Tuesday, March 28, 2023


Slow cooker to Instant Pot conversion: Recipe adaptation

One of the comments that came in on our recent RV kitchen gadgets questionnaire asked for us to PLEASE run more pressure cooker or Instant Pot recipes instead of slow cooker/Crock Pot recipes. But, did you know that you can convert slow cooker to Instant Pot® recipes easily? I’ll teach you how so you can convert any slow cooker recipe to a pressure cooker recipe!

Even though the two cooking methods are quite different, almost any recipe you can make in a slow cooker can also be made in a pressure cooker (or in an Instant Pot or any multi-cooker on the pressure setting).

As a side note, if you have an Instant Pot or other multi-cooker, you can use it as a slow cooker as well as a pressure cooker, although pressure cooking seems to be the big selling point of these small appliances. You can also sear or sauté before cooking in the slow cooker or pressure cooker, something you would otherwise need to dirty another pan for when using a straight slow cooker (Crock Pot).

Pros and cons of slow cookers versus pressure cookers

To be sure, there are times you would choose one method over another, even though the end result recipes will be the same.

Also, keep in mind that quick-cooking foods do not do well in either a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. And don’t expect anything that is crisp or browned from either method. Use other cooking methods, such as an air fryer, for these.

Slow cooker pros:

slow cooker pros and cons

  • The slow cooker’s “set it and forget it” ability is great on those days when you’re parked in a campground but expect to be out exploring all day. You can put your ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on, go out and play to your heart’s content, and come home to a hot cooked meal that’s ready to serve.
  • They’re low maintenance.
  • Timing is not crucial. An extra hour or two or three in a slow cooker is usually no big deal, so there is no need to worry about getting home in time. That said, many new slow cookers and multicookers (which include a slow cooker setting) are programmable so they can turn on and off whenever you want.

Slow cooker cons:

  • You need to plan ahead as it takes a minimum of three hours or so to cook anything in a slow cooker.
  • You will need to dirty another pan for sautéing or browning.

Instant Pot or pressure cooker pros:

Instant Pot

  • The pressure cooker (or multi-cooker on the pressure cooker setting) is for those days when you have not had time to think about dinner at all. Similar to the slow cooker, you can put all the ingredients in, turn it on, and the cooker does the rest. The big difference is, instead of it taking 4-8 hours to cook, dinner can usually be on the table in an hour or less.
  • You can cook frozen foods, so very little planning is needed.
  • You can brown meats and sauté veggies in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting (or in a stovetop pressure cooker) for added flavor, then add liquids and cook under pressure.

Pressure cooker cons:

  • Timing is crucial. Once you gain experience you will be able to gauge how quickly foods cook under pressure. However, know that while a few extra hours in a slow cooker won’t negatively affect your finished dish, a few extra minutes in a pressure cooker can turn foods, especially vegetables, to mush.
  • You will not want to add thickeners, dairy products, or alcohol to pressure-cooked recipes.
  • You will not want to leave when cooking with a pressure cooker. Cooking timing is crucial. So are release methods. If you own a pressure cooker, you know you can let the pressure release naturally (slower) or hurry the process along by releasing pressure. The latter can add substantial moisture to your RV, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. But for some recipes, it will be necessary. I have been known to unplug and take it outside to release pressure. Or if the weather is good, I often cook the whole meal in the Instant Pot outside.

Slow cooker to Instant Pot conversion moisture considerations

The biggest difference in the way these two cooking methods differ, aside from speed, is moisture and how they use it.

Slow cooker recipes may or may not use a lot of liquids. You also do not need to worry about adding extra liquids to slow cooker recipes. That’s because they cook at lower temperatures and evaporation is not an issue. In fact, one of the rules of thumb when adapting regular recipes for slow cookers is to use less liquid as, unlike simmering on a stovetop, you won’t lose much volume in the slow cooker.

Slow cooking also allows plenty of time for foods to release their natural juices.

That is NOT the case with the Instant Pot or any other pressure cooker. Things in a pressure cooker get hot and cook so fast that there often isn’t time for foods to release their juices. Even more important, pressure cookers MUST contain at least one cup or more of liquid in order to achieve pressure. Check the instructions that came with yours for the exact minimum amount you need.

If you are adapting a recipe for the Instant Pot, make sure it contains sufficient liquid. This is essential! If you don’t want to water down a recipe you have a couple of options:

  • Set your ingredients in a separate stainless steel bowl up on the Instant Pot’s steamer insert to keep them above the water line.
  • After cooking under pressure, use the Instant Pot’s sauté function to simmer off any excess liquid. Reducing liquids like this has the added benefit of concentrating the flavor.

How long should I could a slow cooker recipe in an Instant Pot?

The answer to that question is, it depends on what you are cooking.

As an extremely general ballpark idea, 8 hours in a slow cooker translates to 30 minutes or less in a pressure cooker. That’s good when it comes to things like soups and stews, but might not be all that useful with other foods. 

Timing matters in a pressure cooker. Luckily, Instant Pot prepared a guide for how long to cook nearly anything in their product. There’s even a downloadable version you can take with you in case you don’t have internet when camping.

It’s true there is no one-size-fits-all rule for slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions—it will depend on your appliance and the ingredients you are using. Nonetheless, you can learn to make the necessary adjustments with a little guidance and some experimenting.

More slow cooker to Instant Pot conversion tips

Keep these important points in mind when you want to make a slow cooker recipe in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker.

  • You might have to scale the recipe back. You can fill a slow cooker, but your Instant Pot has a max fill line (about 2/3 full) you must never exceed. Doing so can cause the pot to not reach pressure. If you are cooking an expanding food like beans, rice, or other grains, fill no more than 1/2 of the Instant Pot (more below).
  • Foods cooked with milk or cream can separate or scorch under pressure. Same with ingredients such as canned cream soups. You can add these ingredients when using the Instant Pot, but add them AFTER pressure cooking.
  • The same goes for thickeners. Add thickeners after cooking under pressure. Cornstarch, flour, or arrowroot may deposit on the bottom of the inner pot and block heat dissipation. As a result, the pressure cooker could overheat. Instead, stir in your thickener (usually in the form of a water and thickener slurry) after releasing the pressure. Use the Instant Pot’s sauté function to cook, without pressure, until it thickens.
  • If a slow cooker recipe tells you to coat an ingredient in flour, such as a beef stew recipe might, skip this step for the Instant Pot for the same reason as above. Thicken afterwards.
  • Beans and other dried legumes are especially expansive. Make sure you use plenty of water. You can always drain off any excess later. Too little water and the beans can burst under pressure and those little bits of beans can clog pressure valves. Make sure at minimum the beans are covered with water plus a little extra.
  • While you can successfully cook beans and legumes from their dried state in an Instant Pot, soaking in water 4-6 hours prior to cooking will reduce the cooking time by as much as half.
  • Avoid using alcohol in the Instant Pot. Liquids do not evaporate. In regular cooking, the alcohol would evaporate off leaving flavor behind. However, under pressure, the alcohol remains.




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1 month ago

My main “beef” with my Instant Pot is that it doesn’t do a pot roast (if I can splurge on one) like a slow-cooker. We use a thermal pot (aka Wonderbag), needing little LP & no electricity, especially on travel days. I can adapt many IP or slow-cooker recipes. Recipe must have enough liquid to boil. Bring food to full boil for 5 minutes in inner pot. Place in thermal holder & close for 4-6 hours. It travels in the sink. Main drawbacks: inner pot must be 3/4 full (can place smaller pot will boiling water, plus rice if desired, on top of larger pot to fill empty space) and food must be brought back to a boil after 6 hours if dinner is late. After reboiling, it can stay in the thermal cooker another 6 hours. Once had a soup in for 18 hours total on a long day. Heard about this on RV travel 2-3 years ago. Great energy saver.

Cheri Sicard
1 month ago
Reply to  CeeCee

Wow, I have never heard of a Wonderbag. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip.

1 month ago
Reply to  CeeCee

I’m not sure what you mean by “doesn’t do a pot roast (if I can splurge on one) like a slow-cooker”. I have made several in my Instant Pot and they came out great.

1 month ago

I think I may have been the one you quoted wanting more pressure cooker recipes. I’m still requesting that. I was excited reading the title to this article hoping it would have provided a conversion time matrix. Though helpful, all I read were ingredients to avoid or add later. You also left out my biggest pro for using a pressure cooker – I am not comfortable leaving my RV with my evening meal cooking unattended for hours. After returning to our trailer after hiking for the day, I can achieve the same results in 30 minutes in my pressure cooker without worry. Thanks for the effort – I’m reading!

Cheri Sicard
1 month ago
Reply to  Julz

I provided a link to a timetable from Instant Pot about how long things take to cook. There is not one single formula as it will depend on what you are cooking, the size of your Instant Pot, etc. So sorry to disappoint.

Phil Stivers
1 month ago

Instant Pot on “Slow Cook” doesn’t function well. The Instant Pot doesn’t get hot enough to act appropriately as a a slow cooker. At best (not) the “slow cook “high” setting on Instant Pot is not quite equal to low one slow cooker. In my experience I have never had a successful slow cook on Instant. Pot in that mode. Using the pressure cooker for an slow cooker recipe will work. Sometime you’ll have to separate the quick cooking veggies form the meats. For example I did a pot roast. The meat took 20 minutes in IP then I added vegetables for 5 minutes (under pressure). Came out great!

Cheri Sicard
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Stivers

I use my Instant pot on slow cooker setting constantly and have for years and I have never had an issue. It works great in my opinion.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Stivers

Good tip on separating out quick cooking veggies.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cheri Sicard

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