The Burned-Out Cook

The Delicious, Practical Instant Pot Dinner I Make at Least Once a Week

updated May 15, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

There are some food ideas that I feel frankly apprehensive about sharing because they just seem so easy, so obvious. Does everyone know this already? Am I belaboring the basic? But if there is one thing I have learned in 15 years of food writing, it’s that what seems rote to one cook may be revelatory to another. So, while I run the risk of you rolling your eyes, let me share my most favorite Instant Pot meal with you.

This has become a meal I rely on practically every week and an antidote to my most burned-out evenings. The formula goes like the following:

1 can coconut milk + 1 jar simmer sauce + 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

I dump all that into the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, set it for HIGH, cook for about 25 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally (aka the slow way). The result is a saucy, melting stew of chicken that can be left in chunks or shredded, with plenty of rich, luxurious sauce to pour over rice or pasta.

It’s that easy. I don’t sear or brown the chicken; I don’t even salt it. Sometimes if I feel fancy I’ll throw in a few handfuls of shallots or a bag of frozen spinach.

Credit: Faith Durand

The key is the coconut milk, which seems to gild almost any dish with its richness. It also stretches the (often pricey) simmer sauce a little further. On sauces, my absolute favorites are the Maya Kaimal Indian sauces, especially the Goan Coconut, which has real curry leaves in it and an amazingly bright and fresh flavor. But I’ve made this with all sorts: Thai curries, Vietnamese sauces, even plain tomato sauce. Any flavorful simmer sauce (12 ounces-ish) will do.

See more of our favorite simmer sauces: 7 Simmer Sauces We Love (You Can Buy Them All Online!)

There’s also a lot of room for substitutions. I’ve made this with chicken breasts instead of thighs; I’ve done it with more or less than three pounds of chicken. I’ve made it with frozen chicken (same cook time; it just takes a little longer to come to pressure). I’ve let the pressure release slowly all afternoon and the stew sit on warm until dinner. I’ve released the pressure quickly, in a hurry to eat. Sometimes I leave the chicken in big chunks; sometimes I shred it with two forks.

Credit: Faith Durand

Heck, I’ve even forgone chicken completely and used cauliflower as a vegetarian stand-in. I just dumped in a ton of cauliflower florets (they may have even been frozen) and cooked for slightly less time, then released the pressure immediately. Absolutely delicious.

It’s a great big-batch dinner that is even better the second day. And that to me is worth the risk of being a bit basic: Everyone needs one more hands-off, easy meal right now. Right?

More Miracle Meals from Kitchn