How to Use an Instant Pot for Easy Meal Prep + 7 Recipes to Try!

5 ways to use an Instant Pot {or any electric pressure cooker} for speeding up meal prep, plus 7 gluten-free, dairy-free Instant Pot recipes to try.

Have you hopped on the Instant Pot bandwagon yet? I don’t know when this became the latest cooking craze, but it seems to be popping up everywhere. Saying “pressure cooker” makes it sound old school, homey, and quaint, but “Instant Pot” makes it sound new, cool, and hip. Ok, maybe not quite cool or hip, but whatever you want to call it I’m a fan.

The beauty of an electric pressure cooker {which is really what the Instant Pot is} is that it has the convenience and ease of a slow cooker, but makes things FAST. {Which perhaps you gathered from the word instant.} But it’s a mostly hands-off, quick way to prepare a meal. What busy mom doesn’t hear music ringing in her ears for that?

I guess you’d say the Instant Pot has a little bit of a learning curve – honestly I was terrified to use it for the first time – but now that I’m over the initial hump I’m in love. I’m still in the learning phase but I couldn’t help but jump in here and share. While I’ve made a few winner-meals, my absolute favorite thing to use an electric pressure cooker for is helping with healthy meal prep. The key to surviving the busy chaos of dinner time, especially with tiny ones literally underfoot, is having things ready to go ahead of time and making it as hands-free as possible.

Instant Pot for the double win.

instant pot for meal prep

Here’s how I’ve been using it to help with food prep lately. I’d love to hear your ideas too! Plus below are some meals that are on my to-make agenda, in case you’re looking for a few ideas yourself.

By the way, these will work with any electric pressure cooker, “Instant Pot” is just a brand. I have the 6 qt 6-in- 1, but there’s also a 7-in-1 {I believe the added function is yogurt maker} and 5 and 8 qt sizes.



Instant Pot for Food Prep

Hardboiled Eggs

There are a million options for how to make hardboiled eggs in an Instant Pot, but what that really tells you is that it’s hard to mess up. Now, granted, I have cracked a few eggs – but they’ve still been edible. The main reason I keep using the pressure cooker for hardboiled eggs is because they’re super easy to peel! They don’t take long and I don’t have to leave a hot pan on the stove.

I’ve been using the 5-5-5 method: cook for 5 minutes, let the pressure release naturally {NPR} for 5 minutes, then a 5 minute ice bath.

You can also apparently cook them for 2-3 minutes, let the pressure release naturally and just leave them til you feel like it, but I like the ice bath so I can eat or use them right away.

Dry Beans

Beans are my go-to pantry meal. Whenever I don’t know what’s for dinner or didn’t make it to the store, beans it is. I love the idea of making them from dry beans instead of a can, but then you have to plan ahead {soaking, long cook time, etc.} But with the Instant Pot, plan ahead no more!

There are lots of ways to do it {many skip the “soak” part all together}, but here’s what I’ve been doing:

Cook the beans on high pressure for 2 minutes, then use them in your recipe as normal {or if you’re just prepping beans for other meals, use the “Bean” setting – great for popping in the fridge or freezer for meals throughout the week.} Use about 4 cups of water or broth for each cup of beans. {“Soaking” helps breakdown the indigestible sugars that give us the infamous bean song.}

My favorite bean-prep combo has been black beans, minced chorizo, onions, chicken broth, bay leaf, and oregano. So yummy.

Baked Potatoes

There are lots of ways to “hack” a baked potato prep {like using a slow cooker or the microwave} but here’s another for you: baked potatoes in the Instant Pot.

Poke some holes in your potatoes with a fork, put them in the pressure cooker with a cup of water for 12 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally {NPR}. We’ve been eating them straight out of the pot like this, but you can also pop them in the over for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.

Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash {although not as an actual spaghetti substitute} but finding the time to bake it ahead of time and then use it in a recipe on top of that means I’d never do it. Using the Instant Pot makes it easy – cut it in half {through the round side, not lengthwise} so it fits in the pot with a cup of water. Cook for 7 minutes then do a quick pressure release {aka just open the valve}. Let it cool down a little then scoop out the seeds and make the magic happen.

Frozen Chicken

By far my favorite use of the Instant Pot vs the slow cooker. I’m all about my slow cooker but you still have to plan and remember to defrost your meat or put your meal in early enough. With a pressure cooker, you can just pop the meat in frozen. It takes a little bit longer to come to pressure, but cooks quickly and is one of my favorite ways to get dinner on the table in a hurry.

I use it mostly for chicken. You can use any sauce or flavor combo you want {salsa is a popular go-to around here}; just make sure you have a cup of liquid. I typically do half whatever sauce I’m using and a half water or broth. Set the Instant Pot to “Poultry” or 10  minutes, then do a natural pressure release {NPR}. Ta-da. I like shredded this up and using it for meals throughout the week.

Tip: you can speed up how long it takes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure by putting it on “Saute” mode beforehand.


Instant Pot Recipe Ideas || Gluten Free Dairy Free

Ok so there are my tips for using the Instant Pot for meal prep. Although I love it for meal prep alone, it’s also great for throwing together hands-off, last-minute meals. I need to re-make and perfect a few of the recipes we’ve been experimenting with before sharing, but in the mean time, here’s a few on my to-make list.

Chicken Pho

chicken-pho instant pot

Ok, truth? I’ve never had pho. But I reallly like the idea of it. Looks delicious and soul warming and spicy and delicious. Oh I said that already. But the fact that I can cook the chicken and make a hearty broth all at once just sucks me right it. Plus I love a good play on words so you had me at Faux Pho.

Chicken Faux Pho from The Sophisticated Caveman.

Chili Lime Chicken

chili lime chicken instant pot

The versatility of this simple staple speaks to me. Chicken and rice. Tacos. Lettuce wraps. Salad. I’m in. Plus you can’t go wrong with chili and lime.

Chili Lime Chicken from Our Best Bites

Beef & Broccoli

beef and broccoli instant pot

I’m not really a beef person, but if my husband says “Chicken agaaaain?” one more time, someone’s gonna get hurt. Since I’m an awesome wife, this former vegetarian is taking one for the team. And since I reallllly like Chinese food but can’t get takeout {kiddo’s soy allergy}, this sounds like the next best thing.

Beef & Broccoli from Pressure Cooker Today

Korean Black-eyed Peas

korean-blackeyed-peas-instant pot

I love that this has a Korean twist AND it’s meatless. I can only think of one Korean dish I’ve made and it was delicious, so it’s time to add to my repertoire. Blackeye peas just happen to be one of my southern husband’s most favorite foods so I’m hoping he won’t notice the lack of manly meat.

Korean-Inspired Black-eyed Peas & Kale from Fat Free Vegan

Butternut Squash Risotto

butternut squash risotto instant pot

Yes, you read that right: risotto. In the same post with instant in the title. I love risotto but not the time-intensive involvement of standing at the stove stirring for 20 minutes. I probably haven’t made risotto since, well, before I had kids, because…kids. Kids + stoves + long time = nope. So yeah, trying this out for sure. Plus thought it looks creamy, I assure you it’s dairy free.

Butternut Squash Risotto from Make Real Food

Braised Cabbage

braised cabbage instant pot

To me, “braise” means “take forever”. I know it’s totally not true, but I always avoid recipes that calling for braising because of that. This solves that. Plus it’s just a fun veggie-filled way to use a pressure cooker.

Sweet and Spicy Braised Cabbage from The Kitchn

White Chicken Chili


Those jalapenos are just calling mine name. Like I really need another chili recipe. Or chicken recipe. But this sounds like one that wouldn’t be hard to mess up as a pressure cooker newbie.

White Chicken Chili from Allergy Free Alaska

Snag an Instant Pot here!

Do you use a pressure cooker for meal prep or easy meals? I’d love to hear your tips and favorite recipes!

Buttermilk Apple Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten Free}

Take your gluten free pancakes to the next level with this buttermilk apple pancakes recipe. They’re dairy free and vegan too.

Ok, I know it’s not apple season yet, but I just can’t wait until fall to dig into some apples. I’ve been buying gala apples by the 5lb bag and can’t seem to make them last long enough. I cannot wait until we can go apple-picking and grab some fresh ones – hopefully we can actually make that happen this year.

Gluten free pancakes with apple three ways

Anyways, I’m all about some apple and these gluten free pancakes include it in not one, but three ways. Feel free to stick to just one, but why stop there when you can get triple the apple action? I may have called them “buttermilk” pancakes, but don’t be fooled – these pancakes are dairy-free and gluten-free too.

Dairy free buttermilk pancakes recipe

By adding apple cider vinegar {wait, does that mean there are apples FOUR ways?}, to the Almond Breeze Almondmilk, you can “fake” a buttermilk-like effect.

dairy free almond milk

vegan pancake recipe

For super apple power, top these gluten free pancakes with chunks of apple {I like to sprinkle mine with lemon juice and cinnamon} and add a dollop of fresh homemade apple butter.

buttermilk apple pancake recipes

Apple Buttermilk Gluten Free Pancakes

by Heather Neal


  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour {I use oat flour}
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Almond Breeze Almondmilk Original
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 cup diced apples
  • apple butter {store-bought or easy apple butter recipe here}


Mix apple cider vinegar and almond milk together. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients except apples.

Stir in milk mixture.

Gently fold in apples.

Heat a skillet to medium; cook pancakes several minutes on each side. {Flip when you see air bubbles or the edges start to dry.}

Serve with extra apples & apple butter on top.

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For more recipes using almond milk, check these out –>

almond milk recipes

Funfetti Cinnamon Rolls

Vegan Queso Blanco

Green Monster Cubes

Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls

Toasted Almond Scones

Vegan Chocolate Chip Sticky Buns


This post was originally sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

This easy healthy chicken salad recipe with pecans and cranberries takes just minutes to whip up and makes the perfect entree, appetizer, or snack. It’s gluten free and dairy free too. Jump to Recipe

One of the things that comes along with moving is restocking the pantry. Of course, I hauled over a cooler of snacks the very first day we had keys to the house, but since we couldn’t actually move in for a few weeks after that, I impatiently waited to do a full re-stock.

We didn’t move that far, but I’m still learning the area and what’s closest to us. First up: grocery stores.

The prices at the first one I checked out were pleasantly surprising, especially the produce section, and though not super extensive, I was impressed with the gluten-free/allergy-friendly sections. I saw one right off the bat when we walked in the door and found another mid-way through our journey. As much as I like seeing gluten-free options on the shelves right along side everything else, it’s nice and convenient to be able to go to one section and grab and go instead of hunting.

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with pecans and cranberries

Food Lion also has a new online recipe portal that was helpful for coming up with ideas for some meals to cook in our first week in our new home. I’m used to having staples in the kitchen, so it was a good reminder of what I needed to toss in the cart for this first big shopping trip. The portal is easy to navigate, user-friendly, and has a good variety of ideas. I jotted down some gluten-free cinnamon rolls, paleo zucchini muffins, and pesto pizza rolls for the husband.

I’ve also contributed to the recipe portal with one of my favorite grocery store deli counter inspired options: cranberry pecan chicken salad.

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with Pecans and Cranberries {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

This cranberry pecan chicken salad recipe takes just minutes to whip up and makes the perfect entree, appetizer, or snack. It's gluten free and dairy free too.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 rotisserie chicken shredded
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 T minced parsley
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
  2. Combine chicken, cranberries, pecans, celery, and parsley.
  3. Mix in mayo mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Healthy chicken salad recipe - gluten free dairy free

I love using rotisserie chickens because they’re already cooked and ready to go, plus they have a ton of flavor, but feel free to use any kind of chicken you have.

Rotisserie chicken salad recipe

This healthy chicken salad recipe is one of my favorite easy recipes for the whole family, especially because it’s on of the few “normal” entrees my three year old eats without complaining. The secret to all things toddler food: Craisins. Shh don’t tell.

Cranberry pecan chicken salad recipe - gluten free dairy free

So next time you’re looking for an easy chicken salad recipe, try this. I like making a big batch at the beginning of the week and snacking on it for a few days. We use it as a sandwich filler, an appetizer served with tortilla chips, and a green salad topper, although most of the time we eat it right out of the bowl with a fork.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Click here for more Gluten Free Dairy Free Recipes that won’t leave you trapped in the kitchen for hours or hunting down a million bizarre ingredients.

Salted Caramel Snack Balls

These high protein snacks for kids {or adults!} pack a whopper of a protein punch, along with great flavor. Perfect for hungry kids or post-workout refueling. Bonus: they’re no bake, gluten free, and dairy free!

Salted caramel high protein snack balls - gluten free, dairy free

I’m a serious, serious snacker. The three {or even four} meals a day thing just does not float my boat. Apparently I’ve passed that trait onto my three year old, who is constantly {constantly} asking for a snack.

I do my best to make sure they’re filling and healthy snacks for kids, in secret hopes it will fill him up enough to stop asking me for a minute. {It doesn’t usually work}. But I do make my best effort to have high protein snacks for kids that meet both of our taste requirements, plus are gluten free and dairy free. {Since clearly I’ll snack on them too.}

healthy snacks for kids

High Protein Snack Balls {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

Healthy snack balls of all kind are on a weekly rotation around here. I typically make a bunch then store them in the freezer for easy snacking. This week we mixed our standard protein ball recipe up a bit by using flavored almonds, and now I want to go make a batch with every flavor offered.

We got these two flavors from Blue Diamond, the Salted Caramel and Blueberry almonds, and they are so good by themselves it was almost a crime to use them in a recipe. But a crime worth committing because my three year old is busy not asking me “why?” for the millionth time because his mouth is full of dense, protein-packed, nutty deliciousness.

healthy high protein snack recipe

To start, we experimented with some Salted Caramel high protein snack balls since I’m obsessed with salted caramel. They are super dense but have a fun flavor. {The almonds make delicious homemade nut butter on their own, by the way. soo good.}

healthy snack recipes

gluten free dairy free salted caramel snack balls

My taste-tester approves.

kid friendly snack balls

In order to keep him from eating the entire batch in one sitting, I shoved the bag of blueberry almonds in front of him as a distraction. High protein snacks for the double win.

blueberry almonds

Now I need to go buy a new bag so I can make some coconut blueberry balls. Mm.

blueberry flavored almonds


High Protein Snacks for Kids & Beyond

High protein snacks gluten free dairy free

Salted Caramel Protein Snack Balls

by with a Side of Sneakers


  • 1/2 cup almond butter {homemade or otherwise}
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup vanilla protein powder {gluten free & dairy free if needed}
  • 1/8 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 T cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each: vanilla extract, butter extract, & fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup Blue Diamond Salted Caramel Almonds, chopped


Combine all ingredients and form into balls.

*Recipe affected heavily by how oily your nut butter is – mix should be crumbly, but stay in ball form when squeezed in your hands. If it doesn’t stick together, add coconut oil or almond milk 1 tsp at a time until balls form.

*Doubly extra good if you use almond butter made with the salted caramel flavored almonds.

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Do you have a favorite high protein snack recipe? I’m inspired to branch out more with these healthy snack ball recipes now that we’ve opened up the door to new flavors.


This post was originally sponsored by Blue Diamond.


No Fuss Gluten-Free Game Day Snacks

Food allergies can make game day snacking tough, but with a few pantry and fridge staples you can be out of the kitchen and cheering for your favorite team in no time with these no fuss gluten free game day snacks.


We are all about some game day over here. If it’s fall and it’s football, it’s on our tv.

three year old panthers fan

Ok perhaps I should clarify. The husband is all about some game day. I, on the other hand, am all about some game day eats. I’d be the first one to say hey let’s have a bunch of people over to watch the game simply so we could snack on a bunch of game day food.

gluten free game day snacks

However, since food allergies have come into our lives, it makes simply grabbing a bunch of game-ready food from the store less of a convenience and more of a hassle. We can’t just go to one store and grab everything we need or make last minute plans and pick something up along the way. Instead, we have to plan in advance, which on occasion has made me not want to host a game day celebration at all. If it’s work it’s not fun.

no fuss game day snacks

But slowly and surely over the years I’ve figured out how to get around that hold up. I have a few go-to game day recipes up my sleeve that are easy to prepare, but better yet, I’ve figured out how to prepare practically nothing and still have a game-day worthy spread.

gluten free meatballs easy spinach dip






The trick is pairing your snacks so they not only complement each other but you cover all your bases. Fruits, veggies, and chips are easy to throw on the counter, but unless I have some homemade meatballs hiding in the freezer, I don’t always have an easy protein option. Or do I…
blue diamond flavored nuts

You know I’m a fan of flavored almonds {the blueberry ones are a staple favorite around here} and these bold, smokey, game changing flavors are perfect for an easy game day treat to help keep you full and satisfied while you munch away and watch the game.

gluten free game day snacks

They’d make a great game day pairing on their own with some salami & cheese, or even mixed with something unexpected and sweet like dried fruit. The smokehouse almonds scream manly game day and the wasabi & soy are delightful for something different {and just spicy enough without crossing the line}.

blue diamond almonds

These rounded out our last game day spread nicely along with some of our other gluten-free, dairy-free faves, like spinach artichoke dip with sliced veggies, bean dip with tortilla chips, guacamole, hummus, and meatballs. I may or may not have eaten half the nuts while waiting for the game to start…


What’s your favorite no-fuss game day snack?

This post was originally sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. Ditch the chips and grab some Game Changing Flavors this football season! 

Easy Homemade Tuna Fish Sticks {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

These gluten free, dairy free homemade fish sticks are a great alternative to the freezer variety. This fish sticks recipe is fresher, healthier, and fun for kids to make too. 

Easy homemade fish sticks that are gluten free and dairy free. Perfect for making ahead and freezing.
Back to school means more than growing up and watching another year tick by – it means time to pack lunch after lunch after lunch and be prepared for dinners on the fly and on the go, as you shuffle from activity to activity. Time suddenly seems to go out the window and everything can feel rushed and hurried.

Luckily I still have a few more years before the real hustle and bustle starts, but I still feel the pain of having to always have  lunch-ready food on hand, and most definitely feel the strain of needing to have a quick and easy {yet still healthy} dinner ready for my family every night. {Especially when our meal choices need to be gluten free and dairy free recipes.} Moving further away from our old activities has meant a lot of extra time spent in the car and not so much extra time left for things like food prep and cooking big meals.

Easy gluten free fish sticks recipe

On top of that, my kid is like so many other kids when it comes to food preference: he’d pick chicken nuggets and fish sticks every single deal, every single meal if I let him. It’d be really easy to cave in to that go-to choice every time we’re in a rush or in a bind, so instead I try to have things that are just as easily ready and available, but a bit less processed. One of old stand-by favorites are these paleo sweet potato chicken patties – there’s almost always a batch ready to go in the freezer – but lately I’ve been trying to broaden our horizons and added some fish sticks to the mix. This fish sticks recipe has made our easy, weeknight meal repertoire a little bigger.

homemade fish sticks recipe

These homemade fish sticks are still super easy to prepare as they use canned tuna {no need to have fresh fish on hand} and come together in no time. Plus tuna is packed with protein and healthy fats, so it’s a choice I feel good about feeding my kiddo. They’re gluten free and dairy free too. They’re good fresh, but I always make extra to pop in the freezer for those busy days and nights.

fish sticks using canned tuna

Full disclaimer: this is not the most attractive entrée I’ve ever made, although I think with a little practice I could probably do better. But it didn’t stop anybody from eating them!

tuna fish sticks kid friendly fish sticks make ahead fish sticks recipe kid dinners

Gluten Free Fish Sticks Recipe

Easy Homemade Tuna Fish Sticks {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

Gluten free dairy free fish sticks (dfgf)

by with a Side of Sneakers


  • 1 5oz can Bumble Bee tuna
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/8-1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 cup almond flour


Combine tuna and most of the egg – save a little for an “egg wash”.

Add flour a little at a time – I used about 1/8 cup of flour but you might need more, especially if you use a flour that doesn’t absorb as much liquid.

It should still look a little dry but you’ll know you’re set when you can form the tuna into a stick shape.

Form “sticks”, then dip lightly into leftover egg and roll in almond flour to create coating.

Cook over medium heat in a saute pan with a little oil, a few minutes on each side until they get crispy.

Allow to cool completely before refrigerating or freezing if saving for later.

Feel free to add any flavor combo your family or kiddos like – lemon juice, Italian seasoning, cumin, etc.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Click here for more Gluten Free Dairy Free Recipes that won’t leave you trapped in the kitchen for hours or hunting down a million bizarre ingredients.