Learn all about cooking Instant Pot Lentils – types, timing, and tips!
Lentils are a nutritious, versatile source of plant-based protein and we should all be eating more of these little pulses. One way we can make it even easier to incorporate healthy lentils into our diets is by cooking them in the Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker.
What are Lentils?
Lentils are what is know as pulses, meaning that they are edible seeds of a plant in the legume family. (Chickpeas are another example of pulses.) Lentils are easy to grow, inexpensive, and a good source of plant-based protein. As a result, people all over the world – from France to India to the Middle East – eat them regularly.
One thing you may notice about lentils when shopping for them in the grocery store is that there are many different varieties. You may see red lentils, brown lentils, French green lentils – which are also known as Puy lentils – and even the more unusual small black lentils. Black, brown, and green lentils all hold their shape when cooked while red lentils tend to break down and become creamy and porridge-like.
It is important, therefore, to choose the right lentil for your recipe. Save red lentils for making soup or Indian dal. Brown, black, or green lentils are perfect for salads or any other dish where you want the lentils to hold their shape and remain slightly firm.
Why Cook Lentils In The Instant Pot?
Lentils, like all pulses, need to be cooked in liquid to become tender and toothsome. The Instant Pot is ideal for preparing beans and pulses because it needs liquid – and the steam that liquid creates – to cook with pressure. Using an electric pressure cooker, such as the Instant Pot, can significantly shorten the time that it takes to cook these ingredients compared to cooking them on the stove.
Unlike beans, lentils cook quickly with no soaking or other advance preparation required. Cooking them in the Instant Pot is almost entirely foolproof and hands-off, making it even easier to incorporate these healthy pulses into your diet.
Another advantage to cooking lentils in the Instant Pot? You can use the Sauté function to cook aromatics, such as onions and garlic, right in the Instant Pot, minimizing dirty dishes and making it easy to add great flavor to your lentils.
How To Cook Lentils In The Instant Pot
No matter how you are cooking your lentils, you always want to begin by rinsing them and checking them over for any pebbles or other debris. (I rarely find any pebbles in store-bought lentils, but it is still worth double-checking.)
Cooking lentils in the Instant Pot is very straightforward. Simply add a cup of rinsed lentils to the inner pot of your Instant Pot and cover with 3 cups of water or broth. (You can use chicken broth if you are not serving the lentils to any vegetarians. To keep the lentils vegetarian, however, stick to water or vegetable broth.) I also like to add salt, a bay leaf, and a whole peeled clove of garlic to the lentils for added flavor.
To cook the lentils, close the Instant Pot and make sure that the pressure release valve is closed. Select the Pressure Cook or Manual function and set the cooking time to 9 minutes at high pressure. (Note that the cooking time for red lentils is shorter: only 5 minutes.) Once the cooking program is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 5 minutes. This helps the lentils retain their shape. After that, you can release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Drain the lentils of any excess liquid if desired. Now your lentils are ready to use in all kinds of recipes from salads to tacos!
As I mentioned above, if you want to add more flavor to your lentils, use the Sauté function on your Instant Pot to cook a diced onion, some diced carrots, or minced garlic prior to cooking the lentils. Once the aromatics are softened and fragrant, you can either remove them with a slotted spoon – if you want them to stay somewhat firm to use in a salad, for example – and save them for the finished dish. Or, you can leave the aromatics in the pot, add the lentils and liquid, and cook as explained above.
As you can see, it is very simple and hands-off to cook lentils in the Instant Pot. Once you have cooked lentils on hand, it is easy to use them in all kinds of different recipes to add healthy, plant-based protein to your diet.Print
1 cup of lentils, such as brown, green, or black (see note)
3 cups of water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled
¾ tsp. kosher salt
- Rinse the lentils and examine them to make sure there are no pebbles or other debris.
- Place the lentils in the inner pot of your Instant Pot. Cover with water or broth. Add the bay leaf, garlic clove, and salt.
- Close the lid and make sure that the pressure release valve is closed. Select the Pressure Cook or Manual function and set the cooking time to 9 minutes at high pressure.
- When the cooking program is finished, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes. Then, release the remaining pressure manually and remove the lid. If desired, drain the lentils in a colander to remove excess liquid.
- The lentils may now be incorporated into other dishes or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed. You can also freeze cooked lentils for long-term storage.
Note: If cooking red lentils in the Instant Pot, the cooking time is only 5 minutes.