Kaali Masoor Ki Daal (Brown Lentils), accompanied with a fragrant bowl of basmati rice is Pakistani comfort food at its best. With a total cook time of 30 minutes in the Instant Pot, this is the perfect vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free meal! "Daal Chawal" as the combination of lentils and rice is called is a staple in all South Asian households. This "Sabut Masoor" daal or brown lentil is definitely my favorite amongst the variety of lentils.
My favorite way to enjoy this daal recipe is to cook some basmati-rice, make some kachumber salad and have a simple healthy meal. However, if I'm entertaining, this Kaali Masoor ki Daal makes a great side for meat entrees, like my pakistani-beef-kofta-meatball-curry or my easy-aloo-gosht curry.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Quick and easy recipe - This easy kaali masoor ki daal is a family favorite and one I often make, especially on a busy weekday! Easy enough on a Stove Top, cooking it in the Instant Pot makes it even easier.
- Nutritious and affordable meal - These brown lentils are very low-calorie and nutritious. According to bbcgoodfood.com, lentils are low in calories and high in protein, fiber, iron, and folate. Add to that the fact that they are very budget-friendly, and you have a winner on your hands.
- A great option for people with dietary restrictions - This daal recipe is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free, making it the perfect recipe to serve to a large group of people with assorted dietary restrictions.
- A perfect main and side - This recipe works great as a main or a side. This makes room for many creative menu combinations with just one simple recipe.
- Brown lentils - Brown lentils, also known as sabut masoor daal (whole masoor lentils), are basically red lentils with the outer husk still intact. They are my favorite because they cook very quickly and pack a punch both in terms of flavor and nutrition. They are very easy to source as most supermarkets carry them.
- The spice powders - The spices used for this Kaali Masoor ki Daal are very simple and you're likely to have them all in your pantry. Salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric.
- The cooking oil - I like to use canola oil or avocado oil for most of my recipes. They have a neutral taste and a high smoke point, making them perfect for Pakistani food.
- Dry red chilies - Dry red chilies, roasted in oil are used as a tempering to give the lentils a nice smoky flavor. I usually get dried whole red Kashmiri chilies for this.
- Cumin seeds - Whole cumin seeds, also part of the tempering, add a nice earthy flavor to brown lentils.
- The curry leaves - The curry leaves, if you've never had them, have a citrusy note that's somewhat similar to kaffir lime leaves. Roasting them in oil for the tempering really brings out their flavor and aroma.
For the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Substitutions & variations
- Cook the lentils on the stovetop - Don't have an Instant Pot? No problem! Kaali Masoor daal takes only 20 minutes extra to cook on the stovetop.
- Temper before you cook the lentils - Some people temper their ingredients first and then add their lentils to the pot and cook them. You can try this brown lentil recipe that way and see if you prefer the taste.
- Add some ginger - Add 1 teaspoon of grated ginger to the Kaali Masoor Ki Daal along with the powdered spices to add a pungent and peppery flavor to your lentils.
- Add some tomatoes - Chop a tomato or add a tablespoon of tomato paste to change the flavor of your masoor daal up a bit.
- Try a swirl of cream - A swirl of cream added to your bowl of brown lentils makes them creamier, more like daal makhani. This is an easy way to change up the recipe a little bit.
The pictures below show the stovetop method for clarity on the cooking process and the final consistency of the brown lentils. Detailed instructions for both, the Instant Pot and the stovetop method are provided in the recipe card.
Step 1 - Add the lentils, powdered spices, and 6 cups of water to your cooking pot. Cook the Kaali Masoor daal uncovered and bring them to a boil.
Step 2 - You will notice a little scum forming on the top. Gently remove this using a slotted spoon. Then cover and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes.
Step 3 - After 20 minutes, remove the lid and turn the stove on high. You will still have a little extra water in your lentils and this is what you want. The remaining 10 minutes of cooking will dry this water out. As you wait for this to happen, use a potato masher to break down the lentils slightly. This will release the starch and this is what will help thicken the lentils and create a creamy consistency.
Step 4 - The next step is tadka, or tempering. This process helps bring out the aroma and flavor of the herbs, whole spices, and fresh ingredients before they are added to the Kaali Masoor ki Daal. Heat your oil and first cook the onions to a dark medium brown. Then add the garlic, cumin, whole dry red chilies, and cumin seeds (in this order) and roast everything.
Step 5 - Pour the tempering, including the oil which is now full of flavor onto the cooked lentils and cover for a few minutes so the ingredients and flavors have time to fuse.
Step 6 - Garnish your kaali masoor ki daal with some cilantro and serve it with rice or naan.
- Always soak the lentils if you're using the stovetop method - Soaking the kaali masoor daal helps shorten the cooking time. The lentils absorb some water during this soaking period and start to soften, resulting in less time on the stove.
- Always use a masher at the end - Some people use immersion blenders to blend their lentils at the end but I personally find a hand-held masher is better. You want the daal to release starch and be well blended and creamy but you also want some texture to your Kaali Masoor ki Daal. Using a manual masher gives you more control over the final product.
- Temper the ingredients in a specific order - Always add in your fresh ingredients, like the onion and garlic, to the hot oil first. These ingredients have a high water content, so they take longer to brown. If you add dry ingredients like the chilies, cumin seeds, and curry leaves too early they'll burn.
Brown lentils, also known as kaali masoor ki daal, are a complex carb, with ⅓ of their calories coming from protein. They're a great fit for most diets except a Keto diet.
You may have to add a little bit of extra cooking time if you forget to soak your lentils and you're cooking on the stovetop. In addition to this, people who are prone to gas and bloating usually benefit from the soaking process. But if you forget, it's not an absolute deal breaker. I've often cooked my lentils without soaking them on a busy day.
Absolutely! They will most likely cook in less time if you do that. Just discard the water you soak them in and add fresh water to boil the lentils.
Cooked brown lentils stay fresh in the fridge for about three days and can be frozen for up to three months. I usually add a fresh tempering if I defrost and use them from the freezer to freshen them up a bit.
Other recipes you may like
For more Pakistani recipes like this, check out 20 popular Pakistani recipes. If you decide to try this recipe, Please don't forget to leave a rating and comment below! If you take a picture then tag me on Instagram! Thank You!
Kaali Masoor Ki Daal (Brown Lentils)
- 1 cup brown lentils (Sabut masoor ki daal)
- 6 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp dhania powder
- 2 tbsp cooking oil (see notes)
- ½ onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 whole dry red chilies (see notes)
- 10 curry leaves (see notes)
- Rinse the lentils in water.
- Add the lentils, 6 cups of water, salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and dhania powder, and set the Instant Pot on High Pressure for 15 minutes.
- Slice the ½ onion and the garlic cloves while you wait and set them aside.
- Do a natural release for 15 minutes, and then open the Instant Pot cover carefully.
- Set the Instant Pot on Saute and dry out any excess liquid, using a masher to create a creamy consistency.
- Heat the 2 tbsp oil and start sauteeing the onion. When the onion is a deep brown, add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to brown, add the cumin seeds, dry red chilies, and curry leaves, in that order. Cook just enough to release the aroma but make sure not to let any of the ingredients burn. Pour the hot oil with all of the ingredients over the lentils (see notes)
- Soak the lentils for 20 minutes in water.
- Rinse the lentils and add them with 6 cups of water, the salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder and dhania powder to a pot and set it to cook on high heat.
- Once the lentils reach a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes.
- Dice the onion and slice the garlic while waiting for the lentils to finish cooking and set aside.
- Turn the flame on high and dry out the excess water and use a masher as in the other method above, to create a creamy consistency.
- Heat the two tablespoons of oil and temper as described in step 6 above (Instant Pot Method).