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!