The slow cooker was invented in 1940, and there are TONS of really great slow cooker recipes out there.
However, the Instant Pot has given the slow cooker a run for its money, thanks to the fact that it cooks many meals faster and (in my opinion) better than the slow cooker. It also comes with the ability to other cool things too, like make yogurt, sauté ground beef and prepare oatmeal entirely hands-free.
But what about all those awesome slow cooker recipes? Do we ditch those in search of new favorite Instant Pot recipes instead?
Nope! You can convert slow cooker recipes to Instant Pot recipes using these tips!
The first thing you should know, though, about making a slow cooker recipe in an Instant Pot, is that there’s no one-size-fits all.
Yes, a lot of recipes will work as-written. But you’ll find that just as many recipes won’t work. You’ll put your slow cooker ingredients in the Instant Pot, hit “go” and you’ll end up with a disaster.
Depending on what you didn’t do right, you could have undercooked meat, undercooked vegetables, a soupy casserole or a burned on disaster (among many other mishaps).
So your best bet to convert slow cooker recipes to Instant Pot recipes is to know two things:
- How the Instant Pot works the way it works.
- Why Instant Pot recipes work.
If you’re new to the Instant Pot in general, I suggest reading my 20+ Things to Know Before Buying an Instant Pot. I explain some IP basics, as well as answer common questions like what size to get and how “instant” is the Instant Pot really…
Alrighty then, – let’s convert our slow cooker recipes to Instant Pot recipes!
How to Make Slow Cooker Recipes in Instant Pot
Adjust the Liquid Level
Every Instant Pot recipe must start with at least 1 cup of liquid. The liquid is required to prevent burn and to help the Instant Pot build pressure correctly.
Because the heating is so gradual in a slow cooker, the odds of something burning are slim BECAUSE enough juices from the food has been released by the time the slow cooker has reached its highest heating temperature.
The Instant Pot is designed to get really hot, really fast. This means you have to START with liquid, otherwise your food will burn before it’s had a chance to release any juices.
With that said, anytime you make a slow cooker recipe in an Instant Pot, you need to adjust the recipe so that you’re starting with at least 1 cup of liquid. This might mean adding additional liquid in order to reach the minimum needed.
This additional liquid can be water, stock or the same liquid that the slow cooker recipe calls for (i.e. beer, apple juice, etc.) – it’s your call. But make sure there’s 1 cup of liquid at the bottom of your Instant Pot before you start cooking.
Natural Pressure Release vs. Quick Pressure Release
Anytime you make a recipe, the Instant Pot must build pressure, then cook your food, and then release the pressure. The pressure is typically released one of three ways:
- Natural Pressure Release: this happens when the timer for the food goes off and you do nothing. The pressure will naturally release in about 10-15 minutes.
- Timed Natural Pressure Release: This is where the timer for the food goes off, but you set a kitchen timer – usually for 5 or 10 minutes – AND THEN do a quick release.
- Quick Pressure Release: This is when you manually turn the valve from “sealing” to “venting.” It’s like a switch, and doing so will immediately release the steam that’s been building inside the Instant Pot.
The type of pressure release you choose for your slow cooker turned Instant Pot recipe matters, because anytime there is pressure inside the Instant Pot, your food is cooking.
That means, if you choose the natural pressure release, your food will cook for another 10-15 minutes. Granted, the temperature will gradually come down and the food will be cooking at a slower rate, but the food is still cooking nonetheless.
When you’re cooking meat in the Instant Pot, the natural pressure release option is best. This helps the meat to retain the juices and produces a better texture in the end. A perfect example of this would be my slow cooker carnitas. I would use the natural pressure release when making that recipe in the Instant Pot.
If you’re making something that can overcook easily, like vegetables, you will want to choose the quick pressure release to avoid overcooking the food.
Slow Cooker Ingredients that Don’t Work in the Instant Pot
Milk and most dairy products (like sour cream or cheese) don’t work very well in the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot gets too hot, too fast for these foods and will likely cause a burn error.
Recipes that use thickeners like corn starch or arrowroot powder should also be added after the pressure is released, for the same reason as dairy products.
This also goes for cream-based soups, like cream of mushroom or cream of broccoli soup, and it doesn’t matter if they’re homemade cream-of soups or store-bought. These can be added to the recipe, just add them after the pressure release.
If your slow cooker recipe calls for flouring and searing meat, skip the flour part and just sear the meat in a bit of oil in the Instant Pot. The flour will prevent your Instant Pot from correctly building pressure.
For recipes that use tomato paste, don’t mix it in with your liquids before cooking. Add it to the very top of your food, cook as directed, and then mix it in after the pressure release.
Finally, if your slow cooker recipe calls for wine, you will want to add it after the pressure release AND leave the lid off so that the alcohol burns off and the flavor deepens. The flavor of wine doesn’t change under pressure, so the end result could be tart and likely undesirable.
Mixing Meat with Vegetables
Many slow cooker recipes have you put the vegetables in with the meat at the very beginning, and they all cook together. If you do this with the Instant Pot, you’ll end up with mushy vegetables.
If you’re starting with big cuts of meat (like slow cooker pot roast), here’s a simple work-around to that problem:
- Prepare the recipe as directed, leaving out the vegetables.
- Set the Instant Pot to the desired setting and cook time, EXCEPT reduce the cook time by 10 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, switch the valve for a quick pressure release.
- When the steam is done releasing, add the vegetables. Reset the Instant Pot to the desired settings (same as before) and set the cook time for 10 minutes.
If you’re starting with smaller cuts of meat, like a stew or soup (say no more than 1” chunks) you shouldn’t run into the problem of mushy vegetables. You can add everything at the same time, at the beginning.
Cooking Meat in General
Most meat recipes take 6-10 hours in a slow cooker, but using the Instant Pot means having your meat ready in under an hour.
- For red meat recipes, use the “meat” function on the Instant Pot. This will automatically set the control to “high” pressure and the time between 25 and 30 minutes.
- For white meat recipes, use the “poultry” function. This will set the controls to “high” temperature as well, but the cooking time will be around 15 minutes.
- If you have an older model and/or your Instant Pot doesn’t have either “meat” nor “poultry” function, use the “manual” or “pressure cook” function and adjust the controls accordingly.
How Long to Set the Timer
Most models of the Instant Pot come with settings like that make cooking times and cooking pressure painless. But what if you’re cooking something OTHER than what you have a button for?
Hip Pressure Cooking has a great online chart to help with cooking times, but you can also check some of your favorite bloggers’ recipes! I personally test every recipe AT LEAST 3 times before publishing, so if I say brown rice takes 22 minutes, then set your timer to 22 minutes!
Learn more about these tricks, plus more recipes in my 31 Instant Pot Basics Challenge! Sign up HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size Instant Pot do you have?
I have the 8 quart DUO 7 in 1 Instant Pot. I choose the larger Instant Pot for a few reasons. My slow cooker is 6 quarts and can barely fit some of my favorite recipes. Having the larger Instant Pot gives me more room to double recipes, too. Cooking once and eating twice is key for saving time in the kitchen.
You also have to leave a certain amount of space in the pressure cooker when using it. There is a max fill line for liquids. And the general rule is to not fill the Instant Pot more than 2/3 full. The 8 quart gives me more room to cook.
One Instant Pot hack I learned is to use a 6 quart pot on top of an 8 quart pot to cook two elements of one meal. You can read how that works HERE.
How do I know what size Instant Pot to buy?
There are a few things to consider when you choose an Instant Pot. When it comes to size, think about how many people you typically feed, do you want to cook large batches of food, will you be cooking meals or staples (like beans).
Besides size, the different models have different functions. The LUX models have a the cake and egg functions, the DUO has the yogurt, bean/chili and poultry functions, and the SMART model is blue-tooth compatible.
While the 6 quart Instant Pot is very common because of the lower price point, I recommend the 8 quart since you have more options with it down the road. You can easily cook a 6 quart Instant Pot recipe in an 8 quart. It’s better to have a little extra space than wish you had a bigger Instant Pot.
Have you gotten rid of your slow cooker?
I still have my slow cooker for now. But it’s been demoted to the basement. I am completely in love with my Instant Pot and am excited to see how I can use it in place of my slow cooker.
Is there a texture difference between slow cooker meals and Instant Pot meals?
I found the taste and texture of Instant Pot meals to be so much better than the slow cooker. The whole chicken recipe that I use, tastes much more like a roast chicken in the oven. There’s no mushy meat with the Instant Pot!