Rich and creamy Instant Pot vegan dal Makhani is a spoonful of decadence with every bite. Black lentils and kidney beans are cooked to perfection with a flavorful spice profile. Add the simplest of cashew creams, and you have a rival for the most luxurious Indian-inspired meals or curries ever ladled from your Instant Pot.
Imagine a big bowl of something so rich it feels naughty, but there's no guilt, no regrets. That's where we are today, folks. We're gonna rely on a flavor profile that's savory, sweet, and, oh yes, spicy (as you like it). And there are 2 types of legumes, black (beluga) lentils and kidney beans, healthy canned tomatoes, plus onions, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger for good measure.
Dal makhani is often made with butter and cream. We'll be taking our recipe plant-based using creamed cashews to the ultimate. It's the simplest solution I've found yet for adding the final, all-important final touch.
Black lentils – If you aren’t familiar with black lentils, they look like a cross between French or Puy lentils and black beans.
Like all legumes, black lentils have loads of healthy fiber and antioxidants. But these little nuggets have something extra – anthocyanins – the same cell helpers preventing damage by free radicals. We often eat blueberries or blackberries for the same reason. Ah, another reason to eat black lentil dahl.
Remember the idea behind French lentils not losing their shape when cooked? It was one motivation I used them for making simple French lentils and rice in the Instant Pot a few weeks ago. Well, the same idea holds with black lentils. They cook up tender and soft, but they still look like lentils. This changes the mouthfeel you’d get from using red lentils.
Kidney beans – Guess what? You're going to get anthocyanins from red kidney beans too! This was news to me. I just used kidney beans because I wanted to add a sweeter bean, and I love the way different-sized legumes chew together.
Because I had a fresh bag of kidney beans, and as long as beans are thoroughly cooked, we don’t suffer from intestinal upset. For this reason, I didn’t soak the beans first.
If beans don't always agree with you, I recommend soaking them first. Then cut the cooking time in the Instant Pot to 35, rather than 40 minutes. Be sure you rinse the kidney beans after they are soaked. This is what removes the natural sugars that can contribute to uncomfortableness. You can also use canned kidney beans and add them at the end with the creamed cashews.
Flavor foundations – Onions, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger lay the foundational flavor layer. We don't use added oil in our recipes. This is one reason it's essential that after you sauté the flavor founders, you deglaze the Instant Pot. This ensures that food isn't stuck to the bottom of the pot that can trigger a 'food burning' warning.
Tomatoes – A 15 ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes adds a bit of fruity, acidic flavor without overpowering the dal. It won't taste of tomatoes but will add more flavor depth. This is particularly the case if you use water rather than vegetable broth.
Spice layers – Start the cooking process by toasting fenugreek, cumin, and coriander seeds. You can do this in the Instant Pot or in a separate skillet. Toasting brings out the natural oils and flavors in the spice seeds. Enhance this further by grinding the seeds using a mortar and pestle or a spice/coffee grinder. I like the seeds left a little rough, but you can grind them into a fine powder.
After the ground spices, you will also add chili powder, turmeric, and salt. The salt is your decision. It can be added after the dal is cooked. The amount of salt is purely a matter of personal taste, and it's also a consideration if you use salted vegetable broth.
Raw cashews – I'm calling this creamed cashews rather than cashew cream. The latter term implies added ingredients complementary to vegan sour cream or mayo. Cashews and water. That's it!
- Unless you have a high-speed blender, you'll need to soak the cashews. My recommendation is to place the cashews in a blender and then cover them with boiling water. Once the dal starts the natural release process, rinse the cashews, add them to a blender with ½ a cup of water and blend until smooth.
- Lightly toast the fenugreek, cumin, and coriander seeds using the High Sauté function on the Instant Pot. The process takes about 1 minute. Stir them constantly to avoid burning them. Then immediately transfer them to grind them.
- If the kidney beans are not fully cooked, allow them to simmer for another 5-10 minutes in the Instant Pot on High Sauté. You may want to add another ½ to 1 cup of water or broth, so the dal doesn’t get too thick.
- To help control the heat, you may want to remove the seeds and core from the jalapeno (you can also use another kind of green chili). Be careful handling chilis as the spice easily clings to your hands. Use gloves, or be sure to wash your hands with soap immediately after dicing them.
- Be attentive to clearing the bottom of the Instant Pot before you set it to High Pressure. New Instant Pots are sensitive, and if there is food stuck to the bottom, it will trigger a 'food burning' alert which is obviously super-annoying.
Stovetop directions. I’ve not tried this particular recipe on the stovetop, but I've made similar dishes. My advice is to follow the recipe as noted but start with soaked kidney beans (or canned as mentioned above). Increase the water to 3 cups and after pouring in the lentils and soaked beans, simmer for 60 minutes (or more) until the beans and lentils are tender. Cover the pot, but leave the lid tilted so that there is an air vent. Stir often to ensure the ingredients are cooking evenly and not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
You can soak kidney beans overnight by adding them to a pot or bowl and covering them with twice the amount of water. You can quick-soak them in the Instant Pot by adding the beans and adding water about 1-inch above the beans. Close the Instant Pot lid, set the steam handle to Sealing, and cook the beans on High Pressure for 5 minutes. Allow the beans to naturally release until the float valve returns to the down position (15-30 minutes).
If you are sensitive to nuts or want to avoid cashews, you can use plant-based milk such as oat milk to add a bit of creamy flavor. Alternatively, you can use sunflower seeds. Grind dry seeds into a fine powder before blending it with water to create a cream.
If you want a substitute for black (Beluga) lentils for dal makhani, you can try whole mung beans or French (Puy) lentils. If you use red lentils, make sure they are whole lentils, not split. They will break down quite a bit and not maintain their shape as well as black lentils.
We enjoyed this dal in big bowls with whole wheat flatbread, although it is delicious over rice. The flavor is enhanced with lemon juice, so don't spare extra lemon wedges. Chopped or thin slices of red onions can also make a flavorful garnish. Like many Indian-inspired dishes, chopped cilantro can be a welcome addition.
If you want to add greens to add to the nutritional impact of this recipe, spinach is a good choice. Add it along with the creamed cashews and simmer it for a minute or two until it wilts.
sides we love with dahl
Instant Pot vegan dal makhani (black lentil dahl)
Instant Pot vegan dal makhani (black lentil dahl) is healthy decadence with every spoonful and easy to make in your favorite pressure cooker.
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 60 min
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: curries
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 2 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
- 1 cup black lentils (Beluga lentils), rinsed
- ½ cup dried red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1-2 jalapenos or green chilis, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 ½ cups of water or vegetable broth
- 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes (15 ounces or 400 grams)
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup of water
- Lemon wedges (optional)
- In the Instant Pot or a small skillet, toast the fenugreek, coriander, and cumin seeds. Heat whichever you are using first, then add the seeds. Toss them for 1 minute until they start to get fragrant. Remove from the heat, then transfer the seeds to a spice grinder or mortar. Grind the seeds until they are broken down.
- Turn the Instant Pot to the High Sauté function and add the onions, jalapenos, and crushed spices. Cook them for about 5 minutes until they start to soften and get translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger, chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Cook for 30 seconds and stir to coat the vegetables.
- Turn off the Sauté function. Add the water or vegetable broth and tomatoes to deglaze the Instant Pot bottom. Use a wooden spoon to clear the ingredients from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the lentils and kidney beans. Secure the Instant Pot lid. Set the pressure handle to Sealing, then set the timer for High Pressure for 40 minutes, turning off the warming function.
- While the dal cooks, drain the cashews and place them in a blender. Add ½ a cup of water and blend until smooth. Set aside until the dal is done.
- Once the timer goes off, allow for 15 minutes of natural release before unsealing the steam handle and removing the lid.
- Once you have the lid off of the Instant Pot, stir in the cashew cream. If the dal is too thick, add more water. If you find it too thin or the beans aren't done, allow it to sauté for another 5 minutes or more with the lid off.
- Serve the dal in big bowls, with rice if you like, or just garnished with some diced red onions and chopped cilantro.
- If your kidney beans are older or you suffer from stomach upset from cooked beans, you may want to soak them overnight before cooking them. (see the post for quick-soaking beans in the Instant Pot). If you use soaked beans, reduce the pressure-cooking time to 35 minutes.
- A substitute for creamed cashews could be oat milk or another thicker, plant milk. You can also use sunflower cream by grinding ½ a cup of sunflower seeds into a fine powder and blending it with water.
- To freeze dal makhani, allow it to cool completely, and place it in airtight containers or freezer bags.
- When reheating the dal, you may want to add a bit of broth or water as it will thicken as it cools.
Keywords: Instant Pot vegan dal makhani