Life is a little crazy right now, and I don't have quite as much time to spend in the kitchen as I might like. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon that I can turn to when I want to make awesome food with minimal effort: a pressure cooker. There's a reason that Instant Pots and other pressure cookers have become an object of obsession; there's no better way to make a quick weeknight dinner that tastes like it took all day. If you're looking to put your pressure cooker to use (or looking for a reason to invest in one), check out the recipes below for dishes like black bean and sausage soup, Thai green chicken curry, and savory vegan risotto flavored with miso (plus versatile building blocks for future meals, like chicken stock and rich Italian red sauce).
Don't have a pressure cooker yet? Check out our guide to the best stovetop and electric models.
To give you an idea of just how magical the pressure cooker is, I'd recommend making a batch of this chicken and lentil stew. Twenty minutes at high pressure makes the chicken fall-apart tender and cooks the lentils perfectly. Bacon or pancetta adds richness, and a sprinkle of sherry vinegar keeps the dish bright.
The secret to this recipe is the addition of canned fire-roasted tomatoes, which add lots of flavor while requiring hardly any effort. We bolster the dish's savory side with Spanish chorizo and smoked paprika, and add chicken and canned chickpeas for a dinner that's as hearty as it is easy.
French onion soup is a simple dish that nevertheless can take forever to make—those caramelized onions need to cook and cook and cook. We've come up with a few different shortcuts to speed the process along, but the pressure cooker is the best way to cut down on that caramelizing time. Once the onions are done, we add chicken stock and herbs, then bake the soup in bowls topped with toast and Gruyère.
If you don't have a whole afternoon to make a pot of stew, this recipe cuts the time needed in half, while resulting in a finished product that's just as good. As in the original recipe, we brown the meat in big chunks to keep it from drying out and us two separate batches of vegetables—one for the cooking process and one for serving.
We often think of pressure cookers as good for tough cuts of meat, but chicken can also benefit from this style of cooking. Here, it gets rich flavor from coconut milk and Thai green curry paste, plus fresh garlic, ginger, Thai chilies, and spices like cumin and coriander. Eggplant and squash break down and thicken the excess liquid, making for a fantastically intense chicken stew. You'll stir in fresh spinach and herbs at the last minute before serving.
Now that I have a pressure cooker, I can't even remember how I cooked beans any other way. It's pretty amazing that you can start with plain dried black beans and end up with a full meal (or at least a filling side) in just an hour. These beans get great flavor from Spanish chorizo and a variety of aromatics, including onion, orange, bay leaves, and garlic.
Of course, the pressure cooker works as well for pinto beans as it does for black beans. These barbecue beans aren't the way-too-sweet kind you might be used to. Instead, they're earthy and well-spiced, made with dried red chilies, paprika, cumin, and black pepper. We also like to throw in some smoked meat, so consider making this the day after your next barbecue.
Sort of a grown-up version of pork and beans, this stew is made with chicken legs, black beans, andouille sausage, and spicy Hatch chilies. Even though it starts with unsoaked beans, this whole dish comes together in just an hour. Serve it with cilantro and lime wedges for a bit of freshness, plus a dollop of rich sour cream.
This black bean soup tastes like it's been cooking all day, but it actually takes just an hour. We make it with a little andouille, plus browned mushrooms for extra flavor. Add six cups of chicken stock, set the pressure cooker for 40 minutes, and go enjoy your evening instead of tending to the stove.
Risotto scares a lot of home cooks, because they've been told that it's hard to do well and requires constant attention. That's not really true—but stovetop risotto does take quite a bit of time. A pressure cooker, on the other hand, allows you to make perfect risotto in mere minutes, with hardly any stirring required—we use it for this amazingly creamy vegan risotto, made with umami-rich miso paste.
A testament to the power of the pressure cooker, this risotto takes more time to prep than it does to cook. We infuse it with tons of mushroom flavor by using mixed fresh mushrooms, dried porcini, and mushroom stock. We mix in a tablespoon of light miso and just two teaspoons of soy sauce for extra depth, plus heavy cream if we want it really rich.
Bringing the most sweetness out of squash requires roasting it for a long time—not what we want out of a quick pressure cooker recipe. To give the squash a head start, we toss it with maple syrup and apple before putting it into the oven. We then blend it into a smooth purée and mix it into the risotto along with whole cubes of roasted squash, then finish with browned butter and fried sage leaves. The roasting and puréeing steps mean this dish is still fairly labor-intensive, but the results are so worth it.
Tenderizing octopus in boiling water takes an hour, but with a pressure cooker, you can do it in 25 minutes. Have your first glass of wine (or sidra) while the octopus cooks, then top the slices with olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika for easy tapas at home.
This easy soup can be made in half an hour with onion, garlic, celery, ham, chicken stock, and dried split peas. The pressure cooker makes short work of the split peas, but the coolest part is that when you use the quick release on your cooker, the soup comes to a sudden, vigorous boil that's strong enough to purée it—no need for a blender.
This hearty, warming soup is excellent with beef chuck or oxtail, but especially delicious when made with bone-in short ribs. Our classic beef barley soup is made on the stovetop, but the recipe adapts to the pressure cooker wonderfully. The big difference is that you can decrease the amount of chicken stock you use, because the meat and vegetables release moisture that won't evaporate in the cooker.
Pressure cookers are indispensable in Bogotá, Colombia—when you're 8,000 feet up in the mountains, cooking on the stovetop can be incredibly slow. This stew is delicious even if you're at sea level, though. It's made with just chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, onion, and a bay leaf, which release enough liquid to make a flavorful broth with no stock or water added.
This creamy vegan soup is made with potatoes, carrots, corn, fava beans, peas, and broth. The potatoes break down and make the soup as creamy as dairy would, without covering up the flavor of the vegetables. This is actually a pretty easy dish to make on the stovetop, but it's even more weeknight-friendly in a pressure cooker.
The pressure cooker is so good at extracting flavors that you can make an intense corn soup even when it's not corn season. The key is to cook not just the kernels but also the cobs—they add flavor and release starch that helps thicken up the final product.
My first significant exposure to pressure cookers came on a visit to India, where virtually every cook I met used one daily. In this recipe, we use the pressure cooker to make short work of an Indian-inspired chicken and chickpea curry. Rather than take the time to put together an elaborate curry powder, we go with a simple mixture of cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper.
Making pho the traditional way means letting it simmer for hours and hours, but in a pressure cooker, you can do it in just 30 minutes. Flavored with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, and coriander, this broth is great ladled over noodles and topped with fresh herbs.
Chili recipes may call for all kinds of ingredients: sometimes beans, sometimes tomatoes, sometimes even sweet potatoes. But if you ask a Texan, the only things that belong in chili are beef and peppers. Here's a fast technique that makes a great bowl of Texas red.
Classic tamale pie—chili topped with cornbread—is usually made with ground beef. This recipe goes a step further and replaces the ground beef with tender skirt steak, which we pair with charred corn, dried chilies, olives, and cheese. We cook it all until the beef is falling apart (a much faster process in the pressure cooker), then top it with nutty cornbread that's flavored with browned butter.
This tart tomatillo-based green chili is made with a trio of peppers: earthy Poblanos, spicy jalapeños, and grassy Anaheims (or Hatch chilies, if you can get them). The recipe couldn't be easier—just cook everything together, remove and shred the chicken, blend the sauce, and it's ready to eat.
The same pressure cooker technique used for Kenji's chicken chile verde can be applied to pork as well, with fantastic results. We cut the pork shoulder into fairly large chunks, which makes it easier to fish out later, and combine it with garlic, onion, tomatillos, and a variety of green chilies—that combination of Poblanos, jalapeños, and Anaheims works great here. Let it all heat together in the pressure cooker until the meat is tender and juicy, then remove the pork, purée the sauce with an immersion blender, and serve.
A pressure cooker is one of the best tools for enchilada-making—use it to cook down chicken and vegetables, and you'll get a filling and a sauce at the same time. We dump everything into the pot without searing, because the ingredients are plenty flavorful as they are. After the chicken and sauce are done, just roll up the enchiladas, dip them, and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes under a blanket of cheese.
This method gives you a rich Bolognese in half the time it would take in a Dutch oven. We make our ragù with pork and beef—some recipes use veal, but it's expensive and mostly just adds gelatin. We leave it out and add a few powdered-gelatin packets instead.
Homemade tomato sauce on a weeknight, in winter? It's totally possible—the pressure cooker excels at making things taste like they've cooked for hours. We're obviously not using fresh tomatoes this time of year; just make sure you're working with high-quality canned whole tomatoes. Then sauce your pasta the right way!
Homemade, gelatin-rich chicken stock is an essential base ingredient in so many of our recipes—including many of the warming soups and stews listed above—that you'll want to keep a steady supply of it on hand at all times. While our traditional recipe requires gentle simmering for an hour and a half on the stovetop, you can get even better results, in far less time, by using your pressure cooker—that's because the sealed chamber of the cooker extracts more flavor and rich gelatin from the chicken parts and aromatic vegetables. As with our original recipe, a finer dice of vegetables produces more flavor than large chunks.
Sure, you've been adding the nutty flavor of brown butter to your desserts and pastas for years—but butter isn't the only kind of dairy that can benefit from toasting. When you cook cream low and slow, its fresh, grassy flavor is gradually replaced by richer, darker notes that can enhance all kinds of dishes. Using a pressure cooker for the task kicks the browning up a notch, resulting in more savory flavors that are ideal for infusing into meaty pan sauces, especially if you throw in a pinch of baking soda before cooking. (Read Sohla's article on the science behind toasting cream for more suggestions.)
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