Since I simplified our kitchen a few years ago, I’ve noticed I cook at home more and find it more enjoyable. But, life is still busy and unpredictable at times, so having quick and easy go-to dinners is always helpful.
I first noticed the Instant Pot on Pinterest. Posts about quick dinners and making healthy eating easier caused me to take a second look, but it really looked like a glorified crock pot. I don’t have a great history with small appliances, I used a rice cooker once and then gave it away and store my crock pot in the basement because I just don’t use it that often.
But as I read more about it, I realized that it was actually quite a few notches up from a crock pot and started to think that maybe it could make cooking quicker and easier. So I ordered one from Amazon.
And it didn’t take me long to learn how to operate it and to begin to really appreciate it. Now I use it 3-4 times per week and it is a fixture in our kitchen.
Here is what I like most about my Instant Pot:
IT IS PREDICTABLE!!
- Hard boiled eggs are always perfect (and peel incredibly easy!)
- Meat is always tender
- Steamed vegetables are exactly right (and we eat WAY more of them now!)
- You can cook “baked” potatoes (sweet or regular) in under 20 minutes
- Most things cook much (much) quicker than traditional methods
- Many recipes you can cook completely in the pot
- It’s a breeze to clean up.
What is an Instant Pot
If you aren’t familiar, an Instant Pot actually is an electric pressure cooker. From the Instant Pot website: With a pressure cooker, foods are cooked much faster, typically an electric pressure cooker can reduce cooking time by up to 70% compared to other methods.
Also, with much less water used in cooking and a fully insulated external pot, much less energy is required, saving up to 70% of energy comparing with boiling, steaming, oven cooking or slow cooking. Electric pressure cookers are the second most energy efficient cooking appliance after microwaves.
With pressure cooking, heat is very evenly, deeply, and quickly distributed. It is not necessary to immerse food in water: enough water to keep the pressure cooker filled with steam is sufficient. Because of this, vitamins and minerals are not leached or dissolved away by water.
Since steam surrounds the food, foods are not oxidized by air exposure at heat, so asparagus, broccoli, and so on retain their bright green colors and phytochemical. The cooked food keeps its original flavor.
Pretty good benefits, right? :)
The most intimidating part, I think, is the pressure valve:
Although, after a few uses, it is now second nature to operate and there really isn’t much about it that you can mess up (you can’t blow up your kitchen like the older stove top versions ;)
And don’t be intimidated by all of the buttons! So far I’ve made about twenty different recipes just using the manual, sauté and rice modes…it really is very simple (but also pretty sophisticated if you choose to use it other ways!).
Join the Instant Pot Facebook Group
But before I get to my favorite week night recipes, there is one other tip that can help you succeed: join the Facebook group.
My sister-in law told me about this group and I can’t believe how friendly and helpful everyone is! It is a VERY active group, so if you have a question or a problem you can expect an answer within minutes.
People also share their favorite recipes and tips and tricks. I can spend hours on there if I’m not careful!
Here is a link for it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/InstantPotCommunity/
My Favorite InstantPot Recipes
I purchased an Instant Pot cookbook when I ordered my Instant Pot and was glad I did. Despite the potential clutter, I still love flipping through a cookbook (although do find myself missing the comments from online recipes sometimes! I won’t know if it is any good until I try it!! ;).
There are helpful tips and a handful of easy, healthy recipes that I keep going back to like pork fried rice, sweet potato, sausage & kale soup, bbq beef brisket and thai style corn chowder.
So while I can’t share those recipes here, I’ve also found quite a few recipes online that our family loves:
Spaghetti (you can literally throw everything into the pot!)
1 lb ground beef, frozen or thawed
¼ t. onion powder -or- ½ diced onion
½ – 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning -0r- garlic, oregano, basil
2 cups of water, or broth
8 oz. regular spaghetti, broken in half
2 cups of your favorite jarred pasta sauce
Directions: If your ground beef is frozen, you can follow these instructions to cook it from frozen to crumbled right in the Instant Pot and then proceed with the rest of this spaghetti recipe :)
Olive Garden copycat Zuppa Tuscana Soup (this is my family’s FAVORITE)
1lb. ground sausage (Italian flavored if you can find it!)
4 large yellow or red potatoes (no russets)
1 yellow onion diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1c. chopped kale
6 cups chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste
4 strips crumbled bacon
Directions: There are a few different variations online, but brown the sausage & onion in the bottom of the Instant Pot on sauté, add the garlic when the sausage is just about done. Drain extra grease. Add chicken broth, potatoes, bacon, salt and pepper. Cook on manual for 5 minutes, 10 minutes slow pressure release. Add the kale and let it sit until wilted. Add cream if you are using it. Adapted from this recipe.
(Our youngest two have a dairy sensitivity so we leave out the cream and no one notices! And I usually only add bacon if we have some cooked in the fridge from a different time, adds flavor for sure, but can be optional to make this a quicker recipe! I also chop up the kale really small so no one can pick it out ;)
Honey Sesame Chicken (Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it comes together quickly!)
4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced (about 2 lbs.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup honey*
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
2 green onions, chopped
Optional: Sesame seeds, toasted
Directions: You can find the directions HERE!
Balsamic Pork Roast
2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast (sirloin roast)
salt, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Directions: I have used an inexpensive pork loin successfully as well. You can also add in potatoes and carrots along the sides! Cooking instructions here.
Easy Beef Stew
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast cut into bite sized pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
16 ounces tomato sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
16 ounces chicken or beef stock
1 pound potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large onions, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Directions: This tastes like it cooked in my dutch oven for four hours! I often use stew meat instead of chuck roast and it tastes just as great. Find the directions here.
I’d love to know if you have an Instant Pot, heard of them or have considered getting one?