Original publish date May 30 2017. Updated 2022 with new photos and information.
Instant Pot makes it SO easy to cook up a batch of leafy greens. Whether you’re looking to prep yourself a pot of kale, collards, chard, beet greens, turnip greens, ANY kind of greens… with your pressure cooker, you can set-it-and-forget-it and get them done in a flash.
I like to call them INSTA-GREENS. Make a batch every week to add to your dinners, lunches and breakfasts. Let your Instant Pot be a positive influence on your self care routine!
Jump To Section:
- Step By Step: how to cook Greens in Instant Pot
- How Long to Cook Greens in Instant Pot?
- Quick Release or Natural Pressure Release?
- How to Season Instant Pot Greens
- Meal Prep Ideas for Instant Pot Greens
- Why to Eat More Leafy Greens?
Step By Step: How to Cook Greens in Instant Pot
After washing your greens, begin by removing any especially hard/fibrous stalks (pressure-cooking does a pretty good job of softening stalks, but the more robust ones are not really good eats). I usually do this by hand, grasping the stem in one hand while stripping away the rest of the leaf with the other. Sometimes with collards, which have extra-thick stems, it may be easier to slice them out with a chef’s knife on your chopping board. For the remaining edible portion, run your knife through to create whatever kind of “bite-size” effect you’re after.
OR, if you don’t feel up to the prep work – bagged pre-chopped greens are very convenient and work great for this!
Add 1/2 cup water or broth to your pressure cooker, and dump in those greens. Remember that greens “cook down” (shrink) a lot, so don’t be afraid to fill ‘er up! Just stay below the max fill line.
Rule-Breaker Alert: this is an often-broken rule, but be aware that Instant Pot does recommend using a minimum of 1 cup liquid when pressure-cooking. I want to avoid using this much water in my greens if I can get away with it, because I want to minimize nutrient loss into the cooking liquid. I have always had good results using 1/2 cup liquid. BUT sometimes unexpected things happen in the kitchen – for whatever reason, if the water level is too low for your situation, here is what will happen: the display will read “burn” or “OvHt” – this means overheat, and it is a safety mechanism that kicks in when the temp sensor is high enough to risk burning. Don’t panic – just stop cooking, open back up, add another good splash of water, and start over.
Now that we have that out of the way, back to the greens. Close the lid (valve in sealing position), select Manual mode, and adjust the time…
How Long to Cook Greens in Instant Pot?
Cook time depends on how hardy your greens are (some are tougher than others, even within the same varietals) and whether you like them very tender or more lightly cooked. I’ve seen other recipes call for MUCH longer cook times, but in my experience this is very unnecessary. Of course, you can always add more time after you open the lid to try a taste. It can take a bit of trial and error to find your personal ideal, but I recommend the following:
Cook collard greens for 4 minutes on high pressure mode. Collards are usually thicker and tougher than most other greens, but 4 minutes in Instant Pot is enough to make them tender. If you’d like to try using collard leaves as “sandwich wraps”, leave them whole and pressure cook for just 1 minute to leave them firmer.
Cook kale for 3 minutes on high pressure mode. This cook time will tenderize fibrous varieties like curly redbor kale and Tuscan/dinosaur kale. If you’re working with an especially tender, garden-fresh specimen, 2 minutes may be enough cook time.
Cook turnip greens for 3 minutes on high pressure mode. Turnip greens can be quite bitter, so be sure to balance the flavor with salt after cooking (or use salty bacon/ham, as southern cooks do).
Cook beet greens for 2 minutes on high pressure mode. And if you have beet roots handy, Instant Pot is my favorite way to cook those too… see: Insta-Beets!
Cook mustard greens for 2 minutes on high pressure. Mustard greens are addictively peppery and pair well with cheesy pasta dishes. I’ve started growing them in my garden every year since they’re one of the quickest plants to grow in early spring!
Cook swiss chard for 2 minutes on high pressure mode. Chard tends to have delicate leaves with hardier stems; this cook time is enough to soften the stalks without overcooking the greens.
Cook spinach for 0 minutes on low pressure mode. Spinach is the most delicate of all cooked greens, and it cooks in a flash.
Quick Release or Natural Pressure Release?
After the cooking time is up, I usually open the valve right away. But, I have not found any greens to be overcooked if I leave them longer for a natural pressure release.
Potentially Offensive Aroma Alert: Just saying… Think about the smell that accumulates in your kitchen when you cook cruciferous vegetables. Now, think about the vigorous fountain of steam that explodes from your Instant Pot when you release the pressure. You may wish to de-pressurize next to an open window!
How to Season Instant Pot Greens
For a traditional southern flavor, you can certainly saute some ham or bacon in your Instant Pot before adding the greens. Most of the time, I simply toss the greens with salt and a splash of vinegar after cooking – I like to stay pretty plain-jane with the batch-cooking so the leftovers can be dolled up with whatever sauces or condiments strike my fancy during the week. But there’s one secret ingredient that always joins the party, thanks to a hot tip from Dr. Rhonda Patrick of FoundMyFitness fame… a pantry staple that not only adds sharp/spicy flavor, but also serves a functional role in optimizing the health-factor of those leafy greens. What is this special seasoning…??
Mustard seed powder! Quickie Science Lesson:
- Kale, collards, and the rest of their cruciferous cousins contain compounds called glucosinolates.
- When we eat these, they can have a positive affect on our bodies’ antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification pathways, and they are thought to play a major role in the reduced disease risks we observe in people who eat more of these vegetables.
- Glucosinolates must be broken down into their active form by an enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is present in the vegetable, but it is heat-sensitive, so cooking inhibits its activity and makes our glucosinolates less bioavailable.
- Mustard seed powder contains myrosinase! By sprinkling it on cruciferous vegetables after cooking, it provides a fresh source of the enzyme and lets us get the most nutritional bang for our buck!
I keep whole mustard seeds in a pepper grinder in my kitchen. It makes it so easy to have powerful, freshly ground spice on every serving!
Meal Prep Ideas for Instant Pot Greens
Add a helping of insta-greens to anything and everything you like to eat. I’ve talked about what this can look like in an earlier post on all-purpose greens, but I thought now would be a good time to share a few real-life-application shots.
Here’s a nourishing breakfast, featuring greens, two scrambled eggs with tomatillo salsa, half of a small avocado, and a piece of whole grain toast with grass-fed butter.
Happy day: my kale was paired with a multigrain bagel & smoked salmon, yumyum. Trader Joe’s “everything but the bagel” seasoning is 100% essential.
Enhancing leftovers at lunchtime: Cajun red beans & brown rice + collard greens.
Even pizza night isn’t safe from my appetite for greens! Yes, I’m still working on the perfect whole-grain sourdough crust. This one is topped with chard, morel mushrooms and lots of garlic.
Why to eat more leafy greens?
Finally, because I am a dietitian, I can’t leave you this post without a quick section on nutrition.
Nutritionally, leafy greens have a lot going on, and we could go deep on a number of topics – things like glucosinolates, magnesium, folic acid, and various anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories – but for now, let’s skip ahead to the actual point: researchers have observed that people who eat more vegetables are healthier than people who eat less. The benefits are well known and wide reaching. From Increasing vegetable intakes: rationale and systematic review of published interventions:
If you still need more convincing, I’ll share one more detail I stumbled upon that really stood out to me from a study on memory and aging: researchers found that older adults who ate 1-2 servings of leafy greens daily were assessed to have the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none. Yeah! I know which of those groups I want to be in…
I think that’s enough for Green Gospel for today… are you feeling it? Surely I’m not the only one using Instant Pot to maintain a ready-to-eat vegetable surplus. Tell me, how do you do your veggies?
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[Instant Pot] Insta-Greens!
- up to 16 cups chopped greens (collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, spinach, or other dark leafy cooking greens)
- 1/2 cup broth or water
- Prepare greens by washing them, removing any especially thick stalks, and chopping the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the greens into Instant Pot, then pour in 1/2 cup of broth or water.
- Close the lid and ensure that the valve is set to sealed position. Select “Manual” mode, leave the setting on High Pressure, and adjust the cook time based on your choice of green:Collard Greens: 4 minutesKale Greens: 3 minutesTurnip Greens: 3 minutesBeet Greens: 2 minutesMustard Greens: 2 minutesSwiss Chard: 2 minutesSpinach: 0 minutes (adjust to low pressure setting)
- When the cooking time is up, the pressure valve may be opened immediately for a quick release. Toss the greens and season to taste.
- Store the cooked greens in an airtight container; use within four days if refrigerated, or freeze for long-term storage.