Learn how to cook easy vegetarian meals in the Instant Pot with this beginner's guide. This article features Instant Pot cooking tips alongside 15 delicious vegetarian recipes that make mealtime easier.
There are so many reasons to love the Instant Pot. If you buy dry beans and grains, enjoy soups and stews, or just want some hands-off times while cooking, then the Instant Pot will probably make your life easier.
What is an instant pot?
In this guide I'm using the term "Instant Pot" but I'm referring to an electric pressure cooker in general because there are many brands that make them.
The Instant Pot is more than just a pressure cooker. It is a multicooker that includes various "smart programs" like slow cook, keep warm, and saute. It also has buttons with preset programs for beans, rice, and even yogurt.
In vegetarian cooking, it is great for cooking pantry staples like dry beans and grains. It can also make desserts, cook eggs, and more!
Instant pot size
There are four Instant Pot sizes: 3-, 6-, 8-, and 10-quart.
The 6 quart Instant Pot is the most popular size and it is the one that I use. If cooking for a family of 2-4, I recommend the 6-quart pot.
Most soups, stews, etc. rarely use larger than 6-quart pots or Dutch ovens. Because we aren't cooking meat, an 8 or 10-quart pot likely isn't necessary.
One reason you might want a large Instant Pot in a vegetarian household is if you plan to frequently double recipes, especially soups.
The Instant Pot comes with a stainless steel inner pot, plastic rice paddle, stainless steel trivet, measuring cup, and a condensation collector.
There are many extra accessories available for purchase. These are the accessories that I have and find most helpful:
- Air fryer lid: This turns your Instant Pot into an air fryer! If you already have an air fryer, this lid isn't necessary. One downside to the air fryer lid is that there isn't a lot of room in the Instant Pot, so you may need to air fry in batches.
- Silicon egg bite molds are a necessary purchase if you plan to make egg bites.
- Silicon mits are helpful for lifting the inner pot out of the Instant Pot.
- Steamer basket: I use this to steam potatoes for Istant Pot mashed sweet potatoes, veggies, etc. It has a silicon handle which makes it easy to lift out of the Instant Pot.
My top tips
Instant Pots are easy to use if you remember a few basic rules of thumb:
- If using the saute function, wait until the pot reads "hot" before adding oil. This is my top tip to avoid the burn error.
- Deglaze the pot if sauteing: This is another way to avoid the burn error. When sauteing, ingredients like onions may stick to the pot. Adding just 2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth or other cooking liquid at the end of sauteing (this is known as deglazing) helps to remove any stuck on bits which may burn during the pressure cooking process.
- Follow recipe instructions: When I started cooking with my Instant Pot years ago, I was super intimidated. I recommend following recipes to understand the ins and outs of pressure cooking before freestyling (unless you're just naturally a great freestyler and love experimenting, then go for it!).
The Instant Pot comes with a recipe booklet that includes a chart with cook times for common grains, dried beans, and legumes.
This booklet is hit or miss for me, especially with dry beans. Bean cook time varies widely based on the age and size of the bean. Many beans sit in storage for years before reaching grocery store shelves, which results in a longer cook time.
Always rinse and clean the beans before pressure cooking.
A few notes:
- Dry beans double in size (volume and weight) after cooking.
- Use enough liquid to cover the beans. I aim for at least an inch of liquid.
- Use vegetable broth and spices to infuse flavor into dry beans
- Test at least 3 beans before confirming that they are cooked through
- If beans aren't cooked through, simply cook on high pressure another 2-3 minutes. Repeat as needed.
To soak or not to soak
This is the age-old question with dry beans in general. You do not need to soak beans before cooking them in the Instant Pot, but there are certainly reasons why you might want to do so.
Soaked beans generally cook more evenly, they cook more quickly, and they can be easier to digest than unsoaked beans.
I recommend soaking "heartier" beans like kidney beans or chickpeas for 8-12 hours or overnight. Smaller beans like black beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and especially lentils, do not need to be soaked before pressure cooking.
Serious eats recommends 1 tablespoon salt per quart of soaking liquid for the most flavorful and tender beans.
Beginner vegetarian recipes
These are my staple, go-to, beginner Instant Pot recipes. All of these recipes are vegetarian and most are vegan (dairy-free and egg-free).
Do you have questions that I didn't answer? Leave a comment down below or shoot me an email, I'm happy to share my Instant Pot expertise.
And don't miss these guides to plant-based eating: