Instant Pot Yellow Dal

Instant Pot Yellow Dal

The air smells of pine as it whips in the window. Up here, it’s 62 degrees. The Aspens have turned; their bright yellow leaves look stark against the pine trees mixed among them. The air is thin, there is not a bar of cell service to be found, and the moon is up. This is Mount Evans.

We’ve gone to Mount Evans to climb several times this summer and the change in elevation is always the perfect escape from the summer heat. (Eh-hem, I’ve obnoxiously shared the exact same view every weekend for the last month on my Instagram stories. I just can’t help it — the view takes my breath away every time.) Lately though, it’s been even better than usual because of the fall colors and crisp air. And, even I avoid cooking when it’s ninety degrees out, but when it’s only sixty-two, bring ooooon the baked goods, stews, and cozy foods.

Instant Pot Yellow Dal
Instant Pot Yellow Dal

I love red lentils when the weather starts to turn, and my go-to is dal. It’s creamy, spicy, satisfying, and so easy to make in an Instant Pot. So easy! The best weekend days start with breakfast, take us climbing somewhere among the Aspens, and end in dinner from the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Yellow Dal

Instant Pot Yellow Dal

Published October 11, 2018 by
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Serves: 8   |    Active Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small red onions or 1 large, diced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Juice 1/2 lime, plus wedges for serving
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish

  • Directions:

    1. Turn the Instant Pot (affiliate link!) to sauté setting. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to the Instant Pot. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic, onions, ginger, and jalapeño, stirring occasionally.
    2. While onions cook, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. When oil is hot, add mustard seed and cumin seeds, and toast until fragant. (Watch the seeds closely to avoid burning them—the cook quicly).
    3. Scape the cumin and mustard mixture into the Instant Pot. Add broth, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground cayenne, salt, ground black pepper, lime juice, and cilantro and stir.
    4. Place lentils in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water. Strain, then add to the Instant Pot. Stir well.
    5. Place lid on Instant Pot and turn to “Manual” setting and adjust to high pressure. Set timer for 10 minutes with the seal closed.
    6. When the timer goes off, release the pressure or allow it to release naturally. Stir the lentils, and serve hot with lime wedges and cilantro.
    7. To make this on the stove top instead of an Instant Pot: Use a large soup pot. In step 3, bring everything to a simmer and cook, stirring occassionally, for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are softened through.
    8. Note: If you soak your lentils for 6-12 hours ahead of time (we usually do this), then strain water from lentils before use. Reduce broth quantity to 4 cups, and reduce cooking time to 4 minutes.


    Creamy Chana Masala

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with my stories from Northern India, a trip I made when I was sixteen (you can read about how the trip inspired my Indian Carrot Pudding recipe, or this Slow Cooker Kashmiri Braised Lamb). This year (2018) is exactly a decade after that trip, but moments from that adventure are stamped vividly forever in my memory: stepping in cow dung on the overwhelming and noisy streets of New Delhi; playing on the shores of the Chandrabhaga River, snapping pictures of the rocks and sand as if there was something special about sand in India versus Colorado; eating dinner on the rooftop of a hotel in Udaipur on New Years Eve, lights glimmering against the river below; knocking on a small door in an alleyway, with a little sign next to it that said “cooking school;” and many more.

    There is something about our brains at sixteen years old: they are pliable, receptive, and ready to learn. They are forming and reforming and reinforcing with every visual we take in. I was the perfect age for that trip. Open, ready, receiving. And my mind did just that. It formed connections that would never be broken, a passion for an older world, where roads are made of laid stone and brightly colored buildings are crammed together. A craving for chapati and mounds of spices and Chana Masala.

    Creamy Chana Masala
    Creamy Chana Masala

    When we passed through that small door in the alley, a short woman ushered us into her home. She got out paper and a pen, and asked what we would like to learn to cook. She made notes, and suggestions, and then told us when to come back for our lesson. 

    Boldly I remember the simplicity of her kitchen. People talk about having a “minimalist kitchen” these days, but this was on a whole different level. The walls, the floor, the shelves, the cooking surface (the counter, if it could be called that), were all made of the same grey-ish stone material, solid and a bit bleak. A window behind us, with no glass pane, looked down on the street. There just enough room for the four of us: the teacher, my dad, myself, and our teacher's little daughter who must’ve been no more than three or four years old. She sat perched on the cooking surface in the corner, making flat bread.

    Chana Masala is one of the dishes we learned to make that day. It's simple, if you know what to do.

    This recipe is a bit different from the one we learned to make in India. For one, the grocery stores here in the United States have nothing on the markets of India when it comes to finding curry blends. But also, I've added coconut milk to the mix, which makes it nice and creamy. Coconut and curry go together so well, I highly recommend giving it a spin. 

    Either way, Chana Masala (which means “Spiced Chickpeas” in Hindi) is a one-pot wonder, and packs a boat load of flavor in. If you can make a stir fry, you can make Chana Masala! It’s also completely plant-based, so if that’s your thing, turn on the burner now!

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Published May 3, 2018 by
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    Serves: 4   |    Total Time: 30 minutes


    • 2 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
    • 2 onions, diced
    • 7 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 inch ginger, minced
    • 1 serrano chili, minced
    • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground curry powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
    • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice
    • Fresh cilantro for serving


    1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet until it glistens (I use my 5-qt Le Creuset Braiser (affiliate link!), but if you don't have a pan this large you might want to make a half recipe). Add diced onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan, and sauté until onion is transparent. Add minced serrano chili, crushed tomatoes and water, and bring to a simmer.
    2. Add cumin, salt, curry powder, coriander, and water to the pan, and stir. Then, add the chickpeas and coconut milk. Place lid on pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until chickpeas are warmed through and coconut milk is melted in.
    3. Finish by stirring in the lime juice and topping with cilantro. Serve hot over rice, cauliflower rice, etc.