I have a serious love affair with Instant Pot. There are so many dishes that I can make either faster or less hands on (or both!) with this magical machine. While you can (and I do) use the Instant Pot for complete meals, where I find it really helps save me time is with food prep and having ready-to-go staples on hand. Today I am sharing my favorite Instant Pot basic techniques that save me the most time and effort in the kitchen.
Not sure what an Instant Pot is? It’s an electric pressure cooker with a handful of other bells and whistles like slow cooking, rice making, and sautéing. An upgrade from the basic also includes a yogurt making function.
Unlike the pressure cookers of the past, you don’t have to sit petrified in the kitchen, watching it do it’s thing on the stove, trying to adjust the flame to keep pressure just right. Instead, you hit a few buttons, carry on with life, and come back a few minutes later to cooked food. MAGIC.Save time and effort in the kitchen with these @InstantPot basics. Perfect for weeknight dinners! Click To Tweet
A few things to keep in mind before jumping in to the techniques:
- The times listed are for once a food reaches pressure. It takes time to reach pressure, but that time is dependent on a bunch of factors (like how full the pot is, if food is frozen, etc), so I can’t give you an exact total cooking time. As you use your Instant Pot, you’ll start to notice trends with how long different foods take to get to pressure.
- I use quick release because I like to cook food quickly. If I’m not cooking something that might shoot out the top (like a full pot of soup), I use quick release. I know many people prefer natural release over quick release. If that’s you, experiment with cutting my cooking times down a few minutes and letting the pressure release naturally. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a great article that explains the difference. Also, the steam is hot when you QR, so use caution when flipping the toggle to vent.
- I like my food on the al dente side. If you know that you like your food really well cooked, consider adding a minute or two onto the cook times. I tend to prefer my pasta, beans, etc. less cooked than more, and these cooking times probably reflect that bias. I tried my best to get a middle of the road cooking time for everything, but what tastes well cooked to me might not to you. Remember that you always can bring the pot back up to pressure for a minute or two if something is undercooked, but there’s not much you can do once food is overcooked.
1. Hard Boiled Eggs
What I love about Instant Pot hard boiled eggs is that you can very easily control the doneness. I’m a fan of runny hard boiled eggs (some might call this ‘soft boiled’), but I know others like a true hard boiled egg. Also, hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot peel easily. I have no idea about the science behind this, but I love that I can make deviled eggs that don’t look like they were manhandled by the devil himself.
Technique: Pour one cup water in the Instant Pot and place eggs on the steaming rack. Manually set time as follows: Four minutes for eggs that are a little runny; six minutes for eggs that are just hard boiled; eight minutes for eggs that are ‘well done’. Quick release the pressure after cooking and immediately put the eggs in a bowl of cold/ice water. Peel once cooled for best results.
2. Shredded Chicken
Shredded chicken in the InstantPot is quick, easy, and incredibly versatile. Any sauce works as the cooking liquid, from salsa to honey mustard to BBQ to buffalo to marinara to curry! I love that I can add flavor while cooking my chicken to save time.
Technique: Place your chicken thighs or breasts (about two pounds) in the Instant Pot and add one cup cooking sauce. If you don’t want flavor from the sauce, you can use water or broth. Manually set timer to 10 minutes (thighs) or 14 minutes (breasts) and quick release when cooking is complete. Remove chicken from the liquid and shred with two forks. You can hit saute on the Instant Pot to let the liquid thicken and pour back over the shredded chicken.
Batch cooking beans in the Instant Pot is a great way to do a big cook up with little effort. I highly recommend soaking beans before cooking, as it lessons the burden on the digestive tract and makes nutrients more available. The cook time is also shorter. I typically soak my beans overnight and cook in the morning. Once beans are cooled, you can freeze in mason jars or freezer bags.
Technique: Add beans and 3 cups of water per 1 cup of dry or soaked beans. Manually set time using the guidelines below. Quick release when cooking is done. For additional bean varieties, check out this list, which I found very helpful when I first started cooking beans.
- Black beans – soaked: 5 min; not soaked: 8 min
- Kidney beans – soaked: 5 min; not soaked: 22 min
- Pinto beans – soaked: 4 min; not soaked: 22 min
- Chickpeas – soaked: 10 min; not soaked: 30 min
4. Spaghetti Squash
No more hour long bake time for spaghetti squash! This alone is what sold me on the Instant Pot when I bought my first one. To be able to make it in under 20 minutes is key to quick meals like ‘pad thai’ and ‘spaghetti’.
Technique: Cut your spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. I prefer to cut short lengthwise as I find it safer and this technique results in longer noodles. Add one cup water and the steamer rack. Place one squash noodle side down on the rack and place the second on top of it. Unless I buy the giant spaghetti squash at Costco, I can usually fit both halves in together. Manually set the cook time for 5 minutes and quick release when squash is done cooking. The squash are crazy hot when they come out, so plan a few extra minutes for cooling before removing the noodles.
I like using the Instant Pot for greens when I’m cooking a bigger batch than easily fits in sauté pan. It’s also great for greens that take a little longer to get tender, like kale and collards. This technique is very basic – jazz it up by first sautéing garlic in the pot, adding seasonings, and/or splashing your favorite finishing flavors after cooking, like vinegar or Red Boat fish sauce.
Technique: Pour 1/2 cup water in the Instant Pot and add hearty greens (don’t fill higher than the fill line). I use a bunch of greens that I’ve ripped from the stems or a precut bag available at most grocery stores. Manually set time for 3 minutes and QR once done cooking.
6. Baked Potatoes
Potatoes in the Instant Pot are a definite time saver. I can make potatoes for dinner plus leftovers in under twenty minutes total. I’ve seen several techniques that suggest a few minutes in the oven at the end to crisp up the potatoes, which sounds lovely, but is not something I’m ever going to do. I find Instant Pot baked potatoes are totally fine to eat as is, without turning on the stove or adding extra time.
Technique: Pour one cup water in the Instant Pot and place potatoes, about 4-5 small to medium sized, on the steaming rack. Poke each potato a few times with a fork. Manually set time for 14 minutes (if you are using large potatoes, add a few minutes). Once done, use quick release and add your favorite toppings! I’m a purist and go for grass-fed butter and salt.
Instant Pot rice is not really any quicker than stove top, but I find that it’s less hands on, which is a win in my book. The method from white and brown in the same, though brown requires a little more cooking time. I like to soak my rice for better digestion, but soaking does not change the cooking time. Swap out the water for broth to add an additional nutrition and flavor punch. You can also add seasonings during cook time.
Technique: Use a 1:1 ratio of rice and water. Manually set the time for 10 minutes (white rice) or 15 minutes (brown rice). Once cooking is done, let sit for 5 minutes before quick release. The extra non-pressure cook time really helps with the texture. I personally like this method better than the rice cooker function, but experiment away! Thanks to my sister-in-law, Kelly, who helped me with this technique, after many lackluster attempts. You can follow her delicious and healthy food creations on Instagram.
Quinoa was the hardest basic technique to nail down. After many tries, much googling, and a lot of soggy quinoa, I finally tried something similar to the rice method above, and it worked great! Like rice and beans, I soak my quinoa overnight before cooking.
Technique: Use a 1:2 ratio of quinoa and water. Manually set the time for 10 minutes. Once cooking is done, let sit for 5 minutes before quick release.
The Instant Pot is a huge part of the reason I’m able to get healthy, real food dinners on the table without spending hours in the kitchen. I make a few of the above during my weekend prep time and have staples stored away, ready to be turned into 20 minute meals. You can find the Instant Pot 6 on Amazon right here and the Instant Pot 7 that includes a yogurt-making function right here.
Any Instant Pot basics that I missed? Let us know how you cook your favorites in the comments!