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Red Lentils In The Instant Pot With Korean-inspired Savory Sweet Sauce

from 17 reader reviews

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These deliciously flavored red lentils made in the Instant Pot will remind you of the flavors of a Korean BBQ. They are (mostly) oil-free, processed sugar-free, and spiced just right. Make them easily in your pressure cooker and serve over rice, vegetables, or roasted potatoes for a flavorful, healthy, plant-based dish.

Red lentils on rice in a black bowl

Are these the best tasting red lentils you’ll find? I think so. Are they authentic Korean food? No way! But the flavors are similar to what we used to whip up for Korean BBQ sauce when we cooked in a slow cooker – again, not at all authentic – but I did want to give you an idea about the savory/sweet Asian-inspired flavor explosion you’re about to experience with this very plant-based red lentil dish.

For more flavorful healthy plant-based Instant Pot recipes, try one of these:

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Cooked red lentils over rice with pinterest text overlay

To make these Korean-inspired red lentils in the Instant Pot, you will need:

  • white or yellow onions, chopped
  • red bell pepper, chopped
  • carrots, diced
  • dried red lentils
  • a little vegetables broth to saute the onions
Some ingredients for the red lentils including dried lentils, vegetable broth, chopped onions, carrots, and red bell peppers

For the sauce you will need:

  • more vegetable broth
  • low sodium soy sauce
  • maple syrup
  • ginger paste
  • minced garlic
  • sesame oil
Ingredients for the korean-inspired sauce including toasted sesame oil, vegetable broth, lite soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger paste and minced garlic

And then to top it off:

  • green onions, sliced
  • sesame seeds
  • with other optional toppings such as:
    • red pepper flakes
    • sriracha sauce
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • another tiny little drizzle of sesame oil
sliced scallions and sesame seeds

How to make the perfect Instant Pot red lentils:

It’s so easy! Just start by mixing up the sauce and set aside. Then chop your vegetables and also set aside. You’ll want to keep the chopped onions separate because you will saute them first before adding the other ingredients.

Finally, rinse and pick through the dried red lentils, just to make sure there aren’t any weird pieces, or tiny stones.

Remember that unlike brown or green lentils, cooked red lentils will not be firm but rather a soft “mushy” texture.

Start cooking in the Instant Pot

Once you have all of the prep work done you can start cooking in your pressure cooker. The hard work is done and it will be a snap!

To make this dish “almost” oil-free, I saute the onion for a few minutes in vegetable broth – not oil. You are sauteing for only a few minutes. The goal is to barely soften the onion – not cook it. That’s the job of the Instant Pot.

Stir the whole time and watch the bottom of your pot so that you don’t get any brown spots. If you do, it might cause this recipe to NOT come to pressure. Boo…sad face…

If you do have brown spots then simply “deglaze” the bottom of your pot by adding a little extra liquid and scraping the bottom of the pot. It should come clean.

Next, add all of the other ingredients (except for the toppings). The liquid should pretty much cover everything with the exception of a few vegetables poking their heads up. Give it a stir.

ingredients for red lentils in the instant pot waiting to be cooked
The liquid covers most of the ingredients with a few vegetables floating to the top.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for your particular pressure cooker. Things change all the time with the new models and I’m unable to keep up. Using the manual setting, set your pot for three minutes on high. Shocking – but three minutes is enough!

Instant Pot showing 3 minutes at high pressure

It will take about 7-10 minutes to come to pressure before it starts the countdown. Once it has finished cooking at pressure for 3 minutes, carefully do a quick release and open the lid once the pressure has fully released.

Your red lentils will be nice and soft (mushy), like red lentils should be. Your house will smell amazing and I hope you are ready to eat!

stirring the cooked red lentils

Serving suggestions

This dish will generously serve four people. If you want to save it for later, it will keep in the fridge for about five days.

Top with sliced green onions (whites or greens – your choice), sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, or sriracha sauce.

Serve over rice, vegetables or potatoes. My personal favorite is steamed riced cauliflower.

a fork full or cooked red lentils over rice

The printable recipe card for red lentils in the Instant Pot

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Want to share the love? It would be great if you could leave five ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ stars and even a comment. Did you know that this will help Google to find this recipe when others are looking for something similar? Thanks, Cindy

Red lentils on rice in a black bowl

Red Lentils In The Instant Pot With Korean-Inspired Savory Sweet Sauce

These deliciously flavored red lentils made in the Instant Pot will remind you of the flavors of a Korean BBQ. They are (mostly) oil-free, processed sugar-free, and spiced just right. Make them easily in your pressure cooker and serve over rice, vegetables, or roasted potatoes for a flavorful, healthy, plant-based dish.
from 17 reader reviews
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Asian
Keyword: Red lentils, Vegan Instant Pot
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
coming to pressure time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 271kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey


  • Pressure Cooker


The Vegetables and the Lentils

  • 1 cup onions chopped, white or yellow
  • cup red bell pepper chopped
  • cup carrots diced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • ½ cup vegetable broth for sauteing see notes if you want to use oil

The Asian-Inspired Broth/Sauce

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger paste can sub minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Optional Topings

  • sesame seeds
  • green onions sliced
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper


  • Chop the onion, carrots, and red bell pepper. Keep the onions seperate as you will be sauteeing them first. Set aside.
    For the sauce: mince the garlic and set aside. If you are mincing your own ginger, mince and set aside.
  • Measure out the red lentils and set aside
  • Mix together the wet ingredients: veggetable broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  • Line the bottom of the pot with 1/2 cup vegetable broth and add the onion. Set the Instant Pot to saute. Once it starts sizzling, set your timer for three minutes and saute, stirring often. You aren't cooking the onion, just getting it started. The Instant Pot will do the rest.
  • If the pot has any brown spots on the bottom, you will need to deglaze with a bit of the liquid. While the pot is still hot, pour about 1/4 cup in and stir around, scraping the spots, until the brown spots have dissapeared into the liquid.
  • Add in the chopped bell pepper and carrots, the rest of the mixed liquid, and the red lentils. Give it a stir.
  • Close and seal the lid according to manufactorer's directions. Make sure the seal is set to the correct spot. Set the Instant Pot to high for 3 minutes.
  • It will take about 5-7 minutes to come to pressure. After counting down the 3 minutes under pressure the lentils will be cooked. Very carefully, following the manufactorer's directions do a quick release and open the lid.
  • Add sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Serve over cooked rice, riced cauliflower, or potatoes.


For this recipe, I used a 6 quart Instant Pot. This should also work in the larger and smaller sizes. Time coming to pressure might be different. 
The saute time is included in the prep time.
The time coming to pressure is included in the total minutes.
If you are trying to eat oil-free you can leave out the sesame oil or cut it down to 1/2 teaspoon.  Be aware though that sesame oil is an important flavor element to this dish and it will affect the flavor. It will still be tasty – just not AS tasty. I personally cut it down to 1/2 teaspoon when I cook it for myself because I am trying to be a healthier vegan:)
Serving Suggestions:
The following are suggestions and not included in the nutritional information.
Spoon over:
  • baked potato
  • rice
  • riced veggies such as cauliflower
Keep any leftovers in a tightly closed container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. 


Calories: 271kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1333mg | Potassium: 810mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 8763IU | Vitamin C: 80mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 4mg

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By on June 23rd, 2021

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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5 thoughts on “Red Lentils In The Instant Pot With Korean-inspired Savory Sweet Sauce”

  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight, and it was a hit! I love that it uses ingredients I typically have on hand, and it comes together so easily. I was lazy and skipped the sauté step (which I’m sure adds another layer of flavor), but it was delicious without it. I served it over brown rice, but it would be great with mashed potatoes, too. Thank you for this tasty recipe!


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