One Perfectionist with an Instant Pot
December 1, 2016 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What are your best Instant Pot recipes for an anxious, depressed, perfectionist, one-person household?

So on Cyber Monday, I got a 5 qt Instant Pot. I've been eyeing it for a year, with the idea of it making it a lot easier for me to do self-care, cut down on food costs, eat more nutritious and delicious food, and to learn a cool new gadget.

Difficulty level: I deal with issues with massive perfectionism and guilt issues that cause anxiety/depression. I also have a need to 'justify' purchases, and guilt myself if I don't use my new purchases perfectly, for everything, at once, and to replace my stove top! Yes, I see a therapist and have a great support network, but I'm hoping this extra information could help with the answers. I consider Metafilter to be part of my support network.

So what are your best Instant Pot recipes and user advice for a person like me? I didn't grow up using a pressure cooker, just long amounts of boiling on the stove. I'm welcome to meat recipes, but also am interested in learning how to eat a more plant-based diet and would love to learn vegan/vegetarian recipes, especially since Google isn't turning up very descriptive things. I also would like recommendations for how to use an Instant Pot without freaking out and being overwhelmed by all the instructions, and to find some ways that would allow me to go slow. Also, something that is manageable for one person, would allow me to eat stuff for 2-4 days, but not get bored or sick of it.

In terms of what I usually make, on the stove-top I'm comfortable with making curries with prepared curry paste, and other Asian soups like soondubu jigae. I prefer eating authentic Asian food recipes, and not white versions of Asian food, but I'll give anything a go. But otherwise, I tend to eat tofurkey dogs or eat out due to ease and lack of energy, but this gets really expensive and I find myself getting stressed out from a lack of nutrition and a rounded diet of homecooked food. I also don't tend to cook for myself as one person, since I'm more motivated to cook for others than I am for myself. (again, mental health stuff.) Thanks in advance!
posted by yueliang to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 125 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I, too, bought an instant pot on cyber Monday. I haven't opened the box yet because my kitchen is in the final week or two of a remodel, so I have mostly been reading and planning at this point.

This recipe is absolutely at the top of my to-try list.

The "pressure cooker" tag on serious eats has a bunch of other promising suggestions including tomato sauce, Bolognese, several other soups and octopus. Their recipes are pretty rigorously tested and should satisfy a perfectionist.

I'm also incredibly annoyed at the tone/style of most of the instant pot evangelists' sites - theres nothing wrong with being a Midwestern supermom or anything but I have been struggling to find sites that seem to fit my preferred style (both of food and web aesthetics). Eventually I hope to be able to just scale/adjust pressure cooker recipes that are not explicitly for instant pots based on time/pressure.

In the mean time, my list of things to try to cook in it mostly includes a lot of stocks, the chicken pho I linked above, yogurt, and posole.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:42 AM on December 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

posted by mkultra at 11:47 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Useful to keep in mind: With a steamer insert/tray (Bamboo or metal), it's excellent for steaming dumplings or pinch buns or the like.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:49 AM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can have a pot of congee / jook ready in about 45 minutes, if you're into that. I usually make it with broth instead of water, and pork instead of chicken, though you could, of course, skip the meat altogether. It makes a ton, volume-wise, but it's not particularly nutrient-dense (the whole batch is only a cup of rice!), so it's really only 5 or 6 servings.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2016

Best answer: I've had my Instant Pot for a few years, and I love, love, love it. I mostly use the older cookbook Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, which is actually a vegan pressure cooker cookbook. Some reviewers on Amazon complain that it only gives instructions for the old style of stovetop pressure cooker, which is true, but seriously, all you have to do is pick the ingredient that takes the longest to cook (usually beans) and follow the time settings in the Instant Pot booklet for that.

I also make this Berbere stew quite a bit. It's not specifically a pressure cooker recipe, but I just put everything but the tomatoes in the Instant Pot and use the timing suggestion for red lentils. I add the tomatoes afterwards as well as some frozen greens. Because I'm lazy, I use premade berbere spice instead of mixing it myself. I use two teaspoons for the whole recipe, but I am a super wimp when it comes to hot food.

I generally make a big stew or soup once a week and eat it over rice until it's gone. I also really like using it for steaming plain potatoes. I make a bunch and keep them in the refrigerator.
posted by FencingGal at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if it's Asian necessarily, but you might like Filipino Chicken Adobo. It's pretty flexible. You use equal parts vinegar and soy sauce (maybe a half a cup or cup of each), throw in a ton of crushed garlic cloves and a few peppercorns and a bay leaf or two. Then you bring it to a boil and braise (or pressure cook) the chicken until it's done cooking. Personally, I like chicken thighs because they have more flavor, but it's up to you. My dad used to use pork. It's not typically in the recipe, but I like to sear the skin side of the chicken and remove the skin/fat before I start braising. You serve it over rice and you can steam whatever veg you want over the top. The flavors meld into something sharp and silky. My husband hates vinegar and he enjoys this. I'm also getting an Instant Pot in the mail today and this is how I intend to break it in.
posted by Bistyfrass at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Although I do make full recipes in my Instant Pot (my favorite one is risotto - this recipe always comes out perfectly and is infinitely tweak-able -- I always add at least some sort of roasted veggie, stirred in at the very end), I use mine most often for preparing individual ingredients. The booklet that comes with the Instant Pot has a timing chart for pretty much every ingredient, and I've found those times to be quite accurate. My top ones are:

* Steel-cut oats (I make a big batch and reheat in the microwave for breakfasts)
* Rice (using the "Rice" button)
* Big hunks of meat (i.e. big batch of chicken thighs, cubes of pork shoulder, beef stew meat), that I can then use in other recipes
* Dried beans (I use the "quick soak" method discussed in the little booklet and I think it leads to more even cooking than working straight from dry)
* Potato salad ingredients (potato chunks + eggs steam in just 4 minutes and you can do them together -- I put 1 cup water, add the potato chunks, and then gently set the eggs on top of the potatoes! Then you just peel the eggs and have all the makings for potato salad. Of course you can do eggs and potatoes separately too)
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

The "boiled" eggs from my instant pot are so damned reliable and perfect. Sooooooooo fantastic. Here is a good tutorial.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nom Nom Paleo has some killer Instant Pot recipes. I can personally vouch for her Kalua Pig and Salsa Chicken (make it with the thighs, not the chicken breasts). That site's generally an excellent resource, even if you aren't paleo; she's just a very good cook.
posted by protocoach at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You know what my Instant Pot is fucking fantastic for? Flawless versions of really basic things.

- Jasmine rice, and I say this as Chinese-American who grew up in a family that prided itself on its fancy taste in rice. Jasmine rice, rinsed, drained super-well, add an equal volume of water and NOT more as is usual because you need less water to make it in a pressure cook. Turn the instapot to the rice setting, make sure the quick-vent thingy on top is in the "seal" position, and wait until it beeps to let you know the setting has taken. You don't need to make any changes to the defaults. Then walk away.

When done, let it the timer tick over to 10 minutes, then quick-vent and serve. I've accidentally let it sit until 25 or more minutes, and the rice was fine.

It makes rice better than the $300 Zojirushi that I've used. It makes rice good enough to impress my mother. It will make two cups of cooked rice just as well as it makes eight.

- Boiled eggs. Take six chicken eggs and put them in the bottom of the steel insert. Put 1 cup cold tap water in there. Put the pot in, the manual button. For soft-boiled, do manual, three minutes, high pressure with the quick vent at the end and immediate lid removal/filling the stainless steel tub with cold water. Hard boiled, four at high pressure with the quick vent and lazier removal/filling the stainless steel tub with cold water.

The eggs peel like a dream, and I only very occasionally get an egg where the shell cracked a little. Soft-boiled eggs go great into noodles; hard-boiled eggs make good breakfast for one.

- Caramelized onions. Much less stirring!
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:38 PM on December 1, 2016 [19 favorites]

With a steamer insert/tray (Bamboo or metal), it's excellent for steaming dumplings or pinch buns or the like.

Worth pointing out in case the connection is not obvious to you: you can buy these frozen at an Asian market or Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and steam from frozen if you don't feel like making your own.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:39 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're worried about using the appliance correctly, start with a "water test" that basically just tests that the pot will come up to pressure, and then make hardboiled eggs. Hip Pressure Cooking has a pressure cooking course, if having something structured is appealing. The vegan instant pot book on facebook may be helpful for the plant-based aspect, although there's a lot of folks mixing an additional special diet in with veganism (fat free, high fat low carb, paleo, etc.), and folks tend to use a lot of specialty / $$ ingredients.

I use the instant pot for dry beans all the time, as well as brown rice and steel-cut oats. Being able to walk away and come back to warm food is awesome. Just follow the water ratios and time in the booklet. Beans and oats are nice because it's fine if they're overcooked a bit. Then I use the base ingredients to make more varied dishes for the week. I'll make soups by sauteeing aromatics in the pot, then add in the cooked beans and other ingredients and pressure cook briefly to get everything hot (you can also use the hottest saute function to boil, I live in a small apartment and like to minimize steam). You can add fresh noodles at the end and cook them in the lava-hot pressure-cooked soup. Or just use the base ingredients as you usually would.

I also make red lentil curry a lot - saute onions and packaged curry paste, then add water/broth, beans, a can of coconut milk, and a starchier veg (carrot chunks, sweet potato chunks). Don't fill over halfway. I like to cook this into total mush (20 mins?), and serve over rice. You can stir in more delicate veg like cucumber chunks or frozen peas at the end. You could make this more authentically Indian, but this works for me.
posted by momus_window at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I make chili every week in mine, using it as a slow cooker and not a pressure cooker. Are you looking only for pressure cooker recipes?

From the slow cooker perspective: Cook's Illustrated "Slow Cooker Revolution" is the best cookbook I've found (and where my chili recipe originally came from, although I've changed it).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2016

Best answer: Loads of pressure cooker dal recipes online that take virtually no time in an instant pot, and are ready insanely quickly. I tend to freestyle, but have used hybrids of these two in the past.

You'll get a lot of Nom Nom Paleo recommendations I expect - I especially like the Kalua Pig (linked above) and Bo Kho recipes (especially the Bo Kho...)

There's a seriously good ragu bolognaise recipe on Serious Eats, but it's a fair amount of work, but makes a big batch and freezes well. Worth making for sure.

And anything that you can use ox cheek for is fully amazing in a pressure cooker - I've used this Boeuf Bourguignon recipe in my Instant Pot before, and the Serious Eats chili recipe (made with cheek instead of chuck), adapted for the Instant Pot is great too.

I often start the week with a big batch of soup of some sort (scotch broth, or oxtail, or something chicken based). No recipes needed - just a base stock made from a big batch of cheap meat cuts (chicken wings; lamb neck etc with aromatics) cooked for 45 mins, then the aromatics removed and replaced with fresh vegetables, rice or whatever and the meat picked off the bone. Lasts all week and is super-tasty for very little effort.

Finally - it's pretty simple, but there was a recipe for creme brulee in the booklet that came with my instant pot. It's super-simple, but making baked custards the traditional way in a bain marie in the oven is such a faff, that I really appreciated the recipe and make them all the time now.
posted by bifter at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One thing to remember if you're trying to time dinner is that it can take a long time to come up to pressure before the timer actually starts. So if you're cooking something that says it takes 30 minutes, it's actually 30 minutes PLUS coming up to pressure. If you tend to be anxious, it would probably be best to experiment when you have some extra time rather than trying to start off with something that needs to be ready at a specific time.

Also, the Instant Pot comes with a bunch of booklets and paper that you don't actually need, and that sounds like it could seem overwhelming for you. Just remember that you don't really need most of it. It's OK to take your time deciding what is useful. I only use the booklet with the timing information for various foods now.
posted by FencingGal at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @momus_window : not only pressure cooker recipes! I welcome anything that helps me make the most use of this.

Also for extra clarification on who I am and my background, I'm a 2nd generation Chinese American from the Bay Area, California that grew up eating various types of Asian food, East/Southeast/South included, along with the occasional Chipotle bol and California Mexican restaurant. I've made braised meats, noodle soups and Chipotle bols before without an Instant Pot, so if this helps, I also like easy tasty food that can be adapted from restaurants or awesome cookbooks that would usually be used on a stove top. Hope this helps for more information , all of your suggestions are amazing so far!
posted by yueliang at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am also a kind of anxious perfectionist, and I love how my instant pot kind of makes me not anxious? FWIW, I was nervous about starting to use it because I'm used to the "cook a little, check on it" stove top method of cooking, and I thought OH NO I HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TRY HOW CAN I DO THIS? But that's not actually true. You can cook something, release the pressure, start it up again, no big deal. I've found it much more forgiving than I expected.

Honestly, when I'm looking for a recipe, I just google and pick whatever has the most useful looking comments and best ratings. I've only had maybe two fails, ever, and one was a long shot almond milk yogurt, which to be honest, just wasn't going to work at my skill level. That's like graduate level cooking, I think.

I've cooked everything from Mac and cheese, to artichokes, to a really delicious beef stew, to rice, yogurt, many different soups, and an amazing navy bean dish that I wish I'd bookmarked. Really, one perfectionist to another: relax, this will be fun. Just use it a LOT, and you'll feel justified in buying in. And happy.
posted by instamatic at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2016

I bought my Instant Pot on a whim, despite hating kitchen appliances and also hating to cook. Now? I can actually tear up just thinking about how much I love it. I make congee every week, and it is so simple. And it makes no mess. I just toss in shitake, ginger, turmeric, garlic, chicken thighs, one cup of rice, and 7 cups of a mix of water and homemade beef/chicken broth (that I also make painlessly and shockingly quickly in my instant pot--with tons of collagen and goodness.) Sometimes I add a strip of kombu and fish sauce to the pot. I also steam spaghetti squash in mine (8 min), and it cooks potatoes in about 5 minutes. I make a wonderful stew regularly: I just saute stew meat and onions right inside the Instant Pot, then toss in some canned tomatoes, garlic, and carrots, press the 'stew' button, and minutes later I have a delicious stew that I can eat for 3-4 days. I've never had a single thing come out of my Instant Pot that wasn't perfect in my estimation. I do always look up other people's cooking times, and never guess, so that helps. As for a specific resource: I love NomNomPaleo's recipes. I hope you enjoy yours!
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have an Instant Pot, but two pressure cookers, and I use them all the time. One of the things I like best is that I can make dishes which normally take a whole Sunday to cook on a normal weekday. Among them are tough cuts of meat. Today I found really cheap pork jowls and oxtails, and I bought both, because we can make one tomorrow and the other Saturday with no stress. I haven't decided on the recipe, but everything can be adapted. This works for small portions too, I often use it just for me.
At least once a week, I make a chicken broth. That alone is worth the entire investment in a pressure cooker, or an Instant Pot. My daughter isn't always home, so I freeze down the broth in smaller portions, for all ways of soup, risotto, stews, improving a gravy, making bolognese and also just a cup of broth instead of tea on a cold day. And other stuff I have forgotten. If I'm alone, I'll just buy the legs instead of a whole chicken. After 15-20 mins, the meat will be cooked and I'll debone the legs and throw the bones back into the broth for another 20 mins before straining.
I don't use it a lot for vegetable dishes because it is almost too fast for me. If the main course is finished in 5 mins, when do I cook the rice or make the salad?
Even with several years of experience with my cookers, I often google cooking times. Sometimes I find inspiration while doing so.
posted by mumimor at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2016

Best answer: This chicken, lentil, and bacon stew with carrots has been my favorite pressure cooker recipe this year. It's oddly fun to make, foolproof, and so rich and delicious, way more than the sum of its parts.
posted by HotToddy at 3:17 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Instant pot makes an excellent, easy tteokbokki. Here's my basic approach, which I adapted from standard stovetop tteokbokki recipes.

2 c water
1 sheet dried kelp (about 6x8in sq)
8-10 small dried anchovies
4 eggs (optional)

Add water, kelp, and anchovies to pot. Set in the trivet and place the eggs on top of the trivet. Close/lock the lid, turn the vent knob to pressure (back), hit manual and adjust the time to 7 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to build up to pressure--the timer won't start until it's fully pressurized. In the meanwhile, prep all your other ingredients, which are:

1 lb tteokbokki rice cakes
1/2 lb fish cake (you can be pretty flexible with what kind of fish cake you use, sheets, balls, squares, whatevs...)
~1/3 c gochujang
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1-3 teaspoons dried hot pepper flakes (optional)
~1 cup chopped Napa cabbage
2-3 sliced green onions

When the stock is done, flip the pressure knob forward and allow all the steam to release (use an implement the first few times you do this until you get used to how the steam comes rushing out when you release the vent). When the silver button pops down (may take a couple minutes), open the lid, lift out the eggs and put them in a dish of cold water, pour out the stock into a large measuring cup or bowl, and dump out the kelp and anchovies. Rinse any sand out of the liner pot, then put it back in the cooker with all the remaining ingredients and the stock. Stir to mix, lock the lid, flip the pressure knob back, and press manual (the buttons have a "memory" so the number 7 should be on the screen). It will pause briefly before starting the cycle. While this cycle is completing, run the eggs under cold water until they're cool enough to handle, then peel. Be amazed at how easily pressure cooked eggs peel. Really amazed.

After it completes the cycle, quick-release the pressure again, open up and behold. Drop in your eggs and give them a stir and that's it! This makes a fairly thick sauced tteokbokki. If you like your sauce a little thinner, you can up the water to 2.5 cups.

This makes about 3 servings. I have, however, cooked up to 4 lbs of tteokbokki rice cakes in my 6 qt instant pot so you can certainly double this recipe for the 5 qt version. No times need to be adjusted when increasing the volume--it will just take longer for the whole mess to come up to pressure and begin the countdown.
posted by drlith at 4:08 PM on December 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've also used it, by the way, for soondubu jjigae and other nameless "Asian style" soups/stews using whatever I have on hand, along with "from dried beans to delicious chili in an hour" type recipes and I really feel that it is the soup/stew category in general where the Instant Pot really shines. Pretty much for most soups that don't involve dried pulses, 5-10 minutes is the right amount of time and anything in that range will not be underdone or grossly overcooked. So with a little practice, I feel confident you'll be able to adapt your favorite stovetop recipes for the instant pot.
posted by drlith at 4:19 PM on December 1, 2016

Best answer: I use my pressure cooker almost every day. Lunch is often a legume plus a grain of some sort. I find the "dal" or split legumes cook quickly and efficiently. I often combine about 40 grams of either barley or bulgur and about 40 grams of a split lentil with half a tilapia filet. Soy sauce plus garlic - chili paste is the only seasoning. Cook for 20 minutes. Add chopped mixed vegetables. To thicken the result I sometimes add powdered peanut butter, such as PB2.
posted by Tube at 6:49 PM on December 1, 2016

Best answer: I've been having fun working my way through this list from Serious Eats: 15 Speedy Pressure Cooker Recipes to Save Your Weeknights. Most of them make more than I can eat in a few days, but the leftovers seem to freeze really well.

I should also say you'll need to factor in time for prep and about 15-20 minutes for the pot to come up to pressure in addition to the cooking time. The recipes on the list are reasonably low effort and will get dinner on the table in about an hour, which is fine, but I don't really think of that as "speedy."
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 9:04 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Backing up from these various tasty recipes, it's hard to ruin food in an Instant Pot because wet cooking is just really reliable. It won't burn because it doesn't let much water out so it stays wet, and everything will cook and the flavors will meld because hot water and steam do those things very well. You might find a recipe you don't like much, but that's a discovery, not a failure.
posted by clew at 12:26 AM on December 2, 2016

Oh -- and I sometimes halve recipes, if I want food soonest or if I think I'd be bored before done. Tuba Toothpaste is right that the coming-up-to-heat time can be noticeable.
posted by clew at 12:29 AM on December 2, 2016

Best answer: You can significantly reduce the time the Instant Pot takes to come to pressure by starting out on the Saute setting, as noted in the second tip of this video.

I've only had my Instant Pot a month but it has made food prep so much more pleasant. I had all the same reservations and hesitations as you when I first started but I've found this device truly intuitive and sort of freeing. It's really nice not to have to check the stove while something is cooking.

I started out doing the Water Test just to get the hang of things and quickly moved on to Actual Food. I found this webpage reassuring in the very beginning.

After I'd mastered the Water Test (hah!) I made an awesome dal my first week and then a lovely minestrone. Since then, 2 kinds of stock, excellent garlic mashed potatoes and dozens of boiled eggs. Looking forward to making Cuban Black Beans and more dal! There are recipes galore gathered here.

Have fun!!
posted by 6thsense at 6:29 AM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I make this recipe all the dang time: budget bytes pressure cooker chicken
I use a generous amount of "Cajun spice" and chicken legs (like this) instead of a whole split chicken. It does require use of a broiler to crisp up the skin but you just do that while the rice is cooking.

I haven't tried freezing the leftover rice from this recipe, but usually when I make a big batch of rice I'll freeze the leftovers as single-serving portions in plastic baggies (take out of the bag and microwave in a bowl to reheat). This might help you feel like you're getting your money's worth and not wasting food?

Anyway, good luck! I always feel like I'm performing a science experiment when I use my pressure cooker :)
posted by astrid at 10:14 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Mental Illness Success Stories   |   Darling it's better/down where it's wetter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.