What I Learned When I Did My Weekly Meal Prep With The Instant Pot

If I’ve talked to you for more than five minutes in recent
months, I’ve probably tried to turn you into an
Instant Pot
convert. Did you know you can make perfect
hard-boiled eggs in 10 minutes? What about delicious potatoes
in 20? Did I mention how quick and easy it is to make rice and
quinoa? It even makes yogurt.

If you don’t already know how much of a game-changer this nifty
kitchen device can be, you are truly missing out. Don’t be
afraid of it: Start by reviewing the quick instructions, and
then follow some recipes. I’ve never burned myself or blown up
anything — I promise!

I’ve never been motivated enough to do meal prep ahead of time.
Spend a whole day cooking meals for the week? I love cooking,
but blech, that does not sound like fun. That’s why I was
intrigued by the idea of using my Instant Pot to make some
basics for the week to save both money and time.

Amanda Stout

Instant Pot Meal Prep Plan

First, I set a few goals for myself:

  1. Cook 10 items entirely in the Instant Pot.
  2. Make a variety of foods that we can eat for breakfast,
    lunch or dinner.
  3. Take less than a day to make all of it.

Then, I decided what to make:

  1. Hard-boiled eggs

  2. Brown rice
  3. Quinoa

  4. Potatoes

  5. Black Beans
  6. Vegan
    Mac and Cheese 

  7. Brussels sprouts
  8. Cauliflower

  9. Salmon

  10. Coconut Yogurt

Note: I’m a vegetarian/sometimes vegan, but my family is not,
and I do occasionally eat fish for the health benefits.

So, how did it go? Let’s find out!

1. Hard-Boiled Eggs

My daughter loves “cold eggs” and I use them in everything from
salads to sandwiches, and even noodle bowls. Hard-boiled eggs couldn’t be
easier in the Instant Pot and I love that you don’t have to
watch them as closely as you do on the stovetop. I started my
cook time with eggs because there’s very little prep or cleanup
involved. You can cook them in as little as three minutes for
soft-boiled and five minutes for hard. Have a bowl of ice-cold
water handy to drop the eggs in once they’re done (I use
tongs), and peel right away or store in an airtight container.

Total time: 30 minutes (for two batches,
including chill and store time)

2. Brown Rice

We use brown rice as a base a lot, and without fail, I forget
to start the rice ahead of time. Even in the Instant Pot it can
take around 20 minutes to cook. But it’s almost totally
hands-off and by using a tablespoon of olive oil or ghee as
mentioned in this rice
, you also get no sticking! I like to make the rice
plain with just water and a little sea salt for versatility,
but you could also sub in broth or add herbs or lime juice for
more flavorful rice. I store extra rice in a glass or ceramic
container for easy reheating.

Total time: 30 minutes

3. Quinoa

Quinoa also makes an awesome base for salads with fish or even
breakfast with berries and honey (a personal favorite). A large
bag is only $9.99 at Costco and lasts
forever. Quinoa is already more foolproof than rice, and in the
Instant Pot, it’s a breeze.

calls for toasting the quinoa using the sauté
function before pressure cooking. Some people swear by it, but
I don’t really notice a big flavor difference. Do what tastes
good to you! I did two cups’ worth, which translated to two
breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners. Feel free to double,
depending on your needs.

Total time: 30 minutes

4. Potatoes

I found out the hard way that sweet potatoes are a little
tricky in the Instant Pot because of the variety of sizes,
which affects cooking time greatly. But smaller potatoes turn
out perfectly for me every time, especially since you can cut
them to a more uniform size. They also make a perfect side dish
at any time of day. My favorite
roasted potato recipe
uses a mix of dried herbs, but you
can easily customize it any way you like. I also like to add
diced shallots during the sauté phase. My only other tip
is to brown a little longer first so your potatoes don’t get
too soft when pressure cooked.

Total time: 20 minutes

5. Black Beans

I tend to have at least two cans of black beans in my cupboard
at all times. They’re super cheap, easy and versatile, but taste-wise
they can leave something to be desired. I’ve always heard that
using dried beans tastes much better, but the long soaking step
turned me off. The Instant Pot removes the need for soaking,
and one $1.99 bag of organic dried black beans made about four
cans’ worth.
These beans
also get less mushy than the canned variety.
And as a testament to their taste my daughter was stealing them
straight out of the bowl when they were cooked with only sea
salt and water.

Total time: 40 minutes (including prep and
storage time)

6. Vegan Mac and Cheese

I’ve been trying to eat less dairy which is only really a
bummer when my family is having mac and cheese or pizza. I
decided I would try this vegan mac
and cheese recipe
and mix in some chopped kale once cooked.
In total, I ate this for four different meals, but it was
definitely best fresh. Try adding a little water when reheating
to make the sauce less dry. Also, as warned in the recipe,
some of the pasta does get stuck to the bottom of the pot. I
would recommend cooking for less time than the recipe calls
for, only about 5-8 minutes to prevent bad sticking or burning.

Total time: 20 minutes

7. Brussels Sprouts

I don’t know about you, but as an adult I’ve discovered a deep
love for Brussels sprouts. I can eat them alone, mixed in with
pasta or rice, cold or hot — any which way. So, having a batch
at the ready is very appealing. This salt
and vinegar Brussels sprouts
recipe is a simple starting
point that you can easily customize with shallots instead of
garlic, balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, etc.
Definitely use fresh sprouts, don’t skip the sauté step, and
double the recipe if you want to use them for several meals. I
ate them alone, with butternut squash ravioli and as a topper
for one of my mac and cheese leftovers.

Total time: 15 minutes

8. Cauliflower

Holy cow, it is easy to steam
in the Instant Pot! Just remove the florets
from the head, place them in the pot, add water and set to
pressure cook on high for zero minutes. You read that right:
zero! By the time the Instant Pot heats up, the cauliflower is
perfectly cooked. Just season as you like or add a sauce. It
couldn’t be easier.

I also made this delicious
sesame cauliflower recipe
in the Instant Pot, which I would
definitely double in the future. Remember to reduce the time if
you’re using cooked cauliflower or frozen.

Total time: 10 minutes

9. Salmon

My oven takes forever to cook foil-packet salmon, which is my
preferred method. Lucky for me, it’s yet another thing the
Instant Pot can tackle with similar — but much quicker —
results. To steam salmon, you use the wire rack accessory to
place the salmon in and out of the Instant Pot. Before you put
the rack in, add 3/4 cup of water and any herbs you like (I
used fresh basil). Add the salmon to the pot and drizzle with
your preferred oil or butter, add seasoning and any other
flavorful toppings such as lemon. This recipe for
lemon pepper salmon
calls for just 3 minutes for salmon
that is 1 inch at its thickest point. My salmon was just over 1
inch and it required 7 minutes, so you may need to play with
the timing.

It came out perfectly cooked with subtle flavor. Plus, it was
so much faster than the oven and didn’t leave my kitchen
smelling like fish. Win!

Total time: 15 minutes

10. Coconut Yogurt

I could eat yogurt every morning, and often do. But non-dairy
yogurt is so expensive, it feels like a ridiculous luxury.
Enter the amazing Instant Pot once more. I did cheat my goals a
little bit for this recipe. To get the tang of yogurt, you have
to let it ferment for a long period of time. Some recipes
recommend up to 24 hours. I decided to start mine after dinner
and let it go overnight. So technically, I wasn’t actively
cooking, just snoozing away. To add the probiotics that
make yogurt so beneficial, I used four probiotic capsules and
just broke them open. You can also
purchase starters
or mix in a little bit of yogurt you
already have.

For food safety and to get rid of any bad bacteria, make sure
to sanitize your Instant Pot liner before using by running it
through the sanitize cycle in your dishwasher or rinsing with
boiling water.

Even though
this recipe uses coconut cream
, it is a little thinner than
store-bought yogurt which typically has multiple thickeners in
it. If you’d prefer, add more thickener such as
agar agar
, which is vegetarian.

Total time: 18.5 hours (overnight fermentation, plus
prep/storage time)

Amanda Stout

Final Notes

I washed my Instant Pot liner and sealing ring with soap and
hot water after each cook. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to
use this
Instant Pot cleaning guide
for a deeper clean after lots of
cooking or after cooking something that causes a stronger
smell, like meat or a stew.

Next time, I probably wouldn’t cook more specific dishes like
the lemon pepper salmon or vegan mac and cheese all in the same
day. They all make great leftovers, but I would rather eat them
fresh out of the pot versus just saving them for later. Plus,
they are messier and require additional prep.

Making basic, versatile items like eggs, rice, quinoa, black
beans, coconut yogurt, potatoes, cauliflower and Brussels
sprouts was super easy and made meals simple throughout the
week and beyond.

Just a few other things I did while food was cooking away in
the Instant Pot:

  • Played with my daughter
  • Helped her with an art project
  • Put away laundry
  • Washed dishes
  • Cleaned all the candy out of the pantry
  • Made a picnic lunch
  • Did yoga
  • SLEPT!

And that, my friends, is why the Instant Pot is magical.

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What I Learned When I Did My Weekly Meal Prep With The Instant Pot

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