pressure (2 cups liquid)FOR MAIN DISHPreheat the Instant Pot by pressing the sauté button, once the display says hot add a drizzle of oil and chopped onion and garlic and stir-fry until translucent.Add green, brown, or black lentils, liquid, and sea salt to the Instant Pot, seal it and set to:soaked lentils: 3 minutes on high pressure (1.25 cups liquid)unsoaked lentils: 8 minutes on high pressure (2 cups liquid)FOR SOUPSPreheat the Instant Pot by pressing the sauté button, once the display says hot add a drizzle of oil and chopped onion and garlic and stir-fry until translucent.Add green, brown, or black lentils, liquid, and sea salt to the Instant Pot, seal it and set to:soaked lentils: 5 minutes on high pressure (1.25 cups liquid)unsoaked lentils: 10 minutes on high pressure (2 cups liquid)
- Let pressure release naturally.