Meal Prep. It’s the basic effort of optimizing the time and energy you spend in the kitchen, and it’s a valuable life skill for every busy cook. When I got my first Instant Pot in 2014 (!), it was a game-changer for my healthy cooking and meal planning efforts.
I’ve created this page to share what I’ve learned, organize my best Instant Pot meal prep recipes, and invite you to join a discussion on how we can all make the best use of our pressure cookers!
For readers new to this site: I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and new mom with serious gratitude for any tool that can make it so easy to enjoy delicious healthy home cooking!!
Jump To Section:
- Is Instant Pot good for meal prep?
- Tips for Healthy Meal Prep with Instant Pot
- Favorite Easy Foods for Healthy Instant Pot Meal Prep
Is Instant Pot good for meal prep?
Believe it! Instant Pot and other electric multi-cookers can make meal prepping and batch cooking faster and easier. If you’re motivated to cook healthy whole foods for yourself and your family, this tool can really help support your efforts.
Reason #1: Pressure cookers cook faster! Inside of a pressure cooker, the boiling point of water is higher – this can result in significantly shorter cook times compared to other cooking methods. This is especially helpful for tough foods like dried beans, whole grains, root vegetables or longer-cooking cuts of meat.
Reason #2: Set it and forget it! I have fallen deeply in love with the low-maintenance, hands-off cooking that Instant Pot has graced upon my kitchen. I don’t feel comfortable walking away from a lit gas burner on my cooktop – but with Instant Pot, I am free. Meal prep is so much more manageable when I can drift in and out of my kitchen to deal with whatever else needs my attention!
Tips for Healthy Meal Prep with Instant Pot
Setting Your Intentions
To set yourself up for success, it’s important to set out on this project by asking yourself some questions:
- Who are we feeding? What kind of nutritional needs do they have?
- What kind of meals are we covering? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks?
- What about time constraints? How much time can we dedicate to the prep session? How much time will be available for secondary prep before serving? (Do you need fully ready-to-eat dishes, or will prepped components give you the head start you need?)
For example: in my house, my primary goal is stress-free dinners, along with some extra ready-to-eat nutritious foods to simplify our snacks and breakfasts. For workflow scheduling, I usually have some free time right before dinner – for this reason, I mostly prefer to have components prepped ahead of time (eg. cooked meats, grains, vegetables) rather than entire pre-cooked meals. It helps so much to be able to grab prepped items out of the fridge for a head start, then just finish up with a little quick cooking or assembly at dinnertime!
Choosing Meal Prep Recipes
So, what will you eat this week?? Things to consider:
Balance and variety. The goal is well-rounded nutrition for optimal health and happiness! On an ideal week, my Instant Pot can help me fill up my fridge with a diverse buffet of vegetables, beans, grains, meats, eggs, soups and whatever else my dinner plans require.
Pressure cooking vs. other methods. While Instant Pot is the star appliance of the meal prep session, it’s good to compliment your pressure cooking with some other kinds of food-prep too. You don’t want to be stuck exclusively eating foods that are steamed, boiled or stewed… your menu needs some fresh, crunchy vegetables, and maybe something roasted to a satisfying golden crisp.
Optimizing Your Time
Our time is so valuable… we’ve got to work smart!
Order of Operations. Start with recipes that require less prep time and less cleanup for your Instant Pot. The perfect first task is a simple steamed item, like a batch of hard boiled eggs. No prep means your pressure cooker is working for you as soon as your prep session starts! And when they’re done, it’s much quicker to rinse the pot and move onto the next recipe (compared to a messier dish like oatmeal or soup).
Take advantage of hands-off pressure cooking time. The gift of “set it and forget it” cooking is one of Instant Pot’s greatest strengths – so take that opportunity to get ahead on other hands-on prep tasks! Whenever your Instant Pot is running, you can let it rip and turn your attention to washing/chopping vegetables, or whatever else you need to get ready.
Double Decker Cooking! My personal favorite pro tip… if you play your cards right and play match-maker with your cook times, you can take advantage of the “Pot in Pot” method and cook not one but TWO items at the same time. Find ideas for pairings in my Double Decker Dinner category.
Favorite Easy Foods for Healthy Instant Pot Meal Prep
Throughout the week, serve whole grains as a fluffy bed under stews or stir fries, or add them to salads. Oatmeal or other porridges are also a great make-ahead breakfast option.
- Quinoa: 1 minute.
- Brown rice: 22 minutes.
- Steel cut oatmeal: 5 minutes. Flavors to try: Banana Nut, Coconut, Pumpkin Spice, Carrot Cake!
Add protein and fiber to salads or soups, puree them into dips, or use them to fill burritos or quesadillas. Chickpeas are great for baking into crunchy snacks, too. Even though Instant Pot can technically handle cooking dry beans straight from the pantry, I still prefer to soak mine (why? 3 reasons… see this post from my instagram feed)
- Black beans, soaked: 10 minutes
- Chickpeas, soaked: 15 minutes
- Lentils, unsoaked: 5 minutes
- [Instant Pot] Everyday Lentil & Spinach Dal
Hard boiled eggs are nutrient-dense additions to snacks, lunches or breakfasts. There are many ways to make boiled eggs in the Instant Pot, but my favorite is this low maintenance method on Clean Eating Kitchen: 2 Minute Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs.
Add protein to your plate, salads, sandwiches or other meals through the week.
You might worry that your pressure cooker is too powerful to cook vegetables, but it can be done! Lots of veggies are good candidates to make-ahead in your Instant Pot.
It is so great to have homemade soup ready to reheat for quick lunches, especially in cold weather. They’re even better if you make your own chicken stock (see: Insta-Broth!)
The million dollar question: what’s for dinner? If you’re hunting for more meal prep Instant Pot recipes, there are lots of ideas in my recipe index. To start, here are a few suggestions:
Freezer Friendly Meal Prep Instant Pot Recipes
Some of my favorite easy Instant Pot recipes are designed to be prepped ahead of time, stored in your freezer, and dumped into the pressure cooker on a night when you need a quick easy dinner! I’ve written all about these here: [Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes
NOW – please tell me your take. Who has tips to share about easy Instant Pot meal prep and how you use your pressure cooker to make your life simpler??