If you are one of the many home cooks who have hopped on the Instant Pot bandwagon (or if you’ve been toying with the idea of getting one), you may be experiencing a lot of emotions. Given the fact that this particular tool is packed with programmable functions, choosing a “first recipe” can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. Just relax, read the manual, and start with one of these seven delicious options.
But first, let’s discuss what we’re working with. The Instant Pot is a “7-in-1* multi-function cooker combining the benefits of a pressure cooker, saute, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and food warmer.”
Honestly, I was initially skeptical of something that claimed to be so good at so many things, and was slightly put off by the cult-like community surrounding the thing. I eventually caved, mainly because I wanted a rice cooker and a pressure cooker, but simply do not have the counter or cabinet space for both. The Instant Pot has both of functions, plus five more, letting me donate my slow cooker and try my hand at yogurt making.There are lots of different models of Instant Pot to choose from (all are pretty much the same; some are self-sterilizing or more customizable, and one looks like R2-D2), but you can currently get the 6-quart IP-DUO Nova “Best for Beginners”model on Amazon for $99.
Oh, and by the way: the Instant Pot is by no means intuitive, and I wouldn’t recommend winging it. There are a lot of buttons, functions, and features, and you should read up on them all. Also, though it is one of the safest pressure cookers around, it is still a pressure cooker, so make sure you understand how to properly seal and release the pot before diving in. Don’t, however, be intimidated. You should get the hang of it pretty quickly after a few recipes. Let’s start with easiest one.
Crack open some easy-peel eggs
Hard-boiled eggs (with a few flakes of Maldon Salt) are one of my favorite quick and filling snacks, and the Instant Pot produces perfectly cooked, easily-peeled soft and hard boiled eggs in a matter of minutes. This method from Hip Pressure Cooking is a good approach—one we covered a few years ago, actually—and it couldn’t be easier. Just place whole eggs—as many as you want to eat—down in the pot in a steamer basket or one the metal rack that came with your pot, along with a cup of water. Close the pot, close the vent valve, and press the “Manual” button. Leave the pressure on “High,” and adjust the time based on how like your eggs cooked:
- “Poached” Style: If you want a soft white with a runny yolk, set the timer to 1 minute.
- Soft Boiled: 4 minutes
- Hard Boiled: 5 minutes
Once the timer has gone off, release the pressure by sliding the steam release handle to the “venting” position, making sure to keep hands, faces, pets, children, and important documents out of the way of the escaping steam. Remove the eggs with gloves or tongs and get them into some ice water to stop the cooking process. Serve immediately or transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to chow down. When you’re ready to crack into your egg stash, gently tap the shell to crack, then marvel at how easily the shell slides away from the white. (I’ve peeled a lot of eggs in my time, and these were some of the easiest I’ve ever tangoed with.)
Take stock, slurp soup, and make chill chili
Stock, soups, and chili are lifesavers during these frigid months and, by combining the browning power of the saute function with the intense environment of pressurized cooking, the Instant Pot lets you jam tons of flavor into these comforting dishes in a short order. Good soup starts with good stock, so let’s tackle that first.
There’s something soothing about simmering a bunch of bones and vegetables on the stove for hours, but honestly who has the time? Any sort of pressure cooker can help you make stock in half an hour, but the sauté function on the instant pot lets you brown the meat right inside the pot before switching to the pressure cooker function, eliminating the need for an extra pan and developing all sorts of deep, delicious flavors. The video above walks you through the whole process, but the multi-functionality of the Instant Pot makes it pretty streamlined:
- Using the “Sauté” function (press the button and wait for the word “Hot” to appear), brown two and a half pounds of chicken carcasses in one tablespoon of oil. Remove chicken and deglaze the pot with 100 milliliters of liquid, scraping up all the tasty brown bits (the video uses water, but I would use sherry).
- Return chicken to the pot, along with chopped vegetables such as two small onion, a couple of carrots, two stalks of celery, and four garlic cloves. Add two bay leaves, a teaspoon of whole peppercorns, salt to taste, and whatever other herbs you want in there.
- Pour in 10 cups of water, close the pot, slide the release valve to “sealing,” and—using the “Manual” setting—cook on “High” for an hour. Vent, strain, cool, and skim off the fat.
You now have a flavor-packed, collagen-rich stock ready for all sorts of tasty applications like soups, rice dishes (see risotto below), and even pasta, and you didn’t have to babysit a single stock pot on the stove (or clean an extra pan).
Now that you have a tasty base by way of broth, you’re ready to make it a meal. “Soup” is a broad category, but a good chicken noodle is something you should always have at the ready (or at the very least, know how to make.) You may already have a tried and true recipe, and I wouldn’t dare change it, but you can use the Instant Pot to get your soothing soup even faster. (If you don’t have a recipe, this one from Live Simply is pretty ace.)
Start by salting some chopped vegetables (most likely carrots, onion, and celery) and cooking them in a tablespoon or two of butter, using the “Saute” function. Get some good color on everything, add in some aromatics (garlic, thyme, etc.), and saute for another minute or two. Add eight cups of broth, a couple of cups of shredded chicken, and favorite dried noodles . Turn off the saute function, close and seal the pot, and press the “Soup” button. Adjust the time down to four minutes, and go watch a funny YouTube video or something. (The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to pressurize, so maybe watch two funny videos.) Release the pressure using the valve, open her up, and enjoy your tasty reward.
Eat chili when it’s chilly
Chili is usually a multi-step dish that starts with soaking beans—if you’re making the kind with beans, which I know some people who are not Texan enjoy—and concludes with a good bit of simmering. The Instant Pot simplifies all of that; you don’t even have to soak the beans.
There are a lot of recipes for Instant Pot chili, but I like using this one as a template. To make a hearty pot of chili beans, you’ll need:
- 2 pounds of ground meat, such as beef chuck
- 1 diced onion
- 2-4 chopped cloves of garlic, depending on your preference
- 1 large can of diced tomatoes with liquid
- 2 cups of dry pinto beans
- Seasonings, such as chili powder and cumin
- About two cups of stock or broth
- Your favorite chilies, depending on your spice tolerance
Turn on the “Sauté” function, and once the display says “Hot,” sauté your meat, onion, and garlic with a couple tablespoons of oil or (better yet) bacon grease. Remove the meat and all of that other goodness from the pot, and add a can diced tomatoes using the liquid to help deglaze and scrape up any and all tasty brown bits. Return the meat mixture to the pot, along with all of the other ingredients and run everything through two cycles of the “Beans” function. Release the pressure using the valvle and enjoy.
Make a most-tender whole chicken
It’s no secret that having a whole roasted chicken around can make your weekday lunches more satisfying and simple suppers super easy.Cooking one in the Instant Pot can get you there even faster. To start, grab a fresh or thawed whole chicken (most birds should fit just fine) and season it liberally with salt and pepper. Using the “Saute” function, brown the breast and sides of the chicken in a tablespoon of oil. Deglaze the pot with a cup of stock, shove some fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary in the cavity of the bird, and set it down in the pot on top of the metal rack insert. Cook the chicken using the manual setting on “High” for six minutes for each pound of chicken, plus two minutes more. (For a five pound chicken, this would be 32 minutes.)
Instead of releasing the pressure by sliding the steam release handle to “venting,” let the Instant Pot cool and release steam naturally for about fifteen minutes. If the float valve hasn’t dropped down in fifteen minutes, go head and release the remaining amount of pressure with the valve. Remove the chicken from the pot, slice it up all nice, and enjoy.
“Bake” spuds and sweet potatoes
“Baked” potatoes were the first thing I made with my Instant Pot, and they took all of 15 minutes. It almost felt like cheating, to be quite honest, as all I had to was drop a couple of big ‘ol russets down in there on the metal rack insert, along with a cup of water. Just prick the spuds all over and, using the “Manual” function set to “High,” cook for 12-20 minutes (the bigger the potatoes, the longer the cook time).
Quick release the steam with the valve, and carefully remove your hot potatoes from the pot. You can split them open and enjoy them as is, but if you absolutely need that crispy skin, you can coat them with olive oil and salt and pop the in a 400-degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes. Sweet potatoes and yams can be made using the exact same method, so go crazy.
Waste no time with risotto
I will admit that there is a romantic quality to gently ladling in small portions of stock over arborio rice, and watching it transform into an impossibly creamy rice dish, but we are all very important people with things to do. I do, however, love risotto, and the thought of being able to make four servings of it in under half an hour is just the kind of magic I need in my life.
The video above tells the entire tale, but gone are the days of standing over a steaming stock pot. Like so many Instant Pot recipes, you will start by pressing the “Saute” button. Once the display reads “Hot,” saute 10 ounces of diced chicken with a chopped onion, two cloves of minced garlic, and a couple ounces of diced pancetta in two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil for two or three minutes.
Season generously with salt and pepper, and add 1 ½ cups of arborio rice, a tablespoon of fresh thyme, and half a cup of wine. Give everything a good stir, close up the Instant Pot, press the button that says “rice,” and adjust the cooking time to 12 minutes. Once the time is up, release the pressure, give the risotto a good stir, and add five more tablespoons of butter, along with four tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Stir it all once more, and let stand for three minutes. Ladle lovingly into bowls, top with more parm and lots of fresh pepper, and devour.
After you’ve made those delicious dishes, you should feel emboldened to start playing around your new favorite appliance. Though there are a ton of online resources for recipes (The Kitchn, The Prairie Homestead, and Nom Nom Paleo are all great places to start), there’s no reason to limit yourself to the words and dreams of others. If you’re used to a stove-top pressure cooker, you can adapt your favorite recipes to the Instant Pot, but keep in mind that electric pressure cookers operate at a lower pressure than the stove-top versions (around 11 psi as opposed to 15), so just add a couple of minutes to your cooking time. The versatility and quick-cooking nature of the appliance makes it perfect for experimenting with all types of recipes, from perfectly cooked dried beans and grains to your favorite slow cooker stand-bys, without cluttering up the counter with six extra appliances, and the fanatical fan club surrounding it means there is no shortage of inspiration.
This article was originally published in January 2017 and updated on Nov. 16, 2020 to add updated information about Instant Pot models, new images, and to align the content with current Lifehacker style guidelines.