My Instant Pot Obsession

As you may have noticed in my last few posts, I’m kind of obsessed with my Instant Pot. Since I’ve been trying to eat more plant-based foods I’ve discovered that it’s easier to do with this appliance. I recently received a lot of questions about the Instant Pot and so I thought I’d do a review of this amazing kitchen gadget where I can fully explain why it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Lately, I use it for almost every meal I make.

For those of you that have never heard of an Instant Pot, it’s an electronic pressure cooker, rice maker, steamer, slow cooker, sauté pan, yogurt maker, broth maker, bean maker, and porridge maker.

I know what you’re thinking— that’s way too many functions, how do you even know where to begin?! Well, I can tell you that I’ve never used most of the functions. Instead, I’ve found that I have the best results by using the manual pressure function for just about everything. This gadget is a big time-saver and is great for making big portions of food to eat throughout the week.

Safe Use

*Disclaimer: When using an Instant Pot, be VERY careful. Read the directions carefully and thoroughly, and use the appliance at your own risk.

It’s important to know before using an Instant Pot that it can be very dangerous if you don’t use it properly. A water test should be done before using your product for the first time to ensure that everything is working correctly. I personally found it much easier to find a YouTube video to demonstrate how to do the water test, rather than referencing the information that comes with the pot. To me, these were harder to understand. Either way, make sure you take the time to learn how to properly use the machine.

Also, pay close attention to the pressure release valve. It should always be set to the sealing position when you’re using any of the functions (other than sautéing). Before opening the lid, you need to make sure that the pressure is down by checking that the little silver pin next to the valve has dropped. If it hasn’t, you’ll need to manually release it.

This is totally terrifying the first time you do it because the steam from inside shoots straight up through the valve. You really have to be careful with this, too, because you could potentially burn yourself. It becomes easier once you’ve done it a few times and you get the hang of it, but always keep all of these things in mind.

Rice Function

The rice button automatically sets the time for 12 minutes and can be changed for whatever kind of rice you’re cooking, and different kinds of rice cook at different times. Oddly enough, I rarely use the rice button for actual rice. Instead, I like using this feature for different grains. I use the rice function to make our favorite Mexican Quinoa Bowls and Jambalaya.

The rice function makes PERFECT quinoa and bulgur. Bulgur is grain made from wheat, and it reminds me of a cross between rice and quinoa. In fact, it makes a great substitute for brown rice, and it’s a good source of fiber and protein. This weekend, I decided to try making a new dish for breakfast, which included bulgur and was so easy with my Instant Pot.

I threw a cup of bulgur into the pot with two cups of vegetable broth, sealed the lid and hit the rice button. I’ve been really hungry lately so I decided to follow a suggestion from Dr. Greger, author of How Not to Die— I mashed some canned cannellini beans and mixed them into the cooked bulgur with some other spices. Then, I topped it with some sliced banana.

 
 Breakfast Bulgur Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Breakfast Bulgur
Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

 

Beans

Making dried beans not only saves a ton of money but by using the Instant Pot you also save a ridiculous amount of time. This is one of my favorite things about the Instant Pot. Cooking beans usually requires soaking them overnight, then cooking them on the stove for hours. Who has time for that?! Instead, I have fresh chickpeas in just 40 minutes. Not to mention, my latest obsession, lentils, are done in just 6 minutes!

I usually make beans ahead of time so there is no pressure to get them done. One pound of dried beans makes 6 cups of cooked beans, which is about 4 cans worth. Each bean has its own cook time, and I find works best if you use a natural pressure release. This basically just means that you wait for the pressure pin to go down on its own.

If you’re making a bean dip or hummus, this is definitely worth it! I’ve been experimenting with bean dips and hummus ingredients lately and have come up with quite a few delicious concoctions. You’ll find a base recipe for hummus below with a few ideas for different ingredients to add in.

You’ll definitely notice the difference between hummus made from a can of chickpeas versus hummus made from dried chickpeas. It also goes without saying that both homemade versions taste way better than the store-bought stuff. Plus, you have total control over the ingredients that go into it so you can omit oil or tahini if you’re not into it.

To make beans in an Instant Pot, just make sure you cover them with enough water or broth so that there is about an inch or two of liquid on top of them. Make sure the pressure valve is set to the sealing position and follow the chart below for some of the beans that I make the most. The chart is for one cup of dried beans that are not soaked.

 
 Bean Cooking Times Chart

Bean Cooking Times Chart

 

Steamer

Alright, so let’s just get this out there: I had never steamed anything before I had this contraption. I was basically using my microwave to “steam” anything that needed steaming. I would make steamed dumplings in the microwave wrapped in a wet paper towel. I just realized how sad that truly makes me by typing it out. That’s no way to cook.

Luckily, steaming is the easiest thing ever with the Instant Pot. I bought a steamer tray to place inside the pot. To steam, I dump a cup of water in, put my Asian buns, dumplings, veggies or whatever else I plan to steam in there, and they’re done within minutes.

For a while, I was setting up my IP at night with the steamer tray and water. In the morning I would throw a red bean bun into the tray, seal the lid and set the steamer for 8 minutes. I’d get in the shower and by the time I was done getting ready, I was able to safely remove my perfectly steamed bun for breakfast and go. Talk about easy grab-and-go breakfasts!

Sauté and Manual Pressure

I usually use these two functions together; I don’t think I’ve ever used the sauté function without then using the manual pressure afterward.

Most one-pot meals usually start off by sautéing vegetables in the pot. Once they start to look soft, you add whatever grain you’re using with broth and use the manual setting. The trickiest part of using this is figuring out times. What I’ve been doing is looking for recipes that are similar to what I want to make and I use the cooking times mentioned there. Google and Pinterest have become my best friends.

I recently discovered that acorn squash is absolutely great and so easy to make in the IP! I had only made acorn squash once before and thought it was a pain. It felt like it took forever to roast in the oven and even when it was done, it wasn’t great. In the Instant Pot, it takes only minutes. You just cut, scoop, and season the acorn squash, then add water to the pot with the trivet on top, and place the squash face up in the pot. Set the release valve to the sealing position, set it on manual for 4 minutes and let it naturally release for about 10 minutes.

 
 Acorn Squash Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Acorn Squash
Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

 

The result is the creamiest treat ever. I’ve been eating these for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND dessert! You can check out my dessert/breakfast recipe for applesauce stuffed acorn squash further down in this post.

Broths

I found that I’ve been using a ton of vegetable broth lately and go through it really fast. I’ve been saving all of my vegetable scraps to make my own at this point. I keep them in a Ziploc in the freezer and once every two weeks, I dump them into the IP, I use a rinsed out milk carton that I saved, fill it with water and pour it on top of the scraps.

You can add whatever dried herbs you want, then seal the lid, hit the broth button and walk away. When the timer goes off, take off the lid and let it cool. Then, just strain out the veggies and pour the broth into a container for later use.

Recipes

Breakfast Bean and Bulgur Bowl (serves 5)

Ingredients

1 cup bulgur
2 cups broth
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp minced ginger
1-2 tsp allspice

Toppings (optional)

Fresh fruit or frozen berries

Directions

1. Put the cup of bulgur and 2 cups of broth into the IP. Close the lid and make sure the pressure release valve is set to “sealing”. Press the rice button (it should say 12 minutes). 

2. While the bulgur cooks, mash the beans in a bowl.

3. When the timer goes off, CAREFULLY release the pressure and open the lid AWAY FROM YOUR BODY after the pin is totally down.

4. Fluff the bulgur with a fork and add the ginger, allspice, turmeric, and beans. Mix well.

5. Scoop into a bowl and top with fresh fruit.* Each serving should be about 3/4 cups.
*If you’re using frozen fruit, you can throw it into the pot and close the lid for 10 minutes so it can thaw. Mix it around before scooping into bowls. 


Basic Hummus

The great thing about making hummus is that it’s totally customizable. You start with the base of pureed chickpeas and add ingredients little by little until you get the right flavor for you.

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas (rinsed and picked through for bad ones)
3 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tbsp tahini (optional)
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Additional Add-Ins (optional)

Sun-dried tomatoes
Olives
Herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
Jalapenos
Roasted red peppers

Directions

1. Put the dried chickpeas and the liquid into the IP, seal the lid, and make sure the valve is set to “sealing.” Manually set the pressure for high, 40 minutes.

2. Let the pressure naturally release. After the natural release finishes, CAREFULLY move the pressure valve to ensure all pressure has been released. Open the lid AWAY FROM YOUR BODY.

3. Using oven mitts, remove the pot and drain the chickpeas. The drained liquid, called aquafaba, can be used for other recipes, so you may want to save it!

4. In a bowl or the pot itself, use an immersion blender to puree the chickpeas. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor.

5. Add the tahini (if you're using it), plus 2 garlic cloves, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper. Continue to blend, stopping to taste it and add more garlic or seasonings if needed. You can add any other ingredients you feel like adding to make it your own.

Additional Ingredients for Pizza Hummus

 Pizza Hummus Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Pizza Hummus
Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

1 1/2 cup Marinara sauce
Basil
Oregano
Garlic powder
Onion powder
4 tbsp Nutritional yeast
Red pepper flakes if desired

Directions

1. Follow the Basic Hummus recipe above.

2. Add the additional pizza hummus ingredients and continue to blend. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

3. Top with parmesan cheese or cashew “parmesan” (recipe below) 


Cashew Parmesan

To make cashew parmesan, throw together 1/4 cup cashews, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, a pinch of garlic powder and salt in the food processor/blender. Blend until it is the consistency of parmesan cheese.


Applesauce Stuffed Acorn Squash (serves 2)

This is great for breakfast OR dessert!

Ingredients

1 acorn squash
~1 to 1.5 cups unsweetened applesauce
Apple pie spice/pumpkin pie spice/cinnamon/allspice (whatever you have!)

Directions

1. Cut your acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

2. Sprinkle some seasoning onto each half of the squash, then fill the squash with unsweetened applesauce and sprinkle a little more seasoning on top of it.

3. Place one cup of water in the IP and put the trivet on top. Place each squash half face up on top of the trivet (fit them in as best as you can). Seal the lid and set the pressure valve to “sealing.”

4. Set the manual pressure for 4 minutes. When finished, let naturally release for about 10 minutes, then open the pressure release valve CAREFULLY to make sure all of the pressure has been released. Open the lid AWAY FROM YOUR BODY.

5. Let the acorn squash sit for a minute or so to cool a bit so you can handle them. You may want to add a little more spice on top before eating. Once cooled, place into a small bowl, or just bite straight into it. Enjoy!
 

So overall, the Instant Pot is the best kitchen investment I’ve ever made. The Instant Pot has replaced my slow cookers (speaking of which, I never even bother slow cooking anything at this point because I can cook it in a fraction of the time using the pressure feature). My mother and I recently made the same lentil soup recipe— mine was done in 20 minutes in the IP. Hers finished in 8 1/2 hours in her slow cooker.

This appliance has saved me time and money, and one of my favorite things is that it’s a “set it and forget it” type of machine. I put in ingredients to cook, and while they cook I can do the dishes, set the table, or even read a book. I feel like I have a lot of extra time on my hands since getting this because I don’t have to constantly check on it and see if it needs to be stirred or if something is burning. The pot will beep and give you a warning that says “BURN” if there is any sort of burning on the bottom of the pot, so you really can just walk away and listen for beeping.

Not only has my Instant Pot saved me time and money, but I feel like I am a meal prep champion. I am able to make big portions of food with such ease. They’re ready to grab throughout the week, which encourages me to stay on track during the week.

You can ultimately make so many meals in this pot. You can even transform your family favorites into a quick Instant Pot meal by searching times for specific ingredients. Many times, I will cook half a meal in the pot and cook the other half on the stove which also saves time and makes cooking much easier.

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