Did you just get an Instant Pot—or do you have one still sitting in a box that you’ve been too intimidated to break out and use? Well, if you’re doing a Whole30, it’s about time you experienced the magic of pressure cooking in an Instant Pot—my favorite kitchen appliance of all time. (And no, I’m not sponsored by or a spokesperson for Instant Pot—I just love it!)
WHY YOU SHOULD USE AN INSTANT POT
It Saves Time
First and foremost, an Instant Pot saves you time, making meal prep a breeze! Yes, an Instant Pot is a multi-cooker, meaning it can work as a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, etc. But for me (and most other Instant Pot evangelists), the Instant Pot’s pressure cooker function is far and away the most useful. As a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot can cut the conventional cooking time of your dishes by half or more. Time is one of the scarcest commodities in our lives, so an Instant Pot is truly a lifesaver.
That said, while the Instant Pot and all pressure cookers do cook dishes faster, that doesn’t mean that a recipe with instructions to “cook under high pressure for 20 minutes” will actually be on the table in 20 minutes. Why? Because it normally takes about 10-15 minutes to reach high pressure (or longer if your Instant Pot is filled to capacity) BEFORE the 20 minutes of pressure cooking can start. It might take even more time if the recipe calls for you to wait for the pressure to drop naturally (~15 to 20 minutes) post-cooking. If you are pressed for time, always look at the “Total Cooking Time” on my recipe cards to get an idea of how much time you’ll actually need. For recipes that take longer than you want to spend in the evening, cook it in the morning, and it will be hot and ready when you come home to eat!
Set It and Forget It
Similar to a Crock Pot or a slow cooker, you can set an Instant Pot and walk away. But generally speaking, any stew, soup, or braise that you can make in a Crock Pot or slow cooker can be made much faster and tastier in an Instant Pot. Best of all, your food will stay warm in an Instant Pot until you’re ready to eat it—so you can say goodbye to waiting for hours for your food to finish cooking while your kids go bonkers with hunger. Additionally, in head-to-head taste tests, my picky family insists that the dishes I quickly throw together in the Instant Pot taste better than their slow cooker versions (e.g., Instant Pot Kalua Pig vs. Slow Cooker Kalua Pig). Faster and more delicious is a win-win in my book!
It’s Perfect for Meal Prep
Before I got an Instant Pot, I rarely if ever did any meal prep for the week. That all changed when I realized that I can use my Instant Pot to easily stock my fridge and freezer with a variety of cooked meat and veggie basics that I can grab and go or transform into leftover makeovers.
Using an Instant Pot means that I can cook when it’s convenient for me. For example, I can pressure cook a batch of easy-to-peel “boiled” eggs or spaghetti squash while I take a shower or use the Instant Pot to make a big vat of chili while I’m running errands. If my kids tell me the they feel like they’re getting sick, I plop some bones, aromatics, and water in the Instant Pot to make a batch of homemade bone broth right before I go to bed and the soup’s hot, depressurized, and ready for me to strain in the morning!
Bonus: you’ll spend less time washing dishes, because you can sauté and pressure cook in the same pot. You can even just dump the Instant Pot insert into your dishwasher!
It’s Perfect for the Whole30
Cooking for yourself is imperative on the Whole30 ’cause you’ll know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth—but you’re going to want to whip up food with a minimum of muss, fuss, and expense. The Instant Pot is the tool that’ll help you do it! Here’s how:
You can cook for volume!
I have a 6-quart Instant Pot and it’s the perfect size for my family of four: you can easily cook five pounds of stew meat at a time, which means you’ll have dinner plus plenty of leftovers. If you’re cooking for just a few people, start a Whole30 cooking club where you can share your Instant Pot dishes. Form a group of 6 to 8 people—each of whom will commit to cooking a different Instant Pot dish. Then, meet regularly with empty storage containers and split the results. You’ll save time because you’re just cooking one dish, but you’ll end up with a ton of variety and plenty of Whole30-friendly eats!
You can save money!
Cooking at home will definitely be cheaper than eating out at restaurants. Even better? You can save even more money because the Instant Pot makes cheaper cuts of meat delicious! The best dishes to pressure cook in an Instant Pot are stews and braises that call for inexpensive, collagen-rich cuts like pork butt, chuck roast, and oxtails. They’ll end up tender and delicious in an Instant Pot with little fuss or slaving over the stove for an excruciating amount of time.
You can stock your freezer!
The best recipes to make in an Instant Pot are hearty stews, braises, and soups and all of them freeze and reheat well. I always make sure to freeze portioned-out servings in containers so I can easily dump ’em back into the Instant Pot to reheat. For most stews and soups, I can plop them in the Instant Pot while still frozen, and then cook under high pressure for 3 to 5 minutes to reheat. (Note: It does take longer to reach high pressure when cooking from frozen, but you can set it and walk away.) They’re perfect for quick make-ahead Whole30-compliant weeknight meals!
Instant Pot meals are perfect for any time of year!
No matter what time of year you decide to do a Whole30, the Instant Pot is the perfect kitchen tool. If you’re tackling a #JanuaryWhole30, you can easily make hearty winter-weather food like Instant Pot Yankee Pot Roast. And if you do a Whole30 in the summer, it won’t swelter up your house like oven- or stovetop-cooking when you make Instant Pot Summer Italian Chicken! See? You have no excuses not to break out your Instant Pot!
WHOLE30 BASICS TO MAKE IN AN INSTANT POT
Here’s the thing, though: not everything should be made in an Instant Pot. If I were you, I’d avoid pressure cooking anything in an Instant Pot that can be more quickly prepared using a conventional method like sautéing or stir-frying. Otherwise, you’ll risk overcooking your food in the Instant Pot, and in the end, you won’t save much time.
Instead, start by making a few basics in the Instant Pot that will help sustain you through your Whole30. These Whole30 Instant Pot recipes are some of my weekly staples:
Instant Pot Hard “Boiled” Eggs: I always keep a dozen easy-to-peel hard cooked eggs in the fridge so I can eat them on the go or for a quick snack.
Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash: Once I learned that I could cook a whole spaghetti squash in an Instant Pot in minutes, I’ve never looked back. Keep the cooked spaghetti squash in the fridge to use as a healthy pasta substitute!
Instant Pot Kale and Carrots: My kids love this vegetable side dish, and I still can’t get over how fast and easy it is to make!
Instant Pot Beets: Beets cook in a fraction of the time in an Instant Pot. Once they’re cooked, keep them in the fridge so you can quickly add them to your salads or blend them up to make a tasty Beet Hummus!
Instant Pot Crispy Potatoes: Steaming potatoes in the Instant Pot is dead simple. Then, whenever you need a fast Whole30-friendly side, fry them up in a skillet!
Instant Pot Kalua Pig: I don’t like to pick favorites, but this recipe may be my favorite Instant Pot recipe of them all. Instant Pot Kalua Pig is cheap, fast (or at least faster than the slow cooker version!), and easy—and the leftover liquid is perfect for making soup!
Of course, these basics only scratch the surface of what you can make in an Instant Pot during your Whole30. Want more Instant Pot recipe ideas? Bookmark my ever-expanding list of Instant Pot recipes—and they’re all Whole30-compliant, too!
Last but not least: wanna buy an Instant Pot after reading this post? I track Amazon for sales on my favorite models and update my finds daily on my Instant Pot Deals page. So what are you waiting for?
2018 Whole30 Day 2: Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas+ Avocado Crema
2017 Whole30 Day 2: Bone Broth 101
A note to my Nomsters: This is one of a series of daily blog posts I’m writing in the month of January 2019 to help those doing a Whole30 to kick off the New Year. Not sure what the Whole30 is, or want info on how to get started? Read my Whole30 prep post—and then come back to Nom Nom Paleo every single day for recipes to inspire, delight, and sustain you on your Whole30!
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!42