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How to Convert Slow Cooker Recipes to the Instant Pot®

Created January 6, 2020
Adding cornstarch slurry to thicken Instant Pot sauce
At your request, here are a few of Betty’s essential slow cooker recipes converted to the Instant Pot®!
If you’ve already fallen for the smart features, slick convenience and irresistible results of the multicooker, prepare to add some new-yet-familiar favorites to your recipe box. We’ve remade your favorite slow-cooker recipes for the Instant Pot®—the brand of multicooker preferred by our test kitchens experts! Even better, we’re going to give you all the details on how we converted these recipes, so you can tinker away in your own kitchen. Learn the hows and whys of converting soup, chili, pot roast and curry from the slow cooker to Instant Pot® with these notes from the professional chef who created these recipes, Maggie Lyon consultant to the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens.

Rules of Thumb for Converting Slow Cooker Recipes to the Instant Pot®

Here are four big lessons Maggie learned from converting slow-cooker recipes to the Instant Pot® and how she applied them in practice.

1: More Liquid!

Most Instant Pot® recipes will require more liquid than slow cooker recipes. This is because the Instant Pot® cooks food with the steam that’s created when the sealed pot reaches pressure—a temperature above boiling—and the liquid evaporates into steam. Without enough liquid, the food will stick to the bottom of the insert and burn. One recipe where it was really important to add liquid was our Family-Favorite Chili—here’s how Maggie pulled it off.

Converting Chili From Slow Cooker to Instant Pot®

  • To make sure the beans didn’t stick to the bottom of the insert and burn, Maggie added ¾ cup water. This was in addition to the tomatoes and tomato sauce called for in the original recipe.
  • To avoid overfilling the insert, she reduced the amount of ground beef from 2 pounds to 1 pound. Before putting the pot under pressure, she upped the flavor by browning the beef using the sauté function. Using 90 percent lean ground beef allowed her to skip removing the hot insert to drain the fat.

The Lesson: Hearty chili is a balancing act: don’t burn the beans (add more liquid) or overfill the insert (cut down on meat).

2: A Cornstarch Slurry Is the Key to a Thick Sauce

The flip side of adding more liquid is that you’ll have to make adjustments in order to achieve the desired texture and flavor. A cornstarch slurry added at the end can help thicken up watery cooking juices and turn them into luxurious sauces. And since a slurry can be made with any number of ingredients, you can also use it help correct seasoning if it’s been diluted by the additional liquid. Here’s how Maggie used a cornstarch slurry to make a perfect Instant Pot® butter chicken.

Converting Butter Chicken From Slow Cooker to Instant Pot®

  • More liquid was needed to make this recipe in the Instant Pot®, so Maggie increased the amount of broth. Since broth contains sodium, she decreased the amount of salt.
  • Using the sauté function helped to develop the complex Indian flavors.
  • In order to make the signature creamy sauce, Maggie made a slurry of cornstarch and heavy cream at the end.

The Lesson: For creamy butter chicken, use a cornstarch slurry!

3: The Cut of Meat Matters

Cook time is quicker in an Instant Pot®, which means the cut of meat matters. For example, the small size and lean nature of chicken means it cooks quickly, which makes it an excellent protein to cook in the Instant Pot®. However, our testing revealed chicken breasts just can’t stand the pressure, ending up dry and overcooked. Thighs are preferable. On the other hand, the speedy Instant Pot® doesn’t allow enough time for bulky roasts to completely break down, so it’s necessary to cut them into chunks. See how Maggie applied this lesson in converting our New England Pot Roast recipe to the Instant Pot.

Converting Pot Roast From Slow Cooker to the Instant Pot®

  • Maggie found that cutting the roast into 3 or 4 pieces before cooking helped ensure tender meat.
  • Using the sauté function to brown the meat before putting under pressure added flavor.
  • A cornstarch-and-water slurry added at the end thickened the cooking juices into a luscious gravy.

The Lesson: The trick to a two-hours-‘till-tender roast? Break it down beforehand.

4: Sauté for Deeper Flavor

The Instant Pot® has multiple functions. Though most “Instant Pot® recipes,” including ours, focus on the pressure-cooking function, we found the sauté function to be incredibly useful. Using sauté allows you to sear your meat before putting it under pressure. Taking this step adds flavor and saves you from washing a skillet. It’s a function that comes standard on the Instant Pot®, including the popular 6-quart model, which is what we use in the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens. Maggie used the sauté function to produce excellent results when converting our Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup to the Instant Pot—here’s how.

Converting Soup from Slow Cooker to Instant Pot®

  • Maggie used the functions in this order: sauté, pressure and sauté again.
  • The first sauté was to sear the chicken and vegetables in order to add flavor.
  • The pressure function allowed the soup to cook and flavors to meld.
  • The final sauté, after adding a cream-and-cornstarch slurry, reduced and thickened the soup.

The Lesson: For a luxuriously thick soup, add a slurry and sauté a second time!

As Maggie’s experience shows, converting recipes from one appliance to another takes some tinkering. One change tends to precipitate another—adding more broth when you need additional liquid, means cutting down on salt, etc. If you’re adventurous, take her four rules of thumb and experiment away. If you’re hesitant about experimenting with your hard-earned groceries and precious time, we’ve got you covered.

Our No. 1 Lesson

Kitchen-tested recipes written for the Instant Pot® will yield the best results. While there are plenty of Instant Pot® recipes floating around the internet, not every one of them has been tested as vigorously as those made in the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens. Our test kitchens consultants are professional chefs who have been hard at work cracking the code on this appliance ever since it hit the market. Their aim is always to create recipes that will work for home cooks, and they’ve got quite few good ones for you to choose from. Explore them all via the link below and leave us a comment if you don’t find what you’re looking for. We look to your feedback when creating new recipes.

A Note About Our Testing Methods & Recipes

In the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens, we test pressure-cooker recipes using the Instant Pot® brand of multicookers. These converted recipes were written to be used with the 6-quart model of the Instant Pot®. Although multicookers, like the Instant Pot®, come equipped with a slow cooking function, we’ve mostly used our pots for their pressure-cooking abilities. When you search for “Instant Pot® recipes,” you’ll find the majority focus on the pressure-cooking feature, rather than the slow-cooking feature.

Meet the Woman Behind the Recipes

Maggie Lyon of the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens is a master of savory recipe development, constantly putting new spins on skillet dinners, grilled meals and of course, uncovering everything there is to know about cooking in the slow cooker and Instant Pot®. Her favorite things to make in the Instant Pot® are hard-boiled eggs and beets, as the peels of both slip right off after cooking.