Meal prep lately has consisted of prepping a couple of individual components a couple times a week to have on hand for easy meals. In this season, this is working a lot better for us than me spending hours each day making meals and as much time afterward cleaning up.
I love the ease and versatility of just having a few pre-made items on hand that are ready to go and easy to build a meal around! Enter: the Instant Pot. We have had our Instant Pot (this is the one we have) for a couple years now and I LOVE how simple it makes meal prep. It is easy to clean and therefore easy to prep items back to back, it makes meat and poultry taste delicious (is it just me or does anyone else find it hard to get a good texture in chicken in a crockpot?), and it saves a lot of time because it is so hands-free.
Just as an example, the other day I had a lot of things to get done and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time prepping food for the week… but I did want to have it prepped! Okay, this is actually every day and just part of being an adult but my point is, I was able to prep a few items as I worked on completing different tasks. I put sweet potatoes in the pot to cook before my shower and after I finished drying my hair I came out and took the lid off the finished potatoes to let them cool while I did something else. Then I came back, put the potatoes in the fridge, dumped the water in the pot, and made hard boiled eggs while I worked on something else. I came back when the timer went off and put the eggs in an ice bath and made quinoa in the pot. Peeled the eggs a few minutes later and in basically the hands-on time it took to peel eggs (which is extremely easy when I make them in the Instant Pot), I had 3 meal components ready for the fridge. When I used to picture my life as an adult, I never pictured the satisfaction that comes with stocking the fridge with ready-to-go foods, but the satisfaction is REAL!
Today’s post is just about some of the basics – how I prep a handful of foods we like to eat regularly in the Instant Pot. I’m also including a handy printable cheat sheet at the end that you can put in your kitchen somewhere for quick directions.
Without further ado, here are some Instant Pot basics to get you started on simple meal prep! Also, please tell me what your favorite things to prep are in a comment because I love this method and would love to collect more winners.
The potatoes I always use are about 2 inches in diameter so if you are making larger potatoes, you’ll need to add more time.
Method: Place the trivet in your pot and add 1 cup of water. Layer sweet potatoes in pot in a single layer and set on manual, high pressure, for 16 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes.
Sweet potatoes are not my favorite by themselves but they are great, in my opinion, paired with pesto and shredded chicken or shredded meat and barbeque sauce. They are also really tasty with glazed pecans or Ranch dressing!
If I can help it, I will never make hard boiled eggs on the stovetop again! As long as you get to peeling them in a timely manner, the shells just slide off using this method.
Method: Place the trivet in the pot and add 1 cup of water. Layer as many eggs as you can fit in a single layer and set to manual, high pressure, 6 minutes. Quick release the pressure after the timer goes off and transfer the eggs to an ice bath. As soon as they as cool enough, you can peel them (and marvel at how easy it is!).
Nom Nom Paleo taught me a much simpler way to eat eggs than deviling (or if you don’t like the thought of demonized eggs, “stuffing”) them. Slice hard boiled eggs in half lengthwise and smear with mayo, guacamole, or hot sauce and top with your favorite topping: crispy bacon, chives, jalapenos, red onions, etc.So quick and easy!
Note: I think it is worth taking 5 minutes to sauté your dry quinoa before adding water to give it a little more of a toasted flavor. To do this, add you dry quinoa to the pot and turn on the “sauté” function, stirring occasionally for 5(ish) minutes.
Method: After sauteeting or first thing if you want to skip that, add a 1:1 ratio of quinoa and water to the pot. If you’re using 2 cups of dry quinoa, add 2 cups of filtered water and give it a stir. Set to manual, high pressure, for 1 minute and let the pressure release naturally.
Our favorite way to eat quinoa – the only way the kids like it, really – is to add plenty of Kerrygold butter and pink Himalayan salt and a little pepper while it is still hot and stir it in well. Some other ways we use it frequently are in Greek bowls (like the one pictured) or Southwestern bowls (bell peppers, red onion, black beans, corn, Ranch dressing, etc.) or in an enchilada casserole.
Every time I’ve made rice on our gas range it has burned on the bottom and stuck to the pan like crazy – so I stopped making it on the stove. I was really pleased to learn that it comes out beautifully in the instant pot!
Method: Use a 1:1 ratio of white rice and water. I’m not a rice rinser but if you are, go ahead and do that first. Then add the rice, water, and about 1 tablespoon of avocado or olive oil to the pot and give it a quick stir. This is a good time to add whatever seasonings you like, too. I’m just a salter myself. You can use the “rice” button but I’ve always just set it to manual, low pressure, and cooked for 12 minutes with a natural release. Fluff the rice with a fork after and you’re good to go!
This makes rice that is a little on the dry side and not super sticky. If you like stickier rice, add just a tad more water.
Shredded Chicken Breasts
I love this one because the possibilities are endless!
Method: Add 4 frozen chicken breasts and 1 cup of water to the instant pot. Cook on manual, high pressure, for 16 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally. Remove the chicken and shred it with two forks or if you have a stand mixer toss it in there to shred it finely and quickly! Drain the liquid in the instant pot and then add the shredded chicken back in with whatever sauce you want.
Try mixing the shredded chicken with salsa for tacos, BBQ sauce for topping a baked potato, or leave it dry for chicken salad, tacos, nachos, soups, or casseroles.
Chicken Bone Broth
You can make bone broth out of any animal bones but chicken is the one I make the most. This is something I like to use pastured or at least organic chicken carcasses for (since it pulls what is in the bones out of them and conventional chicken has a lot of toxins stored in the fat and bones – Costco has a great price on organic whole chickens!) but you can decide what you feel good about. You can google to read about some of the health benefits of bone broth but in addition to those, it taste is SO much better than commercial broth – it is what makes the soups and sauces at 5-star restaurants taste so rich. Chicken bone broth usually takes at least 24 hours to make in a crockpot but in the instant pot, I can make it in a few hours. I usually make a few batches back-to-back with the same carcass and freeze some of it.
Method: Add a chicken carcass to the instant pot. Surround the carcass with coarsely chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic (you can leave some of the skins on the veggies – there is good stuff in them and it’s just for flavor so doesn’t have to be pretty). Add some salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of salt and a little less pepper is what I usually do) and fresh herbs if you want, and cover with water until instant pot is about 2/3 full or enough to cover carcass. If you have time you can add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes before cooking (this will just aid in extracting minerals from the bones into the broth). Put the lid on and set your instant pot to manual, high pressure, for 120 minutes and let it naturally release pressure at the end. I usually have to add more salt during the final taste test.
You can freeze the broth in bags or containers or if you are a broth sipper, try freezing it in silicone muffin cups or an ice cube tray to thaw just a little at a time. It makes delicious soups and mashed potatoes!
As a general rule for the instant pot, cook chicken for 6 minutes per pound. This chicken is so tender and delicious! I like to stick it under the broiler after it’s finished cooking to crisp up the skin.
Method: I add the spices I want to use to a little bowl and mix them all together so I don’t have to worry about opening and using different spices with chicken hands. First, rub the chicken all over with Kerrygold butter, olive oil, or avocado oil (or a combo). If you can, rub under and on top of the skin. Stick a slice of lemon and a couple peeled garlic cloves under the skin near the breast and then sprinkle the seasoning mix (I use salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, parsley, and garlic powder but you can use whatever combo you want) all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Here is where you have two methods you can choose from.
- You can skip the trivet and sauté the chicken breast-side down for 5 minutes in oil before flipping it, adding the liquid, and pressure cooking it.
- Or (this is how I usually do it), you can add the trivet to the pot, place the chicken on it with 1 cup of water or chicken broth in the bottom of the pot, and pressure cook it. If you have a 3 pound chicken, cook for 18 minutes on high pressure. If you have a 4 pound chicken, cook on high pressure for 24 minutes (6 minutes per pound, you get the picture). Let the pressure release naturally when it’s done cooking. Transfer the chicken, whichever side up your heart desires, to a baking dish (I line it with parchment paper so it is a quick clean) and broil it for 5 minutes to crisp up the skin. You now have a delicious chicken for dinner or to use in any meal you want! Don’t forget to save the carcass for broth!