One of my favorite perks of cooking in the Instant Pot, is the fact that you can cook two dishes at one time. It’s called “pot in pot” cooking, and it takes the convenience factor of the Instant Pot to the next level. You can make an entire meal at once, totally hands-off!
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If you’re not familiar with pot-in-pot cooking, it’s a method where you cook one part of your meal on the bottom of the Instant Pot (I own this 6 quart model), in the large stainless steel insert, while another part of your meal, like a side dish, cooks in a separate bowl placed on a trivet.
To get started with pot-in-pot cooking, you’ll need two things:
- a 7-inch oven-safe bowl, to hold a side dish, like rice or vegetables
- a 2.5-inch trivet, to keep the bowl out of your main course
You may already have a 7-inch bowl in your kitchen that will work (our favorite porcelain salad bowls work great!), so you might only need to get a trivet to move ahead with pot-in-pot cooking. I bought this 2-piece trivet set on Amazon, and while I use the 2.5-inch trivet most often, the 4-inch trivet comes in handy when I want to place a cook a couple of small sweet potatoes at the same time as a main entree.
Which items can you cook at the same time in the Instant Pot?
Cooking with White Rice:
White rice cooks quickly, in just 4 minutes of high pressure cooking, but it can go up to 10 minutes when cooked in a separate bowl on a trivet. I always allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes before moving the steam release valve to venting, then removing the lid. When cooking white rice, rinse it well in a fine mesh strainer to help keep the grains from sticking together, then use a 1:1 ratio of rice to water in the bowl.
The following items work well when cooked at the bottom of the Instant Pot, with the white rice in a bowl on top.
- Chicken Breasts: Chicken breasts cook in 8 to 10 minutes at high pressure, followed by the 10 minute natural pressure release.
- Pre-Cooked Beans: If starting with pre-cooked beans, like my Kung Pao Chickpeas, you can cook the dish on the bottom of the Instant Pot for 4 minutes at high pressure, and allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes before removing the lid.
- Soaked Beans. Several varieties of beans can cook in 10 minutes or less, when they have been soaked in water for at least 8 hours, like black beans and cannellini beans. Be sure that you don’t add salt or vinegar to them while cooking, or they won’t become tender as quickly. Refer to this Instant Pot time chart for specific cooking times.
- Dry Lentils: Dry green lentils will cook in 5 minutes at high pressure, as long as you don’t add salt or acid to the recipe. To make a lentil recipe, like this Sweet Potato Curry, cook the curry on the bottom of the Instant Pot (without salt) for 5 minutes, then allow the pressure to release for 10 minutes before removing the lid. Red lentils work, too, but they will become mush before the rice is cooked. If you don’t mind soupy lentils, go for it!
Cooking with Brown Rice:
Brown rice takes 22 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot, but it can withstand a little extra cooking time up to 30 minutes when cooked in a separate bowl on a trivet. Allow the pressure to release naturally for an additional 10 minutes before removing the lid. Below are some ideas to help you get started, but you can use any recipe on the bottom of the Instant Pot that requires 22-30 minutes of cooking.
When cooking brown rice, rinse it well in a fine mesh sieve to prevent the grains from sticking together, then use a 1:1 ratio of rice to water.
- Dried Beans. Several varieties of dried beans cook in 25 minutes or less, without even soaking them ahead of time. Dried black beans or red kidney beans can be cooked in the bottom of the Instant Pot using the cooking times listed in this chart. Tougher beans, like chickpeas, can also be cooked with brown rice if you soak them ahead of time.
- Whole Sweet Potatoes. Medium to large sweet potatoes (1 pound or smaller) can take roughly 25 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot, so they can be cooked with rice at the same time. In this case, you might want to place the rice at the bottom of the pot and place the sweet potatoes on the trivet to keep them out of the cooking water.
- *Vegetables. Most vegetables will turn to mush if cooked for more than 1-2 minutes in the Instant Pot, but that can be to your advantage in some cases. Want a creamy cauliflower sauce to go with your rice? Cook the cauliflower with the rice at the same time, and it will totally disintegrate into a puree when you stir it, without using a food processor. (The exception to this rule is mushrooms, as they retain their texture well, even with over-cooking.)
- Chicken Thighs. Chicken thighs can withstand quite a bit of overcooking, as they become fall-off-the-bone tender when cooked for 22 minutes at high pressure. (You can use bone-in or bone-less thighs with similar results.)
Cooking with Vegetables:
As I noted above, most vegetables will turn to mush if you cook them longer than 1-2 minutes at high pressure. As a result, you can easily make a vegetable mash to go with your main entree all at once.
- Mashed Cauliflower. If you place a bowl of cauliflower (with no water added) on a trivet over chicken breasts, cooked beans, dry lentils, or anything else that takes at least 5 minutes to cook, with 10 minutes of natural pressure release, the cauliflower will turn to mush. Use a potato masher to mash the cauliflower into “cauliflower mashed potatoes” and then serve it as a low-carb side dish.
- Mashed Potatoes. Sweet and white potatoes become very tender with just 8 minutes of pressure cooking, using a quick or natural pressure release. Cook them in a bowl on a trivet with any recipe that requires that much cooking time, or more. (In this case, you can’t really over cook them!) Don’t add any water to the bowl of potatoes for cooking, as they will be sufficiently cooked from steam in the pot.
- Steamed Vegetables. If you’d like your vegetables to retain their texture, without turning into a mash, you’ll need to use the method described in my Instant Pot Salmon recipe.
What should you NOT cook in a separate pot in the Instant Pot?
Quinoa. In my experience, quinoa does not work using the pot-in-pot method. I’ve cooked it in water anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, and only the quinoa at the top of the bowl gets cooked. (The stuff underneath remains hard and crunchy!) I don’t know why this happens, but I recommend using my Instant Pot Quinoa recipe instead.
This might be the case for other gluten-free pseudo-grains, like millet and amaranth, too. I haven’t tested those myself, after having such a bad experience with the quinoa.
Pot-in-Pot Pressure Cooker Rice
- 1 cup white rice (I like to use jasmine)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- For best results, rinse the rice in a strainer basket under the faucet, then add the rinsed rice to an oven-safe bowl that is 7-inches or less in diameter. (See notes below for bowl options.)
- Add the cup of water and salt to the rice in the bowl, and give it a stir. Pour one additional cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot insert, then place a trivet on top of that. (I use the trivet that came with my Instant Pot.)
- Place the bowl of rice on the trivet, then secure the lid to the Instant Pot. Move the steam release valve to Sealing, then press the "manual" or "pressure cook" button and set the time to 4 minutes at high pressure. (High pressure is the default setting for most machines.)
- It will take 5 to 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure, then the cook cycle will begin. When the cook cycle is complete, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes. The Instant Pot screen will read LO:10 when the natural release is complete. Move the steam release valve to Venting to release any remaining pressure in the pot.
- Remove the lid and use oven mitts to remove the bowl of rice to a trivet on your counter. Use a fork to fluff the rice, then serve warm.
You can use this method for cooking Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats or brown rice, too. Brown rice, however, requires a much longer cooking time. I use 22 minutes of high pressure cooking, with a 10 minute natural release for brown rice.
Try my One-Pot Chipotle Burrito Bowls or my Low-Carb Chicken Burrito Bowls, which feature pot-in-pot cauliflower “rice.” Yes, you can make an easy cauliflower rice in your Instant Pot, too! My method is much faster than using a food processor or grater to rice the cauliflower ahead of time.
Get More Healthy Instant Pot Recipes
I hope this post helps you get the most out of your Instant Pot. For more healthy Instant Pot recipes, including convenient one-pot meals using this pot-in-pot method, be sure to grab my new cookbook, The Fresh & Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. You can see a sneak peek here!
In the meantime, you can find more of my Instant Pot recipes and tutorials here on the blog.
Reader Feedback: Have any more Instant Pot questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out!
Questions and Reviews
Hi! Your trivet links goes to pyrex bowls. Do you mind pointing me in the right direction? Thanks!
Sorry about that! Here’s the trivet set: https://amzn.to/2EDfiCY
Thanks for useful and detailed information!
I’m considering to buy one. I can see it has many functions clearly!
Thanks again 🙂
Thank you for a well written article. Do you have a video of the process? I am new to the Instant pot and I cannot quite understand the method. TIA.
I have a video coming! Just shot it yesterday, so it will be ready in a couple weeks.
Thank you for these amazing ideas Megan! 😀 I just started experimenting more with my insta pot. I tried the Kung Pao chickpeas with white rice and it turned out perfectly!
I will be traveling for the next year and want to utilize my insta pot as much as possible while on the road. I am looking forward to your new cookbook coming out in October for more insta pot recipes.
Thanks again, Karen
I love the idea, however, what do you do when you are cooking two items at once but they both require two very different cook times? You cannot stop the process and remove the item that cooks faster and resume, especially if you need to allow for natural ptessure release for several minutes? I’m curious to know how one gets around this?
Typically, you plan to cook two things that do have the same cooking time. For example, boneless chicken and white rice work well, or certain dry soaked beans and brown rice, which cook a lot longer. In my new healthy Instant Pot cookbook, there is a recipe that calls for brown rice (which takes 22 minutes) and boneless chicken breast (which takes only 10-12 minutes) so I do have you quickly release the pressure to remove the chicken when it’s ready, and then return the lid to finish cooking the brown rice. So, that can definitely be done, too!
I am interested in doing pot in pot millet in my Instant Pot, as quinoa is too expensive to be an everyday food, and I’m the only person here who eats millet (hence the need for single portions and minimal cleanup). You wrote that quinoa didn’t get properly cooked, and my thought is, why not skip the trivet and leave the smaller pot in the water at the bottom? That might help, and the smaller pot is closed with a lid anyway.
Just cooked your instant pot Kung pao chickpeas. The taste is fabulous! However the rice was not cooked enough and seemed a bit too dry. I did forget to rinse the rice. Would this add enough moisture? Or maybe I need to add a minute or 2 to cooking?i don’t want to make the chickpeas mushy. Thanks!
What setting do you use when you use pot in pot or when you just cook in a separate utensil in the instant pot?
I have a 12.5 quart cooker!! I’m really confused how to use the recipes for doubling. Hope this makes sense!!
Thank you so much for this helpful post! I’ve had my Instant Pot for over a year, but I am just now getting brave enough to try it, and I love how you break down your recipes to make them fool-proof. I bought your book and am LOVING IT so far. The Orange Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan have been two of our favorites, and I can’t wait to try the Mogolian Beef next.
I tried this recipe for lunch today with the teriyaki chicken I made and the rice was still uncooked and very hard and crunchy.
I ordered the pyrex bowls through your link however they have just arrived and they are tiny! No where near 7 inches in diameter. Are you sure you have placed the correct link because even in the description on amazing, there is no reference to 7 inches in diameter. Feeling disappointed 🙁
I’m so sorry to hear that! Amazon may have changed the product that was listed since I wrote this post over a year ago, but they do have a GREAT return policy if you would like to exchange them. (Just make sure you check that the product wasn’t as described and they won’t charge you for the return.) It looks like this set is 7-inches in diameter by looking at the reviews and questions on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RJjD0f
This just changed my life!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love my instant pot and always run into the conundrum of cooking my rice or my main dish first. Excited to give this a try!
I’m glad I found this post but I’m even more puzzled as to why my dinner did not turn out tonight. I used a recipe for chicken stir fry with the pot in pot white rice. They used a metal baking pan and I thought that was my downfall since I used a pyrex bowl for the rice. I cooked it high pressure for 6 mins and did a natural release for 10 mins…and my rice was crunchy!?!?? 2 cups rice, 2 cups water, 2.5″ trivet. Where did I go wrong?
Hmmm… that sounds like it should have worked, so I would wonder if maybe the pot didn’t seal correctly? The chicken on the bottom would have cooked regardless since the heating element is on the bottom, but if it doesn’t totally seal then the rice wouldn’t have cooked. White rice definitely shouldn’t be crunchy after 6 minutes of high pressure and that release. Maybe check the sealing ring in your pot? I’ve had to replace mine before.
That’s totally not true on the quinoa front! It cooks really well p-i-p as long as you cover the bowl tightly with foil.
Hello. I like the idea of pot-in-pot recipes. Are glass bowls okay? I already have glass storage bowls from pyrex so I wonder if that it okay to use. How about small stainless steel mixing bowls? I appreciate your recommendation. Thanks.
Thsnks, good info for reference as I experiment with PIP.
My question is: Is there some rule of thumb for pressure time when using a recipe not written for PIP? Do you increase a certain number of minutes? And would there be a difference depending on the pot, stainless versus aluminum versus pyrex?