Learn how to create the best Instant Pot recipes ever with these easy-to-follow vegan tips from vegan expert Jill Nuceno in this interview with Sharon.
Open the pot, pour in your favorite vegan ingredients, screw on the lid, press the button, and within minutes you’ll have a healthy and easy vegan dinner. Yes, I’m talking about a great kitchen gadget instant pot. Its popularity is on the rise, and rightly so! This handy kitchen appliance combines the convenience of a crock pot with the power of a pressure cooker, reducing cooking time, energy and dirty utensils. Plus, you can get really creative in the kitchen with plant-based ingredients, like grains, beans, and vegetables in order to create healthy, easy-to-follow meals in no time. From Chili pepper And the the soup to me Mashed potato And the rice puddingThere is a lot you can do with this handy tool.
So put a quick bowl on your wish list. And if you have one stocked on your kitchen shelf, it’s time to get it out and use it to make easy, amazing one-pot meals. Soon, you’ll be counting on it every week to make great meals. Be sure to check out my Plant Power Live Show on how to use an Instant Pot over here.
To get you started on how to use your Instant Pot for vegan cooking, we chatted with my friend and colleague The Veggie Queen, aka Jill NucenoMS, RD, a vegan culinary expert known for her special instant pot skills. In fact, when I opened the can to unbox my Instant Pot a few years ago, I found that the included recipe booklet included some of Jill’s recipes! We’re so lucky to get Jill’s top tips on how to make easy Instant Pot recipes from the expert herself.
Top tips for using an instant pot, with Veggie Queen
Sharon: What is an Instant Pot and what could it be truly an act?
generation: It is a multifunctional cooker that can slow cook and pressure cook. It does a much better job of pressure cooking than slow cooking.
Sharon: How do you use the Instant Pot?
generation: It’s very easy to use: you start by frying food on the fry function and then add the food, lock the lid, set the time, and wait for the beep at the end to let you know the time is up. Then you either turn the knob (called a quick release) or wait for the pressure to drop (called a normal pressure release), or you can do a combination of both, when appropriate. The recipe will teach you in general.
Sharon: Is the Instant Pot intimidating to some people?
generation: Yes, they will likely be intimidated by the size of the pot and the things they may have heard about pressure cooking in the old days and how dangerous it could be. For many people, it’s a very new way of cooking because of the speed of cooking, so they fear spoiling their food, which is quite possible if they don’t follow well-written and tested recipes.
Sharon: Is the Instant Pot particularly useful for vegan cooking?
generation: The instant pot, or other multicooker or pressure cooker, is almost a must-have for anyone who cooks vegetarian, as you can easily cook legumes and whole grains quickly. It eliminates the need to buy canned beans since you can cook soaked beans in your pressure cooker in less than 20 minutes from start to finish. If not soaked, they will continue to cook in less than an hour. You can also quickly make amazingly delicious vegetables, a whole host of soups, stews, curries, and anything that uses liquid as an ingredient. I consider it the way to cook that gets you the food you want, faster, easier and tastier, which is the best combination. And it makes eating out very affordable.
Sharon: Are there health benefits to using the Instant Pot to cook vegan meals?
generation: All nutrients stay in the bowl as long as you don’t use too much liquid. Although the manufacturer says you need at least 1 cup of liquid to cook, that’s not really the case. Additionally, because of the way a pressure cooker works, when vegetables are cooked, the pressure helps break down the fibers in the cell wall and the liquid is absorbed into the vegetables, making it easier to digest. Even though the pressure cooker uses high heat, there is also no air involved (it is released from the pot when pressure reaches the pot) so there is more vitamin C when cooking and it is volatile in the air. Colors appear brighter and vegetables look more “healthy” which leads me to believe there may be more nutrients being preserved. Even after more than 20 years of pressure cooking, I’m still amazed at the bright colors of carrots when cooked this way.
Sharon: What are some vegetarian foods and recipes that work well in Instant Pot?
generation: Anything with liquid in it, especially soups, stews, chilies, and curries, but my criteria are whole grains like black, red, or brown rice, and lots of legumes. Love how the hummus turns in instant pot. Also, if their Instant Pot has it, people can make their own yogurt using the pot as an incubator. Soy milk seems to work best. It’s simple, less expensive, and much tastier than buying non-dairy yogurt.
Sharon: What are the settings you use most often in your Instant Pot?
generation: The best settings for me are “manual,” which you set yourself to whatever time and setting you want, “steam” (which I use mostly for whole foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash), and “yogurt.” I ignore most of the other settings because they need to be adjusted to what time you want them anyway. One of the biggest issues with beginners is that they think if they’re cooking beans, they just hit the “beans” button, but the pot doesn’t know if your beans are soaked or dry, or what kind of beans you have. It defaults to 25 minutes at high pressure, which is way too long for soaked beans and not long enough for dry chickpeas. I find it best to set the pot to the exact time and pressure you want.
Sharon: Are there some recipes and dishes that don’t work in instant cooking?
generation: You have to be careful with the tomatoes, which tend to burn when they are at the bottom of the pot. Always scrape the bottom of the pot and add the liquid, if you’ve sautéed something, especially shallots, onions or garlic. I found it difficult to make pasta consistently. Foods that are mixed with different cooking times can also be a problem. This can be solved if you add the ingredients at different times.
Sharon: Since cooking times can be greatly reduced with an Instant Pot, are there ways to make sure you don’t overcook meals?
generation: If it is important to cook according to good timing charts so as not to overcook. If dinner, breakfast or lunch is at stake, this is not the time to get creative. Because the food cooks quickly, people think something like 15 minutes for lentil soup sounds reasonable, even though one of the most requested recipes: Shane’s Wonderful Lentil Soup, only needs 6 minutes at pressure. It’s science, not a guessing game. And if you just rely on internet recipes, you can definitely end up wasting a lot of food. Get recipes from trusted sources. The problem is that the Instant Pot is so “hot” that there are plenty of people who don’t have enough experience with the Instant Pot and they push their recipes out into the world. There are “free” books online on amazon that contain recipes that have been “lifted” from other people and adapted (not well). People need to avoid these but only if they do not want to be disappointed with the results.
Sharon: What are some tips and tricks for preparing vegan meals in the Instant Pot?
generation: There are some “rules”: don’t fill the bowl more than half with foods that expand (like beans and grains) or more than two-thirds full with other foods, except for whole foods like potatoes, in which case you can fill to max.
Here’s a good trick: you can cook more than one food at a time and at the same time. I like to cook black or red rice on the bottom, then set it in a trivet with a heatproof bowl on top with the soaked beans and the liquid, sometimes adding whole squash or sweet potatoes. I cook it all for about 15 minutes with a natural release. Think Easy, Assemble, Simplicity.
Sharon: What is one of your favorite, plant-based, instant meals?
generation: I have a lot of favorites, but when potatoes are in season (and yes, they are a seasonal vegetable), I love making them potato salad. This one combines potatoes with other vegetables. I serve her as best I can.
About Jill Nussinow, MS, RD
Jill Nuceno, also known as The Veggie Queen, has been teaching people the joys of eating whole food and plant-based meals for the past 30 years. For over 25 of them she has been teaching at Santa Rosa Junior College as an assistant chef specializing in vegetarian and veggie classes. For over 10 years Jill has taught at the McDougall Program (featured in Forks over Knives). Jill is a registered dietitian who awakens people to the potential of vegetables. She is the author of a very popular book Vegetarian under stress (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) cookbook, plus 3 other award-winning cookbooks: Veggie Queen: Veggies get the royal treatment A Cookbook of Over 100 Seasonal Vegan Recipes, the essential work on modern vegetarian pressure cookery: THE NEW QUICK MEAL: The Veggie Queen cooks whole-food meals in under 30 minutes which contains 150 recipes, 138 of which are naturally gluten-free and always delicious. (Readers called it the stress bible.) CHAMPS Nutrition. The Veggie Queen’s Guide to Eating and Cooking for Optimal Health, Happiness, Energy, and Vitality She has over 200 vegan recipes from Jill and 44 other contributors.
picture: Barley soup with instant vegetablesSharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Check out some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes:
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