3-Ingredient Instant Pot Recipes That Fit Any Budget

By Camilla Cheung on 13 February 2018 0 comments

The Instant Pot — the programmable electric pressure cooker — was one of the most popular gifts over the holidays, and continues to be a hot commodity. I can personally testify to why this kitchen appliance gets so much love: it's easy to use, breaks tough cuts of meat in no time, and allows me to dump everything in and then forget it until dinner is ready.

There's definitely a learning curve to learning how to use the Instant Pot, which is why we've collected a variety of super easy Instant Pot recipes, all with only three ingredients.

How to get started

You need some liquid in the pot in order for the steam to build pressure. A good rule of thumb is to make sure there's at least a cup of liquid in the pot before you cook. Make sure the silicone ring is securely seated in the lid, and that the venting knob is turned to the sealing position.

Protect your hand with a towel or oven mitt when turning the venting knob to manually release pressure. Remember that it takes some time for the pot to come to pressure, which generally takes an extra 10 minutes or more depending on how much food is in the pot. So even if you set the pot for 15 minutes, it will likely take 25 minutes in total to cook your meal. Also, letting the pressure release "naturally" means waiting until the pressure valve drops on its own. This can take 10-20 minutes depending on how much food is in the pot. (See also: 12 Instant Pot Recipes That Will Save You Money)

1. Kalua Pork


  • 3-pound pork shoulder roast

  • 1 T Hawaiian Red Sea Salt

  • 3 strips of bacon


Set the Instant Pot to the saute function and brown the strips of bacon. While the bacon is browning, slice the pork roast in half, and salt the pieces all over with the Hawaiian Red Salt (you can use sea salt as an alternative). Place the pork in the pot and pour ¾ cup of water over the pork. Set the Instant Pot manually to high pressure for 90 minutes. When done cooking, let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes before opening the steam vent. Shred with forks and eat with rice and vegetables.

2. Salsa Chicken


  • 1 jar of salsa

  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs

  • Salt (optional)


Chicken thighs lend themselves well to pressure cooking as they don't dry out or become rubbery (they're also more affordable than chicken breasts). This recipe is so easy and flavorful that I make it about once a week. Put the salsa and chicken into the Instant Pot. Set the pressure cooker to poultry or manually set it to high pressure for 15 minutes. When it's done, manually release the pressure. Shred the chicken with two forks. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if required (depending on how salty your salsa is). Serve over rice or as a filling for tacos.

3. Bone Broth


  • 2-3 pounds of broth bones

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks


Use bones that have a good amount of cartilage and meat still attached for the best flavor (such as joint and neck bones). For the cleanest broth, it's best to blanch the bones first in a stockpot, but in the interest of saving time, I rarely do this.

Place broth bones and aromatic vegetables in the Instant Pot. You can use carrots, celery, onions, or none at all if you don't have any on hand. Fill pot to about ⅔ full. Manually set the Instant Pot to high pressure for two hours (though one hour will be sufficient if you're in a rush). Release pressure either manually or let it release naturally. Add salt to taste.

4. Mashed Potatoes


  • 3-4 pounds russet potatoes

  • 1 cup whole milk (or to taste)

  • Salted butter (to taste)


Place potatoes in the Instant Pot and cover with water. Manually set the Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Manually release pressure and drain water. Mash potatoes with milk and butter to taste.

5. Easy Beef Stew


  • 2 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1 onion

  • ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce


Set the Instant Pot to saute function and brown the onions and beef cubes in one tablespoon of oil. When the beef has developed some nice brown bits, add the soy sauce and ½ cup water. Set to stew function (or high pressure for 35 minutes). Manually release pressure. Remove beef and set in a separate dish. Boil remaining sauce using the Instant Pot's saute function until reduced and thickened. Serve sauce and meat over rice or mashed potatoes.

6. Rice


  • 1 cup white rice

  • 1 cup water, plus extra for rinsing

  • Salt (to taste)

Using a bowl (or the Instant Pot insert), rinse rice with water and drain. Put the 1 cup rice and 1 cup water (increase by equal amounts if you want more) in the Instant Pot. Set to rice function (or nine minutes on high pressure). After rice is cooked, allow pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes — this will allow rice to absorb the rest of the water and get fluffier — and then manually release pressure and open the pot. Fluff up and scoop out.

Do not allow rice to sit in the pot on the automatic keep warm setting, as the rice on the bottom will burn.

7. Oatmeal


  • 1 cup steel-cut or regular oats

  • 3 cups water

  • Pinch of salt


Place oats, water, and salt in the Instant Pot and give it a stir to mix. Cook on porridge function (or six minutes on high pressure). Let pressure release naturally. Add seasonings and toppings to taste.

8. Super Fast Pork Ribs


  • 1 rack baby back pork ribs

  • Spice rub for meat (or salt and pepper)

  • BBQ sauce


Pour 2 cups water into the Instant Pot. Set a steamer rack insert into the pot. Rub ribs all over with spice rub (or salt and pepper). Place into the pot, bending and rolling slightly to fit. Cook on manual at high pressure for 25 minutes. Release naturally.

Preheat broiler. Remove ribs, place on greased oven-safe pan, and brush all over with BBQ sauce. Broil for 4-5 minutes until ribs are glazed over with sauce.

9. Coconut Turmeric Chicken


  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 can coconut cream

  • 1 T turmeric


This easy currylike chicken dish is mild and creamy. Place chicken in the Instant Pot and add the coconut cream and turmeric, stirring to combine. Cook on the poultry setting, or 15 minutes on high pressure. Use quick release to release pressure. Add salt to taste. Serve over rice.

10. Easy Lentil Soup


  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

  • 1 can diced tomatoes


Using the saute function on the Instant Pot, brown the onions in 1 T olive oil. Add lentils, tomatoes, and 2 cups water. Cook on manual at high pressure for 20 minutes. Release pressure with quick release or natural release. Add salt to taste. (See also: 20 Cheap and Easy Soup Recipes)

11. Butternut Squash Soup


  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 pounds pre-diced butternut squash

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks


Using the saute function on the Instant Pot, brown the onions in 1 T oil. Once onions are starting to get golden on the edges, add the squash, carrot, and 3 cups of water (you can use broth if you want to pump up the flavor). Cook on manual for 15 minutes at high pressure. Release pressure manually for a quick release. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add salt to taste.

12. Honey Soy Chicken


  • 2 pounds chicken thighs

  • ¼ cup honey

  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce


Place the chicken, honey, and soy sauce into the Instant Pot. Cook on poultry setting or 15 minutes on high pressure. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.

13. Buttery Spaghetti Squash Pasta


  • 1 spaghetti squash

  • 2 T unsalted butter

  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped


Put a steamer insert into the bottom of the Instant Pot, and add 1 cup of water. Cut the spaghetti squash in half crosswise (not lengthwise) and scoop out the seeds. Place into the Instant Pot (if you have a large squash, you may have to cut it into quarters). Cook on manual at high pressure for seven minutes. Release pressure manually. Shred spaghetti squash using a fork and toss with butter and parsley. Add salt to taste.

14. Pulled Pork


  • 2-2.5 pound pork shoulder roast

  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, plus more to taste

  • 1 cup broth or water


Cut the pork into two roughly equal pieces. Place in the Instant Pot and add BBQ sauce and broth or water. Cook on manual at high pressure for 75 minutes. Release pressure naturally. Shred into pieces with a fork. Taste for seasoning, add salt, and toss with more BBQ sauce if desired.

15. No-Stir Polenta


  • 1 cup dry polenta or grits

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 T butter


Put polenta, water, and 1 t salt into the Instant Pot. Stir to mix. Cook on manual at high pressure for seven minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Whisk butter into polenta and add more salt to taste if desired.

The most important thing is, take your Instant Pot out of the box and try it out. Once you get started, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to use, and it just might become your favorite kitchen appliance!

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3-Ingredient Instant Pot Recipes That Fit Any Budget

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