This popular kitchen item is much more than a speedy soup maker.
Whether you’re a gourmet chef or a total cooking newbie, the Instant Pot is equally helpful for serving up delicious meals in a snap. And while the popular pressure cooker is similar to a slow cooker, it offers a lot of versatility beyond making soups, stews, or risotto.
Here, food experts share their favorite out-of-the-box uses for an Instant Pot. Try one (or more) to bust out of a cooking rut, cut down on your prep and cooking time, or whip up a decadent dessert for dinner guests.
Instant Pot Tip #1: Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling in our stomachs when we walk into the kitchen at 4 p.m. to start dinner only to realize the chicken we were planning to make was never defrosted. Typically, the options become takeout or boiling another boring box of pasta, but Elizabeth Barbone, a New York-based cookbook author, says the Instant Pot can come through in the clutch because it can safely cook frozen chicken.
“Simply place frozen, boneless chicken breasts in the bottom of the Instant Pot and add a half cup of water,” she says. You can use chicken broth if you prefer and/or toss in some salt or any other seasonings you like.
For perfectly juicy chicken breast, cook on high pressure for 10 minutes and quick-release the pressure. For shredded chicken, cook on high pressure for 15 minutes and natural-release for five minutes before quick-releasing any remaining pressure.
“The meat will be easily shredded—a perfect use for burrito bowls or pulled chicken with barbecue sauce,” Barbone says.
Need more ideas for how to turn boring chicken breasts into mouthwatering meals? Check out these nine simple recipes.
Instant Pot Tip #2: Make Creamy Mashed Potatoes
“I don’t think I’ve boiled a single potato since I got the Instant Pot,” Barbone says. “Steaming them under pressure intensifies the flavor, and this can make for extra-delicious mashed potatoes.”
How to do it: Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Pour 1 cup of water or milk into the Instant Pot. Arrange a steamer basket on top of the liquid and place the potatoes in the basket. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, and mash with your preferred method—potato masher, handheld mixer, or even a fork—before stirring in your favorite seasonings.
This method works well for any type of potatoes and any serving size, even if you’re cooking for one, Barbone says.
Instant Pot Tip #3: Proof Bread in Half the Time
If you’ve ever made bread from scratch, you know it can be a serious exercise in patience. But with the help of an Instant Pot, you can cut proofing time—the final rise dough undergoes before baking—in half, says Amber Hollis, who creates Instant Pot recipes for her blog, Hollis Homestead.
“Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the Instant Pot,” she says. “Then place your shaped ball of dough in the pot, coating it with the olive oil. Cover with a glass lid and select the ‘Yogurt’ function on the normal setting. When the dough doubles in size, it’s done and ready to bake.”
Instant Pot Tip #4: Master Spaghetti Squash
The most common complaint about spaghetti squash is the mushy, watery texture—which can contribute to bland taste. But this happens only when it’s overcooked. For a truly satisfying pasta alternative, try cooking spaghetti squash in the Instant Pot. You don’t even have to cut it!
First, do a quick test to make sure your whole squash will fit inside your Instant Pot with a small trivet (aka wire rack) on the bottom. “I have a 6-quart Instant Pot and can easily fit a 4-pound squash,” Hollis says.
When you’re ready to cook, pour 1 cup of water into the pot and arrange the trivet on the bottom. Pierce the squash five or six times with a fork and place it on the trivet. Cook on high pressure for seven minutes. When the cooking cycle is complete, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure. When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half and scoop out the cooked squash.
To get a pasta-like texture, use a fork to scrape the squash instead of scooping it out with a spoon, Hollis says.
Instant Pot Tip #5: Make Hard-Boiled Eggs That Peel in Seconds
Hard-boiled eggs are one of the most convenient ways to pack protein into your diet—unless they’re annoyingly hard to peel. Making them in an Instant Pot not only helps prevent shells from sticking, it results in the perfect consistency.
You can use a basic wire rack, but for best results, consider investing in a stackable egg rack, suggests Jessica Randhawa, creator of The Forked Spoon.
“A single wire rack will work the same way, but a stackable egg steamer will allow you to hard boil twice as many eggs at once, helping you make eggs in bulk or a bunch for deviled egg appetizers.”
How to do it: Add 1 cup of water to the Instant Pot and arrange your rack on the bottom. Place eggs on the rack. Cook on high pressure for five minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally for five minutes before quick-releasing the remaining pressure. Immediately transfer the eggs to an ice water bath to stop cooking.
Instant Pot Tip #6: Whip Up a Decadent Cheesecake
“Cheesecake is always baked in a water bath, so by doing it in the Instant Pot, you’re creating a moist environment that gives you a New York style of cheesecake,” Barbone says. “The result comes out extra dense and creamy.”
You can use whatever cheesecake recipe you want. Just make sure it’s in a springform pan that will fit into your Instant Pot (a 7-inch round cake pan works great inside a 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot). When you’re ready to cook, pour 1 cup of water in the Instant Pot and arrange a trivet on the bottom. Place the cake pan on the trivet. Cook on high pressure for 26 minutes, then allow the pressure to naturally release. Finally, indulge in your creamy, mouthwatering dessert.
Instant Pot Tip #7: Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese
From pancakes to pasta to pizza, a dollop of ricotta can add great flavor and texture to your dishes. Skip the packaged stuff and try making your own fresh ricotta in the Instant Pot, suggests Devan Cameron, a Canadian chef and creator of Braised & Deglazed. Follow his simple recipe.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 lemons, juiced
- ½ tsp. salt
What to do: Add the milk, cream, and salt to the Instant Pot and whisk together. Set on the “Sauté” function, bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn off the heat. Be sure to stir the bottom with a spatula frequently to prevent burning.
Add the lemon juice and whisk until combined. Close the lid and set on the “Yogurt” function on low for an hour and a half.
Strain the cheese curds through a cheesecloth and let cool before tying into a tight ball. Let sit overnight in the fridge, then enjoy!
Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!
SilverSneakers members can access live fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here.
Not a member? If you have a Medicare plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.