Your Instant Pot is great for making so much more than braised pork shoulder and tender beef stew in remarkably short periods of time. Venture outside the expected with these surprising Instant Pot ideas.
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Credit: Photo courtesy of Amazon.

If you believe the hype of Instant Pot owners—and we do—you’d know how magical these multi-purpose countertop cooking appliances can be. Sure, they make quick work of tenderizing a dense pork shoulder. They can have beef chunks, carrots, and potatoes soft and simmering in a delicious sauce in a matter of minutes. Instant Pots can even turn hearty whole grains that typically need more than 30 minutes of simmering into fluffy pieces in less time than it takes to boil instant rice.

However, as curious home cooks experiment with their Instant Pots, the Internet’s collection of unusual but totally legit ways to use the pressure-cooking device continues to grow. Some are a little out there—cough syrup, for example. Some are downright genius—keep reading. But all are a sign that you don’t have to think of your Instant Pot as just a glorified slow cooker anymore.


#1 You can reheat leftovers.

People living without a microwave have likely created a series of genius alternatives to nuking their day-old ziti, from baking in the oven to simmering in a saucepan or skillet. Using an Instant Pot to heat up those leftovers might be the most efficient way you can warm them, however.

How to do it: Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot insert. Place the metal rack in the insert. If the leftovers are not in heat-proof containers (like Pyrex bowls or mason jars), you need to transfer the food to those safer containers. If the food is likely to dry out in reheating (rice or pasta, for example), consider adding stock, water, or another liquid.

When the food is ready to be heated, cover the container with foil, and place it in the Instant Pot. Turn the pressure cooker to Steam, and set a five-minute timer. That’s typically enough time to get pasta, lasagnas, soups, or stews warm.

When the time is up, let the machine release the pressure naturally. Then open the vent and lid, and use pot holders to lift the container out of the Instant Pot. If you need more time, repeat the steps, but decrease the amount of time you steam the food.

#2 You can make applesauce.

Before you dismiss this idea for the cloyingly sweet muck that is passed off as applesauce in many grocery stores these days, know the beauty of making your own applesauce in an Instant Pot is that you get to control the sweetness. Indeed, you also get to control the spices and the texture. Basically, you can make applesauce just how you like it, as thin or as lumpy as you like with as much or as little cinnamon as you can stand.

How to do it: When picking out apples for sauce, select the ones you’d normally avoid for apple pie because of their tendency to fall apart under heat and pressure. Those are precisely the apples you want for this recipe. Fuji and Golden Delicious come to mind.

Then, core the apples and slice them in two-inch wedges. You can remove the peel before you slice the apple if you want, but the skin is a great source of nutrients and fiber. Plus, you can pulverize it with a blender later.

Add the apples, one cup of water, and your spices of choice (cardamom, vanilla extract, and cinnamon are common). Don’t forget a sprinkle of salt. Stir to coat the apples, then put the lid on the Instant Pot and set to seal.

Next, set the pressure cooker to cook on High with a timer of five to seven minutes. After the timer goes off, let the pressure release naturally. Remove the lid, and then use an immersion blender to turn the lumpy apple mixture into silky, delicious apple sauce. Store the apple sauce in mason jars for up to 10 days in your fridge.

#3 Hard boil eggs for the week.

If you’re a big fan of hard-boiled eggs for breakfasts or snacks, you may have mastered the art of cooking eggs on the stovetop, but if you need to make more (several dozen, perhaps), you can use your Instant Pot to cook them more efficiently.

How to do it: Place a basket or wire trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add one cup of water. Place as many or as few eggs as you want to cook in the Instant Pot, and put the lid on the cooker. For a soft-boiled egg, cook on high for four minutes. For a more hard-boiled egg, cook on high for five minutes. Let the steam release naturally, then move the eggs into ice-cold water.

The total time comes out to about 15 minutes (five minutes to pressurize, five minutes to cook, and five minutes to release the pressure), but that’s still faster than stovetop boiling, and you’ll get a lot more eggs cooked at once.

#4 Make homemade bread.

You will still cook your no-knead bread in your cast-iron pan, but the Instant Pot can shave off hours of rising, punching, and waiting. For people who love homemade bread (and who doesn’t?), the Instant Pot is perhaps the best method to get the dough to rise quickly without stressing the yeast and proteins.

How to do it: Turn to your Instant Pot’s handy-dandy Yogurt setting for this trick. This setting provides a constant source of low heat, which is just enough to make a bread dough rise faster. Make your dough with any no-knead recipe of your choice. When the dough is sticky, move it to a piece of parchment paper, and lower that parchment paper into an Instant Pot. Set the timer on your pressure cooker for Yogurt and four hours and 30 minutes. (Typically, the bread dough would need 24 hours to rise.)

When the time is up, use the parchment paper to life the inflated dough out of the Instant Pot. Reshape it into a ball, punching down to remove some air. Then put the dough once more into the pressure cooker on the Yogurt setting. This time, you’ll only need 30 minutes.

While the dough rises one last time, preheat your cast-iron pan and oven to 450°F. When the 30 minutes has elapsed, slip the dough into your hot skillet, place the lid on it, and slide the pan into your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until a golden crust forms.

#5 Pop plenty of popcorn.

If you don’t have a large saucepan or tall pot, you can use your Instant Pot as your go-to popcorn popper. It’s actually so simple you may soon bid farewell to anything that comes in a microwavable bag.

How to do it: Turn your Instant Pot to the Saute feature, selecting “More” to get the pan a bit hotter. When the surface of the pot is hot, add an oil of your choice (canola oil is good, as is coconut oil). When it begins to sizzle, pour in popcorn kernels. Cover with a lid. Listen for the popcorn to pop, and turn off when about two-thirds of the kernels are popped so you can prevent scorched kernels. Before serving, sprinkle with your preferred seasoning, and gently toss.

#6 Make homemade vanilla extract.

You can DIY this baking necessity if you have time and patience to wait. (The process typically takes several weeks) But you can also speed it up with your Instant Pot. This particularly comes in handy if you forget to make favors for your bridal shower or a thank-you gift for your neighbors and need something pronto.

How to do it: Using the pot-in-pot method, pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom of the pot. In pint-sized mason jars, combine two cups of high-quality vodka and vanilla beans that have been split with a knife. (One bean per jar is fine.) Leave at least one inch of space between the vodka and the jar lid. Seal with jar tightly, but not firmly, and place each jar in the Instant Pot. Close the Instant Pot, and cook on high for 30 minutes to one hour. After the end of a natural release, remove the jars from the Instant Pot, and let them cool naturally. Swirl each jar a few times while they’re cooling.

The extract is likely ready to use right now. However, before you do, smell the extract. If it is still predominantly vodka, let the jars sit for a few more days with the vanilla beans in the liquor, swirling daily. You can remove the vanilla beans from the extract if you wish, but they’re OK to leave, too. However, they will begin to disintegrate and may leave particles behind in your extract.

#7 Share some bottles of homemade Limoncello.

In theory, you could drink the vanilla extract, but it wouldn’t be nearly as delicious as you might imagine. What is seriously good for sipping, however, is limoncello, a sugary lemon liqueur that’s great as an aperitif or after-dinner dessert beverage.

How to do it: You’ll need the same equipment for limoncello as you did for vanilla extract: your Instant Pot, trivet, and mason jars. For ingredients, you’ll need lemon peels, vodka, water, and sugar.

For the first step of this process, you need to infuse the vodka with lemon. Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom. In each pint-sized mason jar, add vodka and lemon peels, leaving about an inch between the top of the liquid and the jar lid. Place two big strips of lemon peel in each jar, and seal the lid tightly but not firmly. Use the Instant Pot’s manual function to cook on high 30 minutes. Then let the machine release the pressure naturally. Remove the jars, and set them aside to cool overnight.

The next day, strain the lemon peel out of the vodka, and combine the lemon-infused liquor in a larger jar. Add simple syrup to the vodka mix to taste. Cool, then pour into bottles, and enjoy.

#8 Turn a fruit bounty into quick preserves.

If your strawberry patch was more generous than you had expected, you can use your Instant Pot to make quick jam or preserves. This procedure doesn’t sterilize the fruit spread for long-term use, but you can store the preserves in jars and use up to a week later. (Or share with your friends and neighbors, with the caveat that they too need to use them quickly.)

How to do it: Wash, clean, and slice three to four pounds of strawberries. Add the juice of one orange, and a few tablespoons of sugar. Set the Instant Pot to Manual mode, and cook four to five minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If the fruit isn’t falling apart when it’s stirred, you may need a minute or two more.

When you like the texture, remove the strawberry mix to a blender or food processor, and gently combine to make more smooth. Pour into prepared jam jars, and enjoy using on everything from biscuits and toast to ice cream and oatmeal.

#9 Melt chocolate with ease.

You’ve never seen the point in investing in a double boiler for the one or two times a year you really need to dip a lot of fruit in chocolate. However, now that you have an Instant Pot, you’ve basically got everything you need to engineer your own fancy double boiler at home.

How to do it: Fill your Instant Pot with water, almost to the top. Turn on the machine’s Sauté function, and heat to Normal. Place a glass bowl that is slightly larger than the opening of the Instant Pot into the appliance, being sure to not overflow the water. Pour chocolate chips or chopped melting chocolate into the bowl. Wait five to 10 minutes for the water to heat through and begin to melt the chocolate. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir occasionally until smooth and uniform. Turn off the Instant Pot. Then turn it back on to Keep Warm. This will keep the water from cooling quickly, so you have smoother chocolate longer for lots of dipping.

#10 Bake a whole cheesecake.

You didn’t know you wanted to make a cheesecake in your Instant Pot, but I bet as soon as you see how easy it is, you’ll be finding many reasons to make this creamy dessert.

How to do it: Pour one cup of water in the bottom of an Instant Pot. Place the wire trivet in the pot. Next, fill the bottom and sides of a six-inch springform pan with a graham cracker crust, and pour in your preferred cheesecake mixture. (You’ll need to look for a recipe that makes a smaller cheesecake, as most are written for nine-inch pans.) Cover the cheesecake with foil.

Transfer the springform pan with unbaked cheesecake to the Instant Pot, and seal the pressure cooker. Cook on Manual Low for one hour, or until the cheesecake’s center jiggles but isn’t still liquid. Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack, and then refrigerate overnight. (Those quick strawberry preserves would be a great topper—hint, hint.)

#11 Roast a whole chicken.

You already knew you could cook big cuts of meat like pork shoulder and beef roast in a fraction of the time you’d need in a slow cooker or oven braiser. But the same magic that helps break down those dense proteins can cook whole chickens perfectly while still keeping them juicy.

How to do it: Sprinkle a fresh or thawed whole chicken with salt and pepper. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté, and brown the chicken breasts and sides in the Instant Pot for three to four minutes on each point. Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot, and deglaze the pan with stock or broth. Place the metal trivet in the Instant Pot. Before returning the whole chicken to the pressure cooker, add any seasonings to the skin or cavity, then put the chicken in the Instant Pot. Seal the cooker, and cook on high. The time depends on the size of the chicken. Plan for six minutes per pound of chicken, plus three additional minutes. For example, a four-pound chicken would need 27 minutes.

When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally. Check the internal temperature of the chicken, and cook for several more minutes if it’s not done at the centermost point.