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  1. Cooking

Got an Instant Pot? Here's a beginner's guide to pressure cooking, and our favorite starter recipes

SCOTT KEELER | Times Instanpot- \u201Cbefore\u201D shot of the sauted chicken, veggies, dry noodles and broth. It takes 6 minutes of pressure cooking, but in reality that\u2019s about 25 minutes total.

It's becoming a regular routine for me after Amazon Prime Day — another batch of my friends snag a deal on the Instant Pot pressure cooker, so I send out another batch of my favorite recipes.

Welcome to the cult, folks.

I never meant to join the more than 1.5 million people on the pressure cooker's Facebook fan page, but here I am. I actually rolled my eyes and complained about it taking up my precious counter space when my husband picked up an Instant Pot, some three Prime Days ago.

And then I made the most delicious, tender beef stew in under an hour. I was a goner.

They don't advertise. With only online word of mouth generating heat, the pressure cooker bubbled to the surface to become the "it" appliance of 2016. And it's been gaining steam ever since, with cooks gushing over the time savings (15 minutes to cook dried chickpeas versus 90 minutes on the stovetop) and the intense flavor that comes from high pressure.

After the Prime Day of 2017, my colleague Steve Contorno sought out my advice and entered the cult. Being a vegan, he is using it at least once a week to save time on beans, lentils and starchy veggies like potatoes and butternut squash. He shares one of his favorite recipes below.

If you are a newbie, here's the advice I hand out to those still a little fearful, remembering the rattling pressure cooker on their grandmas' stovetops that sometimes sent pea soup flying to the ceiling:

• Start simple. Save that multi-ingredient, multi-step recipe for when you are a little more familiar with the machine.

• Know that the word "instant" in the title can be misleading. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes for the unit to heat up enough to create steamy pressure and another 10 to 15 minutes for the steam to naturally release when finished. So the 20-Minute Beef Stew from the Williams Sonoma cookbook takes about an hour start to finish. That's still better than the three hours it would take on the stovetop or all day in a slow cooker.

• Consider buying an extra set of sealing rings (about $12 for two) because the silicone rings tend to hold onto the smells of previously cooked dishes, like curry. Some people use separate rings for sweet and savory dishes.

• Familiarize yourself with different ways to release the pressure that builds up when cooking in your Instant Pot. "Natural release" means you leave the machine alone and let the steam slowly release on its own, which takes about 15 minutes. "Quick release" means you open the vent and let it blast. With the latter release, spare your cabinets and move the unit to an open area to release the blast of steam, which can damage wood surfaces.


Here are my favorite recipes for newbies, from the ridiculously easy to moderately complex, that you really must try. Take note: Instant Pots default to high pressure mode, and most recipes I use call for that setting. So keep an eye out for recipes that call for low pressure.


Eggs, as many as you want to cook

Put the eggs on the trivet, so they aren't touching the bottom of the Instant Pot, and add 1 cup of water.

Press the Manual button, and input the following times on the high pressure setting:

Soft-boiled: 3 minutes (2 minutes for very runny yolk)

Hard-boiled but a little softer (like for deviled eggs): 4 minutes

Hard-boiled: 5 minutes

Cook eggs according to desired time. When time is up, do a quick release and dump the eggs into an ice bath. The shells will slip off with ease when done.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


4 to 6 red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (my preference is skin-on but peel if you like)

3 to 4 garlic cloves, diced

1 cup broth of choice

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup chopped fresh chives or parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

Splash of milk, more as needed

Sour cream (optional)

Put potatoes, garlic and broth in pressure cooker and cook on manual high pressure for 5 minutes. Do a quick release of the steam when done.

Add butter, parsley, salt and pepper, milk (add more if potato mixture is too thick) and sour cream to taste and stir well. Potatoes may look a little soupy at first but will be thick and creamy after you mash them and add the rest of the ingredients.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


2 pounds chicken (I prefer thighs)

1 cup salsa

Cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally, about 10-15 minutes. Then shred chicken and serve with rice and beans or as a taco or burrito filling.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


2 cups broth

2 cups brown rice

1 tablespoon of your favorite seasoning mix (I like a citrus-flavored grill seasoning)

1 tablespoon butter

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon lime zest

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Add water, rice, butter and seasoning to Instant Pot and cook it on manual high pressure for 24 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally.

When the rice is done, stir in the juice of one lime, the lime zest and fresh cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste or add more lime if you like.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


Use bigger noodles like corkscrew, penne or egg to hold up to the pressure.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

½ cup chopped yellow onion

4 button mushrooms sliced

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes

1 cup diced carrots

2 celery ribs diced

1 cup diced bell peppers

Handful of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, whatever you have)

1?½ cup dried noodles

2 cups chicken broth

1?½ cups water

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Press saute button on Instant Pot. Let it warm up for a minute and add olive oil. Saute chicken
1 minute, add garlic and stir. Add mushrooms and onion, stirring often until vegetables have softened.

Add remaining ingredients, making sure the noodles are covered with liquid.

Cook on manual high pressure for 6 minutes. When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


Four cups of water is just enough to cook 1 pound (16 ounces) of pasta. No draining is necessary; the water will be absorbed by the pasta. If you have a smaller box of pasta, such as the 12 ounces and 13.25 ounce sizes common for whole wheat pasta, cut the water to 3 cups. Everything else can stay the same.

4 cups water

1 pound (16 ounces) dried elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt

12-ounce can evaporated milk

2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Gouda cheese

For a Bread Crumb Topping (optional):

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt and water into the pressure cooker. Lock the lid and cook on manual high pressure for 4 minutes. When the cooking time is done, quick release the pressure and remove the lid.

Turn the cooker down to Keep Warm mode and stir in the evaporated milk. Test a piece of pasta by taking a bite. You can simmer it for a few minutes more if you like it more tender. Stir in the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

For the toasted bread crumb topping: Preheat the oven broiler on high. Pour the macaroni into a 3-quart broiler-safe dish. Sprinkle the panko over the macaroni and cheese in an even layer. Broil until the bread crumbs are toasted, about 5 minutes.

Source: Adapted from


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground tumeric

¼ teaspoon cardamom

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

28-ounce can tomato sauce

14 ounce can chickpeas

13.5 ounce can of coconut milk

½ cup of chopped fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil on saute mode, then add garlic and onions. Saute until onions become translucent. Add sweet potatoes and spices and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot and add the rest of the ingredients.

Cook on manual high pressure for 8 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally, which will take about 10 minutes, or you can do a quick release. Either way is fine.

Stir, and serve over cooked basmati rice or vegan naan.

Source: Adapted from Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor


I've set out a large pot of this oatmeal with a range of toppings for the office and also at the house for occasions like Christmas morning. To make a double batch, use 2 cups steel cut oats and 5 cups of water.

1 cup oats

3 cups water

Toppings: Brown sugar, mini chocolate chips, sliced strawberries, blueberries, coconut flakes, walnuts, granola, maple syrup, honey, cinnamon, milk

Grease the pot with oil or cooking spray. Add oats and water, and cook on manual high pressure for 4 minutes. Let steam release naturally. It will take about 25 minutes total.

Set out toppings in small bowls and serve oatmeal right from the Instant Pot.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


14-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

5 or 6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground paprika

2 teaspoons garam masala, divided

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)

4 ounces butter, cut into cubes, or ½ cup coconut oil

½ cup heavy (whipping) cream or full-fat coconut milk

¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 to 3 cups cooked rice

Mix the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, cumin and salt in the Instant Pot. Place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce.

Cook for 10 minutes on manual high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally. Carefully remove the chicken and set it aside.

Using an immersion blender in the pot, blend together the ingredients into a smooth sauce. Let the sauce cool for several minutes.

Add the butter cubes, cream, remaining teaspoon of garam masala and cilantro. Stir until well incorporated. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when you're done.

Remove half of the sauce and freeze it for later, or refrigerate for as long as three days.

Add the chicken back to the sauce. Heat the Instant Pot by selecting saute, then adjust to less for low heat. Let the chicken heat through. Break it up into smaller pieces, if you like, but don't shred it.

Serve over rice.

Source: Urvashi Pitre