Many of us have heard the horror stories about pressure cookers from our grandparents. My grandmother once spent three weeks cleaning pea soup from her ceiling and shaking her fist in the air as she vowed never to use her pressure cooker again. But that was the 1960s, and pressure cookers have come a long way. Today, there are many different types of pressure cookers to choose from. Fortunately, they have been improved to include safety features that make incidents like what happened to my grandmother’s ceiling virtually non-existent. But first, what is a pressure cooker, and how does it work?
A pressure cooker is basically a pot with a lid that you seal and lock. The pressure inside the pot is controlled by a valve, which traps steam within the pan. In an open pot, (at sea level) water boils at 212°F. Inside of a pressure cooker, however, temperatures can rise to 250°F.
The purpose of a pressure cooker is to decrease the amount of time it takes to cook your meals. Depending on the type of pressure cooker you have, you might be surprised at how many things they can actually do. Remember to check the manual that came with your model for any special considerations.
Here are some fun and unexpected reasons for you to dust off that pressure cooker and put it to work.
Beans were the reason I took the leap and bought a pressure cooker for my home. I loved the idea of buying dried beans in bulk but found it too unwieldy to have to soak them for hours before starting on a recipe. Using a pressure cooker to cook most kinds of beans eliminates the need to soak them.
Check your owner’s manual for liquid minimums and remember that too much liquid can rob your black beans of nutrients and increase your cook time. For simple black beans, place 2 cups of sorted black beans into an electric pressure cooker. Add 6 cups of water, or for more flavor, use this Oil-Free Vegetable Broth. Add some finely chopped onion, a bit of cilantro, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook on high using the bean feature (many cookers have one), otherwise select 40 minutes. Release the pressure completely before opening. If the beans have not softened completely, you can let them soak in the water for a little while before draining. 2 cups dried black beans will yield 6 cups of cooked black beans.
The next step is to use your beans, and there are so many ways to it. Substitute the canned butter beans with beans cooked in your pressure cooker in this Rich and Creamy Tomato Soup. Black beans made using your pressure cooker are just the thing you need to make these smoky Beastly Black Bean Burgers, made from black beans and quinoa. You can even use beans to make dessert! You’ll never have a fudgier brownie than these Black Bean Peanut Butter Brownies. Or, if you have no patience for baking, this No-Bake Brownie Batter will satisfy your chocolate craving. Nobody will ever be able to tell that black beans are the secret ingredient. Looking for more ways to put your beans to use? Try one of our many vegan black bean recipes.
Rice can be frustrating to cook on a stovetop. If you don’t combine precise measurements with perfect timing, the result can be a pot of burned or mushy rice. In a pressure cooker, however, you can cook rice more consistently and in a fraction of the time. A long time ago, pressure cookers and rice weren’t a great combination. Now, most are perfectly equipped to handle it. As always, check your specific model’s manual for information before trying anything new.
To make long grain brown rice in your pressure cooker, place 1 cup of rice into the pot with 1 1/2 cups of water. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Secure the lid and cook using the rice setting, if available, or cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Remember that each variety of rice cooks differently, so always consult your owner’s manual first. Freezing rice is a great way to make a big batch last a long time. To make your rice last longer, put whatever you won’t eat immediately into an airtight container, and store it in the freezer for future use.
Of course, you’ll need things to make with your fresh cooked rice! Get fancy with this Risotto With Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Or, try out this easy Spicy Tofu Rice Bowl for something simple and satisfying. This Black Bean and Mushroom Burger With Rice Patties substitutes regular burger buns with buns made from rice. Still unsure of what to make? Check out all of our vegan rice recipes.
I was excited when I learned that I could use my pressure cooker to make my own vegetable broth. Finally, I could ditch the vegetable bouillion cubes. When you make your own broth, you control everything that goes into it, from salt levels to the herbs and vegetables that give it flavor. When you chop up vegetables for recipes, don’t throw away the scraps. Keep them stored in an airtight container in the freezer until you have enough to make broth.
Not only do you save a few dollars by hanging on to those food scraps, you also cut down on food waste. When you make your own broth, you don’t have to worry too much about making a mistake. Avoid using potatoes to make your broth, as it will turn it cloudy and avoid beets — they’ll turn the pot pink. Carrots, leeks, onions, and celery are all great vegetables to use to make your own broth. Don’t forget to use seasoning. Use a combination of basil, oregano, sage, thyme, and bay leaves, but avoid using rosemary, as it will make the broth bitter.
If you feel uncomfortable “winging it” at first, then try this recipe for Oil-Free Vegetable Broth or this No-Bone Broth. Both can be used as a base for all your homemade soups, or in any recipe that calls for vegetable broth.
In addition to using your vegetable broth as a base for soups, you can also use it in place of oil when frying food. Vegetable broth is important to learning How to Make Perfect Seitan. You get the most flavorful seitan just by simmering it in vegetable broth. Or, you can keep it simple; cooking grains like rice and quinoa in broth in place of water yields a more flavorful grain.
Oatmeal is one of those breakfasts that never lets you down. It’s inexpensive, healthy, and filling. But it can be frustrating if you don’t have the time to monitor your oatmeal while it cooks. To make stovetop steel cut oats on the stove, you must always be present and focused, or you run the risk of burning your breakfast.
Cooking oats in the pressure cooker is easy. You can set it up and walk away from the pot without having to worry about making a mess. Before you try it, check your owner’s manual for information about making oatmeal. Oats have a tendency to foam as they cook, which can block the valve, so you want to make sure that your model is equipped to handle them.
For basic oatmeal, combine 1/2 cup of steel cut oats, 2 cups of water, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt in your pressure cooker. Cook on high for 10 minutes, then release the pressure. Top with your choice of non-dairy milk, brown sugar, nuts, or dried and fresh fruit.
If you are like me and like for your breakfast to taste like dessert, try adding walnuts, banana, and maple syrup. Or, try this Blood Orange and Raspberry Oatmeal. Its sweet and citrusy flavor is perfect for breakfast during spring and summer. Oatmeal doesn’t have to be boring! Read Does Your Oatmeal Need Life? Check Out These Creative Add-Ins to learn how to amp up your oatmeal game and then read 10 Ways To Make Your Oatmeal Creamy Without Milk.
I’m a sucker when it comes to my kids. I try to keep my kitchen free of over-processed, chemical-laden foods, and that goes double for what I feed them. Some commercially prepared baby foods contain scary ingredients, but making homemade baby food without a pressure cooker can be time-consuming. Not only does using a pressure cooker reduce the time it takes to prepare baby food, but it also preserves important nutrients that can sometimes be cooked away. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash all make great pressure cooker purées. To learn more about feeding your children a vegan diet, check out this Guide to a Vegan Diet for Toddlers.
Cooking risotto at home can be tricky, but luckily, it’s one more thing that can be made in your pressure cooker. Just be sure that your device is properly equipped for making rice. If you are short on time, but still want a hearty and nutrient-dense meal, try making this Lentil-Kale Risotto in your pressure cooker. It’s an untraditional spin on a classic Italian dish. Once you’ve perfected your technique, dive right into our many vegan risotto recipes. It’s highly recommended that you try this rich Truffled Mushroom Risotto, this Risotto With Crispy Brussels Sprouts, or this Vegan Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto.
Chili and Sloppy Joes
Chili and sloppy joes both fall under the classification of “yummy and inexpensive one-pot meal” cold weather cooking. Many of us have fond memories of chilly evenings where tasty, home-cooked chili or sloppy joes were on the menu, and our parents probably loved how easy and inexpensive they were to make. Both of these meals are also great ways to make use of your pressure cooker beans. I especially love this Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili (with extra cilantro) and this recipe for Sloppy Lentils.
I always keep applesauce on hand for use in different recipes. When it comes to having a side dish with a meal, I prefer the homemade kind, like this Homemade Applesauce. Once you get the chopping they apples out of the way, applesauce is fairly easy to make. Check your manual for special information about using fruit in your pressure cooker.
Applesauce may be great with some cinnamon, but it has uses as a substitute in baking, too. Learn How to Make Dessert Healthier by Substituting Fats With Fruits and Veggies to see how to use applesauce in place of fats and oils and then put your skills to the test to make this Apple Loaf Cake. These Fluffy Blueberry Waffles will be your new go-to recipe for brunch. Applesauce is one of 5 Lean, Low-Fat Oil Alternatives That Taste Great and it shines when used to make muffins and cookies.
Stews and Soups
There is nothing quite like a bowl of hot stew or soup to warm you up on a cold day. They are healthy, hearty, and satisfying. Soups and stews can be a great way to stretch your dollar when it comes to healthy eating. Many soup and stew recipes can be adapted for use in a pressure cooker, but many are already pressure cooker-friendly.
This Kitchari: Comforting Indian Lentil Stew uses brown rice, mung beans, eggplant, and no shortage of warming spices. If comfort food is your thing, then this Hearty Potato and Mushroom Stew is for you. Meaty portobello mushrooms and white potatoes are cooked a broth made thick and creamy with gluten-free flour and almond milk. If you need more ideas on what to make in your pressure cooker, we have so many different recipes for soups and stews for you to try.
What is your favorite thing to make in your pressure cooker? We’d love to hear from you!
Lead image source: Risotto With Crispy Brussels Sprouts