I’m so excited to tell you about my newest thing: Instant Pot freezer meals!! They’re made just like my crockpot freezer meals – without any cooking ahead of time – simply combine the ingredients raw, freeze them for up to three months, and then cook them in your Instant Pot. Super easy.
I made seven Instant Pot freezer meals last month and then cooked them over the past few weeks. It only took me 70 minutes to prep the meals and clean-up my kitchen – woot! (That works out to only seven minutes per meal.) I’m new to the Instant Pot, so cooking them was a little bit tricky, but I’m sharing everything that I learned below (including my free recipes and shopping list).
Are you an avid Instant Pot user or a total newbie? People have been asking me to adapt my crockpot recipes for the Instant Pot for the past year, so I’m excited to finally have some answers for them.
Here are the original recipes that I used:
- Steak Italiano (Yum!)
- Spiced Butternut Squash Soup from my cookbook eBooks and shared for free below
- Turkey Bolognese Sauce adapted from Cook Eat Paleo
- Beef and Sweet Potato Chili (SO GOOD)
- Southwestern Shredded Pork adapted from Plaid and Paleo
- Stuffed Pepper Soup with Cauliflower Rice adapted from Maria Makes
- Paleo Sesame Short Ribs adapted from Gutsy by Nature
Basically, I picked seven of our favorite Whole30 crockpot recipes and adapted them for the Instant Pot. Some of them turned out perfectly the first time I made them and others took two or three tries to cook perfectly (!!!), but I kept making and remaking them until I got it right.
Here’s what I used to make the meals:
- Ingredients. I spent a total of $63.54 on groceries ($10.59/meal with six servings). I thought that was a great deal because all of the recipes were healthy.
- An Instant Pot. I own the 6-Quart 7-in-1 Instant Pot and so far I like it a lot. For these meals, I used the “sauté” and “pressure cook” (manual) buttons, so you should be able to make them in whatever model of Instant Pot you own.
- 64oz Freezer Containers. I wanted to freeze my meals in circles so they could pop into the Instant Pot frozen. After doing some research online, I found that 64oz (half gallon) was the perfect size to fit in a 6-quart Instant Pot. I bought an 8-pack of these 64oz freezer containers on Amazon and I love them. They’re re-usable, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, and perfect for the freezer (good for up to -40 degrees!).
- A Grease Pencil to Label the Containers. I typically label my crockpot freezer meals with a Sharpie marker or fancy sticker label (like the type in my freezer cookbooks), but I didn’t think they would work on plastic containers. After doing some research online, I bought these Sharpie pencils from Amazon, and they’re fantastic. I labeled my meals with the name of the recipe and cooking instructions and my writing didn’t smudge at all in the freezer. Heck, it didn’t even come off in the dishwasher! (It easily removes with a tissue though.) The only negative was that I had to look at my messy handwriting instead of a pretty label.
My general cooking method:
- Freeze for up to three months.
- When ready to cook, place the frozen container in water for a couple of minutes so it’s easy to pop out of the container.
- Dump the container into the Instant Pot and sauté for 5 minutes to create some liquid.
- Pressure cook for 30-60 minutes.
- Natural release. (I think this makes the meat more tender than a quick release.)
Here’s what I learned about Instant Pot Freezer Meals:
- Container size is limited. I’m used to making crockpot freezer meals in gallon-sized freezer bags and 64oz containers are only half that size. Luckily, space was only an issue with two of the meals that I made. For those meals, I added the ingredients that would take time to prep (like veggies, measured sauces and spices, and meat) and saved ingredients that could be stored in my pantry and quickly added the day of cooking (like canned tomato sauce).
- Liquid is a must! Fresh meat and vegetables release a lot of liquid when cooking, so I don’t add a lot of liquid to my crockpot freezer meals. (For example, my super popular Cool Ranch Chicken Tacos are made with only oil, vinegar, and spices.) HOWEVER, Instant Pots require liquid to achieve pressure and cook the food. (Typically, at least a cup of liquid is needed.) Finding the right amount of liquid to achieve pressure but not dilute the flavor of the meal was a balancing act that took me several tries to master. All of the recipes above should turn out perfectly as-written and I’m working on adapting some of our other favorites for future freezer prep sessions.
- How to layer ingredients in the freezer containers. When I make crockpot freezer meals I layer vegetables at the bottom, sauces and spices in the middle (so they don’t get left in the bag), and meat at the top (so it’s the first ingredient dumped into the crockpot). Instant Pot meals works differently though because if the meat is at the bottom of the pot without any liquid it burns. (Don’t ask how many times I had to scrub burned food from the bottom of my Instant Pot with a steel wool pad. Grrr.) I think the best way to layer Instant Pot freezer meals is to put the meat at the bottom of the container (so you can smush it down and conserve space), veggies and spices in the middle, and sauce at the top so it’s dumped into the Instant Pot first.
- Instant Pot meals take longer to cook than people say they do. People love to brag about cooking chicken in eight minutes in an Instant Pot, but they never mention the time it takes to reach pressure before cooking or release pressure after cooking. I tried cooking my Instant Pot freezer meals at 5pm and we had to wait FOREVER for them to finish cooking. Gosh, we were so hungry and my daughter almost missed her Tae Kwon Do class one night! I finally figured out that 3pm was a good time and would get started right after my daughter got home from preschool. I think allotting two hours to cook these meals is perfect because if they finish cooking early they can sit on “warm” until they’re ready to eat – just like my crockpot dinners do.
- There’s a learning curve. Crockpot freezer meals are the easiest thing ever. Seriously. They’re fool-proof. It’s been much more difficult to master my Instant Pot. I burned meals, bought meats that were too fatty, didn’t add enough liquid, etc…..and was very frustrated at times. A lot of trial and error went into making these seven freezer Instant Pot recipes so hopefully your experience will be much smoother than mine.
By the way, if you ever have an Instant Pot flop that burns and doesn’t reach pressure, you can just open the lid, press the “sauté” button and finish cooking the meal that way. It’s the same thing as boiling it on the stovetop.
Now that I’m more comfortable with my Instant Pot, I’m excited to use it on nights that I forget to put something in my crockpot. It also makes a great lunch and I want to create a “cheat sheet” for adapting all of the crockpot freezer recipes in my cookbooks.