15 easy and healthy Instant Pot recipes that make meal prep a breeze
Prepping your meals ahead of time makes weight loss more attainable. The Instant Pot makes it even easier.
Not sure how to make quinoa? It takes just a minute in the Instant Pot (followed by a natural steam release), to get a fluffy batch of whole grain goodness to use in salads, soups, and more.John Brecher
Arguably, one of the best things about the Instant Pot is the ability to batch cook ingredients that make it easy to meal prep your way through the week. “A couple of shifts in the Instant Pot saves tons of time during busy weeks,” says Dana Angelo White, registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and author of the "Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook", who suggests this tactic is key to getting some of the kitchen work done ahead of time so you can breeze through meal-making during time-pressed breakfast and dinner shifts. Here are some of the top foods to meal prep in your Instant Pot, plus recipes to help you create a variety of healthful dishes — even when time is tight.
“There are two popular ways to make hard cooked eggs in the Instant Pot, and I think they both work well,” says White. “You can cook them for 10 minutes with a quick release or 5 minutes with 5 minutes of natural release, then dunk them in an ice bath,” she explains. No-boil, hard cooked eggs are an easy, protein-rich salad topper, grab-and-go snack, and a great addition to kids’ lunchboxes. A batch of hard cooked eggs will stay safe in the fridge for about a week.
Use your Instant pot to make a batch of this wholesome whole grain and you’ll have the basis for meals like burrito bowls and fried rice to enjoy throughout the week. Or just have a healthy side dish handy. Replacing white rice for brown rice is a nutritious swap that supplies more magnesium, fiber, potassium, and B vitamins — nutrients we tend to under consume. Try your cooked brown rice in these weeknight-friendly meals.
This gluten-free grain (technically a seed) is a nutritional powerhouse, with protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and other antioxidants to support your health. White says it takes just a minute in the Instant Pot (followed by a natural steam release), to get a fluffy batch of whole grain goodness to use in salads, soups and more. Quinoa is especially great for meat-free meals because it has more protein than other grains; a cup has 8 grams, which is more than a hard boiled egg. Quinoa also has substantially more fiber than brown rice. These recipes show you how to create a few dishes from your pre-prepped quinoa.
No matter what type of oatmeal you choose, you’re making a whole grain choice. The difference is in the level of processing, and therefore, cooking time. Steel cut oats (also referred to as Irish oatmeal) is the least processed form. Rolled or old fashioned oats have been steamed and flattened, and therefore, take less time to cook. Further processing results in instant oatmeal. Our fast-paced lifestyles mean many people opt for instant oatmeal, but the beauty of the Instant Pot is you can make a batch of steel cut oats in about the time it takes to shower. Having a batch of oatmeal handy means you can customize the toppings for different eaters — or set out a toppings bar for kids to DIY their oats. Instead of instant oatmeal packets or packaged to-go cups, you can freeze oatmeal for single-serve breakfasts. This recipe takes you step-by-step. Since you’ve made the oats in advance, you can start with step two.
The worst part about making dried beans is the soaking period — about six hours. With the Instant Pot, there’s no soaking required. “The power of pressure cooking makes tender beans in about an hour,” says White. Her basic recipe: a pound of black beans, 4 cups of water, and maybe an aromatic, like a bay leaf. After 30 minutes on high pressure and a natural release, you’ll have a pot of beans to add to meals and snacks throughout the week. Of course, other beans work in the Instant Pot, too, and while canned beans are a nutritious pantry staple, making a batch of beans in the Instant Pot might help you eat them more frequently. Beyond providing plant protein, studies suggest that people who include about ½ cup of beans (like chickpeas, white beans, black beans, and others) daily have higher intakes of fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. That’s nutrients upon nutrients upon nutrients! Prepare a batch of beans in your Instant Pot and sub them for canned ones these recipes.
White warns that once you’ve made ricotta cheese in your Instant Pot, you’ll never go back to a store-bought version! “This will ruin all other ricotta cheese!” What you won’t find in homemade ricotta: fillers, gums and other additives you may find in store-bought versions. Use your high-protein, homemade ricotta cheese to top crackers or serve with fruit for a luscious, healthier dessert. It’s also a great topper for toast (with a drizzle of honey if you’d like) or whole grain waffles. Or use it as you would ordinary ricotta — as a filling for lasagna. Another way to go: This simple frittata, which would be just as delicious for dinner with a side salad as it would be for brunch.
“The Instant Pot makes the most creamy, dreamy yogurt,” says White. One benefit of DIY yogurt is you can make a vanilla-flavored version with no added sugars. I’ve yet to see this in a store-bought yogurt. You can use homemade Instant Pot yogurt in any number of ways: To bolster the protein in your smoothie, layered with fruit and nuts in a parfait, in creamy salad dressings, or to top baked potatoes. If you’re going the savory route, just omit the vanilla extract in the recipe.
“Instead of wrestling with this delicious, yet hard to manage squash, poke a few holes in it and let the Instant Pot do the work,” suggests White. “It will be cooked to perfection in 15 minutes.” Spaghetti squash is a terrific lower-carb stand-in for — you guessed it!—spaghetti. A cup of cooked spaghetti squash has about 40 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate; the same amount of spaghetti has about 200 calories and 40 grams of carbs. But calorie- and carb-savings aside, spaghetti squash also supplies some health-supporting minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, and potassium. You can use cooked spaghetti squash as a replacement for spaghetti — just add sauce and parm — or try it in one of these inspiring dishes.