Instant Pot Black Lentils

Instant Pot black lentils slow cooked in onion and garlic. A simple but healthy dish to enjoy with curry, rice, or simply by itself! Discover seasoning tips, water-lentil ratios, and serving ideas with our easy recipe.

Instant Pot Black Lentils

If you’re looking for a healthy and versatile plant-based protein, black lentils are the answer. In this article, you’ll see how black lentils are delicious by themselves as a budget-friendly Instant Pot meal, or incorporated into a variety of other dishes. Read on to discover how to make Instant Pot black lentils for a quick, nutritious meal or easy side dish.

What are Black Lentils?

Black lentils are also called Beluga or caviar lentils because they are small, round, and shiny and look remarkably similar to caviar. This variety of lentils is grown in the northern plains of the US and Canada. Black lentils hold their shape better than red or green varieties and are ideal for cooking in bulk.

instant pot black lentils


  • Dried black lentils: find dried black lentils online or in the bulk section of your grocery store; they’re sometimes called Beluga or caviar lentils. If you can’t get any, you can substitute in French green lentils
  • Olive oil: high-quality extra virgin olive oil is preferred
  • Celery: one stalk or about half a cup, diced
  • Carrot: one medium carrot or about half a cup, also diced
  • Onion: one small to medium onion diced, depending on how much you like onions. 
  • Garlic: two cloves minced, or if you don’t have fresh garlic, substitute in one-quarter teaspoon of garlic powder
  • Salt: use sea salt or iodized table salt 
  • Water: filtered water will provide the best flavor; using the filter on your refrigerator works perfectly well
raw black lentils in small mason jar

Quick Tips

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re cooking your lentils.

Water Ratios

When cooking black lentils in the Instant Pot, use a 2:1 water to dried lentils ratio.

Salt & Seasoning

Although there are rumors that salt toughens lentils when cooking, that isn’t true if you’re using a reasonable amount. Instead, salt will add flavor when cooking lentils.

Adding Flavor

Lentils are relatively bland on their own, but black lentils readily absorb the flavor of whatever you cook them with. You can add flavor by cooking them with aromatic vegetables like onions and garlic, fresh or dried spices and herbs, and cooking them in stock instead of water.

black lentil curry with wooden spoon on white background with coriander onions and carrots

Side Dish Ideas

You can serve cooked black lentils over seasoned rice. You can also add sautéed vegetables to the plate for color, texture, and nutrition.

Try eating black lentils with roasted cauliflower and hummus for various textures and multiple sources of plant-based protein. 

If you want a vegetable option, serve cooked lentils over nutrient-rich braised greens like kale, collard, Swiss chard, or try broccoli rabe.

Don’t forget a delicious flatbread, such as naan, to accompany your lentil dish.

If you want a meat option, try serving it alongside Kerala beef fry. The black lentil stew will complement the dry texture and spicy flavors of the beef beautifully.

Black lentil curry on white bowl isolated on white background

How to Make Instant Pot Black Lentils

For this recipe, you’ll need a 6-quart Instant Pot (another size will also work). We use this because it combines sauté and pressure cooker settings, but if you don’t have access to one, you can use a skillet to heat the vegetables before transferring everything to your pressure cooker.

First, rinse your lentils. Place them in a strainer and run several batches of cold water through until the water is running clear. Also, take time to sort through the lentils and remove any debris or broken pieces.

Next, prepare all of your vegetables. Wash and peel the carrot, wash and trim the celery stalk, and then dice them into uniform pieces. Peel the onion and finely dice. Finally, peel the garlic and mince.

With your simple ingredients gathered together, you’re ready to start cooking. Set the Instant Pot to the sauté setting and heat one tablespoon of olive oil.

The olive oil should be shimmering when heated. Add the diced celery, carrot, and onion and cook while stirring for about three minutes. Next, add the minced garlic and half a teaspoon of salt and continue tosauté for an additional two minutes, stirring continuously, so the vegetables don’t stick.

Now you’re ready to add the four cups of water, half a cup of frozen green peas, and two cups of lentils to the cooked vegetables and pressure cook. Stir all ingredients together and place the lid on the Instant Pot. The valve on the cover should be in the natural release setting.

Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for ten minutes. After the lentils are done cooking, allow the Instant Pot to remain on natural release for approximately twenty minutes. This setting enables the pressure to gradually decrease while still cooking your dish.

After ten minutes of pressure cooking and twenty minutes of natural release, you can release the remaining pressure and carefully take the lid off the Instant Pot. (Make sure the steam stays away from your face because it can be hot.)

Season your cooked lentils with additional salt and pepper to taste. You can serve them right away or store them to eat later. Let the lentils cool to room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator.


Allow cooked lentils to cool but, within two hours of cooking, place them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator.

You can keep cooked lentils for up to a week in the refrigerator. If there is mold, discoloration, or a strange odor, then discard lentils immediately.

Microwave lentils for one minute, stir the lentils, and then microwave for another 30 seconds. Continue until the lentils are the right consistency.

To reheat lentils on the stove, pour them into a saucepan and cover with water. Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently.

instant pot black lentils

Instant Pot Black Lentils

Instant Pot black lentils slow cooked in onion and garlic. A simple but healthy dish to enjoy with curry, rice, or simply by itself!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian, Vegan
Servings 4


  • 2 cups dried black lentils also called beluga/caviar lentils
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 white onion diced
  • ½ cup green peas frozen or fresh
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt


  • Rinse and drain the dried black lentils thoroughly, and pick out any debris
  • Set your Instant Pot to its sauté setting and add olive oil, diced celery, carrots, onion, and minced garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and vegetables have started to turn tender.
  • Add black lentils, green peas, water, and salt. Stir to combine with vegetables, scraping any vegetable bits that have stuck to the pan.
  • Set Instant Pot to its high-pressure setting for ten minutes with the valve positioned to natural release. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for ten minutes.
  • After cooking, leave the Instant Pot on natural release for approximately 20 minutes to decrease pressure.
  • Carefully open the lid. Season lentils with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator.