Vegan lentils rice pilaf

This Lentil Rice Pilaf is Instant pot friendly

First snow storm of the season raging outside of my window. Pouring white blanket over everything. For a reason I can’t get into I couldn’t stop thinking about Lentils pilaf today. I learned to make this dish when I was a collage student in Pune, India. It is among my favorite dishes today.

You just need basmati rice, seasoning and red lentils to make it. But if you choose to you can also add carrots, peas and green beans or your choice of greens to make it a healthy plant based one pot meal.

Lentils pilaf comes together pretty easy. I am using red split lentils today. I like that flavor combination better. But you opt for whole lentils too. Just make sure to soak and par boil beforehand, because whole lentils takes longer to cook and might make rice for mushy.

person holding brown and red seeds

How to make Lentils Pilaf ?


  • 2 Cups of red split lentils
  • 3 cups of basmati rice
  • One whole red onion
  • Teaspoon of ginger garlic paste
  • One dry red chili
  • One green chili
  • Teaspoon of whole cumin
  • Teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 pods of Cardomom
  • 2 blades of Mace
  • One inch thick cinnamon
  • One tomato
  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli powder
  • Bunch of spinach cleaned and chopped fine
  • Tablespoon of Ghee
  • Indian bay leaf
  • 7 cups of water
  • Salt to taste


  1. Start by heating ghee in the pan.when oil is hot add mustard seeds and let fry. Then fry onions until golden brown.
  2. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf , mace , cloves, Cardomom and stick of cinnamon.fry for two minutes.
  3. Add ginger garlic paste, curry leaves, green chili, and tomatoes. Fry until tomatoes are soft and release it’s juice.
  4. Add lentils, turmeric, chili powder, dry red chili. Add two cups of water to cover the lentils and add salt to taste. Allow the curry to come to boil.
  5. Add rinsed basmati rice and mix to combine with the sauce.
  6. Here is where it’s going to be tricky add about 4 cups of water to cook the rice. You may have to estimate how much water you need to add because, we already have a sauce and will be adding water to top it off. Water level needs to be about inch above the rice level. Have about a cup of hot water on the side, if you feel like you might need it at the end.
  7. Allow water to come to boil under high heat. Cover and turn the heat to medium low and cook the rice completely. Carefully turn the rice , on halfway to make sure the everything cooks evenly.
  8. Once rice is just cooked . Turn the heat off, cover and allow every thing to rest for 15 minutes. ( I added chopped spinach on top to steam at this stage). Remove bay leaves before serving.
  9. Enjoy with a sliced onion Raita or salsa.
image of lentil rice pilaf

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