This vegan black lentil curry tastes like it’s been slow cooking all day. It’s an Instant Pot dal makhani, which is easy to prep, easy to make, and vegan. It can be served as a main course or as a side dish for any Indian meal.
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What Is Dal Makhani
Dal makhani is probably one of the most common dishes served at Indian restaurants around the world. We almost always order this black lentil curry as a side dish, alongside a few meat and vegetable curries. Living in Ireland we have a few Indian restaurants, but when I started to make this dish Eric proclaimed we never have to order Indian again. This dal makhani is restaurant quality.
I am cheating a bit here from the traditional recipe. Normally makhani means cooked with butter, like chicken makhani is buttered chicken. But to make this dal makhani vegan, I skipped the butter and used a combination of coconut oil and coconut milk instead to add the creaminess.
Check out some of our other Indian-inspired recipes:
Cooking With Indian Black Lentils
One of the main reasons I like cooking with lentils rather than dried beans is because there is no need to soak the beans. When making pressure cooker dal with black lentils, though, you should soak the lentils.
This is, in part, because black lentils are heftier and more like beans than red or green lentils. This is particularly true if using whole urad dal, like I did in this recipe.
It’s best to soak whole urad dal, or black lentils for at least 8 hours or overnight – even when using a pressure cooker. In the morning, you will clearly understand why we soak black lentils. The water will be fairly black. After draining the black lentils, rinse in cool water a few more times.
Why Use An Instant Pot For Dal Makhani
I love using an Instant Pot for dal recipes. I started cooking Indian at home on a stovetop, and still do. But, making a dal makhani recipe in an Instant Pot speeds up the process. There is no need to constantly check the pot on the stove.
And this easy dal makhani recipe only includes a bit of cooking in the Instant Pot before setting it on the pressure cooker setting. There are only about 5 minutes of prep time, 5 minutes of saute time in the electric pressure cooker, and the rest of the cooking time is just waiting for the Instant Pot to do its magic.
Check out some of our other Instant Pot recipes:
Ingredients For This Vegan Dal Makhani Recipe
If you cook Indian food at home regularly, you will probably have most of these dal makhani ingredients.
I start this recipe for black dal with coconut oil. You can also use vegetable oil, but I love the little touch of creaminess coconut oil adds to Indiana recipes. The coconut oil, plus using coconut milk at the end is what makes this a vegan dal makhani, which skips the butter.
Dice up some yellow onion and garlic and grate fresh ginger. I prefer grating the ginger to help it infuse more into the dal recipe without having larger chunks.
The vegetables and black lentils are cooked in tomato sauce (passata), which adds acidity and vegetable broth, which is the main required liquid to make the lentils cook in the Instant Pot.
Spices For Dal Makhani In The Instant Pot
If you cook Indian frequently, you are likely to have these spices at home. If not, it might be worth investing in them if you plan to cook more at home. The coconut oil is infused with cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds. If you don’t have these at home, use ground cumin, fresh coriander, and skip the mustard.
In addition, we add some garam masala, which is what is used in so many tasty curry dishes. Garam masala is a blend of spices and commonly found in most supermarkets now. Add a bit of extra ground turmeric, salt, and a cinnamon stick. The cinnamon stick is sort of my secret ingredient.
How To Make Dal Makhani In An Instant Pot
This Instant Pot dal makhani is almost a dump and seal recipe. There’s only a few minutes of easy sauteing before sealing up the electric pressure cooker.
Place the coconut oil in the electric pressure cooker. It will be solid when coming out of the jar, but will liquify when it starts to heat.
Turn the Instant Pot on the saute function. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, coriander seed, and mustard seeds and cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add the garam masala, turmeric, and salt and blend into the oil and vegetables.
Turn the Instant Pot off (cancel). Add the vegetable broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits of seasoning off the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils and tomato sauce. Stir to blend. Add the cinnamon stick. Just stick it into the mixture.
Place the lid on the electric pressure cooker and seal. Set to pressure cook for 30 minutes. When the time is up allow the pressure cooker to naturally release the pressure for another 30 minutes or so. Remove the lid from the Instant Pot away from the face.
Add the coconut milk while the Instant Pot is still on the warm function. Once the coconut milk is warmed through, serve with fresh cilantro.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 cup black lentils, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
- 1 cup tomato sauce (passata)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ cup coconut milk or butter (after)
- Fresh cilantro
- Place the coconut oil in the electric pressure cooker. Turn the Instant Pot on the saute function.
- Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, coriander seed, and mustard seeds, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened.
- Add the garam masala, turmeric, and salt and blend into the oil and vegetables.
- Turn the Instant Pot off (cancel). Add the vegetable broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits of seasoning off the bottom of the pot.
- Add the lentils and tomato sauce. Stir to blend. Add the cinnamon stick.
- Place the lid on the electric pressure cooker and seal. Set to pressure cook for 30 minutes.
- When the time is up allow the pressure cooker to naturally release the pressure for another 30 minutes or so. Remove the lid from the Instant Pot away from the face.
- Add the coconut milk while the Instant Pot is still on the warm function. Serve once the coconut milk is warmed through.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 160Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 508mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 4g
This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.
This is a relatively healthy dal makhani because it skips the butter to make it vegan. But, if you are not vegan, then feel free to add a generous scoop (or two) of butter while in the Instant Pot on the warm cycle. You can also add a bit of butter when reheating, particularly when pulling it out of the freezer.
As much as this is more of a black dal recipe, many people add kidney beans, or rajma, into dal makhani. I think this might be more of a dal makhani Punjabi recipe. You can add a can of kidney beans to this recipe before sealing the pressure cooker.
It gets a little more difficult if using dried kidney beans because the kidney beans and the black dal will cook at different times. I would recommend soaking the kidney beans for an hour or two, just to make sure they cook at the same rate.