Instant Pot Part Two – Tips, Tricks and Frequently Asked Questions Answered + Plant Based Oil Free Instant Pot Minestrone Soup

April 11, 2017 / Molly Patrick /

4_whole_food_plant_based_minestrone_soup_top_shot

Okay lover, let’s get busy.

Last week I covered the nuts and bolts of the Instant Pot (IP) and today I’m covering tips and tricks, and frequently asked questions. Let’s do it.

First up, if your IP is still sitting in its box, it’s time to do something about that.

You may be unsure and intimidated, just don’t let that stop you. This appliance will only help you, my dear, so get that beautiful kitchen appliance out of its box and onto your kitchen counter where it belongs ASAP! Next, crack open the manual it came with and give it a quick read through. It will show you how to assemble the pieces (super easy) and it will walk you through the initial test run by steaming some water (also super easy).

Now it’s time to pop your IP cherry. Unlike when you popped your sex cherry, this won’t be at all awkward or uncomfortable. You just have to find a simple recipe, follow along and do the deed. I recommend trying out some simple potatoes to start.

After your IP cherry is successfully popped, you’ll be empowered, excited and hooked. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go forward with your Instant Pot-ery.

When you store your IP, store it with the lid sitting upside down on the inner pot.

This will help the inner ring air out so it doesn’t hold onto funky cooking smells. If your sealing ring has a funk that you just can’t shake, place the sealing ring in a glass mixing bowl (or glass container with a lid) and pour in equal parts white vinegar and hot water. Squeeze in some lemon, drop in the lemon rind and cover the bowl (or container) with a lid and let it set out overnight. The next morning, wash your seal in warm sudsy water, rinse it, and dry it thoroughly before placing it back into the IP lid. The smell should improve considerably.

One of our private Facebook group members suggested soaking the sealing ring in water and denture cleansing tablets. I haven’t tried this, but she said it works like a charm.

Use the Quick Soak Method if you forgot to soak your beans overnight.

Soaking your beans in water overnight is important because it helps the digestibility of beans (yay – less farts!) and it helps the beans get nice and soft when they cook. It also helps beans to cook faster.

Sometimes we get too wrapped up, binge watching How to Get Away With Murder on Netflix and totally forget to soak our beans. If this happens I get it. Fucking Shonda Rhimes and her cliffhangers! If this ever happens to you, it’s all good because I have a backup plan for you. Instead of soaking your beans overnight, you can do the quick soak method and be on your way.

To do this, rinse and strain your beans and place them in your IP, along with twice as much water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Lock the lid into place and make sure the nozzle is pointed in the sealing position. Use the manual mode and set the timer for 2 minutes. Use the natural release method when the timer goes off. When all of the pressure is out of your pot, take off the lid and strain and rinse your beans. Voila! Your beans are now ready to be fully cooked, just as if they were soaked overnight.

Adding hot water to the IP helps it reach pressure quicker.

This is helpful if you’re short on time. Instead of adding cold water, add hot water to your pot and it will come to pressure faster. Easy peasy.

Liquid cups versus dry cups – there’s a difference.

Did you know that liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups do not hold the same amount? Yup – 1 liquid cup holds about 1/8 of a cup more than 1 dry cup. Just to be clear, here’s what dry measuring cups looks like and here’s what a liquid measuring cup looks like. So when you add liquid ingredients to your recipes, be sure to use a liquid measuring cup.

Letting grains set.

When you cook grains in your IP, most of them will seem like they have too much liquid in them when they are done cooking. For example, if you follow my Instant Pot Steel Cut Oat recipe and it looks like they’re swimming in water after they cook, no worries- this is normal. All you have to do is let them cool on the counter and the extra liquid will be absorbed. This is true for most grains.

Most pressure cooker recipes reflect cooking times at sea level to an altitude of 2,000 feet.

If you live at an altitude higher than 2,000 feet, increase the cooking time by 5% for every 1,000 feet above 2,000 feet. So if you live in Denver (5,000 plus feet), you would need to add 15% to your cooking time. So instead of cooking for 10 minutes, it would cook for 11.5 minutes. This might not make a huge difference with things that cook quickly, like steamed veggies, but with things like beans and grains, you should keep this in mind.

Okay – let’s round this baby out with the most frequently asked Instant Pot questions that come my way.

Q: What things do you cook most frequently in the Instant Pot?

A:

  • Beans (and legumes)
  • Rice
  • Soups
  • Steel Cut Oats

Q: What tools do you use with your Instant Pot:

A:

  • Oven mitts
  • Steamer basket
  • Trivet (the one it came with)
  • Oven proof bowls
  • Tongs

Q: How can I experiment with my IP if I don’t want to follow specific recipes?

A: There is no easy answer for this one because it depends on how much you want to make, what you’re making, the consistency that you want to achieve, the ingredients you’re using – there are a lot of variables that make it difficult to give set guidelines. That said, here are some general and approximate rules that you can play around with.

First – it helps to understand this. You must put at least 1/2 cup of liquid into your pot for it to come to pressure and you shouldn’t fill it over 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Fill it no more than 1/2 full when cooking things that expand, like beans or grains, and no more than 2/3 full when cooking items that don’t expand, like soup made with already cooked beans or veggies. This gives you an idea of how much wiggle room you have to play with. It’s important to play around and keep track of what works and what doesn’t work.

To answer the question a little more specifically, here are some very general guidelines that will help you get started experimenting:

  1. When making soup with already cooked beans, adding 2 cups of veggies, 1 1/2 – 2 cups of cooked beans and 3 cups of water works well. Use the manual mode and set the timer for 5 minutes with the natural release method when the timer goes off. This will give you a good soup consistency. I recommend blending some of the soup after it cooks and then pouring it back into the pot to thicken it up.
  2. If using uncooked dried beans to make soup, adding 2 cups of veggies, 1 cup of soaked beans and about 4 cups of water works well. Use the manual mode and set the timer for about 15 minutes with a natural release method when the timer goes off.
  3. When making plain beans, 1 cup of dried and soaked beans and 1 1/2 cups of water is a pretty sure bet. It depends on the what type of beans you’re cooking, but most beans cook well at 12 – 15 minutes with a natural release if they have been soaked.

Q: Can I steam tempeh in the IP?

A: Do I have a potty mouth? Fuck yeah!
To steam tempeh in your IP, add 1 cup of water to the IP, followed by the trivet that came with your pot. Place the tempeh on the trivet and lock the lid into place, making sure the nozzle is pointed in the sealing direction. Use the steam mode and set the timer for 2 minutes. Use the natural release method when the timer goes off. When the pressure is out of your pot, take off the lid, and with a pair of tongs, transfer the tempeh from your pot to a cutting board and allow it to cool.

Q: What is the difference between the Instant Pot and a stovetop pressure cooker?

A: First up, the Instant Pot is nothing more than a tricked out electric pressure cooker. So if you have an electric pressure cooker that can do lots of different things (like slow cooking, sauté, steam, etc.) then there’s probably no need to buy an Instant Pot, but I can’t say for sure because the IP is the only electric pressure cooker I’ve ever used, so I can’t advise on other brands.

One difference between an electric pressure cooker and a stovetop pressure cooker is that stovetop pressure cookers operate at 15 PSI (pounds per square inch) and most electric pressure cookers, including the IP operate at 10.15 – 11.6 PSI. So electric pressure cookers operate at slightly lower pressure (heat) than a stovetop pressure cooker.

To adapt a stovetop pressure cooker recipe to the IP, add 20% of time to the recipe. So if a stovetop pressure cooker recipe calls for 10 minutes of cook time, you would add 2 minutes of cooking time if making it in the Instant Pot, making the IP cook time 12 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

That’s the main difference. The other difference is that stovetop pressure cookers only do pressure cooking, they don’t do all the other fancy stuff that the IP does.

Q: I’m a bit unsure of the liquid measurements when doubling a recipe.

A: I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’ve always doubled recipes across the board and I’ve never had a problem. For example, to make the perfect batch of brown rice in my IP, I use 1 cup of rice and 1 1/4 cups of water and set the timer for 23 minutes using the manual mode with a natural release. To make 2 cups of brown rice, I use 2 1/2 cups of water (exactly double) and I use the same setting and time (manual, 23 minutes, natural release). Both ways come out perfect every single time.

Q: What is the first meal you would suggest making in it?

A: I got you! Today’s recipe is perfect to test the IP waters. Follow the directions – you can’t screw it up.

Q: Do you have Instant Pot recipes in your weekly meal plans?

A: Hell yeah we do!
We have new IP recipes each and every week in our Plant Fueled Meal Plans. Plus, batch cooking is a hell of a lot faster when you put your IP to work.

Q: Do you pull out the gasket (AKA sealing ring) every time?

A: I definitely do not but that’s because I’m a lazy fucker. I take it out and wash it about once a month. If I cook something extra strong smelling, like curry, I take it out and wash it directly after I use it. I do however rinse the lid thoroughly after each use. You should probably take the seal out and rinse it every time.

In closing today’s Fuckery, I urge you to play around with your Instant Pot and start having fun. It’s like a lover; the only way to familiarize yourselves is to spend time with each other and get your freak on. There will be fails. There will be wins. There will be quarrels. There will be frustrations. There will be orgasms. But in order to experience any of it, you have to dive in and I wanna hear all about your experience with the Instant Pot in the comments below!

Start by making today’s recipe. Follow along – you can’t fuck this up.

Minestrone Soup

Author: Molly Patrick of Clean Food Dirty Girl

Ingredients

Instant Pot Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow onion chopped (60g)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini chopped (80g)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper diced (about 1/2 cup / 70g)
  • 1 cup fresh green beans string removed and cut into thirds (115g)
  • 1 cup eggplant cut into cubes (80g)
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot chopped (75g)
  • 1 small russet potato diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped (7g)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained well (15.5 ounces / 439g)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 12 oz. / 793g / 1 lb
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 10 turns black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water 710ml

Stove Top Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow onion chopped (60g)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini chopped (80g)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper diced (about 1/2 cup / 70g)
  • 1 cup green beans string removed and cut into thirds (115g)
  • 1 cup eggplant cut into cubes (80g)
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot chopped (75g)
  • 1 small russet potato diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped (7g)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained well (15.5 ounces / 439g)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 12 oz. / 793g / 1 lb
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 10 turns black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water 945ml

Instructions

Instant Pot Directions

  • Prep and measure out all of the ingredients first. This will make it super easy to throw together.
  • Press saute on your Instant Pot (IP) and let the inner pot heat up for 2 minutes.
  • Add all of the ingredients, except for the water and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot (onion, garlic, zucchini, bell pepper, green beans, eggplant, celery, potato, parsley, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano, black pepper and salt). Add just a splash of water if the veggies start to stick.
  • Turn off the IP, add the water and stir. Lock the lid into place, making sure the nozzle is in the sealing position.
  • Use the manual setting and set the timer for 10 minutes. When time is up, use the natural release method. When all of the pressure is out of the IP, take off the lid and allow to cool.

Stove Top Directions

  • Prep and measure out all of the ingredients first. This will make it super easy to throw together.
  • Heat a large pot over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add all of the ingredients, except for the water and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot (onion, garlic, zucchini, bell pepper, green beans, eggplant, celery, potato, parsley, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano, black pepper and salt). Add just a splash of water if the veggies start to stick.
  • Add the water and stir. Place a lid on the pot at an angle and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are soft to your liking. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Notes

Instant Pot and stove top directions

Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with taking your Instant Pot out of the damn box. It’s time.

Xo
Molly

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Written by ex-boozer, ex-smoker, Co-founder, and CEO, Molly Patrick. They will help you eat more plants while throwing perfection down the garbage disposal.

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18 Comments

  1. David A on April 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    My son gave me an IP for my B’day and I love it. Done basic cooking with potato, rice, beats etc but looking for a steamer basket. Can’t see the IP makes one and I see some on Amazon but really what I like.
    Any suggested and experiences?

    • Clean Food Dirty Girl on April 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Hi David, yeah, it’s too bad Instant Pot doesn’t make a nice steamer basket, but something like this works well (if you take the handles off first) or just using the trivet that came with your Instant Pot and keeping the veggie pieces large enough to not fall through. 😉

      Meghann
      Team Dirty Girl

      • David A on April 13, 2017 at 6:25 pm

        Hey Meghann, thanks for the info. Just ordered I one today and should be in Tuesday. It had good reviews many related to the IP.

  2. Mistie on April 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Oh wow, this soup looks delicious. Still haven’t got my hands on an instant pot yet but will have to give it a try.

  3. Susan on June 19, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Your minestrone soup really was my very first IP recipe! (And the first recipe I made from the meal plans)
    I loved the soup, and I love my Instant Pot!!

  4. A on July 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for the ring cleaning tip. I will first try leaving it out in the sun, and if that fails, I will buy denture cleaner. I tried soaking it in vinegar and baking soda overnight after only washing it previously with soap and water, and it didn’t do anything.

    Before making my 5th batch of bone broth with the IP (the only thing I’ve made with it), I noticed an acrid smell that was a cross between burnt popcorn, burnt rubber and animal decay. Blech! I couldn’t figure out the source and my kitchen got a good cleaning! Finally I realized where it was coming from after I made a couple of broth batches, and soaked it overnight in vinegar. I was nauseous that day and the next from the smell. I’ve since relegated it to the storage room tightly sealed in 3 plastic bags. Am ordering a couple more rings, I may have to toss that one if all else fails. Will definitely do more heavy duty cleaning with the new rings rather than just dish soap and water.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on July 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Absolutely! Check out this video about what Dr. Greger has to say about bone broth! And here is our very own veggie stock recipe – sure not to stink up your IP!

  5. Nathalie on August 24, 2017 at 6:13 am

    5 stars
    Omni husband asked if I could add this to our family favourites list… it’s THAT good.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 24, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Hi Nathalie – Glad he is down with some good plant based deliciousness!

      Karen
      Team Dirty Girl

  6. Dmitri on October 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Is the IP amenable to canning stuff?

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on October 12, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Dmitri, We are not sure about this. Traditional pressure cookers can be used for canning so it’s possible. We recommend contacting Instant Pot to see what they say about it as canning is just not in our wheelhouse. ~Karen

      • Dmitri on October 16, 2018 at 9:05 am

        I did some investigating and it turns out that pressure canning is not advised, since the IP doesn’t come to high enough pressure. OTOH, boiling water-bath canning (acid stuff) is OK, according to the IP peeps. High altitude should probably do it with pressure anyway to get the water to a high enough temp.

        • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on October 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm

          Thanks for coming back and sharing that information! ~Karen

  7. Lynn on September 8, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    5 stars
    I love this soup! I personalize it by omitting the eggplant and adding pot barley and red lentils. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Laura Ellison on October 12, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    Well of course I found a Instant Pot lookalike on sale and it doesn’t have a saute button. Suggestions? It has a button that says steam/veggies….
    Laura

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on October 13, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Hi Laura, I would try Googling the brand of pressure cooker you purchased (or emailing the manufacturer) to ask if you can use the cooker without the lid to saute. Most likely you can. You could also ask in our private Facebook group to see if anyone else has that cooker and if they have found a way to saute with it. ~Karen

  9. Jon on February 10, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    5 stars
    This stuff is incredible. Feels like eating a big old bowl of good stuff. Great for a cold day.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on February 11, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      High fives on the good stuff! Thanks for the recipe love, Jon!

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