[Instant Pot] Insta-Greens! How to Prep Leafy Greens in a Pressure Cooker

raw kale in instant pot

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!

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Step By Step: How to Cook Greens in Instant Pot

raw kale on chopping board

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!

close up raw kale greens in instant pot

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…

cooked kale in instant pot

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:

Collard Greens

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.

Kale

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.

Turnip Greens

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).

Beet Greens

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!

Mustard Greens

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!

Swiss Chard

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.

Spinach

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!

bowl of seasoned cooked kale

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.

Insta-Greens Breakfast

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.

Insta-Greens Bagel Breakfast

Happy day: my kale was paired with a multigrain bagel & smoked salmon, yumyum. Trader Joe’s “everything but the bagel” seasoning is 100% essential.

Insta-Greens & Red Beans

Enhancing leftovers at lunchtime: Cajun red beans & brown rice + collard greens.

Insta-Greens Pizza

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:

Intakes of dark green leafy vegetables have been associated with reduced risk for type II diabetes [57, 5859], reduced risk for a number of cancers [48, 49, 61] and with reduced depression [62].

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?

bowl of seasoned cooked kale

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raw kale in instant pot

[Instant Pot] Insta-Greens!

Mary Clare Fraker, MS RD
Optional: Before adding the greens, you can build flavor by browning onions/garlic and/or bacon or ham using Instant Pot's Saute Function. Or the greens can simply be batch-cooked alone as a make-ahead meal prep component.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 3 mins
Time To Pressure 10 mins
Total Time 18 mins
Course Side Dish
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 15 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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 minutes
    Kale Greens: 3 minutes
    Turnip Greens: 3 minutes
    Beet Greens: 2 minutes
    Mustard Greens: 2 minutes
    Swiss Chard: 2 minutes
    Spinach: 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.
Keyword beet greens, chard, collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens
Instant Pot Recipe Index

15 thoughts on “[Instant Pot] Insta-Greens! How to Prep Leafy Greens in a Pressure Cooker”

  1. I grew up on “Greens” in the south. Don’t be afraid of the extra liquid you may need – it is TASTY! I always eat my greens in a bowl with the liquid “pot likker”. I don’t think I’ve ever put it on a plate with the rest of the meal 🙂

    1. Good point! Now you have me thinking about my mom’s signature collards, fresh from the garden and cooked down with broth, bacon and little diced potatoes – YUM. Pot likker can be a beautiful thing, not to mention a good way to make sure you’re not throwing out any nutrients!

    2. I’m with you, Lisa, gotta eat my greens from a bowl. Just cooked up some instant beet and mustard greens, with 2 ham hocks in a quart of homemade chicken stock, plus 1/2 chopped medium onion, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and ground black pepper. Ladeled out a big bowl, but I was out of cornbread, so I soaked it up with a hunk of homemade buttermilk WW ciabatta until the pot likker was cool enough to slurp with a spoon. The pot likker is the best part, and I don’t miss a molecule of the nutrients! 🙂

      Thanks for the method, Mary. Happy eating, everyone, and don’t forget to brush your teeth after the last drop is gone. 😀

  2. How long would you say the greens would stay “good” in the fridge? Do you think I could prep on Sunday for weekday meals? I know that is a broad question…depends on the green, etc…just wondered what your experience has been. 🙂
    Don’t you love the Instant Pot?!

    1. The food safety guidelines (USDA) call for 3-4 days for leftovers, so I make enough to last until Thursday. Totally love that Instant Pot, so dang useful!

  3. Very nice article. I am new to the world of the Instant Pot and right now it’s stuffed with red chard to be cooked. I note the times you give for the different greens, however, if I set my IP on manual for the Swiss chard (1-2) minutes, does that include the heating time? It just doesn’t seem possible that it does. I keep stumbling over this bit and guess I need the Actual Cooking Time involved which includes the heating up part. TIA for any help you can give me.

    1. Sorry for missing this comment for so long – those values do not include the time it takes for the pot to heat up and pressurize, just the minutes it will hold at pressure (ie. the numbers you punch into the display).

  4. I hate tossing something healthy, so tried cutting off the heavy red stems up to the green leaves. Washed and cut in half. Tossed in instant pot bottom with 1 cup water and 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar. Pressure cooked for 2 minutes. Let of steam, opened and tossed in green leaves. Pressure cooked 2 minutes, let off steam. The red stems were tender and delicious, as were the green tops.
    So if you’re like me and like the taste of healthy apple cider vinegar and beets, try this

    1. Thank you for that! It was perfect! The few instant pot recipes for beet greens I could find had everything cooking together.

    2. Great idea! I put my collard greens in with the stems of Swiss Chard, pressure cooked 2 min. Quick release. Add the other greens, pressure cook 2 min. with quick release. Excellent.

      1. Great idea! I have collard greens and Swiss chard. I’m going to try this double-up cooking trick.

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