Instant Pot Lentil Soup (Chinese Style)

5 from 2 votes
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Instant Pot Lentil Soup is a healthy one-pot vegan meal that will satisfy your hunger and craving for comfort food all at once! Learn how to use one Chinese ingredient to pack your soup with extra flavor and umami. {Vegan}

Lentil soup topped with chopped tomato and onion

Do you need something fast, healthy, filling, and delicious to make for dinner tonight? My Instant Pot Lentil Soup is just the thing. Even on those busy nights, this comes together fast. You can serve it as a starter for your meal or make it the meal itself. 

I love to go for meatless meals sometimes since my husband started eating plant-based. When I do, this easy instant pot lentil soup is one of my top choices. The dish keeps the warm, comforting flavors of a traditional lentil soup, with some undertones that remind me of the taste of China. 

You might think I’m joking, but you only need a few simple ingredients and one pot to pull this off tonight. The payoff is a soup you’ll crave daily. 

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I’ve got some tips for you below on how you can make it (see the second footnote under the recipe below). Although the Instant Pot will be the easiest way to do it, because with it, you won’t need to constantly monitor the cooking.

Homemade lentil soup in a bowl

Secret ingredient

My secret weapon in Instant Pot Lentil Soup is Chinese fermented bean paste (called ‘doubanjiang’), which gives it the same satisfying flavor as chili without any meat. You won’t even miss the meat!

Doubanjiang is also the key ingredient in authentic Mapo Tofu and Sichuan Eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi). You can also add it to very simple dishes to make them more flavorful. For example, Braised Daikon Radish and Ground Beef Stir Fry with Celery. Plus, it stays good in the fridge for a long time (at least a year, probably longer). So it’s totally worth buying if you don’t already have it in your pantry.

You can easily find it in an Asian market, or even at grocery stores such as Whole Foods. You can also purchase it on Amazon. If you’re feeling fancy, check out the premium 3-year fermented version at The Mala Market

Homemade lentil stew close-up

Cooking process


Before you start cooking, your table should have these ingredients:

P.S. You can put the onion and garlic in one bowl once you cut them, because you will add them at the same time.

Ingredient for making Instant Pot lentil soup


To cook the lentil soup in an Instant Pot:

  1. Saute the aromatics
  2. Saute the paste & spices
  3. Add the liquid ingredients and the lentils
  4. Cook for 10 minutes at high pressure
  5. Quick release and you’re done!
How to make Instant Pot lentil soup step-by-step

Topping options

You can serve the lentil soup as an appetizer or on the side (if you make the stew-like texture), but it’s scrumptious enough to make a main dish. Add toppings as you like to dress up your lentil soup!

  • Chopped tomato and onions: They add crunchiness and a touch of refreshing flavor to the dish. 
  • Avocado: My personal favorite. It makes the dish literally taste like a bowl of chili.
  • Lime: A drizzle of lime will balance out the savory taste really well.
  • Cheese and/or sour cream: Always a good option!


The great thing about lentils is that they’re the one bean you don’t have to soak overnight. So if you’ve just come home from a hectic day, there’s really nothing to this soup. I also enjoy putting it together on a weekend so I can freeze it for ready-made meal-prep. It makes an easy lunch to get you through challenging days, too.

All that flavor, all completely healthy and vegan, too. That’s why I love my Instant Pot Lentil Soup and I know you’re going to be a believer after your first spoonful. Let’s get started on how to make yourself this super easy and fast soup!

Lentil stew topped with chopped tomato and onion

More Instant Pot recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Instant Pot Lentil Soup is a healthy one-pot vegan meal that will satisfy your hunger and craving for comfort food all at once! Learn how to use one Chinese ingredient to pack your soup with extra flavor and umami. {Vegan}

Instant Pot Lentil Soup (Chinese Style)

5 from 2 votes
Instant Pot Lentil Soup is a healthy one-pot vegan meal that will satisfy your hunger and craving for comfort food all at once! Learn how to use one Chinese ingredient to pack your soup with extra flavor and umami. {Vegan}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: comfort food
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Pressure Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion , diced
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Doubanjiang (*Footnote 1)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt to taste (Optional)

Toppings (Optional)

  • tomato , Chopped
  • avocado , Chopped
  • purple onion , Minced


  • Rinse the lentils with cold water and drain them. While rinsing, watch out and pick through your lentils to make sure there are no rocks or other debris (don’t be alarmed if there are, sometimes small rocks are overlooked during processing and packing).
  • Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function. Once the screen shows “Hot”, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic. Saute until fragrant and starting to brown, around 2 minutes.
  • Add the doubanjiang and cumin. Saute for another minute. If it looks dry, pour in a bit more oil or stock to prevent the ingredients from sticking or burning.
  • Turn the saute function off. Pour in the crushed tomato, and scrape the bottom again to make sure all the brown bits are lifted (This is important, to prevent the bottom of the pot from burning after adding pressure). Add the vegetable stock and rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients.
  • Seal the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is pointed to lock. Set to manual, high pressure, and the timer for 10 minutes for al dente lentils with soup, or for 12 minutes for a stew-like texture.
  • After the cooking is done, use quick release on the lid or unseal the valve by switching the lock using a spatula (watch out for the steam coming out). Stir and taste the soup. Add the white pepper and salt (if needed), according to your own taste.
  • You can top the soup with tomato, avocado, or onion if you wish. Serve hot as a side or main dish.
  • Store the leftover soup in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.


  1. I used 3 tablespoons to create an intense savory and spicy taste. Use 2 tablespoons for a milder taste.
  2. To make this dish without an Instant Pot, use a 4-6 quart pot and follow the recipe and add 2 extra cups of water along with the vegetable broth in step 4. Then simmer the soup on the stove over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils turn soft but are not falling apart.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 176kcal, Carbohydrates: 23.7g, Protein: 12.2g, Fat: 3.8g, Saturated Fat: 0.7g, Sodium: 661mg, Potassium: 541mg, Fiber: 10.6g, Sugar: 2g, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Judy says:

    Can I use Chinese brown bean paste/ sauce instead of doubanjiang?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Judy, I’ve never tried using brown bean paste in this recipe but I think you can. The finished dish will have a different flavor profile – savory but not spicy. You can leave it like that or you can add some chili powder (or throw in 1 to 2 dried chili peppers) to add the spiciness.

      • Judy says:

        Thank you. I will give the recipe a try this week.

  2. Sabrina says:

    I eat legumes almost every day as part of my diet, so appreciate this Chinese flavor version as a nice change, so thank you

  3. Mandy says:

    5 stars
    So good! As vegans, this easy, flavorful dish is truly a great recipe to have on nights where I can’t bring myself to cook a full meal.

  4. Leslie Budnick says:

    Any suggestions for a substitute for the tomatoes? I can’t eat tomatoes but the recipe looks so good I’d love to try it with a something else. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Maggie says:

      The doubanjiang adds tons of flavor to the broth so I think you can totally skip the tomatoes. You can dice a pepper and throw it in to add some flavors. And also add a splash of rice vinegar (or lemon juice) at the end (after everything is cooked) maybe balanced with a small pinch of sugar.

  5. Sally E says:

    5 stars
    Delicious…I didn’t have the bean paste, but I did have some of your home made black bean sauce, which gave a wonderful flavor.

  6. Karen says:

    My family were quite sceptical when introduced to today’s dinner being lentil soup, they ended up licking the saucepan! Love all your recipes Maggie

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