Nearly everyone is familiar with the idea of using a slow cooker for hands-off cooking over a long period of time. But there’s another kitchen tool you might have been overlooking that can come to your rescue on busy nights: the pressure cooker.
You’ll be amazed what you can cook with these pressure cooker recipes, as both the speed of the cooking and the flavor is impressive. Similar to crockpot recipes, you can simply toss in the ingredients into the pot and hit a button and you’re done. But here, the meal is cooked a lot faster.
What Is a Pressure Cooker?
Pressure cookers are basically an intense version of a saucepan. Their history dates back to the late 1600s, when a French physicist designed a way to use internal steam pressure to speed up water’s boiling point, leading to foods being cooked more quickly.
Pressure canning evolved from this early discovery, and packed food in sealed jars, then cooked them with boiling water. As the method became more popular, larger “jars” were made to accommodate both home and industrial cooking, for places like hotels and restaurants.
Eventually, in 1938, these early models gave way to the pressure cooker as we know it today. It was the post-Depression era, and women were eager to get pressure cookers in the kitchen. Demand slowed during World War II, when the aluminum used for pressure cookers went to the war effort and not the kitchen.
Pressure cookers waned in popularity in the U.S., though they were embraced in the rest of the world. In the 1990s, pressure cookers hit American shelves once again, ready for marketing to a new generation. Recently, they’ve made another comeback in popularity among folks wanting to cook healthy meals fast.
How to Use a Pressure Cooker
So how exactly does a pressure cooker work? It operates much like a big stockpot, but the lid is airtight. All of the steam builds up inside the pot, which combines with high pressure, and cooks food faster. The higher the pressure in the pot, the shorter the cooking time. On average, pressure cookers can cook food in about one-third the amount of time as their normal cooking counterparts!
What to Look for When Buying a Pressure Cooker
Because pressure cookers are so similar to saucepans and stockpots, a lot of the same considerations go into purchasing a pressure cooker. Whenever possible, opt for stainless steel. It won’t change flavor of acidic foods, like tomato sauces, the way an aluminum pressure cooker can.
If you’re cooking for a family, a larger pressure cooker is probably ideal; a 6- or 8-quart version should be fine for day-to-day cooking, but an even larger one, like a 10-quart pressure cooker, is best if you plan on doing batch cooking or making food for more than 5 people.
If you’re cooking for just one or two people, you can opt for a smaller pressure cooker, like 4-quart variety, but you might enjoy the flexibility of having a bit more room to play with.
You can also opt for a stovetop cooker, which is used like a normal pot or pan on the range, or an electric pressure cooker. Stovetop pressure cookers are a classic and hold up extremely well; they also allow you to sear or sauté food before pressure cooking it, giving it a distinct flavor that electric ones, even with a “sauté” feature, are hard-pressed to match.
Electric ones offer their own benefits, mainly that they usually are programmable. Similarly to a slow cooker, you can drop in all your ingredients and leave the cooker unattended. Whatever your lifestyle, you’re bound to find a pressure cooker that fits in with your family’s needs.
Precautions to Take When Using a Pressure Cooker
When using a pressure cooker, you’ll have to get used to an entirely new way of cooking foods. It’s super efficient, but it can take a bit of trial and error to figure out how to make your favorite foods. Rice, for instance, can be ready in under 10 minutes, while fall-off-the-bone meats can take just an hour or so. And it bears repeating again: if you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, do not leave it unattended!
Safety-wise, pressure literally builds within the pot so make sure you either allow it to it de-pressure naturally or use the quick release valve. Do NOT ever simply open the lid when it’s finished. Follow directions carefully.
20 Pressure Cooker Recipes
Whether you’re a newbie or an old pro, these pressure cooker recipes are sure to be a hit. You’ll be surprised by how varied the meals you can make are, and just how quickly you can get food on the table.
Who says the slow cooker is only for dinnertime dishes? One of the tastiest pressure cooker recipes around is this banana French toast. It’s a simple way to get that just-baked flavor with minimal effort. Swap the brown sugar for coconut sugar, and use gluten-free bread if necessary.
Photo: Living Locurto
You might be familiar with barbacoa beef from your favorite Mexican takeout joint, but now you can make the shredded meat right at home. This easy-to-make recipe is the perfect filling for at-home tacos or burritos. Best of all, it’s ready in only an hour. Serve over brown rice or over leafy greens topped with your favorite Tex-Mex toppings, like avocado, salsa or cheese.
This restaurant-quality recipe is perfect for the pressure cooker. It’s Paleo-friendly and is made with ghee and arrowroot flour, a plant-based starch. I love that you get use still-frozen chicken to get this meal on the table in just 20 minutes. Spoon the buttery lemon sauce over pasta or veggies.
This gluten-free pho is a quick and easy take on the traditional Vietnamese soup. Instead of rice noodles, you’ll use spiralized daikon, a mild, low-calorie radish. Using bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces ensures that you have a flavorful broth in just half hour, while cardamom, cinnamon and fresh coriander seed add a ton of taste. Serve with fresh lime wedges, basil (or mint!) and bean sprouts for an Asian-style dinner.
Photo: The Sophisticated Caveman
Talk about a one-dish meal! Classic chicken and rice is made super simple when it’s a pressure cooker recipe. Loaded with fresh immunity-boosting mushrooms, garlic and herbs, dinner is on the table in under an hour.
This creamy Thai soup is just one of the reasons you’re going to love pressure cooker recipes. It’s ready in under 20 minutes! You’ll use the saute function on the pot to ensure the onions release their flavor before browning the chicken. Using coconut milk creates a creamy broth that’s totally dairy-free.
The only tricky part about this recipe is that it calls for galangal, an Asian root that looks similar to ginger. You can often find it in Asian markets or in the Asian frozen aisle but, if not, just skip it or add a dash of ginger instead.
When it comes to tomato soup, there’s no need to go for the canned stuff. It requires just a handful of ingredients like butter and cream — not for the dairy-free, but perfect for a comforting bowl of soup on a cold day. Best of all, all you’ll do is dump the ingredients and let the pressure cooker work its magic.
Photo: The Pinning Mama
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to Chinese takeout, you’ve found it with this sesame chicken. It takes less time than delivery to whip up and is perfect served over steamed veggies or brown rice. I prefer using coconut aminos as a healthier replacement to soy sauce here and coconut oil instead of veggie or canola oil; in fact, you should stop using canola oil immediately!
Skip the supermarket rotisserie chicken and make your own bird instead. One of the most versatile pressure cooker recipes around, when you make this chicken, you’ll be rewarded with crispy skin and juicy chicken that’s perfect for adding to salads, eating with your favorite sides, adding to tacos or just enjoying solo.
Photo: Cooking With Curls
This pressure cooker butter chicken is crazy impressive. The beautiful melding of ingredients traditionally used in Indian cooking, like garam masala, curry powder, coconut milk and ginger, tastes like the dish has been cooking for hours. Instead, it’s ready in under half hour, even if your chicken is frozen! Serve over brown rice, quinoa or with Paleo naan bread.
If you ever turned to and box of mac and cheese as a quick dinner alternative, prepare to never do that again. This creamy macaroni and cheese is ready in just 10 minutes — faster than the pre-packaged kind!
It’s definitely a comfort food recipe; you don’t want to chow down on this every night. But when a bowl of noodles and cheese is what the doctor ordered, this will help you get it on the table in a jiffy. Try whole-grain or gluten-free macaroni and add a side salad to round it out.
Ready to make spaghetti even quicker and easier? This pressure cooker recipe has you covered. There’s no need to make the spaghetti separately in this one; the meat, sauce and noodles are all ready in just 10 minutes. You can modify this one without much fuss, too; add in diced zucchini or shredded carrot, top with a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or finish it off with fresh basil.
13. Korean Beef
This Korean-inspired beef is to die for, and ready in under an hour. You likely have all the ingredients on hand already; the pear might seem random, but don’t skip that step. The fruit adds a depth to this dish that’s hard to replicate. Finish it off with sesame seeds and serve over rice or in tacos.
Photo: Cookies and Cups
14. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are an easy way to bulk up a meal and add a veggie side. With this pressure cooker recipe, you’ll have ’em on the table in under 10 minutes; no boiling water first then waiting for potatoes to soften! While this recipe is for white potatoes, you could easily use sweet potatoes for extra nutrition. Make these Paleo by replacing the butter with ghee and using coconut milk instead of cow’s.
This is truly a one-pot meal. Not only is the meatloaf ready in under half hour, but the side veggies are, too. Tender, juicy and full of flavor, this might be your new go-to meatloaf.
This beef stroganoff is hearty, fast and healthy. Though the stew is often served over carb-heavy egg noodles, it’s also delicious over zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. I love that this recipe is gluten-free and easily made Paleo, too. Plus, it freezes easily — make a big batch and keep some on hand.
Photo: Instant Pot Eats
Red beans and rice is a hearty, Southern-style meal, but it’s known for taking hours to cook. Speed up the process in the pressure cooker. You’ll cook the beans first, then add in the rice and chicken sausage later, ensuring all the ingredients keep a great texture without overcooking.
This spicy soup is inspired by a bowl of filling ramen, but keeps things low-carb by using zoodles instead. Adding broccoli and mushrooms means you’ll get a serving of veggies, while beef broth, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce and coconut aminos combine into an incredibly tasty broth. This one will warm you right up!
This sweet and spicy chicken ticks all the boxes. It goes from freezer to table in under an hour, and that’s with frozen chicken; if you’re using fresh, you can reduce the time by even more. While the sugar looks high off the bat, it’s for 2.5 pounds of chicken. I’d recommend reducing the amount to 3/4 of a cup and using coconut sugar instead.
Guests arrived unexpectedly? Satisfy their appetites with this easy appetizer. Gooey, cheesy and perfect on bread, crackers or with veggies, this pressure cooker recipe is a game day lifesaver.
Read Next: 22 Crockpot Soups and Stews