Meal planning with the Instant Pot

I wrote a while ago about my obsession with my Instant Pot. I’ve been using it every weekend to prepare for the week ahead. There’s lot of ways to do this, but I thought I’d share my most recent menu and how I combined the pieces to make a variety of meals.  Meal planning with the Instant Pot couldn’t be easier.

I did this over two days.

Day 1

Lemon chicken and potatoes

Recipe:

1 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast

4-5 quartered red potatoes or one regular potato, diced large

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2 a lemon

1 cup chicken broth

oil for browning

seasoning – I used salt, pepper, and chicken and herbs seasoning

I've been using my Instant Pot every weekend to prepare meals for the week ahead. There's lot of ways to do this, but I thought I'd share my most recent menu and how I combined the pieces to make a variety of meals. Meal planning with the Instant Pot couldn't be easier.

The finished product: lemon chicken, potatoes, gravy and a salad.

Process: I kind of merged two recipes and winged it. I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and spices on both sides, then heated my Instant Pot on Saute. I put in a little ghee (you can use the oil of your choice too) and browned the chicken on both sides. I pulled it out and put it in my steamer basket, then deglazed the bottom of the Instant Pot with the chicken broth. (You don’t want to leave brown bits stuck to the bottom or you’ll get a “BURN” error and it won’t go to pressure.)

I sliced the garlic cloves in half and added them and the potatoes to the broth. I set my trivet in on top, making sure it was solidly in contact with the bottom of the pot, and then set the steamer tray on top of it. I squeezed the juice of half a lemon, cut in half again, over the chicken and then tucked the squished lemon pieces in on the sides of the chicken in the basket.

I used the poultry setting for 12 minutes, then let it naturally release pressure for about 5 minutes before releasing it completely. I pulled the steamer basket out with tongs and set it aside to cool. Then I scooped the potatoes and garlic out with a slotted spoon. Then, I mixed a heaping teaspoon of corn starch in about 1/2 cup cold water, and added that back into the remaining sauce in the Instant Pot. I turned it back on saute and cooked it down until it was like gravy.

End result: 1 big lemon chicken breast, about 1 cup of cooked potatoes, about 1/2 cup of lemon chicken gravy

I cleaned all the parts of the Instant Pot and set up for Round 2.

Chicken fajitas with vegetables

Recipe:

1 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast

1 red bell pepper

1 onion

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 lime

oil for browning

Spices – you want heat. I used chipotle, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, green chile spice, onion and garlic powder

Process: Mix the broth and spices and add the juice of 1/4 lime. I threw the lime wedges in with the chicken as it cooked but don’t forget to pick it back out if you do this!

I sliced as much of the chicken off the bone as I could, leaving it in fajita-sized strips. I just threw the rest of the bone with meat on it in and picked it off when it was cooked.  I browned the chicken in the Instant Pot (I used coconut oil this time.) Then I added the peppers, onions and spicy broth to the bottom and scraped around to clear up any brown spots. I chucked the squished limes in too.

I turned the Instant Pot on for 8 minutes on the poultry setting. I released the steam right when it finished.  I used a slotted spoon to pick out the limes, then scooped out the chicken and veggies, setting the chunk with the bone aside so I could pick off the usable meat. Finally, I strained the remaining broth from the Pot into a container and saved it for Day 2.

Result: Probably three cups of chicken fajita meat and veg

Also: place 1 pound of black beans in a bowl of water to soak overnight; cook it on Day 2!

Day 2

Spicy black beans with ham hocks

I've been using my Instant Pot every weekend to prepare meals for the week ahead. There's lot of ways to do this, but I thought I'd share my most recent menu and how I combined the pieces to make a variety of meals. Meal planning with the Instant Pot couldn't be easier.

Beans and rice

Recipe:

1 pound dried black beans

ham hock(s)

6 cups of liquid – I used the broth from the night before plus chicken broth

2-3 bay leaves

Process: My grocery store had little ham hocks really cheap, so I’d picked them up that weekend. I added the soaked and rinsed black beans from the night before, the ham hocks, the broth from the fajita chicken (measured) and then finished out six cups of liquid with regular chicken broth from a box. I tossed in 2-3 bay leaves and set it to the Beans setting for 25 minutes. These I let depressurize naturally (I was gone for an hour in there anyway.)

Result: about 3 quarts of black bean soup (freezes well, so half went right in the freezer)

Rice

Recipe:

1 cup rice

water

salt to taste

Process: Okay full disclosure, I just used my rice cooker for this one because it’s easier to wash. You can cook rice in the Instant Pot, though!

Result: about 2 cups cooked white rice

Meal Planning with the Instant Pot

As a recap, after two days of preparing two recipes each day, I have:

  • 1 big lemon chicken breast
  • 1 cup of cooked lemon potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of lemon chicken gravy
  • 3 cups of chicken fajita meat and veg
  • 1.5 quarts of black bean soup
  • 2 cups cooked white rice

I combined this into several meals, using just a few extra ingredients (in bold) here and there.

  • Lemon chicken + potatoes + gravy + sautéed asparagus
  • Chicken fajitas + guacamole + corn tortillas (fajita tacos)
  • Chicken fajitas + black beans + cheese + tortilla chips (nachos)
  • Black beans + rice
  • Diced lemon chicken + rice + diced ham, pulled from the black beans + coconut aminos + diced veggies, fried (fried rice)
  • Chicken fajitas + greens + salsa (fiesta salad)

So there you have it. With a couple of days of gluten-, soy- and dairy-free cooking, this was pretty much a week’s worth of  lunches and dinners for me (there were a couple repeats in there.) The key to this is to get your time-consuming things out of the way – for me, that’s meat, beans and rice (yes I know rice only takes 20-30 minutes, but I only have about 40 minutes at home for my lunch “hour.”) Then I just added easy things: I can warm a tortilla in a pan, open a bag of salad, or smash up an avocado in under five minutes. The asparagus might have taken 10, as did the fried rice.

Do you prepare meals ahead of time? Do you work from base ingredients, or do you package up set meals for the whole week? Tell me in the comments!


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