Under Pressure: Step-by-Step Pressure Cooker Recipe for Lentil Split Pea Soup

I bought a stovetop pressure cooker a few years back and absolutely love it. I use it several times a week to make big batches of my mild-flavored Indian-spiced soups. 

Red Lentil & Yellow Split Pea Soup 

I make enough to have for leftovers. This is a simple recipe of legumes cooked in broth with a garnish of roasted spices for flavor. Adapted from the No-Meat Athlete’s lentil & rice recipe.

Ingredients for the soup:

2 cups red lentils

1 cup yellow split peas (found at some natural foods stores, Indian markets or online; Vegan Richa’s Indian Pantry article has more information on where to buy Indian pantry staples)

7 cups water

Salt to taste (up to 1 tsp)

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric

1/8 tsp asafetida (optional, may help with digestion and is found at specialty stores like spice shops)

Look for any small rocks or debris by running the lentils and peas through the fingers as they are poured into a large mixing bowl to soak. They will expand so make sure there is room in the bowl. Soak together for 2-4 hours. 

After soaking, rinse the legumes through several changes of water. They tend to need a bit of washing so I do about 5 changes of water then use a fine mesh strainer to finish off the cleaning process, doing this in batches, dumping each clean batch into the pressure cooker pot.

Once all the clean legumes are in the pot add the water, salt, chili powder, turmeric, and asafetida, if using. 

Note on liquid: A good vegetable broth can be used or even 1/2 broth, 1/2 water. I like to boil broccoli in 4 cups of salted water and use that “broth” to add to the soup + 3 cups water. I skip adding any additional salt if I do this. The steamed broccoli tastes great paired with this soup (along with some steamed spinach).Place the lid on the pot, making sure it is secure around the top, then press the lock down. Now secure the pressure valve knob so it can cook under pressure. 

If this knob is left unsecured it will just cook like a normal cooker because the steam is allowed to escape. Picture below shows in locked position.Turn heat to high. In about 10 minutes or more, the red button will pop up (picture above shows red button is up meaning the pot is under pressure) and within another 5 minutes or so steam will start to escape from the knob. Note: Time may vary on pressure cookers and amount being cooked.Once the steam is making a consistent “shhhhhhh” sound (not just in spurts) turn the heat down to medium-low to cook for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes turn heat off and allow the red button to drop on its own. This means just leave everything as is and let the pressure cooker cool down on its own to release pressure. Takes 40-45 minutes for this recipe. Once the red button drops, turn the pressure valve knob to release then pop the security button and release the lid. 

Give the lentils a stir and add the dry-roasted garnish at this time (see below). 

Add freshly chopped spinach (2-3 cups) at this time if desired. I personally like to add spinach when serving as it gets too soggy sitting in the fridge for a few days.Now for the dry-roasted garnish: Ingredients:

1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

2 tsp mustard seeds (yellow or black)

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp dried oregano (optional)

Optional additions: 

1/4-1/2 tsp red chile flakes or 1 dried red chile (broken in 1/2 to release the seeds)

1/4 stick of cinnamon 

When the pressure has released and the lentils are stirred, time to do a quick dry-roast garnish of spices: 

In a small skillet on medium heat (I like to pre-heat the skillet), add the fennel (if using), mustard and cumin seeds. Stir seeds or shake the pan to keep from burning. After about 1-2 minutes or when the aroma of seeds is released, add the oregano if using, and optional red chile and cinnamon stick. 

Shake or stir about 10-20 more seconds. Seeds may pop which is fine, just remove from heat and stir into soup. 

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with steamed spinach, fresh lemon juice, and hot sauce if desired. Serve over rice and/or with naan or flatbread.

Note: Soup will thicken after it sits in the fridge; simply add extra water to thin it out. 


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