I just joined the cult of the Instant Pot, thanks to a crazy sale on Amazon Prime day where this kitchen technology was 40% off. (215,000 Instant Pots were sold, but who’s counting?) The Instant Pot is supposedly as life altering as a Vitamix: it’s an electric pressure cooker that can also saute food and work as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, etc etc. It also boasts itself to be green, reducing energy consumption 70% due to the fast cooking times, and it uses very little water as well. You can even make cake in it.
My first task was to join all the Facebook groups dedicated to the Instant Pot so I could learn more about my new cult. The main group has over 70,000 members! But I’m more excited about the plant-based ones, because at the moment I’m not that into cooking meat. The second thing I did, once the Instant Pot arrived, was to cook water in it to make sure it worked properly. But the first food I made was a soft-boiled egg. Basically you just put water in the Instant Pot, stick an egg or two on top of the trivet that comes with the pot, and press a button to set it for three minutes. It beeps when it’s ready. Hard boiled eggs take five minutes at high pressure. Here are the eggs, served with sweet potato drop biscuits from the cookbook Appetite for Reduction.
But I had greater ambitions than eggs. The recipe I was most excited about making was from one of the plant-based Facebook groups, featured in a tantalizing photo that showed only a burrito held in someone’s fist: simple, elemental, satisfying. The complicated issue with pressure cookers is keeping the water proportions absolutely correct, and also knowing that if you’re trying to cook several foods together, whether they will cook at the same time, or whether some parts of the dish will end up mushy while others are undercooked. I adapted the recipe slightly because the original one didn’t pre-soak the beans, and I also wanted to add some onions and garlic. There are different schools of thought on bean soaking, which is not necessary in an Instant Pot, but I prefer to pre-soak mine, which changes the cooking times in pressure cookers. (Here’s a primer on how you can quick soak in only 2 minutes in the Instant Pot!) The recipe’s author didn’t know how to compensate for that, but I figured it out! And the results were amazing.
Basically when you have something that requires different cooking times, like pre-soaked beans (which take 10 minutes in the pressure cooker) and the brown rice blend I had from Trader Joe’s (which I estimated would take 22 minutes), you can do what’s called “phase cooking” and cook one part of the dish for a few minutes before putting in the next ingredient that requires less time to cook. It’s still not time consuming at all. I first sauteed an onion and a few minced garlic cloves in the Instant Pot, then threw in the rice blend and two cups of water at manual pressure for 12 minutes, then opened it and added beans, spices, a cup of pureed fresh tomatoes, and the remaining water to cook for 10 more minutes. At the very end I added salt. Perfection! The brown rice blend also featured black barley and some other chewy little things that came out perfectly, and the black beans did not get mushy but maintained their integrity.
I served the beans and rice on corn tortillas with tomatoes and scallions and a shake of Cholula hot sauce. This would have been even better with fresh avocado and cilantro on top, which I didn’t have at the time, but I was too impatient to go to the store. You could also wrap this thing up in a burrito and freeze it for lunches during the week. Total time: about 45 minutes including prep time, but the great thing was that once everything was in the Instant Pot, you can just leave it and go until the timer goes off – no stirring or watching needed. This was delicious, so of course I wanted to write it down immediately so I could remember exactly what I did next time. If you want to make it without pre-soaking the beans, just put everything in the Instant Pot and set the timer on manual for 28 minutes. Below is the recipe, adapted slightly from one on the Plant-Based Instant Pot People Facebook group.
- 2 cups brown long-grained rice or brown rice blend
- 1 cup pre-soaked black beans
- 1 Tblsp. chili powder
- 1 Tblsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Dash of olive oil
- 1 cup salsa or pureed tomatoes
- 1 tsp. better-than-bouillon veggie bouillon
- 4.5 cups water, added at different times as below
- Turn Instant Pot on saute mode, and in a dash of olive oil, saute onions and garlic until translucent.
- Add 2 cups of brown rice blend, 2 cups water, seal lid and set on manual high pressure for 12 minutes.
- When 12 minutes are up, open by quick release, then add beans, spices, tomato puree, better-than-boullion, and remaining 1.5 cups water.
- Set on manual for 10 minutes.
- When time is up, let sit 15 minutes (natural release) before opening.
- Salt to taste. Serve in a tortilla with fresh scallions, chopped tomatoes, avocado and fresh cilantro.