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Instant Pot Mini Beginners Guide

For years we resisted it, the siren call of the Instant Pot. Then a killer Amazon Thanksgiving Sale weakened our resolve and a cute little 3 Quart Instant Pot Duo Plus joined our family! After using it almost every day for the last 4 months, the Instant Pot Mini’s become one of my favorite kitchen gadgets (shhh..don’t tell the toaster ovens I said that).

Small pressure cooker on a kitchen counter.

The problem is…it’s got a bit of a learning curve.

That why today’s post is the first in a series we’ll be doing about cooking with a 3 Quart Instant Pot Mini. (You can find Part 2 here: Instant Pot Mini Accessories)

Before this fun machine, Tim and I had never used a pressure cooker (electric or otherwise). So we’re far from what you’d call experts.

Nope, we’re firmly situated in the beginner camp and have already had plenty of whoopsies.

Oatmeal pouring out of the release on an instant pot mini.

Something tells me you can expect to see more of these operator-error-related-fails as we work together (you + me) to figure out this machine.

Getting Started

Two things you need to do once your 3 Quart Instant Pot Mini arrives.

  1. Read the manual.
  2. Perform the initial water test to make sure your machine works properly.

After that, grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and check out a few online guides. Be careful though, it’s easy to fall down a Google Instant Pot Rabbit Hole.

I’d start with these Tips For Getting Started from Pressure Cooking Today (actually read ALL of the guides on Barbara’s site if you have time, they’re awesome).

And then this post from My Crazy Good Life on Instant Pot Cooking Differences. Lots of great tips and troubleshooting for the Mini.

Resizing Recipes

An instant pot mini duo plus on a counter with a measuring cup of water.

When it comes to the Instant Pot, my mom is our personal go-to authority (she owns 2 of them + the Ninja Foodi).

Here’s the advice she gave me for making a 6 quart-sized recipe in a 3 quart Instant Pot:

  • Divide the ingredients in half if you need to, just make sure there’s enough liquid. (Even though our manual says one cup, I recently found a post on the Instant Pot website about Making The Most of a Mini. Under the section ‘Halve it all for a 3 Quart’ it says the minimum is 1/2 cup of liquid.)  
  • Keep the cook time the same.

Ideas For Your Instant Pot Mini

Close up of control panel on an instant pot mini.

So far we’ve had a lot of success with the PRESSURE COOK setting. It’s a good setting to get comfy with since you’ll probably use it the most.

  • This yummy Four Ingredient Instant Pot Chili Mac turned out fantastic using whole wheat pasta. To make it in the Mini, we divided all of the ingredients in half and got about 3 generous servings.
  • Carrie, an awesome reader, suggested this delicious Enzo The Bride Soup cooked on High Pressure. We made the full recipe in the Mini without a problem (the ingredients were below the max fill line).

Here are more of our favorite foods to pressure cook in the Instant Pot Duo Plus Mini, just click on the pink title to go to the recipe.

A hard boiled egg slice in half on a mini cutting board with a green knife.

HARD “BOILED” EGGS: For us, the LOW-pressure setting produced perfectly cooked eggs with easy to peel shells. Whether you use our approach or something else, we’d suggest employing the “test cookie method” of starting small with just one or two eggs.

Bonus Tip – Use a cool pot and cool water. Otherwise, your eggs might end up with wicked cracks or worse…overcooked grey yolks!

A blue bowl filled with oatmeal topped with yogurt, berries and nuts.

OATMEAL FOR TWO: This easy recipe is what earned our Instant Pot Duo Plus Mini a permanent space on the kitchen counter. It’s super easy – just make sure you don’t measure the ingredients while sleepy.

Bonus Tip – When cooking foods that foam (like beans and grains) don’t fill the pot more than halfway full.

Fluffed quinoa inside a 3 quart Instant Pot.

QUINOA FOR TWO: The Instant Pot makes cooking quinoa super easy. You just dump in the quinoa and water and 20-ish minutes later you’ve got a small batch of light and fluffy quinoa that’s perfect for adding to a Quinoa and Zucchini Noodles Salad

Bonus Tip – If you’re meal prepping, double the recipe and you’ll have plenty of quinoa for lunch all week!

A white bowl with Mexican quinoa on a table with an instant pot mini.

SALSA QUINOA BOWLS: Perfect for busy weeknights, these tasty bowls are loaded with flavor and healthy vegetarian protein. Sautee a few veggies, dump everything else into the pot and in 30 minutes you have a filling dinner for two. 

Bonus Tip: After sauteing, always use the recipe’s liquid and a rubber spatula to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. This helps to avoid getting a BURN notice. 

Cooked beets on a white plate.

STEAMED BEETS: If you hate cleaning up after roasting beets, this recipe’s for you. The beets don’t taste the same as roasted ones but it’s a small trade-off for the faster cook time and quick cleanup.

Bonus Tip – If all of your beets aren’t cooked through you can put the lid back on and pressure cook them more.

One Thing We Didn’t Like Much

Even though we’re not huge steamed veggie fans, I did have high hopes for whole sweet potatoes. But they were just okay.

Well, actually less-than-okay when compared to our super flavorful Quick Baked Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds.

Cooked sweet potato halves on a quarter sheet pan.

We’re still game to try more vegetables though. So if you’ve got a favorite Instant Pot recipe send it our way.

Also, this video from Six Sister’s Stuff has lots of good ideas and includes directions for the 3 Quart. Once fresh corn is in season, we’re definitely giving it a try in the Mini.

Specialty Cooking Programs

I haven’t cooked with any of the specialty settings yet. But we do plan to use them to make beans, yogurt, and soup. If you’re curious about one, let us know in the comments and we’ll try it first.

Happy (Mini) Cooking!

11 Comments

    1. Hi Sharon,

      If you’ve got the LUX model, it does not have a yogurt button.

      We’ve never made yogurt in our IP mini so I don’t know much on the subject but I did a little searching online. It looks like most recipes have you heat the yogurt first if you don’t have that button so I’m assuming that means a cold-start is maybe not possible?

      If you Google “how to make instant pot yogurt without the yogurt button” you’ll find a lot of recipes – I’d check out the comments/ratings on those and give one a try.

      Good luck with your yogurt experiments!

  1. Any advice how to downsize recipes from 6qt to 2qt? My hubby got a 2qt Fast Pot from work.
    Do I just do 1/3 amts but keep the min amt of fluid based on mfgr directions, like 1c?
    It’s a simple machine without a trivit so I feel recipes may be a bit limited.. that’s ok.

    1. Hi Nancy, congrats on your new toy! We’re still pretty new to pressure cooking ourselves and haven’t cooked with a 2qt. So I’m not sure we’d have the best advice.

      Pressure Cooking Today is a great resource for all things pressure cooking and they have a fantastic Facebook group. The members own all kinds of pressure cookers, including 2 quarts. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/130667671025758/

      You’ll probably need to experiment a little but I think your instincts about the 1/3 and using the minimum liquid are a good start. 🙂

  2. Is it just me or does it get hotter than the 6 qt?ive had more over heats with the 3 and more overcooked food.

    1. Hi Bridget,

      I’ve never used the 6 quart before (the mini 3 quart is our first pressure cooker) so I’m not sure how different it is. I’ve seen in some comments and in facebook groups that all of the newer IP’s seem to get the Burn Notice more often. So far we’ve done pretty well avoiding it, I’m sorry to hear you’re not having the same luck.

      Hip Pressure Cooking has a great overview of how the 3 qt is technically different from the other Instant Pots, you can read it here.

  3. I bought my 3 quart in December. Used for the first time last night.
    The 5-5-5 egg method worked fine.
    My corned beef pot looked like your photo. Steam sprayed & spewed all over.
    Do you know the problem? I am still finding residue!
    Next try will be egg bites.

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Congrats on using your Instant Pot for the first time!! I’m so glad to hear the eggs turned out well, it’s always nice to start with a win when using a new appliance 🙂

      That spraying/spewing is really scary and no fun to clean up either. Our oatmeal mess in that photo was because we accidentally doubled the water in the recipe and had too much liquid in the pot.

      Unfortunately, we’ve don’t have personal experience with corned beef (Tim and I don’t eat meat) but I did some Googling and it looks like most corned beef IP recipes have a natural release of at least 10 minutes (some go as high as 20 minutes).

      Full pots need time to have the pressure slowly release naturally. If the recipe you used had a quick release (with no natural release) after the cooking, that’s probably the main culprit.

      I hope that helped and good luck with your egg bites!

    1. Thanks, Vivian! We were definitely encouraged by your rave reviews of it and boy were you right – it’s a great little machine. Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

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