Indian-Spiced Pressure Cooker Black Lentils

Indian-Spiced black lentilsI seem to have a tendency to make things harder on myself than they need to be. When I was a kid, I remember school teachers telling me I was “thinking too hard” about math or, well, more math problems that were giving me trouble. They could see it in the way I furrowed my brow — a sure sign I was hyper-analyzing each and every problem, thinking just a bit too hard about something that was probably, to them, quite simple.

In yoga classes, I’m often told by instructors that I make poses harder on myself than they need to be. While everyone else is doing a simple downward dog, I’m stressing over where each hand and foot is placed on the mat, how high my arch is, or where my shoulder blades are placed. And while it’s good to think about these things, somehow I manage to make them consume my practice. It can be problematic when you’re looking to yoga as a means of de-stressing and relaxation.

I do it in the kitchen, too. Countless times I’ve taken the hard way to get dinner on the table, ending up with loads of pots and pans — many of which were probably unnecessary — in the sink when it’s all over.

That’s the background story here, as this recipe was the result of a distinct effort not to make things any harder than they needed to be. I’ve had my pressure cooker for a little over a year now, and I noticed that I’ve rarely, if at all, used it to make a one-pot meal. Maybe I’d cook beans in the past, only to use them later for a separate concoction that required more dishes, time and energy to prepare.

When JL Fields spoke to our Main Street Vegan class, she talked about her upcoming vegan pressure cooking cookbook. I loved the idea of an entire book dedicated to pressure cooker recipes. Further inspiration ensued after I perused JL’s Facebook page to find that she was cooking whole meals in her pressure cooker — not just beans to add to another dish. I guess there wouldn’t be much to a pressure cooker cookbook if the latter were the case.

Here, I made a black lentil dish that is, aside from a small separate bowl for mixing your spices (which, I’d say, is probably not 100% necessary, either), an entirely 1-pot meal. I was so excited that it turned out perfect and delicious the first time.

A few notes:

  • I found black lentils at my local Whole Foods Market. I am not sure if other lentils would work here, thought I am guessing they would with the exception of red lentils. If you do make these with any other type of lentil, please leave a comment so I know how it turned out.
  • This is great on its own in a bowl, or served over some hearty brown rice (my favorite way to eat it).
  • I used Rainbow Chard as my greens of choice, though any heart green (such as kale) will do.
  • If you try to adapt this to make on the stove top (i.e. without a pressure cooker) I would also love to hear from you to know cooking times, etc. so that others can try it that way if it would work better for them.
  • Because I wanted to make this recipe super simple, I didn’t want to add any more frills or steps than necessary. But I do think a little splash of homemade cashew cream would be lovely here.

Indian-Spiced Pressure Cooker Black Lentils:

Makes about 4 servings if serving over rice


1 cup red onion, finely diced (almost minced)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup black lentils, rinsed well and picked through

4 cups water

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

2 cups Rainbow Chard or other study green, tightly packed

Cilantro for serving (optional)


Add first six ingredients to pressure cooker. Mix remaining ingredients except for greens (spices and olive oil) in a small bowl or ramekin, then add to the remaining ingredients in the pressure cooker. Cover cooker with lid and lock lid into place (alternately, put pressure weight into place, depending on type of pressure cooker you’re using). Heat over high heat until pressure develops. Once pressure develops, reduce heat to medium and cook with pressure for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and wait for pressure to release before opening pressure cooker. Add greens (chard or kale) and heat again over medium heat until greens are wilted, which should only be a minute or two. Serve topped with some cilantro, if using.


  1. Joe says

    Thanks for the recipe. I recently purchased a pressure cooker because I got tired of using pots and pans to make my food as they just seem to cook away all the nutrients. I used these reviews to help me pick. It’s really useful for anyone looking to buy. I’ll definitely give this recipe a try.

  2. maria says

    I made this dish tonight with red lentils. I started by putting the liquid and spices (I added 50% more since I like spices) into the pressure cooker on “saute” (I have an Instant Pot) to heat up the water and cut down on final cooking time. I omitted the oil. I let it warm while I was chopping the onion and kale. I added everything to the pot at once, set it for 5 minutes, and did a quick release when it was done instead of waiting for the pressure to come down. It was perfect.

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