Instant Pot Lentils
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This Instant Pot Lentils recipe is fast, easy and versatile! Use the cooked lentils in salads, soups, pastas, grain bowls and more.
Lentils are flavorful, nutritious, high in fiber and a good source of plant based protein. They are a type of legume, along with beans and peas, and are naturally gluten free. Lentils are inexpensive, versatile, and perfect for meal prep, making them a delicious option for a variety of healthy meals.
This Instant Pot lentils recipe is an easy, hands off way to cook lentils. You can adjust the cooking time to make lentils that have a firm bite (perfect for salads and grain bowls), or softer lentils (perfect for burritos and soups). You can keep the seasonings simple, or add more spices for extra flavor.
Types of Lentils
There are many varieties of lentils, each best suited for different types of lentil recipes and cooking methods. Brown and green lentils are the ones that you will most commonly find in the grocery store, and what you’ll need for this Instant Pot lentils recipe (and Instant Pot Lentil Soup!). French lentils and black beluga lentils can also be cooked in the Instant Pot, but may require an extra minute or two of cooking time. There are also red lentils, which turn mushy when cooked and are not recommended for this recipe.
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Instant Pot Lentils Recipe Ingredients
- Green or Brown Lentils: You’ll need 1 cup of dry green or brown lentils for this recipe. You can double all of the recipe ingredients (including the water) to cook more lentils. I’d suggest reducing the cook time by a minute or two if making a double recipe, since the pot will take longer to come to pressure with a greater liquid volume and the lentils will start cooking while the pot pressurizes.
- Water: You can also use chicken broth or vegetable broth for more flavor.
- Salt: If cooking the lentils in broth, you may want to omit the added salt, especially if you are not using a low sodium broth.
- Black Pepper: For flavor.
- Bay Leaf: For flavor.
Optional Seasoning Ideas
If you want to add more flavor to the lentils, you can choose one or more of these spices to add: ground cumin, chili powder, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, dried oregano, garam masala, paprika, or other seasonings of your choosing.
How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot
You do not need to soak lentils before cooking. Start by picking over the lentils to check for small rocks or other debris – I have found a few small pebbles in lentil packages so this step is important. Then, place the lentils in a fine mesh strainer and rinse them well under cool running water.
Add the lentils, water, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the Instant Pot. Stir gently.
Close the Instant Pot lid and move the steam release valve to the sealing position. Set the pressure cook time to 8-10 minutes, depending on how firm or soft you want the lentils to be.
As soon as the cook time ends, quick release the pressure. Once all of the steam has escaped and the pin drops down, carefully open the lid and discard the bay leaf. Give the lentils a gentle stir and serve, or let them cool to store for later.
How Long to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot
I tested the cook time quite a few times for this recipe and what I found is that it depends on the lentils. If your lentils are older or the package has been opened (so that the lentils have been exposed to air), they can take a longer cook time to become tender. The 8-10 minute cook time in this recipe is a happy compromise that I think will work for most lentils – but feel free to experiment to find what works best for your lentils, your Instant Pot and your tastes.
If you want the lentils to be firmer with a bit of a bite to them, err on the side of using a shorter cook time. If you want them to be softer, I recommend at least a 10 minute pressure cook time.
Ways to Serve Lentils
There are many ways to enjoy lentils. Here are a few ideas:
- Add them to salads.
- Stir cooked lentils into your favorite soups for a boost of plant based protein.
- Stir them into Marinara Sauce or toss with your favorite pasta.
- Use lentils as the base for a healthy grain bowl. Try this Quinoa Bowl, substituting cooked lentils for the quinoa.
- Lentils make a delicious filling for tacos and burritos. Season your Instant Pot lentils with Taco Seasoning, or see this Lentil Tacos recipe.
Lentils are perfect for meal prep, since you can cook them ahead and store in the fridge or freezer.
- Refrigerator: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezer: Slightly undercook the lentils so that they are still somewhat firm, since they have a tendency to soften when frozen and then reheated. Drain off all of the cooking liquid and let cool completely before freezing. Then freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To Reheat: Reheat gently in the microwave, or in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat (add a little water or broth to the pot).
Love lentils? Try these Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes next!
Instant Pot Lentils
- 1 cup dry green or brown lentils
- 1 ¾ cups water, or vegetable/chicken broth, if using broth omit salt
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bay leaf, optional
- Pick over the lentils and remove any small rocks, pebbles or other debris. Place lentils in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold running water.
- Put lentils, 1 ¾ cups water, salt, pepper and bay leaf in the Instant Pot. Stir.
- Close the lid and move the steam release valve to the sealing position. Set the cook time to 8-10 minutes at high pressure. (Choose less time for firmer lentils with a bit of a bite to them and more time for softer lentils. I usually do 10 minutes.) The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to reach pressure and then the cook time will start counting down.
- Once the cook time ends, immediately quick release the pressure by carefully moving the steam release valve to the venting position.
- Once the pin drops down, open the Instant Pot lid. Remove the bay leaf, if using. Stir lentils gently and serve.
- If you want to add more flavor to the lentils, you can choose one or more of these spices to add: ground cumin, chili powder, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, dried oregano, garam masala, paprika, or other seasonings of your choosing.
- Cooked lentils may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.