Instant Pot: Garlic & Chile Split Pigeon Pea Curry

March 08, 2021

Instant Pot: Garlic & Chile Split Pigeon Pea Curry - Indian As Apple Pie

I was frustrated - but now I'm good. I nailed it! 

All last week, I tried to perfect my Toor Dal in my Instant Pot, and I just could not get it to the consistency found in my original recipe in The Indian Slow Cooker. It was just too mushy. Maybe it was the 15 minute cook time, maybe it was the extra soak time I gave it, maybe it was too much water. So, I made it for the fifth time and now I've got it down.

Garlic & Chile Split Pigeon Pea Curry

Pressure Cooker Size: 3 quart or larger
Warm Up: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Cool Down: Manual release
TOTAL: 20 minutes plus manual release time
Makes: 5 cups

2 cups duhli toor dal (dried, split, and skinned pigeon peas), picked over and washed (no need to soak)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons oil or ghee
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
3 whole cloves
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
6 – 8 whole dried red chiles, broken in pieces
1 small yellow onion, minced
1- 4 Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons tamarind puree
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, for garnish

1. In a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, roast the cumin and coriander seeds. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. You’ll stand there, shake the pan a few times, and wait for the seeds to brown. Don’t overcook them, or they will burn. Put the seeds in a dish to cool. Once they are cool (about 15 minutes), grind them in a coffee grinder reserved for spices or with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

2. Place the inner cooking pot in your Instant Pot. Select the SAUTE setting and adjust to MORE. When the indicator flashes HOT, add oil.

3. Once hot, add the mustard, cloves, and cinnamon. Because the oil pools to the sides, push spices into the oil along the border of the inner pot so they can cook fully. Stir and cook 1 minute.

4. Add the garlic, turmeric and dried chiles. Stir and cook 30 seconds.

5. Carefully add the onion. The moisture can cause the oil to splatter. Stir and cook 1 minute.

6. Add the fresh chiles. Cook 30 seconds.

7. Add the tomato. Cook 1 minute. Press CANCEL.

8. Add the ground cumin and coriander, brown sugar, tamarind, salt, and dal. Stir. Add the water.

9. Lock the lid into place and make sure the pressure release valve is set to the sealing position (upwards). Press the PRESSURE COOK button until the panel indicates MORE and adjust the time to pressure cook on HIGH for 10 minutes.

10. Once the cooking is complete, release the pressure manually. Once complete, press CANCEL and open the lid. Add the lemon juice and stir . Serve with plain basmati rice or Indian bread like roti or naan.

BACKGROUND: Our legume this week is pigeon peas in their split and skinned form. This is the same legume used to make South Indian Sambhar and other delicious stews.  (Remember, a legume is anything that grows in a pod, and includes lentils, beans, and peas. Peanuts are the most common legume out there.)

A speciality ingredient is Tamarind Puree, which adds a layer of tartness. 

A technique I employ is dry-roasting my cumin and coriander seeds together and then grinding them down in a mortar & pestle. No worries if you don't have the coriander seeds, just roast the cumin alone, and then use coriander powder. 

 Here is a quick video of the process. Check out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel! 


Nailed it! Watch me release steam from my Instant Pot and show you what this dish should look like. Well, almost. I need to add 1 cup of water for a total of 3 and it's absolutely perfect. 


Are you ready? Please read through and let me know if you have any questions. I would love to hear how this turns out for you. 


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