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7 ways to use your Instant Pot for meal prep

Make these easy recipes on Sunday and feast all week.

amazon-black-friday-instant-pot

Making bread in an Instant Pot is easy.

Amazon

Meal prep is a year-round game. No matter what else you may be attending to, you're always eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and you never have as much time as you'd like to get it all together.

Enter the Instant Pot, which helps make meal prep much quicker and more streamlined. And meal prepping helps you eat healthier, save money and spend less time figuring out what to eat during the busy work week.

So get yourself some meal prep containers to hold all of your not-that-hard work, organize your fridge so you can actually find everything in there and consider some handy Instant Pot accessories,-- and at least one part of your life can actually get less complicated.

Instant Pot

This 8-quart Instant Pot is one of our top picks for meal prep.

Read more: The best Instant Pot to buy in 2019

Here are seven ways to use your Instant Pot to meal prep breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week -- with recipes and ideas on what to do with your various components so you don't get bored of any of them.

1. Make a big batch of hard-boiled eggs

hard-boiled-eggs-instant-pot-chowhound
Chowhound

One of a meal prepper's best friends, hard-boiled eggs (technically steamed, in this case) are perfect for so much: Eat them on their own with a quick sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning for breakfast, slice and add to lunchtime salads or sandwiches, devil them for a snack or use them to jazz up a bowl of ramen at dinnertime. With the Instant Pot, it's incredibly easy to cook a big batch of eggs at once and have them come out perfectly every time -- plus, they peel like a dream. I still marvel at the way the shells slip right off every time I make them.

According to Damn Delicious, you should cook them for about four minutes if you like them slightly jammy or six minutes for totally firm (but still bright yellow) yolks. In either case, be sure to shock them in ice water to stop them from cooking any further.

As for exactly how to use them, here are some Chowhound recipes that call on hard-cooked eggs to help inspire you:

2. Poach chicken breasts -- and save the broth

The Instant Pot makes foolproof poached chicken breasts too, and like the eggs, this protein can be turned into countless dishes from chicken salad to enchiladas.

easy-chicken-taco-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

My go-to Instant Pot poached chicken recipe is from Amy + Jacky, but I usually change up the recommended seasonings. I leave out the oregano, rosemary and thyme and instead add some whole peppercorns and a couple of peeled, smashed cloves of garlic. This ensures that the chicken will work in virtually any dish you can dream up (e.g., you can use the same batch of chicken in numerous recipes for the week). 

That said, you can also add other ingredients to the pot if you know you want to use the chicken in specific dishes. Add some cumin and oregano and maybe a dried chile if you'll be turning your chicken into burritos and tacos, for instance.

The beautiful bonus here is that the cooking liquid turns into a deeply delicious broth that's way better than the boxed or canned stuff in your pantry. You'll have about four cups in total. Save it to make soup later in the week or simply use it in place of water to cook more flavorful rice or couscous than usual.

mexican-meatball-soup-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

Just be sure to cut way back on the salt in whatever recipe you use, because the broth is already very well-seasoned. If you don't need it the same week you use the chicken, it freezes perfectly in an air-tight plastic or silicone bag (lay flat to freeze so it takes up less room).

You can use bone-in chicken if you like (theoretically, it should make an even richer and more flavorful broth) but I usually don't bother.

3. Cook a week's worth of oatmeal for breakfast

instant-pot-oatmeal-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

If you like oatmeal for breakfast but never have time to tend a pot on a weekday morning, make a big batch on Sunday in the Instant Pot. This Instant Pot oatmeal recipe works for both steel cut and rolled oats and uses almond milk because cow's milk is more likely to scorch -- so it's also vegan. The base recipe is simply flavored with cinnamon and a pinch of salt, but once it's cooked, you can add brown sugar or maple syrup and a splash of vanilla if you'd like before topping it however you please.

You can simply keep portioning it out of one big bowl all week, but a better option is to let it cool, then freeze it in muffin tins before popping the frozen oatmeal rounds out and sealing them in an air-tight plastic bag. (Silicone muffin pans make unmolding much easier.)

This way you can store the cooked oatmeal for far longer (in case you don't feel like oats every day). All you need to do at breakfast time is microwave one or two portions of the oatmeal with a splash of milk. If you top each portion with fresh berries or other fruit (like ripe banana slices and berries or roasted pears and apples) before freezing, it's an even quicker option on a busy morning.

4. Make homemade yogurt for the week

homemade-yogurt-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

Not all Instant Pots have the yogurt-making function, but if yours does, take advantage of it. Not only is it far cheaper, healthier (since there's less added sugar -- or none at all) and more environmentally friendly than buying yogurt at the store, it'll give you a real sense of satisfaction. If you keep it plain, you can use it in savory recipes throughout the week (think meat marinades, creamy sauces and even healthier mashed potatoes) as well as eating it with honey, granola and/or fruit for breakfast. 

This guide to Instant Pot yogurt recipes includes directions for making nonfat, full fat and Greek yogurt.

5. Make pulled pork, beef or chicken

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Chowhound

One of the best uses of the Instant Pot is to make a huge hunk of meat into a pile of tender shredded protein you can portion into various dishes throughout the week. Chicken, beef or pork are right at home in tacos, sandwiches, rice bowls, nachos and even soup.

Exactly how versatile your protein is depends on how you season it, but if you keep your base flavors on the more neutral side you can always dress your meat up with sauce for individual dishes later. This Instant Pot pulled pork with garlic, onion, salt and pepper, for instance, can turn into BBQ sliders one night with the addition of your favorite barbecue sauce but also meld seamlessly into fried rice (or cauliflower fried rice) another evening with a splash of soy sauce, sesame oil and grated ginger.

If you have a stand mixer, heads-up -- it's also great for shredding cooked meat in a jiffy! (But then you do have more to wash up.)

6. Cook a batch of grains for sides and salads

couscous-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

You can cook rice and other grains in the Instant Pot too, either on their own or via the PIP (pot in pot) method. There's even an official Instant Pot rice and grains chart with cooking times and water ratios for several types of grains.

As with meats, the more mildly you season your grains, the more versatile they are. You can use them plain as the base of a saucy grain bowl or under a main dish like butter chicken, mix in other ingredients and seasonings for a hearty but healthy grain salad or pilaf or even blend them with veggies and beans for meatless burger patties.

7. Make a big pot of beans from scratch

instant-pot-beans-chowhound
Chowhound

Canned beans are great in a pinch, but they cost more per pound, can be a pain to store in bulk if you don't have a pantry and they're never quite as good as beans cooked from dried (plus, some people have concerns about the linings in commercial canned goods). Luckily, the Instant Pot makes it possible to cook dried beans in a fraction of the time compared to conventional methods -- and you don't have to soak them first. Make a batch of your desired variety on Sunday and use them in various meals throughout the week.

Here are some ideas for using Instant Pot Black Beans, a personal favorite -- note that one can of beans (commonly called for in recipes) is equivalent to about 1.5 cups:

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.