Cheesy Instant Pot Lentils & Rice + VIDEO

This Instant Pot recipe for cheesy southwestern lentils & rice is a quick vegetarian weeknight dinner that’s perfect for Meatless Monday!

Want to make just lentils? Be sure to check out my recipe for Instant Pot Lentils too! 

I recently discovered one of my favorite recipes ever! I was browsing around my friend Carol’s drool-worthy blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen, and discovered this recipe for her Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake.

I became instantly obsessed.

I made it once a week, every week for an entire month… I loved that it was so easy to assemble and virtually hands off as it baked away. Leaving me with about an hour to hop on the treadmill as it bubbled away in the oven.

I love it on its own, but Rick prefers to stuff the mixture into some warmed tortillas and eat it like a taco. I’ve gotta say, a dollop of sour cream on top pretty much takes it over the edge that it’s already toeing at!

Then, I tied my two obsessions together – This Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake recipe and my new Instant Pot. I figured that as great as it is that I can hop on the treadmill while dinner bakes away, sometimes I’m just feeling lazy, and I want to eat… quick!

Ingredients for instant pot lentils and rice on tray.

This recipe is quite similar to Carol’s recipe, with just a few tweaks here and there.

With the Instant Pot, there’s no evaporation, so you don’t need quite as much liquid. Also, I swapped out the green peppers for red peppers, omitted the thyme and added oregano instead, and sprinkled on some fresh cilantro at the end. As you can see, Carol gets all the credit, I just adapted her recipe to work for me in the Instant Pot.

How long to cook Instant Pot Lentils & Rice: 

  • Lentils and brown rice cook up perfectly with just 15 minutes of high pressure.

By using the Instant Pot, you shave about an hour off the cooking time… So, unfortunately, there’s not enough time to hop on the treadmill. But, there’s plenty of time to enjoy a glass of wine! 

After the cook time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes and then, if there’s any remaining pressure left in the Instant Pot, do a quick release.Cheese topped instant pot lentils and rice.

Then, take off the lid, sprinkle on all that yummy cheese, and cover it back up for about 5 minutes to let it get nice and melty. Then, spoon the cheesy southwestern lentils and brown rice into bowls, or serve them taco-style in tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Enjoy with aforementioned glass of wine… 

Wine Pairings for Lentils & Rice:

  • Medium-bodied, rustic wines like Chianti, Cotes du Rhone, and Sangiovese have earthy, spicy flavors that echo those in this dish.
Bowl of cheesy lentils with spoon.

If you loved this recipe for Instant Pot Lentils & Rice, I would appreciate it so much if you would give it a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.

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More Instant Pot recipes

Instant Pot Lentils & Rice Recipe

Bowl of cheesy lentils with spoon.

Instant Pot Cheesy Southwestern Lentils & Brown Rice

This Instant Pot recipe for Cheesy Southwestern Lentils & Brown Rice is the perfect quick vegetarian weeknight dinner recipe that’s perfect for Meatless Monday! Hearty lentils and brown rice combine with southwestern spices, tomatoes, peppers & plenty of melty cheese!
4.36 from 157 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
  • 1 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I prefer mozzarella and sharp cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (for topping)

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients, except cheese and cilantro, to your Instant Pot. Set to manual and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes then release remaining pressure. 
  • Remove cover and stir in half of the cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and replace the cover. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Enjoy! 
Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

Nutrition

Calories: 530kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 1125mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1100IU | Vitamin C: 64.4mg | Calcium: 480mg | Iron: 4.9mg

This recipe was originally published in 2017. It was updated in 2021 to add new photographs. The recipe remains the same. Enjoy!

174 thoughts on “Cheesy Instant Pot Lentils & Rice + VIDEO”

      • This was wonderful, and of course I did a few substitutions. I grow much of my food up here in Prince Edward Island, Canada, so what I do is flash freeze green peppers, since our growing season is so short. Then instead of a can of diced chilies, I used a 250ml jar of my pickled Jalapenos. My growing zone is 5b in Canada, which is different than your 5b, BUT!!, I still had Cilantro in the Greenhouse. And for Red Onions, I grew “Country Wide” this year. So this was a recipe ready for today. I’ve saved it since 2018 but decided to try it today. Also, my can of Tomatoes was 398 ml, slightly larger, but it was fine, given the rice and lentils, I figured it would be fine.

        Reply
    • 5 stars
      Made this dish tonight. Doubled the recipe and served with fried corn. It was fantastic. I did increase spices and mixed in cheese and fresh baby spinach at end and the transfered to dish topped with cheese and broiled for a quick minute. A million stars!!

      Reply
  1. No instant pot over here. How long would you recommend for the slow cooker? And should anything be cooked before putting it in slow cooker?

    Reply
    • Hi Jodi – I haven’t tried this recipe in the slow cooker personally, but I searched the web for some similar lentil & brown rice dishes and it looks like this should turn out perfectly in a slow cooker if you cook it for 4 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW. I’d love to hear back from you if you test it out!

      Reply
  2. If you double the recipe — will it be too much volume for the instant pot? would you also recommend changing cooking time for doubling the recipe?
    I am hoping to make this for eight people. Would appreciate thoughts.

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle – It should not be a problem to double the recipe, and it should not affect the cooking time either. If you find it needs a bit more time, you can always reseal the pot and high pressure for a couple more minutes. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  3. 5 stars
    I made this for the first time last night in my brand-new Instant Pot. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, I’ll fiddle with a recipe after preparing it for the first time, but this is the rare one that I think is perfect as-is. I’m a total carnivore, and I didn’t even miss having any meat. Bravo!

    Reply
  4. 5 stars
    I love this recipe.. It make it every 2-3 weeks and bring it to work (cheese not stirred in). It stores well in the fridge this way and is super tasty, filling and cheap.
    Small modifications:
    – White onions and yellow/orange/more bell peppers.. are perfectly OK if that’s what you have on hand
    – I use pickled jalapenos instead of canned chiles. So 2-3 tablespoons.
    – I like to reduce the salt a bit during cooking and then use some nice flaky salt before serving

    Reply
  5. I don’t have bob mills lentils and rice. Has anyone done it with different brands? Do you rinse the lentils and let them sit over night?

    Reply
    • Hi Chelsie – You can use any brand of lentils and rice that you prefer. They do not need to sit overnight and can be prepared immediately. Hope this helps!

      Reply
        • Hi Kris – The white rice will cook faster than brown rice, and I think it will be done before the lentils, meaning that it may turn out a bit mushy… You could definitely try it though!

          Reply
        • 5 stars
          I only had white rice in the house, so this is what I did: I followed the basic instructions (see substitutions) except I left the rice out. Cooked for 15 minutes manual, then did QR, added the rice (after checking to make sure I had enough liquid), and then cooked for another 5 minutes manual. NPR for 15 minutes, then finished the recipe. Delicious!
          This is a wonderful way to make lentils and rice! I used two undrained 10-oz cans of Rotel instead of the diced tomatoes and diced chiles. I also add about two handfuls of fresh spinach and stir until wilted before adding the cheese. Thanks so much for this recipe.

          Reply
  6. 5 stars
    This was a hit with the family. I squeezed in a little lime juice at the end since I happened to have a lime, and served with sour cream and extra shredded cheese on the side. (I mixed in about a cup of shredded cheese, but didn’t put more on top.) I don’t buy taco seasoning because it’s too salty. I added 2 Tbsp chili powder and 1 1/2 tsp cumin instead and cut back on the salt. (I made 1 1/2 times the recipe for four of us including a young adult son who eats a lot. We had plenty, but might not have had any leftovers if I hadn’t increased it and I like having leftovers.) The recipe cooked perfectly! I’m always a little afraid to open the lid to see if it worked. I’m still fairly new to Instant Pot cooking. Thanks for a great recipe!

    Reply
  7. Erin – what size Instant Pot did you use? I have one that is the 3 quart size for just the hubby and me, but since I got it for Christmas I haven’t used it yet. Your recipe looks like the perfect one to start with! Thanks ~

    Reply
  8. I absolutely loved this! Musty made it tonight. I got pietite diced tomatoes that had hatch chilies in the can with them and added the other can as dictated by the recipe. I also roasted the bell pepper before dicing it and adding it. This turned out amazing and was the second recipe I’ve made in my Instant Pot. I served it with some sour cream and corn bread like I would a chili. My boyfriend gobbled it up and went back for seconds! Thank you for this great recipe! It’s definitely going to be added to my wick weeknight rotation. Little prep and huge rewards! Total time for me was about an hour, including roasting my pepper and hand dicing the onion and mincing the garlic. A+

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you liked it Michelle! I would agree with you, this ends up being thick, like chili. Especially after all that yummy cheese is stirred in!

      Reply
  9. 5 stars
    Why oh why didn’t I listen to my gut and double this recipe? It was soooo good! Cheap, fast and healthy too. My kind of meal! I topped with some plain yogurt, cilantro, avocado, some roasted yams and green onions too. I’ll be sure to double it next time. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. 5 stars
    Great recipe and it was my first go in my new instant pot! I used red lentils and modified the tomatoes to use Rotel diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro (lable doesn’t list chili peppers but ingredients does) and they were hot so I used half a 10 oz can and added a giant raw chopped tomato. I was out of oregano so I mixed marjoram, basil and thyme as a substitute. It will go in my must use file. Thanks for posting Erin.

    Reply
  11. 5 stars
    Great recipe and among one the best things I’ve made with the pressure cooker. I’ve made it twice now and both times it turned out really delicious. I used spicy taco seasoning for a little extra kick. Really easy to throw together and you’ll have a delicious meal for days.

    Reply
  12. Just put this in the instant pot. Hoping for the best as I couldn’t find Bob’s Red Mill brown lentils or any brown lentils. I ended up buying Truroots sprouted lentil trio (green brown and black)

    I’m concerned the lentils will be over cooked since they are sprouted. Will update with information!

    Reply
    • Hi Tracey, how did it turn out with the TruRoots sprouted lentils? I also have the same bag of lentils and would love to know if you made any adjustments or followed the cooking times as is? Thanks!

      Reply
  13. This sounds delicious. My husband is a meat guy. If I wanted to add chicken breasts to it, any idea if that would work? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  14. Does this come out soupy? I don’t want soupy. Does the liquid get absorbed? If not, should I reduce liqud? Looking forward to making it tomorrow so would welcome feedback from those who have already made it.

    Reply
  15. 4 stars
    I made this for a potluck for my local food co-op, and it was a hit! I left the cheese on the side so that vegans could enjoy it as well, and then people could add as much or little as they liked. We also topped it with sour cream as well. I enjoyed it so much that I made it for myself again later in the week! Mine did not turn out liquid-y at all as it appears in your recipe photos. I brought bowls for the potluck but it could have easily been dished out on plates. I enjoy using it as a dip for tortilla chips as well with some green onions on top. I have a 3qt and made the entire recipe. It fits perfectly and is below the max fill line, in case anyone else has the mini 🙂

    Reply
    • I love this topped with sour cream too Amber! I’m glad that this recipe was a hit for you, and it’s nice to know that this does fit in a 3-quart Instant Pot. Thanks for that information!

      Reply
  16. 5 stars
    Wow this was awesome! I’m a total meat eater but this didn’t at all make me miss meat. I had it with some avocado cubes, sour cream and some spicy jalapeños – did not disappoint! Was like a meaty filling chili but didn’t miss the meat! Will absolutely make again!

    Reply
  17. Would any brown rice work for this recipe or does it have to be long grain? I’m making this in an hour and I don’t want the end result to be too overcooked or undercooked. Thanks!!!

    Reply
  18. 5 stars
    I had everything I needed to make this in my pantry and fridge already. My non-veg husband went back for seconds. He rarely ever does that. I also used a can of mild Ro-tel, a half of yellow bell pepper in addition to the red. Since there are only two of us, we’re going to have the leftovers in wraps.

    Reply
  19. This recipe is absolutely outstanding. I am new to the instant pot and to eating lentils. I regret that I didn’t try lentils sooner. This was one of my fist recipes to try in my Instant Pot Mini. My whole family loved it. My daughter was shocked to rralize there was no chicken in it until she was halfway through with her bowl. A true masterpiece of a recipe. I’ve made it 4 times now. Thanks so much for making me a fan of lentils!

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah – That may be a little tough, because quinoa cooks really quickly in the Instant Pot (just 1 minute). I’m thinking that it will be way overdone, and mushy if you use the full 15 minutes, but you need the 15 minutes to ensure that the lentils are done… I would maybe make the lentils in the Instant Pot (without the rice) and then stir in some cooked quinoa. I hope that helps!

      Reply
  20. 4 stars
    Thanks for this great recipe, we really enjoyed it and look forward to having it again.

    However, as written the recipe is loaded with salt, almost half of the daily recommended amount in one meal! This is a problem for people with high blood pressure and others who need or want to control their salt intake. The solution is simple. I reduced the amount of salt called for in the recipe by about half and made my own taco seasoning because the brand you recommended and all commercial seasonings are usually loaded with salt, msg and other ingredients whose names are hard to pronounce.

    The fat content of the meal is also pretty high, perhaps because of all that yummy cheese. For those who love cheese, as I do, but would like to cut their fat intake a bit, this can be accomplished by using reduced-fat cheese. I know, some people claim they can taste a difference between regular and low-fat cheese, but this dish is so spicy, and so much of the cheese is mixed in with the other ingredients that few people would notice any difference. Indeed, my wife volunteered that the 75%-reduced-fat cheddar I used in this dish tasted as good as the full-fat cheddar (same brand) she uses on her tuna melts.

    Reply
  21. Has anyone tried this with short grain brown rice? When I cook on its own I usually do 22 minute cook and 5 min natural release. Seems like this might work with the longer natural release time even though the cook time is shorter? Thanks! Can’t wait to try this!

    Reply
  22. 5 stars
    Just tried this last night with my husband. It was so so good! The only thing I noticed was the brown rice was a little hard, wasn’t cooked very well. It still tasted great but do you think adding a couple minutes under pressure would solve that problem? Thanks for the great recipe!!

    Reply
    • Hi Veronica – you could definitely add a couple minutes to the cook time – that should do the trick and the lentils should still be done properly.

      Reply
  23. 5 stars
    This is amazing, thank you for it.
    After enjoying this a few times, I took your broth/lentil/brown rice/tomato base and mixed up a thai curry variation. I’m pretty happy with it.

    4 oz green chilis -> 4 oz maesri yellow curry paste
    red onion -> yellow onion
    add: 3/4 cup copped fresh pineapple (to the cooked ingredients.)
    leave out: taco spice, oregano, salt, pepper.

    After pressure cooking, in stead of adding cheese, throw in a can of coconut milk and 3 handfuls of spinach. Replace the cilantro with chopped limes and basil leaves.

    It’s quite spicy. Cut the curry paste in half if you need to tone it down.

    My wife’s a medical student, she’s super busy. Thanks for helping me feed her healthy, filling food.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for this Mitchell! This sounds absolutely amazing! I love spicy foods so I’m definitely giving this a try ASAP! Love that you made it dairy free too.

      Reply
  24. 5 stars
    This is the first thing I tried in my IP. Loved it. Thank you. It was so easy, but mine was not as thick as yours looked. I dont know why. It was more like a hearty soup.

    Reply
  25. 5 stars
    You don’t have to make any modifications, but after making this at least a hundred times, I’ve found that the following works really well: 1) Go ahead and just a whole red onion and a whole red pepper. 2) Use a full carton of vegetable broth (it’s just a tad more than what the recipe calls for). 3) You don’t have to use Bob’s brand lentils and rice. I just buy the store brand. They’re cheaper. 4) I make my own taco seasoning instead of using store bought. Just Google or use the following : 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, some garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder.. You really can’t screw it up!

    And I don’t add cheese to the InstaPot–it just makes it hard to clean. Just sprinkle the cheese on top! Don’t forget the cilantro and chips. This will be your favorite chili. Happy InstaPotting!

    Reply
  26. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight and my whole family loved it, including my meat-loving husband. Even my toddler gobbled it up! I added some frozen corn at the end to brighten it up (and make it look more toddler-friendly) and topped with avocado. Huge, huge hit!!

    Reply
  27. 4 stars
    I will make this again, but NO salt! The canned toms, taco seasoning, cheese provided plenty of salt. Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
  28. Oh my gosh! This is my second instant pot meal and it was SO simple to make and turned out perfectly. I had already began the natural release when I read the comments and got nervous about the people who said the brown rice could’ve been cooked more because I really really dislike undercooked brown rice but that wasn’t my experience at all. I made zero changes to this recipe and will definitely make it again!

    Reply
  29. 5 stars
    I’ve made this several times. I only use half the cheese (I cut out the cheese topping part) and since I’m vegan, I use a bag of Daiya shreds. It works and it is so good. It is perfect for these winter months.

    Reply
  30. 4 stars
    Awesome recipe! I added some shredded zucchini and carrot because I try to sneak extra veggies into everything. My 2 year old asked for seconds!!
    Just an FYI to anyone who might see this: I doubled the recipe in my 6qt instant pot and while it fit fine, it took 45 minutes to come up to pressure. Add 15 minutes cook time and 15 min NR, it took quite a bit longer than I was expecting.

    Reply
  31. 5 stars
    This recipe was so delicious! More than the sum of its parts, for sure. I only have tomato sauce in the pantry and it was still delish!!

    Reply
  32. 5 stars
    I just made this and it will be a new quick go-to. I used 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup lentils for some more protein and fewer carbs and it came out just perfect! These 2 ingredients are easily interchangeable without adding more liquid. I couldn’t find the specific canned ingredients so ended up using two 8oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles without draining. My steak-loving partner really liked this and it was easy to customize his with more cilantro and mine with extra hot sauce and fresh diced onions for some crunch. Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
  33. 5 stars
    Great recipe and easily veganized with the new Follow Your Heart spicy southwestern cheese blend—so good. I love it when someone else has figured out the liquid amounts to convert a recipe to the instant pot. And done it perfectly.

    Reply
  34. I am new to cooking lentils…and I only have red lentils in my pantry right now. Will those work ok? Or should I head to the store??

    Reply
    • Hi Anissa – Red lentils tend to break down a lot more when they cook. I prefer green or brown lentils in this recipe. I prefer red or yellow for creamy or pureed soups. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  35. 5 stars
    Hello Erin, I’m going to try this recipe tonight, just one question: you don’t add any water to the whole before setting it to cook? I’m afraid I’ll burn it. Thanks again!

    Reply
  36. 5 stars
    I’ve made this twice in 10 days. The rice was underdone the first time so I upped the cooking time to 17 minutes, which worked well. I also made my own taco seasoning (super easy) and used a bit less cheese. Good stuff!

    Reply
  37. 5 stars
    This was so delicious and will be a regular for my lunches and dinners. It was almost creamy and bursting with flavor.

    I made it using pardina lentils; it came out great.

    Reply
  38. Hello!

    Do you have any advice for freezing all the ingredients and then cooking them in the instant pot from frozen? What would the cooking time be?

    Thanks

    Michelle

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle – I haven’t tried this yet, but I think that the cook time would remain the same. The ingredients will thaw as the pressure builds and then the countdown timer will begin. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  39. 5 stars
    This is a very yummy dish however I add about 5 more minutes to cooking time as Brown rice takes longer. Have done it shorter and rice is still crunchy. Have used Brown and Green lentils (not french-haven’t tried those). Also, I don’t add the 1 tsp Salt as the taco seasoning, canned tomatoes, and cheese makes it salty enough in my opinion. Served with chips or tortillas and avocado or guacamole and with some salad makes a great meal!

    Reply
  40. 5 stars
    YUM YUM YUM! This was delicious. My only substitute was a homemade vegan cheese sauce to cut out the dairy but wow, this will for sure be a staple in our home. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  41. 5 stars
    After 5 days of the flu I am here enjoying this cheese-happy soup. I couldn’t face another pre-canned bland soup, even if it did come from my sweet husband. He worked today, I was home still recovering, and I had vowed to make something in my new instant pot! After pouring over recipes, and considering my own gimpy sick self, this was it. The. Choice. I didn’t have the chiles and only had crushed tomatoes but it is amazing none the less (and it was about as much work in the kitchen as I could handle) I’m so excited to recommend the recipe to friends. Still in recovery mode, but this delicious meal is really helping. Thanks Erin!

    Reply
  42. Hi this was so delicious and I love that I could throw it together with mostly pantry staples! My only complaint is my lentils were mushy. Rice was perfectly done. More liquid needed? Less cooking time?

    Reply
  43. 5 stars
    I have been making this weekly for the last few months. I increase the rice and lentils each to 1 cup and increase the broth to 3 cups. Usually add 1 tsp of cumin and 1 of smoked paprika. It’s very flexible. Husband and toddler approved! Thanks for your blog and recipes, they’re always attainable on a weeknight and very tasty!

    Reply
  44. 5 stars
    This is absolutely our favorite go-to recipe! I usually just through in the whole bell pepper. As there are only two of us, we usually manage to get several leftover meals.

    Reply
  45. 5 stars
    Excellent lunch recipe for family working and schooling from home. So easy to throw this together, and people could grab a hot bowl when they got a break. Served with tortilla chips and sour cream. Just a lifesaving recipe- Thank you!!

    Reply
  46. Would I be able to add a boneless & skinless chicken thigh to cook with the rest? (Then I’d shred it afterwards.) Would the time & liquid amount be the same in that case?

    Reply
  47. 5 stars
    I’ve made this before as written, but this time I turned to this recipe because I had made a not too great oniony salsa concoction. I used my salsa for the onion, pepper, garlic and green chilis in the recipe (~2 cups salsa). I still added the diced tomatoes. I used french lentils and brown basmati. IT TURNED OUT SO GOOD!

    Reply
  48. 5 stars
    I love this recipe and have made it multiple times, the only thing I do different is that instead of 1 can of chilis and 1 can of diced tomatoes, I use 2 small cans of spicy tomatoes like Rotel. I usually eat this with sour cream. One of my favorite easy recipe for sure!

    Reply
  49. Has anyone tried adding some drained & rinsed canned beans to this recipe? Thinking of adding black beans for even more heft..

    Reply
    • 5 stars
      I went ahead and added a can of drained & rinsed black beans & would highly recommend it. Made the dish more of a main than a side, & looked great too!

      Reply
  50. 5 stars
    This is definitely our go-to recipe when we want something easy but delicious! The only substitution I make is to use onion powder instead of onions, if I don’t have any on hand.

    Reply
  51. 5 stars
    Hello! I have made this before and it turned out delicious! For some reason the last couple times I’ve made it, the rice and lentils still have a bone. Any idea why this might be?

    Reply

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