We Pitted the $99 Instant Pot Blender Against the Vitamix — Guess Which One We Liked Better
I should start this post by telling you that I have been a loyal and devoted Vitamix owner for several years. When asked by friends and coworkers if the pricey high-speed blender is really worth the weighty price tag, my answer is always a very enthusiastic and heartfelt yes.
So it’s fair to say that when presented with the new Instant Pot Blender, I was more than a little skeptical. I simply didn’t believe there was any way it would possibly live up to my Vitamix. It was that skepticism (partnered with a small dose of procrastination) that lead to the unopened box sitting in my dining room for a couple of weeks before I finally took the time to see what it was all about.
Turns out this blender isn’t entirely what I expected, and I mean that in a good way. I’ve been putting it to the test over the past couple of months, and have some strong opinions about it.
What Is the Instant Pot Blender?
First, it’s technically called the Instant Pot Ace 60 Cooking Blender. Like its namesake multicooker, and unlike most traditional high-speed blenders (including the Vitamix), there’s a whole lot more to Ace than a high/low switch and a variable power dial. In addition to three manual blending speeds, the Ace has eight one-touch programs (four hot and four cold) to make things like smoothies, soup, ice cream, crushed ice, and an array of alternative milks, and a pulse function to break up large pieces of food.
Buy: Instant Pot Ace 60 Cooking Blender, $99 at Walmart
It boasts a 60-ounce glass pitcher with eight serrated, stainless steel blades, and a hidden heating element in the bottom, and a base with two digital displays that show total blend time and temperature (for hot and cold programs). It currently sells for $99 and is only available at Walmart (a sticking point with many online reviewers and members of the Instant Pot Facebook Community).
My Initial Impression
Off the bat, I had a lot of thoughts about this blender, many of which echoed how I first felt about the brand’s multicooker. At first glance you’ll notice the base is covered with a lot of buttons for the preset functions, and to be honest these buttons immediately made me feel overwhelmed. It was the first time I felt like I needed to read an instruction manual for a blender.
Speaking of the manual: It’s helpful although very bare-bones and left me wanting more guidance. It gets right to the point, and hits all the important topics and functions, but there are very few extra tips or suggestions. Side note: It contains a smoothie layering guide, which is very similar to this one.
The blender is heavy for its size, especially the base. I wondered where on earth I was going to store it (several months later, it still lives on my kitchen counter, while I figure out a permanent home). The pitcher is thick glass, and feels durable and more sturdy than other blender pitchers, which I like a lot. After years of use, my Vitamix pitcher it pretty scratched up (which obviously doesn’t affect how well it works), so I’m curious how this will wear with time.
The biggest con, in my opinion, is that there are no measurements on the pitcher for anything under 24 ounces (or three cups), a feature I’ve always relied on when making smoothies. And the measurement markers don’t include cups, just ounces and milliliters.
First impressions aside, it was time to run some tests. Keep reading to see what I made and how it went.
Because I use my Vitamix for smoothies more than anything else, this felt like a great way to get started. This lead to that above-mentioned discovery about the measurement markings. It’s a small thing, but a feature I’ve always depended on when making smoothies in my Vitamix, and at first, was a big detractor for me.
The preset function blends in bursts for just under a minute and forty seconds. It’s a longer blend time than I’d typically use if making a smoothie manually. The benefit is that absolutely no solids remain, but on the downside the lengthier-than-normal (for me) blend time took the chill off, so my smoothie was more room temp than cold. I used the preset function several times, but have ultimately switched to using the high manual blend.
Quite possibly the very best thing about making smoothies in this blender is that it’s so powerful I’ve never had to use the tamper, which is saying a lot because I have a knack for overloading smoothies with frozen fruit and almost always need the tamper with the Vitamix. I also love the timer on the base, which indicates how long the smoothie has been blending.
The soup function is undoubtedly cool, and unlike the Vitamix (which relies on the friction of the blades for heating) the Ace has an internal heating element in the bottom of the pitcher. This convenient function works best for puréed soups, although it does lack the depth of stovetop soups that start with sautéed ingredients.
After finding myself with some leftover pumpkin purée, I decided that turning it into a blender soup was the best chance of the purée not getting lost in the back of the fridge. The soup function blends and purées in bursts for more than 20 minutes, and as the liquid slowly heats up, the temperature, indicated on the display, gradually increases. Ultimately the soup will get at least partially puréed, so something like chicken noodle is not the best bet here.
It’s an interesting feature, but one I’m not inclined to make regular use of since it’s not necessarily faster than a quick stovetop soup and doesn’t make a better-tasting result.
The trickiest part of making nut milk at home has always been remembering exactly how long to blend. But thanks to the Ace’s one-touch program I didn’t have to. The program runs for a just over four-and-a-half minutes, and while the milk is slightly warm when ready (which I didn’t mind), it’s completely blended, with no lingering bits of food.
Turns out the Ace excels at crushing ice! The one-touch “Crushed Ice” program runs for a total of 30 seconds, working in bursts. Not only is the machine powerful enough to crush the ice evenly, but it also doesn’t require the tamper (as the Vitamix does, and the results are still uneven). This blender produces snow cone-level ice (so if you had a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine growing up, expect to feel some nostalgia).
I’ve made a lot of batches of nice cream over the past few years, and while I’ve long sided with the food processor over the Vitamix (which takes sooo much cajoling and extra liquid to blend together), I’d say the Instant Pot blender is pretty on par with the food processor. I was surprised and impressed with how well it works, although to be fair I did need to do some tampering. Rather than going with the manual blend function, I think it’s best to start with the crushed ice function to break up the frozen fruit into fine pieces, then after pushing the ingredients down the side of the jar with a spoon, switch to the ice cream function for lower-speed, pulsed blending to round out the process.
My Final Thoughts on the Instant Pot Blender
A couple of months in, I’m surprised to tell you how much I love this blender and how infrequently I’ve pulled my Vitamix out of the cabinet. Given the choice, I reach for the Ace nearly every time. I use it mostly for smoothies and nut milk, two things the blender’s powerful motor excels at, in a way that trumps my Vitamix. The preset functions are helpful with some things (alternative milks, soup, and crushed ice), although I’m mostly happy to stick with the manual blender functions.
And for just $99, it’s not only a great value, but also a great alternative for folks who can’t afford (or simply can’t justify) an oh-so-pricey Vitamix.