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How to Convert Any Soup Recipe for the Instant Pot

Bowl of soup made in the instant pot

It’s no secret that we love the Instant Pot around here. If you are cooking from scratch and trying to eat more real food, the Instant Pot is a game-changer. It makes perfect rice, homemade yogurt, and rich bone broth in under an hour.

During soup season, we love Instant Pot soup recipes. Did you know you don’t need a special Instant-Pot-approved soup recipe? In this post, I will show you exactly how to convert your favorite soup recipe into an Instant Pot recipe using 3 simple steps. 

How to Make Soup in the Instant Pot

This process is almost identical to cooking on the stovetop. You saute a few ingredients, pour in the liquids, then cook them all until done.

The main difference is that with the Instant Pot you don’t need to babysit the stove and you won’t accidentally let it boil over! Simply select your cook time, and you’re done.

Many of us learn best by example, so while I explain the 3 Steps, I’ll use my favorite Hamburger Soup Recipe as an example. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-1 lb. ground beef (to taste)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced into ¼-inch disks
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups cabbage, shredded<
  • Two 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 4-6 cups water or beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp thyme (can substitute oregano)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
Convert any soup recipe for the instant pot

How to Convert Any Soup Recipe for the Instant Pot

Step 1: Don’t Overfill Your Instant Pot

The first issue is how do we prevent overfilling the Instant Pot? When making soup on the stovetop, we can pretty much fill the pot to the brim. However, the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers need a certain amount of empty space in the pot or they won’t work.

You should never overfill pressure cookers, or else they won’t be able to pressurize. Only fill your instant pot ½-⅔ full. 

I have a 6-quart Instant Pot, which is pretty standard. There are 2 ways you can make sure the Hamburger Soup recipe will fit in your pressure cooker:

1. Super Accurate Method

Measure how many cups the ingredients will take (1 cup potatoes + 2 cups carrots +4 cups broth), understanding that the liquids will settle in the cracks between the solids, so it’s not a direct addition. If the ingredients are going to overfill the inner pot, adjust them so they only fill it about 1/2-2/3 full.

2. Steph’s Lazy/Simple Method

Add ingredients, to the inner pot and when you add the broth, stop when the IP is ½ – ⅔ full. After cooking, if the soup needs more broth or water, add it and stir it into the finished soup. This is my preferred method because it requires no math or prep work.

Step 2: What order do you put the ingredients in?

Most soups start with a mirepoix – sauteed onions, carrots, and celery. This creates a delicious, flavorful base that you can’t really recreate if you simply dump everything into the Instant Pot and press START.

However, some soup recipes are different. For example, if you’re making chili, you brown the ground beef first, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Here are the basic guidelines:

  • For meat-less or bean-based soups, saute the onions, carrots, and celery first.
  • For chicken-based soups, either brown the chicken then remove it and make the mirepoix, or add it raw with the liquids, then shred it after the soup is cooked.
  • For ground meat, brown the meat first, then add the onions and such.
Hamburger soup cooking in the Instant Pot

NOTE: Some people prefer removing meat or chicken from the pot then making mirepoix separately. This doesn’t make enough of a flavor difference to me, so I usually add the veggies right on top of the browning meat.

Generally speaking, this will be your go-to order of ingredients:

  1. Saute (meat, mirepoix, etc.)
  2. Spices and garlic (stir them in for just 1 minute, to toast them lightly but not burn them)
  3. Other veggies
  4. Liquids and herbs (and uncooked chicken if you’re using it)
  5. Add additional salt and pepper after cooking

Using the Hamburger Soup example, I can look at the ingredients and decide to add them in this order:

  1. Brown the ground beef
  2. Add the onions and carrots
  3. Then the potatoes and cabbage
  4. Then the tomatoes, broth, bay, basil, and thyme

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Step 3: How Long Do I Cook It?

Ever wonder how people figure out how long to cook recipes in their Instant Pot?

One of the simplest ways is to check the cooking manual or recipe booklet that came with your Instant Pot. You may have a cheat sheet in the back with lists of cook times for all kinds of meats, grains, beans, veggies, and even fruit! If your Instant Pot didn’t come with one, a quick internet search will do the trick.

Instant pot cooking time chart

Figure out which of the ingredients in your soup will take the most amount of time to cook, and use that as your guide. 

In my Hamburger Soup example, the carrots take longer than anything else. Chopped carrots take about 2 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot, so I can cook it on the manual setting for 2 minutes, knowing that when it is finished, all of the ingredients will be cooked through.

BEWARE: Tricky Ingredients

There are a few ingredients that get beat to death if you overcook them in the Instant Pot. For that reason, if you have anything in your soup that will take longer to cook than they do, don’t add them to the soup until after it’s done cooking:

Broccoli

It only needs about 2 minutes in the IP before it is tender, so cook it separately if you need to cook your soup longer than that.

Frozen Peas

These are so tender, you’re better off simply adding them to the soup after it is cooked, then replacing the lid and letting them cook for just a few minutes in the hot liquid.

Soup ingredients

Pasta

It only needs about 2 minutes in the IP before it’s tender, so cook it separately if you need to cook it longer than that.

Dairy (yogurt, cream, or cheese)

Dairy does not need to be pressure cooked! Simply stir it in after cooking. This also applies to coconut milk.

Dry Beans

Dry beans take a really long time to cook, so they are best cooked separately, then added to the soup. Here’s how we make dry beans in the Instant Pot.

Bonus Tip: Copy Cat

If you need extra, more specific guidance when learning how to convert your favorite healthy recipes look up similar Instant Pot versions, and then tweak them according to your needs.

Converting Slow Cooker Recipes

The same rules apply for a crockpot to Instant Pot conversion! It’s all based on the ingredients. Take your favorite slow cooker healthy soup recipe, look at the ingredients lists, and use these rules to help you convert them to your Instant Pot.

Make Any Soup in the Instant Pot

Now that you know these 3 rules, you can make any soup in the Instant Pot! If you want to see how these rules play out in some of the most popular soups, here are a few more examples.

Consider this your Instant Pot Soup Conversion Cheat Sheet:

Chili

  • Saute the beef
  • Add the onions and peppers
  • Stir in spices and garlic
  • Pour in the liquids and any other veggies
  • Onions and peppers take the longest to cook here, so pressure cook for 2 minutes on the manual setting
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Noodle Soup

With leftover, cooked chicken:

  • Saute onions, carrots, and celery
  • Stir in garlic
  • Pour in broth and add chicken, noodles, and herbs
  • Noodles and carrots take the longest to cook in this soup, so cook it for 2 minutes on the manual setting
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

With uncooked, boneless, skinless chicken:

  • Saute onions, carrots, and celery
  • Stir in garlic
  • Pour in broth and add chicken and herbs
  • Chicken takes the longest to cook in this soup, so cook it for 6 minutes on the manual setting.
  • Cook the pasta separately on the stovetop then add it to the soup after it’s done cooking.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
Bowl of white bean chili

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Saute onions and carrots
  • Stir in garlic
  • Pour in broth and herbs
  • Carrots take the longest to cook in this soup, so cook it for 2 minutes on the manual setting
  • Steam the broccoli separately on the stovetop then add it to the soup after it’s done cooking
  • Stir in cream and shredded cheese
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

Healthy Instant Pot Soup Recipes!

That’s it! 3 Simple steps and you no longer have to search Pinterest for Instant Pot recipes that you’re not even sure you will like. No more sifting through recipes that call for canned cream-of-whatever or processed food you try to avoid.

Instead, make your favorite healthy soup recipe with ingredients you love. Simply use this method with the nourishing real food you love and convert them to your new favorite Instant Pot soup recipes. (But if you need more healthy soup recipes, check out Megan Steven’s newest cookbook, Secrets of a Wellness Kitchen)

If you liked this post, you might like Steph’s other Instant Pot recipes (and videos!)

Where to Buy an Instant Pot


This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that! 

If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot review and buying guide for features, size, and model.

If you’d like to shop directly at Instant Pot’s website instead of Amazon (or just compare prices), check them out here.

You can even get a carrying case to travel with it! See my review of the Instant Pot carrying case we have.

If you’re still on the fence about adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliance arsenal here are my Instant Pot pros and cons.

10 thoughts on “How to Convert Any Soup Recipe for the Instant Pot”

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Patricia, what part isn’t working? When you click the button does a pop-up come up to enter your email address and then the download link in your email isn’t working, or nothing happens when you click the button in the post?

      1. When I click on the “I’ll try it” red button in the post, nothing happens. There is nothing in my download file, nor do I receive an email.

        1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

          You might have something blocking the pop-up. I manually added the email address that you used for this comment so you should have an email with the guidebook link. If you don’t see it, check your spam folder. Sorry it wasn’t working for you, let me know if you still didn’t get it!

  1. Steph, in the middle of your article “How to Convert Any Soup Recipe for the Instant Pot,” you offer a free, downloadable Instant Pot guidebook. However, the download link for the guidebook does not work. Please either fix the link or give me the URL to download the guidebook.

    Best regards,
    Joe

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Joe, I just tested out the link and it works fine for me. Which part wasn’t working? The link in the actual post, or once you received the email the link within the email wasn’t working?

      1. Good Morning, Carolyn. The link in the actual post is the one that isn’t working for me. I tried it with both the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, but with no success. It’s the link in the post associated with the button which reads, “I’ll Try It!”

        I don’t believe I’ve received an email from you with the link yet.

        Thanks.

        Joe

        1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

          Ok. When you click the “I’ll try it!” button a little pop-up should come up. Maybe your computer is blocking pop-ups. I put your email in on my end, so you should get an email with the link to the guidebook. Let me know if you haven’t gotten that. I used the email address you entered to post this comment. 🙂

          1. I got your email, Carolyn, and was able to open the guidebook. Thanks! I’m not sure about the link in the web page, but I’m not going to spend any more time on it.

            Thanks, again. Stay safe. Stay well.

            Joe

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