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Creamy brown lentils in bowl with brown rice and a sprig of cilantro
30 min or less, Gluten Free, Instant Pot, Main Dishes, Nut free, Oil free, Under 400 calories, Vegan Recipes

Lentil Keema + Instant Pot Option (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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This Lentil Keema is a healthy vegan/gluten-free version of the traditional Indian “keema” dish. Instead of beef, this dish uses protein-packed lentils, peas, potatoes, and a variety of spices. Also includes Instant Pot option!

Indian lentil keema with peas and potatoes, in a white bowl with naan bread.

What is traditional “keema”?

Keema (or Qeema) is a popular Indian/Pakastani dish and is typically made with ground meat such as lamb or beef (the word “keema” itself means “minced meat”). It can also include ghee (butter) and a variety of Indian spices, and can also be used as a filling for samosas or naan bread.

How is this recipe different?

This lentil keema is 100% vegan and gluten-free, meaning it’s a much better recipe in my book. You’ll get that same delicious keema taste, but without any animal products, making it a much healthier (yet still delicious) dish.

How to make this Lentil Keema on your stovetop, step by step:

To a large pot, add the full can of light coconut milk, 2 cups water, lentils, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the potatoes are tender, the lentils are soft, and most of the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, to a high-powered blender, add the 3 halved tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger and 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth (you may need to stop the blender and press down with a large spoon if the blade doesn’t spin, but once it catches the tomatoes, it should start to quickly puree into a liquid). See below for final result.

Side by side shots vegetables in a blender, one before blending and after, pureed.

Transfer the liquid to a large skillet over medium heat (using a spatula if necessary to remove the remaining liquid off the sides of the blender). Bring to a low boil and simmer until you can no longer smell raw onion, about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Reduce heat and add the peas, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the lentils/potatoes to the sauce.

A pot of Indian keema with lentils and potatoes being mixed in.

Stir the lentils/potatoes into the sauce, reduce heat to low and warm for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often, until heated through. 

Remove from heat. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.

A large pot of lentil/potato Indian keema with a large wooden spoon.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving to absorb the flavors.

Serve this vegan lentil keema with additional lime juice, brown rice and/or naan bread for an amazingly flavorful dinner.

Substitutions:

  • Can I omit the coconut milk? You can cook the lentils/potatoes in 3 cups water instead of coconut milk. However, the coconut milk really adds a great flavor so I don’t recommend omitting it! Another option is to substitute the coconut milk with 6-ounces of non-dairy yogurt to add a little creaminess. Or for an even creamier dish, you can use full-fat coconut milk (but it does add saturated fat and calories).
  • Can I use a different type of potato? Yukon Gold potatoes work best with this type of dish (red potatoes also work well). Russet potatoes tend to fall apart while cooking, thus, are better suited for mashed/baked potatoes.
  • Can I use a different type of lentil? I use green lentils but brown and red will also work. Keep in mind though, red lentils tend to get mushier with prolonged cooking (which is why it’s best used in dishes such as this Crushed Lentil Soup).
  • What about canned peas? I am NOT a fan of canned peas, and never use them. They tend to be super mushy. I would highly recommend frozen peas.
  • Can I use canned tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes? If using canned tomatoes, I recommend using as high quality as possible. Also, you may need to add more spices, as canned tomatoes are generally sweeter and can overpower the dish. 
  • Can I use lemon juice instead of lime juice? Lime juice adds a nice flavor profile to this dish. I’ve tried lemon juice, and it’s good, but lime juice is better.

Tops Tips for making this Lentil Keema:

  • When blending the tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic and ginger in your blender, be sure to put them in the order listed in the recipe (tomatoes first). The blades at the bottom of the blender should catch the tomatoes and puree the sauce easier and faster.
  • For additional heat, add cayenne pepper. A can of green chiles is also a great addition. Add it with the lime and cilantro.
  • Be sure to add the lime juice at the END of the cooking process. If you add it to a still-cooking sauce, it will become bitter. Only add lime juice after the sauce is removed from heat. 
  • I recommend serving this keema dish with brown rice and some naan bread. To get even crazier, add some garlic sauce to the bread (my fave is from Trader Joe’s). It’s similar to what you find in Middle Eastern restaurants and delicious!
2 bowls of lentil/potato Indian keema with rice, topped with cilantro and lime garnish.

Making this recipe in your Instant Pot:

NOTE: Making this dish in the Instant Pot is a slightly different cooking process and order of ingredients, and does not require the 2 cups water. See below for the step-by-step process.

Please note that the Instant Pot option is also not necessarily faster (or “instant” per say), as it takes time for it to build/release pressure (for me, it takes around 15 minutes to build pressure and 15 minutes to release pressure).

However, it IS easier because you can do other things while it’s cooking (laundry, etc.) without having to worry about stirring a pot or it boiling over. You also save yourself from washing 1 pot by using the Instant Pot option. Hooray!

Instant Pot Step-by-Step Instructions (also located at bottom of recipe card)

To a high-powered blender, add 3 tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, fresh ginger and 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth (STEP 1). Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE and add the tomato puree. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the onion no longer smells raw, stirring occasionally (STEP 2).

Add the can of coconut milk, lentils and potatoes (STEP 3). Stir and set to MANUAL/PRESSURE COOK mode for 8 minutes. Replace the top, set the knob to SEALING (on top of the Instant Pot) and press START. When finished, let sit until pressure has released (about 15 minutes). 

Open the Instant Pot (STEP 4) and add the peas, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt (STEP 5). Turn the Instant Pot to Sauté again, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, being careful that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Turn off the Instant Pot. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and let sit for 10 minutes before serving (STEP 6).

Bowl of lentil keema with peas and potatoes with brown rice in a white bowl.

There you have it. A simple, amazingly flavorful and healthy meal that is sure to impress your family.

If you try this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #veggie__chick on Instagram. I just love to see my recipes being made in YOUR kitchen!

Looking for more Asian-inspired dishes? Try one of these…

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Lentil Keema (+ Instant Pot Option)- Vegan, Gluten Free

Vegetable Lentil Keema with brown rice in white bowl

This Lentil Keema is a healthy vegan/gluten-free version of the traditional Indian “keema” dish. Instead of beef, this dish uses protein-packed lentils, peas, potatoes, and a variety of spices. Also includes Instant Pot option!

  • Author: Christin McKamey
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 40
  • Yield: 6 (1-cup) servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop/Blender/Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Indian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk (entire can)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (about 2 cups), no need to peel
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped (red or orange bell peppers also work)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 2 cups frozen peas (no need to thaw)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 medium lime)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Instructions

  1. To a large pot, add can of light coconut milk, 2 cups water, lentils, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat until simmering and cook uncovered until potatoes are tender, the lentils are soft, and most of the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, to a high-powered blender, add the 3 tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger and 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth (you may need to stop the blender and press down with a large spoon if the blade doesn’t spin, but once it catches some of the tomatoes, it will quickly puree into a liquid).
  3. Transfer liquid to a large skillet over medium heat (using a spatula to remove the remaining liquid off the sides of the blender, if necessary). Bring to a low boil and simmer until you can no longer smell raw onion, about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat and add the peas, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked lentils/potatoes to the sauce. Reduce to low heat and warm for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often. 
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and let sit for 10 minutes before serving to absorb flavors. Serve with naan bread and/or brown rice and sprinkle with remaining lime juice.

Notes

  • When blending the tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic and ginger in your blender, be sure to put them in the order of the recipe (tomatoes first). The blades at the bottom of the blender will catch the tomatoes and puree the sauce easier and faster.
  • Note that this dish uses GREEN lentils. Brown lentils also work and keep their shape well. Red lentils tend to get mushier with prolonged cooking.
  • For additional spice, add a little cayenne pepper. A can of green chiles is also a great addition. Add with the lime juice and cilantro. 
  • Be sure to add the lime juice at the END of the cooking process. If you add it to a still-cooking sauce, it will become bitter. Only add lime juice after the sauce is removed from heat. 
  • I recommend serving this keema dish with brown rice and some toasted naan bread. To get even crazier, spread some garlic sauce on the bread (my fave is from Trader Joe’s). It’s similar to what you find in Middle Eastern restaurants and delicious!

Instant Pot Option: (See post above for step-by-step photos and instructions. Note that making this dish in the Instant Pot is a slightly different cooking process and order of ingredients, and does not require the 2 cups water.)

To a high-powered blender, add 3 tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, fresh ginger and 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE and add the tomato puree. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the onion no longer smells raw, stirring occasionally.

Add the can of coconut milk, lentils and potatoes. Stir and set to MANUAL/PRESSURE COOK for 8 minutes. Replace the top, set the knob to sealing (on top of the Instant Pot) and press START. When finished, let sit until pressure has released (about 15 minutes). 

Open the Instant Pot and add the peas, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE again, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, being careful that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Turn off the Instant Pot. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Please note: the Instant Pot option is not necessarily faster than stovetop, as it takes time for the Instant Pot to build/release pressure (for me, around 15 minutes to build pressure and 15 minutes to release pressure). However, it IS easier because you can do other things while it’s cooking (laundry, etc.) and also save yourself from washing 1 pot by using this Instant Pot option. 

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 257
  • Sugar: 2.6
  • Sodium: 225.7
  • Fat: 7.1
  • Carbohydrates: 37.8
  • Protein: 11
  • Cholesterol: 0

Keywords: lentil keema, instant pot lentil keema, vegan keema

Hi, I'm Christin- thanks for stopping by my happy place! Here you will find healthy, original meat-free recipes. No matter where you are in your health journey, I hope I can help and inspire you. Read more...

9 Comments

  • Can’t wait to make this Christin! It looks eggscelent!!!

    Reply
  • I am so glad I came across this recipe! This dish is not something I would normally make but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something different – and I am happy I did! Can’t wait to make it again 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Mackenzie! I’m glad you stepped out of your comfort zone with this one! =) So happy you liked it.

      Reply
  • Can coconut milk be substituted with Almond milk? My pressure cooker does not have sauté or Manuel function What is my option.
    Thanks Donna

    Reply
    • Hi Donna, almond milk is not as thick as coconut milk so it won’t give you the same creaminess/coconut taste. But yes, I still think you can use 2 cups of water and 1 cup almond milk. You could even add in some cashew cheese (add some cashews in your blender with nutritional yeast and blend until as powdery as possible, then add to the sauce later- that will definitely make it creamier). For the buttons, “Manual” is the same as “Pressure Cook”. If you don’t have a Saute button, that’s a little trickier. All you really need to do is get the pressure cooker pot hot with the lid off, so I would experiment with a few settings until you find one that will work. Thanks! =)

      Reply
  • I love indian food and am not vegan. My husband and I are always looking for more ways to include more veg in our diet and this one hit the spot with both of us and will definitely be in our meatless Monday recipes from now on. Thanks Veggie Chick!

    Reply
    • Aww that’s so great Cally, thanks so much! Glad you are putting it on the rotation! =)

      Reply
  • Super easy and yummy recipe! My WHOLe family enjoyed this meal which is saying something 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you Apryl, I’m so happy the entire family loved it!! =)

      Reply

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