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Can You Make Slow Cooker Recipes in an Instant Pot?

Ever wondered if your favorite recipe has a crockpot to Instant Pot conversion?

You know the Instant Pot can cook foods quickly, but finding a new recipe for an old favorite can be hit or miss…and those misses are particularly painful when it’s 6:30pm and everyone is hungry.

If you want to use the Instant Pot to save time, but don’t have the time to trial a bunch of new recipes, keep reading.

Can you make slow cooker recipes in an Instant Pot?

Even though it’s not hard to make a bunch of everyday foods like rice, hard-boiled eggs, and steamed vegetables faster in an Instant Pot, I have to admit that mine stayed in its box, floating around from the mud room to the kitchen to the basement, for almost a year.

It seems dumb, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, 15 minutes to read directions is just too much to consider – and then you probably need to find new recipes too!

I’m glad to know I’m not alone in the new-appliance-in-box-for-six-months syndrome. I heard this from a reader a while back when I mentioned the Instant Pot on Facebook:

“I have one of those. It’s still in the box. I’m terrified it will explode if I use it.”

My response:

LOL I did the same thing – leaving it in the box – but not because I was afraid of it. I just felt like I didn’t have time to read the directions, but then I finally just did it and pushed the “rice” button and poof – done. Didn’t have to even read them. You gotta start using it, you’ll love it!

Because I did.

And it really is easy.

It’s SO easy, in fact, that my kids did the video of opening our second Instant Pot and getting it set up. 😉

Disclaimer and DUH important note: This was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. One should always read directions, especially with potentially dangerous appliances! It’s part of my story, so it remains here, but now that I know more I wish I had taken a little more time back then. Please – read your instruction manual. It’s not that long. 🙂 

Let’s Start at the Beginning: What’s an Instant Pot?

Instant Pot being used in a kitchen. Electronic tablet displaying recipe.

In case you are in the dark on this, it’s an electric pressure cooker with a stainless steel pot. It will cook the same as a stovetop pressure cooker but with less guessing and babysitting (but you can’t pressure can with one).

All my Instant Pot tips and recipes apply to any electric pressure cooker (there are other brands) and most stovetop cookers should be the same (or perhaps about 5 minutes faster). You can get an Instant Pot on Amazon << that’s the one I have, and there are fancier models too.

So now the kicker: what about the mental effort and time it takes to find all-new recipes for your new toy?

I have great news.

You don’t have to.

The crockpot to Instant Pot conversion is so easy you’ll still be able to use all your old favorites! 

I discovered this on accident one day when I was having a rushed morning and thought, “Eh, no problem, I can start the slow cooker meal I planned for dinner at lunchtime and just do 4 hours on high instead of 8 hours on low.”Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

When the kids came home from school at 3:30, I remembered my plan.

Uh oh.

Wayyyyy too late.

It struck me that perhaps the Instant Pot could handle it, and lo and behold, dinner was saved!

As I’ve experimented more, I’ve discovered that you can convert slow cooker to Instant recipes (almost) every time – more on the “almost” later.

You’re Just *7 Days* Away From Easier Meals with Your Instant Pot

Whether you have a few fav meals in your Instant Pot or still aren’t using it regularly yet, I can show you the secrets to SAVE time (and money) with my favorite appliance!

May I send you my best hacks to maximize my fav appliance so you can spend more time with your family AND nourish them well?

Get IP hacks in short emails and transform the way you serve dinner:

How to Convert Slow Cooker Recipes for the Instant Pot

First, before you start messing with recipes, you need to understand pressure cooker timing. For the Instant Pot, a 30-minute timer means about 20 minutes to get to pressure (could be less depending on how full it is, but if you’re making a whole main dish, expect 20 minutes), plus the 30 minutes at pressure, plus typically a natural release which may take up to 15 minutes.

So yeah…30 minutes actually means an hour, but once it’s all in the pot you don’t have to touch it, and that’s much shorter than 4 hours in a slow cooker!

Poultry setting for 15 minutes on high for the Instant Pot

There are just a few rules of thumb to follow to make sure your slow cooker recipe will be successful in an Instant Pot:

Meat-Based Meals Almost Always Work

If it’s a meat-based dish that can be cooked 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high in a slow cooker, it’s almost guaranteed that it will be done to perfection in 25-30 minutes in a pressure cooker.

You can use the Meat/Stew button (30-35 minutes) on red meats, and it’s totally worth trying the Poultry button if it’s chicken (15 minutes)!

Super important note: Always always triple-check that the vent is set to “sealing” and not “venting” or you’ll be sorely disappointed with undercooked food – not to mention late with the meal, worst of all.

The Instant Pot Requires Liquid

The pressure cooker needs at least a cup of liquid to get up to pressure.

Many meats will create juices as they cook, but you still should start with a cup of liquid in the bottom to be safe.

That may be an adjustment from a slow cooker recipe – for things like roasts, whole chickens, or shredded chicken dishes, they often only require you to add 1/4 cup for slow cooking.

You can add water or broth to make it work for the pressure cooker. Very important safety note: “cream of” soups do NOT count as the liquid. They’re too thick to properly make steam in a pressure cooker. More on that.

The Trivet Is Your Friend

If adding liquid would ruin your recipe, you may still have a few options.

  1. Put the meat up on the trivet and the liquid below, or 
  2. boil off the liquid with the “Saute” button after the meat is done.

A Natural Release Is Generally Better

Go with a natural release for meats if you have the time.

A natural release simply means that when the machine beeps that the time is up, you let it sit for 10-20 minutes until the safety pin drops to indicate the pressure has released from the Instant Pot.

This typically will help the meat be more fall-apart tender or easier to shred.

An Instant Pot lid showing the pin going up when pressure is built up.

A Quick Release Can Save You Time

In a hurry? You can push the limits a little bit. 

If you have non-frozen chicken for example, and your cooker is half full or less, there’s a good chance the meal will be done with the 15-minute Poultry setting and a quick release. (That’s about 35 minutes total cook time.)

A quick-release, by the way, means you open the valve and let the steam shoot out – keep your hands out of the way! Try using a wooden spoon to open the valve.

Once the steam has subsided, if you open the cooker and the meat isn’t done (any pink at all in the case of chicken), you only wasted about 5 minutes. Just lock the lid back on, set the valve to “Sealing,” and set a manual pressure timer for 5-10 minutes (make sure there’s still liquid in the bottom!).

The good news is that once you figure out the timing once, write it down and you’re golden next time.

Always Follow the Safety Rules

  1. Don’t fill a pressure cooker more than 2/3 with food (it needs head space for the steam to build up) and no more than 1/2 if you’re cooking with legumes or grains.
  2. Add a Tbs. of oil to any dry beans.
  3. Never quick release with thicker foods like beans, grains, etc.
  4. Never add a thickener or “cream of” soup before pressure cooking – do that at the end.

The Instant Pot Is a Slow Cooker, too!

Oh – and don’t forget that the Instant Pot ALSO has a slow cooker functionality. If you need to “set it and forget it” earlier in the day, the IP is still your friend. 

This function is also particularly nice if you worry about the safety of the material in your cookware. Can’t beat that stainless steel interior!

It will automatically switch to “keep warm” too so you can be an hour or two later than the timer and it all works out. Love.

Here’s a neat chart you can reference for Instant Pot cooking times for all sorts of different foods.

Meat-Based Recipes: Convert Slow Cooker to Instant Pot

We’ve successfully transformed quite a few of these “meat-centric” slow cooker meals into Instant Pot favorites:

Instant Pot Lemon Coconut chicken easy recipe

And…I feel like there have been more, but I don’t always write them down in the same place. We’ve had enough successes that I’m very confident in saying that a pound or two of meat with some spices and some veggies will absolutely convert from the slow cooker to the Instant Pot.

If you forget to start the slow cooker, it may save dinner!

Crockpot to Instant Pot Conversion for Other Recipes

I hear you.

Not all slow cooker recipes are for shredded meat. 

I’ve had some hits and some misses – let me share what I’ve learned. 

Beans and Legumes 

Instant Pot Italian Lentil Lasagna fast easy meal

Beans and legumes are another category, and I’m also pretty confident about those, having easily transformed my slow cooker lentil brown rice casserole in one try to a great Instant Pot recipe (and Mexican version) that is actually ready in about a half an hour, 40 minutes tops! Wow-ee!

Because lentils are small and cook quickly anyway, I decided to try only 15 minutes at high pressure (which is plenty of time to cook the rice properly). Quick release, and it worked! I was thrilled.

Larger beans never take more than 30 minutes, often only 10-15 if you soak them, according to the Instant Pot timing chart.

We’ve made our homemade refried beans in the Instant Pot and another favorite, ham and beans from Crock On! and both worked marvelously, and I managed to transform taco quinoa chili to a pressure cooker meal as well (from the stovetop).

Ground Meat and Veggies

Slow Cooker Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Here’s my #fail.

I don’t know how many slow cooker recipes use ground meat, which creates almost no juices as it cooks, plus a ton of veggies.

My slow cooker cabbage rolls cook to perfection in the slow cooker, but there’s almost no liquid to speak of. We’ve made the dish a few times in the Instant Pot, and there were always problems.

The cooker kept NOT getting pressure at all, meaning when we released the valve for quick release it wouldn’t let any steam out, even after we added a full cup of water! It burned the bottom.

After several attempts and after learning more about my IP, that cabbage WAS way too close to the top, so I need to try this in my 8-quart and/or cut the recipe in half. Remember the safety rules about filling the Instant Pot!

Don’t Forget It! Pin It!

Can you make slow cooker recipes in an Instant Pot?

Don’t forget about Traditional Cooking School’s pressure cooking class, which is especially helpful if, you know, you’re like my reader from the beginning of the post who was too nervous to open the box because she thought she’d blow something up! The TCS team gives a TON of support, and their Facebook group is super active with helpful members.

=Traditional Cooking School Instant Pot Sourdough Cornbread Pressure Cooker Recipe
 

My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once!

She’s offering a free sourdough cornbread Instant Pot recipe!

This cornbread is delicious, nutritious, super easy to make, and it only needs 12 minutes of cook time.

Do you love getting new gadgets for the kitchen? And do you suffer from the leave-it-in-the-box syndrome or am I the only crazy one?

Watch Instant Pot prices on Amazon as they do change quite often!

Click for All My Instant Pot Recipes!

Cooking Real Food with an Instant Pot Series

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Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

13 thoughts on “Can You Make Slow Cooker Recipes in an Instant Pot?”

  1. Buenas tardes: Podrían mandar la tabla de equivalencia en español, y que vengan las recetas en español. Gracias

  2. Just reading your info on cabbage roll recipe, I suggest just buying shredded cabbage and use that or shred your cabbage yourself. That’s what I use for my deconstructed stuffed cabbage recipe.?

  3. I’ve just gotten mine. I’ve unpacked it, but not used it. I have both pressure cookers and slow cookers, so am interested to see how this works in comparison. I love the suggestions. Is there a site to register with to get ongoing pointers?

    1. Hi Marita!
      I’d recommend the Facebook community here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/InstantPotCommunity/

      It’s very very active! There’s also a pressure cooking class that my friend Wardee runs here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/TCSpressure
      Enjoy! 🙂 Katie

  4. I’m eyeing the 8-qt Instant Pot, but have heard good things about the GoWise brand as well. We do have a 6-qt Fagor, which is terrific, but I’d like the extra volume and the extra “insurance” the electric pressure cooker gives in a sometimes crazy house where Mom can easily forget things…. 🙂 In the meantime, this is an encouraging and super helpful post, Katie!

  5. Gail Ouellette

    Katie, your Instant Pot is never suppose to be more than 2/3 full for non expanding foods and 1/2 full for expanding (soups and stews) in order to have room for the pressure to build up and so that the liquids do not bubble out the venting valve etc. Good luck. I love my Instant Pot and use it all the time. It is a great time saver for making bone broth. Good luck.

  6. Did you soak your pinto beans before making your refried beans in the IP? If not, how long did it take? I tried cooking pinto beans without soaking in the IP the other day, and the beans on top were still hard after the amount of time the IP recipe book recommended. I kept giving them more time, but they weren’t anywhere near as yummy as the results I have gotten from my slow cooker in the past. 🙁

    1. Hi paws,
      When I’ve made beans in the IP I have soaked them just for the day, so maybe 8 hours – much less than I usually do for stovetop or slow cooker. If you have “beans on top” that makes me wonder if there wasn’t enough water. You always need double the water as beans, so you can’t do humongous batches in the IP. Also add a Tbs. of oil to prevent foaming (I can’t remember if the instructions say that but my old pressure cooker instructions did and I figure it’s a good idea). Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  7. I love your IP posts and keep reading them thinking I’ll get mine out of the box…lol! I bought it months ago when you posted about the price on Amazon being so good. I’ve got to get going with it, especially now that it’s so hot! I hate heating up the kitchen at night.

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