FOOD

I Tried Cooking With An Instant Pot And It Completely Changed The Way My Family Eats

Christin Perry LitteThings writer by Christin Perry
Christin is a mom and editor specializing in lifestyle content. She also hides cookies like a boss.

I consider myself an average cook, a 6 out of 10 on my best days. I can follow a recipe well enough, but I’m not very good at planning ahead or starting dinner early to avoid hectic evenings.

One day, my husband came home and asked me if I had ever heard of an “Instant Pot,” and  I asked him if it was a trendy new store in Colorado. He assured me that it wasn’t, and said it was a new cooking gadget that everyone was raving about. Visions of “instant” and “cooking” danced in my head, and I set about googling this strange new contraption.

So, I decided to test Instant Pot recipes from around the internet. After personally cooking these Instant Pot recipes and getting my family’s stamp of approval, here are the 25 best Instant Pot recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert that you can also enjoy.

What Is An Instant Pot?

How to use an Instant Pot
Christin Perry for LittleThings

It’s a simple, black-and-silver, multifunctional appliance that, at first glance, produces dishes similar to a Crock-Pot, only much faster. I soon realized that the Instant Pot is much more than all that: it’s a slow cooker, a rice steamer, a yogurt maker, and it can even be used to sauté! Despite its many functions, though, the Instant Pot is basically a pressure cooker.

How Does Instant Pot Work?

Invented in the 1600s, the pressure cooker uses steam pressure to build high temperatures, which cooks food much faster than conventional measures.

I couldn’t believe the super-short Instant Pot cooking times: a whole roasted chicken in 45 minutes? Pulled pork in an hour? Oatmeal in three minutes? This seemed like the perfect solution for me. So, I purchased one. (Where to buy Instant Pot? You can get one for $100 on Amazon or at Target). I made a goal to change up my kitchen game by making 25 Instant Pot recipes in a month. Before I go into the list of the recipes I tried (along with some pictures of the results), here are some tips that I picked up along the way.

Instant Pot Cooking Tips

1. Watch out for that steam release! This thing quickly became my worst enemy, and it took me the majority of the month to figure it out. Basically, you want to turn the Instant Pot to “seal” before starting it, and “vent” when it’s finished. There are two different release options: natural release and quick release. Natural release is what “naturally” happens at the end of a cooking cycle without any interference. Quick release, on the other hand, is a good way to lose, well, a hand. Learn from my mistake and never touch the steam release handle! I had good results using kitchen tongs or scissors to open it.

2. Recipe times typically don’t include heat-up and cool-down times. Although the Instant Pot is fast, it isn’t quite as fast as some recipes will have you believe. It does take five to 10 extra minutes to heat up, and 10 to 15 more if you choose to use the natural steam release. That said, I did quick release every single time and never felt like my recipes suffered one bit.

Instant Pot Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner Recipes

Now for the fun part. My main goal for this project was to really put myself out there and try lots of different recipes that I would never have otherwise made. I’m definitely not very adventurous in the kitchen, and if I wasn’t trying to keep a full-grown man alive, I’d probably just eat cereal every night — I’m sure my kids wouldn’t mind!

I found the Instant Pot to be so reliable, consistently delivering perfectly cooked, delicious results, that I gained the confidence to try new things. If you decide to try it out, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit! I guarantee you’ll be amazed — trust me, if I can do it, you can do it, too!

1. Mexican Shredded Chicken

Finished Mexican shredded chicken
Christin Perry for LittleThings

This was the first “real” food I tried in the Instant Pot, since it’s one of my go-to Crock-Pot dishes. I simply put three chicken breasts in the bottom and covered them with a cup of salsa. Only 20 minutes later, I had flavorful, fork-tender chicken that I was able to shred and use to make tacos.

2. Yogurt

Finished instant pot yogurt
Christin Perry for LittleThings

Once I found out that Instant Pot yogurt was a thing, I was so intrigued that I simply had to give it a try. Going into the process, I was 100 percent convinced it wouldn’t work. I’m just not the make-yogurt-at-home type, whatever type that may be. After an initial failed attempt, I was completely giddy when I peeked inside about halfway through my second attempt and spotted something resembling legitimate yogurt.

Instant Pot uses yogurt as a starter. The key to success is to use only yogurt made of milk or cream, which must contain live and active yogurt cultures. I had amazing results the second time using Fage yogurt as a starter. Half a gallon of milk yielded three “batches” of yogurt. I added vanilla extract to one for vanilla yogurt, Polaner blueberry jam to another for blueberry yogurt, and the other I left plain for cooking and sour cream. The recipe can be found on Thisoldgal.com.

3. Burrito Bowls

Finished burrito bowls
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For a delicious Chipotle imitation that comes together almost as quickly as takeout, use the same chicken and salsa recipe as above (or try this much more flavorful one) and make it into a customized bowl.

A yummy tip is to drain a can of black beans and then add them to the Instant Pot, close the top and let them heat through with the chicken and salsa. This adds flavor and warmth to the beans. Rebootedmom.com has this yummy recipe.

4. Steel-Cut Oats

Finished steel cut oats
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Steel cut oats are healthier (and in my opinion, way tastier) than rolled oats, but they’re not a staple in our home because no kid is going to wait around 20 minutes for oatmeal. Enter the Instant Pot, which has them ready in as little as three minutes.

The recipe calls for soy milk to reduce the chance of scorching, but I also made them with water, following the exact recipe on the back of the package. I cooked for five minutes on “high,” and it worked just fine. The Instant Pot recipe booklet has instructions for these flavorful oats.

5. Beef Stew

5. Beef Stew
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Here’s a dish that would take nearly all day in a regular pressure cooker. Admittedly, this does take longer than some other Instant Pot recipes, and there were a few additional steps involved, like sautéing the beef. But overall, the process took less than an hour to yield a delicious Instant Pot beef stew. Check out budgetbytes.com for the full recipe.

6. Chili

6. Chili
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I figured my list wouldn’t be complete without Instant Pot chili, and it didn’t disappoint. My family has a long-standing Southwestern chili recipe that we use, but I wasn’t familiar enough with the Instant Pot to try to recreate it. So, I found a recipe on anightowlblog.com for Instant Pot Wendy’s copycat chili and followed that one instead.

It was definitely the best chili I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t know if that’s thanks to the different recipe, or to the amazing blend of flavors that came from using the Instant Pot. Either way, I highly recommend it!

7. Clam Chowder

7. Clam Chowder
Christin Perry for LittleThings

This was another adventure for me! This recipe is included in the recipe book that comes with the Instant Pot, and it was one of the few that looked appetizing.

I’ve never made clam chowder at home before, but with a husband from New England, I figured I had to try it — and I’m so glad I did. The results were amazing! It was a totally legit chowder, and my whole family enjoyed it. I even served it in a bread bowl by hollowing out hoagie rolls.

8. Coconut Chicken

Finished coconut chicken
Christin Perry for LittleThings

As I became more familiar with the Instant Pot, I fell in love with its sauté feature. It helped create a basic-but-delicious coconut chicken recipe I found. I cut chicken into small pieces, then dipped them in an egg wash and breaded them with coconut.

Then, I sautéed them in olive oil until they were brown and served with an assortment of dips like barbecue sauce, honey mustard, and even ketchup. These made a simple, healthy meal that became one of our favorite Instant Pot chicken recipes.

9. Applesauce

Finished applesauce
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I’ve admitted that I’m not super adventurous in the kitchen, and there’s a big part of me that still eats like a 5-year-old. That may be why this was one of my favorite pressure cooker recipes. It couldn’t be easier: peel and core as many apples as you want, cut them in quarters, then add some water, honey, cinnamon, butter, and a dash of lemon juice.

From there, it only takes three minutes at high pressure. Once the apples are cooked, give them a whirl in a blender to your desired consistency. We made ours really smooth and it was simply amazing — check it out on recipestonourish.com.

10. Mac And Cheese

Finished mac and cheese
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This is the recipe that sealed my decision to purchase an Instant Pot. With three voracious mac-and-cheese eaters in the house, I got to the point where I couldn’t even stand the sight of the neon orange stuff anymore. In fact, it’s actually illegal in some other countries.

As with many of the other Instant Pot recipes I tried, I found this one to be delicious and fast! Check out the easy instructions on delishably.com.

11. Jambalaya

Finished jambalaya
Christin Perry for LittleThings

This one was another ode to my husband, who loves jambalaya. I left the shrimp out of my recipe, since none of us like it, but it didn’t seem to affect the dish at all. The Instant Pot expertly blended the flavors, and nothing came out mushy or overcooked — check out the recipe on Essential Healthy Living.

12. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Finished hard boiled eggs
Christin Perry for LittleThings

Before trying this, I had heard that Instant Pot hard-boiled eggs are the greatest thing ever, and that their shells are super easy to remove.

The rumors are true! Simply place as many eggs as you need on the trivet, add a cup of water, and set it on “manual” for five minutes. The shells practically fall off once you crack them!

13. Black Beans And Rice

Finished black beans and rice
Christin Perry for LittleThings

I wanted to be sure to try some side dishes in the Instant Pot since I’m always looking for new ways to round out a meal. I’ll be honest and admit that this wasn’t a family favorite, but the recipe called for brown rice and I chose to use white. I think that was a mistake, because the overall flavor were excellent, but white rice was a bit mushy and glutinous, so it was more of a texture issue.

Next time I will definitely use brown rice! I’m glad I made this, though, since it gave me a chance to try Instant Pot beans using dry beans, which is something I really wanted to do. Their recipe can be found on myplantbasedfamily.com, if you’re willing to give them a try.

14. Indian Butter Chicken

Finished Indian butter chicken
Christin Perry for LittleThings

Before this experiment, I never realized how much I take my husband’s tastes into consideration while in the kitchen. If there’s anything he loves more than chowder (and chili, and jambalaya, and Mexican food, and Whole Foods), it’s Indian food.

So, when I came across this recipe for butter chicken, one of the most well-known Indian food recipes here in the US, I had to try it. Again, the Instant Pot did not disappoint. It’s perfectly suited to Indian cuisine, with their exotic blend of spices that are meant to infuse the food with flavor. Fifteen minutes on “manual” yielded perfectly juicy, restaurant-quality butter chicken — try it out and visit Jays Sweet n Sour Life for instructions.

15. Sweet Potatoes

Finished sweet potatoes
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Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods on the planet, but the number of times I remember to put them in the oven an hour ahead of dinnertime is close to zero. And I’ve never had any luck at all putting them in the microwave, either; they always end up dry and shriveled.

Enter the Instant Pot. To make perfectly moist, completely cooked sweet potatoes in less than 10 minutes, simply place them on top of the trivet (I found that four was the most it could hold without stacking them), add a cup of water, and set on “manual” for 14 minutes. A recipe for flavorsome sweet potatoes can be found on thesewildacres.com.

16. Whole Chicken

Finished whole chicken
Christin Perry for LittleThings

By the time I plopped a whole chicken in my Instant Pot, I had pretty high expectations. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I stuffed my chicken with half a lemon and an onion, which my kids found equal parts hilarious and terrifying. But there’s a special secret to Instant Pot whole chicken: before pressure cooking, turn on the sauté function and let the pot get hot. Cover the bottom with olive oil and sauté the chicken until its skin turns a golden-brown color.

Then, using kitchen tongs, turn the chicken over and sauté on the other side. Don’t worry if flipping the chicken seems a bit like childbirth; totally normal! The extra work is well worth it — this was hands down the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. Once I removed most of the meat, I returned the rest of the chicken (bones and all) to the Instant Pot with the juices from pressure cooking, added two to three cups of water, and had amazing chicken broth. This recipe, found on apinchofhealthy.com, is a must-try!

17. Mashed Potatoes

Finished mashed potatoes
Christin Perry for LittleThings

I needed a side dish for the whole chicken, so I decided to make Instant Pot mashed potatoes.

By now you know that I’m in love with the Instant Pot, but I have to say, I’m completely in love with this recipe from pressurecookrecipes.com! It has you melt the butter with garlic and milk, adding it to the potatoes after they’re mashed. I’ve never made them that way before, but they were the best I’ve ever had.

18. Mongolian Beef

Finished mongolian beef
Christin Perry for LittleThings

You know when you go to make dinner and you have zero inspiration and nothing to work with? I was having one of those nights where it was looking like nothing short of magic would get dinner on the table.

The only thing I had to work with was some shaved beef for cheesesteaks that had been pushed to the back of the freezer. So, I looked up an Instant Pot Mongolian beef recipe on auntbeesrecipes.com and I was on my way. This recipe tasted very sweet, so my kids loved it. I think you could cut the brown sugar in half on this one and still have a delicious meal.

19. Rice

Instant pot rice recipe
Christin Perry for LittleThings

You simply can’t have an Instant Pot article without Instant Pot rice! I steamed some white rice to go with the Mongolian beef, and it only took three minutes to complete. Of course, I had to clean the pot between recipes, which is a bit of a drawback, but the speediness of this pressure cooker and rice steamer is simply amazing, which more than makes up for it.

20. Pulled Pork

Finished pulled pork
Christin Perry for LittleThings

Inspired by some amazing pulled pork at Easter, I decided to try my own — Instant Pot style, of course! I used a one-pound pork shoulder rubbed with garlic, onion, and mustard powder, then poured in half a bottle of barbecue sauce and a half-cup of water.

The recipe said to cook it for one hour, but I think it could’ve easily gone another 30 to 45 minutes in order to be fork tender. Regardless, the taste of this Instant Pot pulled pork was spot on, and still at a fraction of the time a Crock-Pot would’ve taken. I made sandwiches topped with coleslaw and a side of baked beans for a delicious springtime meal. Check out the recipe from homemadeinterest.com.

21. Nene B.'s Vegetable Soup

Finished vegetable soup
Christin Perry for LittleThings

This is an old family recipe, passed down to me by my grandmother in a journal that was found after she died. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite meals, so I had to adapt it for the Instant Pot.

Ingredients

  • 6 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 can green beans
  • 6 golden potatoes, diced
  • 1 can shoepeg corn
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Pour 8 cups water into the Instant Pot and press the “sauté” button.
2. Add bouillon cubes.
3. Once they melt into the water, give the mixture a good stir.
4. Add all remaining ingredients to the Instant Pot.
5. Close lid and cook on “manual” for 10 minutes.
6. Let pressure release naturally, then open the lid.
7. Check potatoes to ensure they are cooked through. If not, cook on “manual” for 3 to 4 additional minutes.

Instant Pot Dessert Recipes

22. Crème Brûlée

Finished crème brûlée
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When I started searching for some Instant Pot dessert recipes, I figured why not let my 3-year-old choose the first recipe. She of course chose crème brûlée out of the Instant Pot recipe booklet, which I had never made or eaten. So, this was completely unfamiliar territory for me. I couldn’t believe the results: perfectly firm, delicious crème brûlée.

23. Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Finished peanut butter cheesecake
Christin Perry for LittleThings

We’ve all heard of a Pinterest fail, and I thought for sure this would be one. To me, cheesecake just seems like one of those things you should leave to a pro. I made sure to follow the directions as closely as possible, and I even bought mini springform pans. While my cheesecakes did come out a little flat because I didn’t fill the pans enough, they were delicious, totally convincing, and not to bad presentation-wise, either. We even shared with our neighbors! The surprisingly easy recipe can be found on pressurecookingtoday.com.

24. Chocolate Pots De Crème

Finished chocolate pots de crème
Christin Perry for LittleThings

Don’t worry, I can’t pronounce this either, but they were fun and cute, too! For this recipe, I used half-pint Mason jars for a fun little dessert that I could share with my kids. They’re much more like a custard than a pudding, but they were tasty and would be a great addition for a kid’s birthday party. Check them out at pressurecookingtoday.com.

25. Chocolate Lava Cake

Finished chocolate lava cake
Christin Perry for LittleThings

This is another recipe that I had never thought to attempt at home, but I’m glad I did. The preparation was super easy, and after the Instant Pot worked its magic, it yielded super fudgy, dense chocolate cakes. I made these in the same spring form pan that I used for the peanut butter cheesecake and found the recipe at adventuresofanurse.com.

If you enjoyed some of these recipe reviews, don’t forget to SHARE this article with anyone thinking about buying an Instant Pot!