How to make lentils in the instant pot for a smoky savory recipe! These smoky lentils are vegan, so full of flavor, so delicious and high in protein. They are perfect over pasta, potatoes and served alongside veggies!

PREP TIME 10 mins

COOK TIME 20 mins

TOTAL TIME 30 mins


CUISINEAmerican, Gluten-free, Vegan

YIELDS 4 -5 servings


  • 1/2 packed cup (80g) finely diced red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (OR 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (60g) tomato paste (not sauce)
  • 2 3/4 cups (660g) low sodium veggie broth (a well flavored one here, I like the Pacific or Imagine brands)
  • 1 1/2 cups (280g) uncooked green lentils (do not use red here!), rinsed well
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon (20g) maple syrup or agave


  • Have all ingredients ready and measured, as this goes quickly.
  • Add 1/2 cup water to the instant pot and press the sauté button set for 8 minutes. Once hot, add the onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook another minute, adding water if needed to prevent burning.
  • Add the tomato paste, a splash of water if needed and all of the spices. Stir constantly for a minute or so to toast the spices and tomato paste.
  • Add the broth, lentils, liquid smoke and maple syrup and stir really well to make sure the tomato paste mixture is thoroughly blended.  
  • Seal the instant pot and cook on high pressure by selecting either the “Pressure Cook or Manual” button and set the time for 8 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for the instant pot to come to pressure before the 8 minutes begins, so please keep an eye on it so they are left in there for the correct amount of time.
  • After the instant beeps that the 8 minutes are done cooking (or you are watching it), leave to sit for 10 minutes for firm lentils or 15 minutes if you like them really soft. I like 10 minutes. Release the remaining pressure and open the lid carefully. Stir the lentils around and serve immediately!
  • See the post for ways to serve these!


STOVE TOP DIRECTIONS: You can make these over the stove top with a couple of slight changes. Instead of 2 3/4 cup broth, you will be using 3 cups, as cooking over the stove has much less intensity of the pressure of the instant pot, so a bit more broth was needed here to fully cook the lentils.

Additionally, you will not be adding the tomato paste with the spices at the same time, as listed above in the instant pot directions. This is because acidic ingredients (like tomato sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) can prevent lentils from becoming tender on the stove. So, it’s best to add them towards the end I have found, it produces better results. 

  • Step 1: To a large pot, add 1/2 cup water over medium heat and once hot, add the onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute. 
  • Step 2: Add the spices, including the pepper and salt. NOT the tomato paste. Stir for about 1 minute to toast the spices. 
  • Step 3: Add the broth (3 cups), lentils, liquid smoke and syrup. Stir very well. Raise the heat to high. Once boiling, cover with a lid with it only slightly tilted to let a small bit of steam to escape. Lower the heat to low and simmer 20-30 minutes until they are tender to your liking. This can really vary depending on your stove, age of lentils, etc.  
  • Step 4: Once the lentils are at your desired texture, stir in the tomato paste and heat through a couple of minutes more. Taste and add any more salt, if needed, but it should taste perfect. 


Serving: 5servingsCalories: 240kcalCarbohydrates: 43.8gProtein: 15.5gFat: 0.8gSaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 512mgPotassium: 721mgFiber: 18.3gSugar: 6.3gCalcium: 49mgIron: 5mg