Instant Pots are one of the greatest culinary gifts mankind has seen in some time. It took me a while to catch on to this particular trend. Mainly because I already had a regular (non-programmable) pressure cooker that I had been using on the stove for years. This gave me enough of the pressure cooking perks that I could ride it out until I snagged an Instant Pot on a truly fantastic Black Friday deal last year. Now that I’ve made the switch? There is no going back! I’m not usually one to follow the culinary fads, but the Instant Pot is 100% the exception.
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The Instant Pot‘s programmable functions are amazingly convenient and versatile. I’m terrible at time management, so despite my intensive meal planning routine, I often find myself forgetting to thaw an important dinner ingredient or put off starting dinner until Mini S (now a threenager, Lord help us!) and I are both dissolving into a puddle of hangry rage. Not to mention all the from-scratch ingredients I no longer have time to make on a regular basis now that I work roughly 70 hours a week.
The Instant Pot lets me make a meal from scratch in a fraction of the time of other cooking methods, and is, for the most part, very hands-off. That alone is enough to make it a rockstar in my book, but when I realized all the ways it could help me meal prep as well? Even better!
The Best Pantry Staples to Make in the Instant Pot
The yogurt function is by far the most exciting feature I’ve found on the Instant Pot so far. Yogurt is one of those tricky staples that seems far more difficult to make than it actually is. I put off trying it for a long time because I wasn’t sure I could keep the yogurt at just the right temperature to properly incubate (no oven light and a drafty kitchen–major fails in the homemade yogurt-making world.) Thankfully, the Instant Pot automatically keeps your cultured milk at the right temperature for the 10+ hours needed to make creamy, delicious yogurt. It is so, so, so much better than store-bought and you can control the amount of tanginess in the yogurt by adjusting the length of the incubation time. Kristen at A Mind Full Mom has a fantastic tutorial that completely demystifies the whole process. You’ll be a yogurt-making expert in no time!
Unlike yogurt making, I was not a novice to cheese making. I used to make ricotta and mozzarella on the stove fairly often. I hardly ever make (or use) enough mozzarella to be able to make ricotta the traditional way (by boiling the whey,) so I typically make it directly from milk. While this is a pretty easy process to do on the stove, it is ridiculously easy to do in the Instant Pot using the yogurt function. Store-bought ricotta is nothing in comparison to fresh, homemade ricotta, and you get a lot of cheese per gallon of milk. You can get detailed instructions on the process at Real Food Real Deals. I personally use citric acid in place of vinegar per the recipe in Ricki Carroll’s book Home Cheese-Making (best book ever!) but either will work. Some people even make it with a bit of lemon juice, so feel free to experiment with your acids to see what works best for you.
One of the things that really drew me to the Instant Pot was the sheer convenience of how quickly you can make things that usually take forever on the stove. I really can’t think of many things that longer to make than stocks and broth. You have to let them simmer long enough to pull the gelatin from the bones and to let the flavors meld together, usually by cooking the bones and/or vegetables on the stove or in the oven for several hours. Thankfully the Instant Pot makes this whole ordeal a lot easier, because as a wise woman once said, ain’t nobody got time for that.
You can make chicken stock, beef stock, turkey stock, or vegetable broth in about two hours or less. Homemade stock is a great way to use up the leftover veggie scraps like celery leaves and carrot ends, and it is so much healthier for you than the sodium-filled stocks at the grocery store. Randa at the Bewitchin Kitchen has a good basic recipe for chicken stock that can easily be adapted for any other bone-based stock. For vegetable broth, I personally just add about 3 cups of veggie scraps, 6 cups water, and a combination of herbs and spices depending on what veggies I used in my base (turmeric powder, paprika, bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, sage, etc.) Then I cook it for 30 minutes and do a quick release.
I will admit it right now: I don’t have the patience for making traditional jams and jellies. I do it once a year when the quince fruit ripens, but that is only because the bush was already here and fully mature when Mr. S and I bought the house, so that is pretty much free food (and what else can you really do with quince apples?) Any other time, though, it is just way too much hassle. That is, until I found Lauren at Tastes Better from Scratch’s Instant Pot Jam recipe. It’s not true jam, because you don’t use pectin, but it is still oh-so delicious. The recipe highlights making strawberry jam, but I’ve made raspberry, blackberry, and mixed berry (yum!) using the same process with great success. It keeps in the freezer for up to a year, which is definitely a good thing since the recipe makes so much!
I debated adding this last one, since you don’t technically do the entire cooking process in the Instant Pot; however, it is still pretty useful! If you’ve hopped on board the whole no-knead bread craze (and who hasn’t, at this point?), then you know that the trade off for not having to work yourself into an arthritic fit is to wait forever for the bread to rise. Usually this isn’t such a terrible loss, but those last-minute bread cravings can really bring you down over an 18+ hour wait. Thankfully the Instant Pot has us covered here too. You can raise your no-knead bread dough in about 5 hours using the Yogurt setting. Chatelaine details the whole process here.
Now, you technically can make cake-like sweet loaves in the Instant Pot (corn bread, banana bread, etc.) from start to finish. HipPressureCooking even has a pressure cooker white bread recipe, although I haven’t had a chance to try it.
That’s it for my favorite Instant Pot pantry staples. Most of these recipes are super easy and make scratch cooking much more accessible to those of us who don’t have a ton of time to spend in the kitchen. What is your favorite staple to make in the Instant Pot? Let me know in the comment section below!