Some posts are sexy and mouth-watering but this post, The Instant Pot® Liquid Myth – (How much liquid do I need?), is completely practical. If you own an Instant Pot®, this is just the kind of useful information you need to understand the concept of cooking vegetables you and your family will enjoy time and time again.
The Instant Pot® Liquid Myth
Recently, a student at one of my Instant Pot® classes asked me why she had to use 2 cups of liquid when she was cooking vegetables. A week later, someone else asked me about using 1 cup of liquid. Instant Pot® cooking techniques and information inconsistencies run rampant across the internet and I think it’s important to de-mystify these kinds of liquid conundrums. A good meal often depends upon it.
Instant Pot® Recommendations
It’s important to note that Instant Pot® has changed its official recommendation from 2 cups of liquid for cooking all foods to just 1 cup. Those with older models and old issues of the brand’s manual and recipe booklet may be following outdated information. In fact, a student at a recent class told me as much; she’s been cooking all foods with 2 cups of water because that’s what the booklet instructed. She grew to like the leftover liquid from cooking veggies because it was there but it certainly didn’t improve the flavor of her food. (If you do end up with a lot of leftover liquid, you can save it for soup or use it for other cooking, depending upon what it was that you were cooking.)
Let’s clear up this myth. While 2 cups of liquid is certainly way too much for cooking most foods, even the new 1 cup recommendation may be too much as well. It really does depend on the type of food being cooked.
Cooking Vegetables and Dried Beans in the Instant Pot®
In my book Vegan Under Pressure, I provide cooking charts for liquid measurements and many people consider the cookbook the “vegan or plant-based cooking Bible.” For some whole grains, 2 cups of liquid might be just right and the often-suggested water-to-rice 2:1 ratio is just too much liquid as well. In fact, I can’t think of any type of vegetable that requires 2 cups of liquid; even if you’re making a lot of them. For instance, when making Garlic Parsley Mashed Potatoes with just 4 medium potatoes, you need only 1 cup of liquid in which to cook them. Most other vegetables need even less.
Vegetables like bok choy and mushrooms naturally contain a lot of liquid and do not need much additional water for cooking. The same goes for summer squash and zucchini. Too much cooking liquid makes for a soggy side dish!
Steam potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash on a rack over 1 cup of water.
For dried beans, soaking 1 cup of beans in 2 to 3 cups of water is sufficient for rehydrating the beans in order to cook them. Drain the beans and cook them in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid. A lot of people think they need to cover the beans with 1 to 2 inches of water over them in order to cook, but this results in overcooked, mushy beans. The Instant Pot® does not cook by boiling; this pressure cooker cooks with super heated steam and that is why the lesser amount of water is enough.
In my experience, cooking vegetables in the Instant Pot®, using 1/2 cup of liquid is plenty and for some vegetables this may even be too much. You may be asking, “so how do I know?” and the answer is: there is no magic number. If there is a number, 2 cups of water is certainly not it!
I hope my explanation is helpful and that you experiment with the water-to-vegetable ratio using my guidelines. If you are new to the Instant Pot®, or any other pressure cooker, please join my Instant Pot Beginners Veg Support Facebook Group for tips, tricks, recipes, and cooking chit-chat.
Happy Instant Pot® cooking!