You, my wonderful blog reader buddies, have been asking for more pressure cooker recipes (specifically Instant Pot recipes), and I’m finally going to start delivering! Starting with this here pressure cooker marinara sauce, you can expect to see at least two Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker recipes a month from me, if not more. No pressure.
(Runs from the virtual tomatoes being pelted after that terrible joke)
(Get it? Tomatoes? Never mind.)
You know I love a good simple tomato sauce, and this one still qualifies as simple, but it’s got a couple of sneaky ingredients that you probably wouldn’t expect in a marinara sauce. But just trust me on this one, it’s totally delicious and super good for you. Not to mention, it’s made in less than 30 minutes start to finish. Let’s do it!
So, apparently I really like sneaking sweet potatoes into things, like peanut sauce, for example, and this sauce is no exception. I love that it adds a natural sweetness along with fiber and vitamins and all that good stuff. But honestly my favorite surprise ingredient in this sauce is the red lentils. They add protein and thicken the sauce, and you can’t even tell they are there when the sauce is all blended up. Which means that if you have picky eaters you just might be able to get this one past them. No promises, but it’s worth a shot.
First step, get your pressure cooker ready. I love my Instant Pot, which is an electric pressure cooker that is also a yogurt maker and rice cooker and a slow cooker and a whole lot more. I have barely even begun to discover all the wonderful things I can do with this amazing appliance. With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect thing to have on your countertop to make your favorite meals without turning on the stove. That said, this recipe also works with a stovetop pressure cooker, which I also have because I’m a food nerd.
One of the coolest things about the Instant Pot is that it has a sauté function, so that you can start developing flavor before putting the pressure on. In this case, we want to help the garlic get a head start, but it just makes sense to sauté all the dry ingredients together – so in go the sweet potatoes, lentils, garlic, and salt. Sauté for just a minute or two to wake up the garlic.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of water. You need the water for 2 reasons. 1), because the lentils are going to break down and soak in a bunch of liquid, and 2), there is a ton of acid coming from the tomatoes which is going to slow the cooking process down a lot. The water helps to dilute the mixture so that the cooking time is reduced. For example, if I were making a lentil soup in the Instant Pot with just broth or water for the liquid, the lentils would be completely cooked in 3 minutes at high pressure. With the tomatoes being the majority of the liquid in this sauce, it takes almost 4 times as long for the lentils and sweet potatoes to break down under pressure. Ask me how I know. But even then, it’s still much faster than cooking this on the stove. Ask me how I know. UPDATE: I cracked the code on the stovetop version! If you don’t have a pressure cooker, here’s a 30-minute stovetop version of this very same sauce.
Set the Instant Pot to High for 13 minutes, and go do something else, like the dishes. Or make a salad. But if you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, don’t walk away. You need to be around to hear when it comes to pressure, so you can turn down the heat just enough to keep the pressure maintained, and THEN set the timer for 13 minutes. Either way, once the timer is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce naturally. It typically takes about 10-15 minutes. If it’s not released in that time, just release the pressure with the valve, there won’t be much left.
One thing I love about making this sauce in the pressure cooker is that it’s much less messy. The sauce doesn’t bubble up at all while it’s being cooked, and that is NOT the case when cooked on the stove. Any opportunity to make less of a mess in my house is a win for me.
At this point, your sauce is done and ready to serve! Although, it will still be pretty chunky with the lentils and sweet potatoes still being visible. I prefer to take my immersion blender to task and blend everything up to make a smooth-ish sauce. Have I mentioned how much I love my immersion blender? Cue “why don’t you marry it?” joke. No thanks, I’m taken.
Congratulations, you now have a healthy, protein-filled marinara sauce that is ready to be used for whatever needs saucing in your life. I’ve tried this on pasta and pizza so far, and both were yummy. It was a good feeling to know that my protein and vegetable needs were met even when I was eating something carb-y. But just in case you wanted to go a little further on the healthy front…
3 Ways to Veg it Up
We already snuck in sweet potatoes, but if you’re looking to up the ante on the plant power, here are three ways to make that happen.
1. Serve it over Spaghetti Squash. BOOM.
2. Spiralize your favorite veggie noodles and use those as the pasta. I’m thinking zucchini. Or heck, why not sweet potatoes? Too far?
3. Add 1 cup of Vegan Ground Beef, which you could also combine with Way 1 and Way 2.
4. I lied – there are 4 ways, because I just thought of one. Use the sauce in Vegan Calzones. You’re welcome.
More Instant Pot love
These are the other recipes I’ve shared so far using the Instant Pot. There will be lots more to come! Please let me know if you have any ideas or recipe requests, I’m all ears!
Pressure Cooker Lentil Soup
Real Deal Homemade Non-Dairy Sour Cream (using yogurt function on IP)
If you make this, or should I say, WHEN you make this, leave a comment here or tag @eatwithinyourmeans and #eatwithinyourmeans on Instagram so I can see it! Please and thank you very much. You’re the best!
Pressure Cooker Marinara Sauce
- 2 28 ounces cans crushed tomatoes (I love the Muir Glen brand with basil)
- 1 large sweet potato (diced (about 2 cups))
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2-3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Pick over the lentils and remove any stones or shriveled lentils, then rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve.
- Sauté the lentils, sweet potatoes, garlic, and salt over medium heat in the pressure cooker for a minute or two, just to start to bring out the flavor of the garlic and get the pressure cooker warmed up.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and water, and stir very well, making sure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure, then reduce the heat to maintain pressure for 13 minutes. If using an electric pressure cooker, simply set for 13 minutes on High.
- Let the pressure release naturally before removing the lid.
- Stir to combine, and puree with an immersion blender if desired before serving.
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Brittany | Words Like Honeycomb says
oh goodness…yet another kitchen need I now have LOL. This looks delicious, Beth, and I love the idea of sneaking in sweet potatoes for sweetness…so smart! And lentils!? alllllways a good idea!
Instant pot is well worth the money and counter Space
Marinara sauce is a huge success! So glad to have found you.
Woo hoo!!!! So glad you enjoyed it! Any requests? 🙂
We LOVED the bolognese sauce too! I would really love to find a great vegetarian chilli recipe – nothing I’ve tried so far has been better than “alright”. Over to you, and THANK YOU, Beth!
You could probably use this recipe as a base for a chili recipe. Use this recipe and add beans, lentils, mushrooms, or something. Then add in chili powder and other spices for Chili.
This was fabulous! I used butternut squash in place of sweet potato and added some onions, peppers, zucchini, and red pepper flakes and served it over zucchini noodles and sprinkled it with homemade vegan parmesan. Total yum! Didn’t take the time to blend it, either!
Oh I’m so glad you liked it, Trish! Your changes sound delish, too. 🙂
Made this! Love it. I used carrots because didn’t have sweet potatoes on hand. Will use sweet potatoes next time – after the three jars in the freezer are used up! Thanks so much.
LOVE the idea of subbing in carrots, Noelle! So glad you liked it. And I’m thrilled that you made enough to freeze, that’s the whole idea. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it with the sweet taters. 🙂
What if I don’t have a pressure cooker? I got a crockpot
I’m so sorry, Heather, for responding so belatedly to your question. You can absolutely do this in a crockpot. I’d say about 2 hours on high should do the trick, or just leave it on low for 8 hours or so to let it simmer away and get even tastier. 🙂
I love this recipe! I’ve made it several times. I usually make a double batch and freeze it in portions. It’s very thick, so we use it as pizza sauce. And I love that my 1-year old eats it with whole wheat pasta and she’s getting some protein.
I sing your praises about this sauce on Snapchat all the time 🙂
Oh, also, I make it in a regular pot and just simmer it until done for a few hours. It’s delicious!
Love that you make this on the stovetop, Christina! I finally got around to posting a stovetop version that’s done in 30 minutes, in case you want a faster option once in a while. 🙂 https://passtheplants.com/protein-packed-marinara-sauce
I am in love with this sauce! The sweet potatoes and lentils blend beautifully into the sauce, adding fiber and protein while enhancing the taste of the finished product. I recently purchased an Instant Pot and have been using it to make and freeze all kinds of meal starters like rice, quinoa, beans, and now pasta sauce. I froze most of it in 1 cup mason jars and the rest in ice cube trays. It makes so much with so little effort!
Hi Melissa! First, so sorry for the delayed response to this wonderful comment. I took a bit of a break this summer and am playing catch-up now. I am thrilled that you love the sauce so much! I make it all the time too, it’s so nice to have a healthy option on hand, isn’t it? Glad you’ve loving your IP! I don’t know what I did without mine.
Are the lentils dried or canned?
Hi Leslie! They’re dried red lentils. 🙂
How long will this keep in the fridge? I love sneaking lentils into sauce. I usually put a carrot in my sauce but look forward to trying it with sweet potato.
Hi Kimmy! It will keep at least 5 days, but longer than that I’d suggest the freezer (it freezes very well). We just had this sauce with dinner last night. 🙂
When hubby saw me putting this together, I got the wrinkled nose face. I sauted mushrooms in my Instant Pot before making the sauce. I put them to the side and followed directions for sauce. I did add basil, oregano, and pepper to taste. After blending the sauce, I added the sauted mushrooms and precooked shredded chicken. Stirred well and slow cooked for 1 hour. I’m sure it could have been less. The result? Delicious and husband approved. Thank you for sharing such a great recipe.
Hi! Really want to make this but wondering if you think using fresh tomatoes will make a difference with the liquid or acidity in the Instant Pot. How many cups of tomatoes would you use? Cheers!
Bridget Sanders says
Did you try fresh tomatoes? I want to try it but have the same questions as you.
Bridget, I’m trying with fresh tomatoes today! Our CSA tomatoes are the best but I have twenty lbs and that’s a lot to eat fresh! So I’ll be trying with some today. I’ll let you know!
Hi! So excited to try this. Newbie instant pot user here – if I want to double the recipe, do I need to change anything with the cool time or release time? Thank you!!
How much pasta is this sauce enough for? I’d like to try this recipe as a one pot dish by adding uncooked pasta and extra water in it. 13 minutes would be too long for the pasta, so would the sauce be okay with less cooking time?
Hi Maryam! I haven’t played with this as a one-pot dish with pasta, but I like the idea! I think it could work, but it would be a two-step process. The lentils and sweet potatoes take longer to cook in the acidic tomato sauce, which is the reason for the 13 minute cooking time. So, you could cook the lentils and sweet potatoes first in the water called for, then add the tomatoes, seasonings, and pasta for time required for the pasta (guessing that 3 minutes would be right). It’s worth a try, and I might do just that once I get re-stocked on crushed tomatoes – those go quickly around here!
OH, and to answer your original question about the quantity of the sauce, this recipe should be more than enough for a pound of pasta. 🙂
Frances Rockhill says
Is it 1 cup sweet potato or 1 large sweet potato. It is confusing
Hi can you use brown or yellow lentils instead??
Hi Sandhya! I’m so sorry I didn’t respond to this earlier. Yes, you can, although the cooking time might need to be a little longer, and then color of the sauce might be affected. More so with the brown lentils than the yellow. 🙂
This was so good! I am new to using the Instant Pot and decided to give this recipe a try – I am so glad I did! My picky 2- and 3-year olds ate it up and I love that it had extra protein and veggies in it. It did make a lot, so I froze some in a muffin tin so I can defrost a couple to have with an easy single-serve lunch. Next time, I may try upping the amount of lentils a little for even more protein. Thank you!
how long does it last in the fridge? can you make big batches and freeze?
I haven’t made this yet but really want to try it. However, I have an abundance of fresh tomatoes I’d like to use instead of canned.What time and ingredient adjustments would I need to make if I used fresh tomatoes?
Hi LuAnn! That’s a really good question. I’ve never used fresh tomatoes for this sauce. Which is shameful because I grew a bunch of tomatoes this year and didn’t get to use them all up before they went bad on the vine. 🙁 A quick google search produced this result, it seems logical to me! 🙂 Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes.
I am new to pressure cooking (instant pot) and had trouble with the lentils burning before pressure was built up. Ended up finishing on stove. Is delicious but want to do in the pot. Any suggestions to remedy this? Thank you for your input.
I am in love with this recipe! I’ll be making it again for my inlaws next week!
This was really good and fun to make as I learn to use my Instapot. My teenage son helped me make it and fun. He wanted to add some oregano so we added 1/2 a tsp and it was a little thick for his liking so he added 1/2 a cup of pasta water to the finished sauce. SOOOOO GOOD! Thank you
Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats says
Beth! I cannot wait to try this recipe once I FINALLY get an Instant Pot (I know…am I the only food blogger without one yet?). Love, love, love the addition of sweet potatoes and lentils. And well marinara is pretty much my favorite sauce ever, so super excited about this one.
I saw your post on FB about switching your name over and the traffic drop. Many prayers and crossed fingers for you in the hope the humbers hop back up soon. I’ve been pinning and sharing on your page today and have some scheduled for Monday as well. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!
If you’re skeptical about the lentils and are thinking about making only 1/2 of the recipe to test it out…Don’t do it! That was my mistake. This is so delicious I should have made a double batch.
I had a bunch of tomatoes to use up, and am so happy to have found this recipe! I did fresh tomatoes instead of canned (which was 7 lbs for a double batch) and added onion. Everyone loved it! I will be making and freezing even more throughout tomato season.
This was nice. I had a liter of pureed tomatoes to use up so I tried this. I also had half an onion in the fridge so I sauteed that before adding the other ingredients. The salt was not sufficient and I also added some garlic and onion powders along with basil and oregano to give it more flavor. It also wasn’t sweet enough with just the sweet potato. I still had to add sugar. Good basic idea but I will only give it 4 stars because it needed so much doctoring.
Amazing! I love avoiding added sugar and my family never knew! I am definitely in love with my immersion blender as well.
Hi Allison! Happy New Year! Sorry it took me so long to respond. <3 Super excited that you snuck some veggie goodness in and your family was none the wiser! I am giving you virtual immersion blender high five. 🙂
I’m trying this today! Love that I can hide the sweet potatoes and lentils from my kids in pasta sauce. Question: do you use any oil to saute ? Thanks again!
This has been my go-to sauce recipe for a while now. It is so tasty and I love knowing that it has a vegetable and protein boost. So simple to make in the instant pot!
I love hearing this, Linda! Thanks so much for letting me know! <3