How to Convert Slow Cooker Recipes for Your Instant Pot

The best advice for cooking the recipes you already love—only faster!


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How to Instant Pot

how to instant pot

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shumski

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shumski

Anyone who loves their Instant Pot has told you—probably frequently—that they love theirs. It’s a great appliance, so maybe you’re curious. But how do you jump in when you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing? How do you use it more often if you’re a certified “Pot-head”? Just convert your favorite slow cooker recipes.

Related: 

If you haven't heard much about the Instant Pot, it’s an electric multi-cooker. This means it has a lot of functions, including rice cooker, yogurt maker, and even a sauté pot. It can be used as a slow cooker (meaning you can use your slow cooker recipe as is, if you choose that setting), but it also pressure cooks (read: under pressure and fast!)—and this is where some know-how comes in handy.

I spoke with Daniel Shumski, author of the comprehensive and helpful How to Instant Pot, to get the best advice for adapting recipes. Here are his top tips:


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Get the Right Amount of Liquid

measuring cup

Photo by Blaine Moats

Photo by Blaine Moats

Make sure that your original recipe contains at least one cup of liquid. The Instant Pot needs it to create the steam and come to pressure. It can be water, broth, canned diced or crushed tomatoes, salsa, canned soup. Most slow cooker recipes will cover this amount handily, but if not, add enough to bring up the volume.


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Hold Off on the Dairy and Starch

shredded cheese

Photo by Panichgul Studios Inc/Kritsada Panichgul

Photo by Panichgul Studios Inc/Kritsada Panichgul

Delay the dairy and starch. If your recipe calls for dairy products (milk, cream, cheese), add them after the pressure cooking cycle has run. Adding them at the beginning can cause them to curdle. The same rule applies for starches: They can burn on the bottom of the pot, so it’s best to incorporate them after cooking.


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Wait to Add Herbs & Certain Veggies

herbs

Photo by Jacob Fox

Photo by Jacob Fox

Wait to add herbs and delicate veggies. Delicate ingredients will yield brighter flavor and better texture if you add them after cooking, reseal the pot, and let the residual heat cook them.

Related: Growing, Storing and Drying Herbs at Home


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Brown Food in the Instant Pot

seared roast

Photo by Blaine Moats

Photo by Blaine Moats

Use the sauté function. If your slow cooker recipe instructs you to brown in a skillet, do it right in the Instant Pot by selecting the Sauté function. Work in batches if needed. And be sure to scrape up any yummy browned bits when you add your liquid.


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Adjust Alcohol Quantities and Timing

cooking with wine

Photo by Blaine Moats

Photo by Blaine Moats

Remember that alcohol won’t cook off. If your recipe calls for wine, for example, it won’t have an opportunity to evaporate, which can mean it will be overpowering in the finished dish. Try halving what the recipe calls for and cooking it down a bit via the Sauté function. You can leave the amount of beer, but you want to give that a chance to cook off as well. 


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Experiment With Recipes & Other Tips

instant pot

Reference Instant Pot recipes from trusted sources. If you see a recipe similar to the one you want to convert, try the timing and method in that recipe but using your ingredients.

Opt for the natural release method. If time is limited, you might need to manually release the steam. But if you have a bit longer, converted recipes often turn out better if you let the steam release naturally and then serve.

Don’t be intimidated by the Instant Pot. It’s a new way of cooking, and that requires some practice. Take notes about what worked for your dish and what you might do differently next time.


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Meet Our Expert

Daniel Shumski

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shumski

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shumski

Daniel Shumski is the author of How to Instant Pot: Mastering All the Functions of the One Pot that Will Change the Way You Cook (Workman Publishing, available online and in bookstores) as well as the Will It Skillet? and Will It Waffle? books. He’s written for the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times and worked for a Midwestern heirloom apple orchard. He lives in Montreal.