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How To Steam in an Instant Pot

An Instant Pot is a great addition to any kitchen. They can be used to cook a variety of food items, but they are particularly well suited for steaming. Here are a few tips on how to steam in an Instant Pot whether you are cooking vegetables, chicken, or something more delicate like salmon.

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Broccoli and steam in Instant Pot.
How to steam in an Instant Pot.

Using an Instant Pot as a steamer

An instant pot can come in handy for more than just making quick meals. It can also be used as a steamer.

Steaming in an Instant Pot is a quick and easy way to cook food while retaining its nutrients. And the best part is it is completely hands-off once you have put it in the Instant Pot.

While it may not be that much quicker overall to steam in an Instant Pot it is certainly easier as you don’t need to supervise your food closely as you would if you were steaming in a pan on the stovetop.

Scroll down for the printable card with the Instant Pot Steam instructions, or read on for all the details.

What can I steam in my Instant Pot?

If you’re like me, you love your Instant Pot. It’s a quick and easy way to cook dinner with very little effort. But what can you steam in your Instant Pot?

Well, just about anything that can be steamed or boiled on the stovetop can be steamed in your instant pot. Here are some ideas:

  • Vegetables: Whether you are cooking fresh or frozen vegetables, steaming is the best way to cook them. This method retains the flavor and the nutrients much better than if you boil them in water.
  • Chicken: Steaming chicken breast in the Instant Pot is quick and convenient. Perfect for making shredded chicken for sandwiches or recipes that require pre-cooked chicken.
  • Fish: Fish can be tricky to cook in an instant pot. If cooking it in water, it is easy to overcook, and so gently steaming it is a better approach.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes can be hard to cook in the instant pot because (like fish) they tend to fall apart if overcooked. Steaming is the best approach to cooking them in the Instant Pot as it is a more gentle cooking method. For more details check out my recipe: Instant Pot Steamed Potatoes
  • Eggs: Steaming eggs in the Instant Pot is my new favorite way to cook them. Hard-boiled eggs take just 5 minutes.
  • Fruit: You can steam whole fruit like pears and apples directly on the trivet, or chopped fruit in a heatproof bowl on the trivet or in a steamer basket.

Steaming is a great way to cook food quickly and evenly, making it a perfect method for cooking in the Instant Pot. There are a few things to keep in mind when steaming in the Instant Pot, but once you have those things figured out, steaming in the Instant Pot is a breeze.

What do you need?

1. Water (or stock )

You need to add water to the Instant Pot to steam food in it.

The amount of water you need to use depends on a few factors. Instant Pots have a minimum water requirement based on their size. Check your manual if you are not sure what that is for your Instant Pot, and make sure you don’t use less than that amount.  It will be at least 1 cup (250ml).

You can also use stock, or broth to add a little more flavor to your foods, or make a quick sauce for your meal (e.g. thicken it with cornflour once you are done steaming).

2. A steamer basket

You will also need a steamer basket. To steam food, you want the water level to be below the level of the food. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a steamer basket to hold your food inside the Instant Pot inner bowl.

Can I use a regular steamer in an Instant Pot?

Yes, you can. If you have a metal or silicone steamer basket, you can just place it straight in the Instant Pot over the water. 

You may be surprised to hear that bamboo steamers also work well in an Instant Pot. You just need to raise it up, so that the water underneath isn’t touching the bamboo steamer directly. 

You can either place the bamboo steamer on the Instant Pot steam rack/ trivet or place 3 balls of aluminum foil in the bottom of the Instant Pot and place the steamer on that. 

What can I use if I don’t have a steamer basket?

If you are wondering how to steam in the Instant Pot without a steamer basket, there are a few options you can try.

Essentially you need to find a way to elevate the food out of the water so that it cooks in the steam rather than in the boiling water.

Here are some ideas:

  • You can use the metal trivet or rack that comes with all Instant Pots if the food you are steaming is large enough that it won’t fall between the bars.
  • For smaller foods, place the food on a plate or in a bowl and place that on the metal trivet.
  • If you don’t have a trivet, you can use rolled-up balls of tin foil inside the Instant Pot inner bowl to rest a smaller plate or bowl on (try to make it as level as possible).
  • Alternatively, you can steam food in a heat-proof bowl placed inside the Instant Pot bowl with no trivet, the bowl just needs to have sides that are high enough to be an inch or two above the waterline to keep the food out of the water.
Steamed carrots in Instant Pot in a glass bowl.
To steam in an Instant Pot with no steamer basket, you can place the food in a bowl on the Instant Pot steam rack.

Instant Pot Steam setting

Instant Pot Steam vs Pressure

You may be wondering what is the difference between steam and pressure cook on Instant Pot? Or how do I use the Steam function, and does it still cook under pressure?

So firstly, the Instant Pot steams under pressure, so it is a different process from steaming on your stovetop, and much faster.

The “Steam” function on the Instant Pot is a preset for high pressure for ten minutes. The time can be adjusted up to 15 minutes by selecting “More”, or down to 3 minutes by setting it to “Less”. It can also be adjusted by using the -/+ buttons for finer control.

You will see from the steaming times charts below that very few foods have steaming times that align with the presets under the “Steam” setting, so generally it is just as easy to use the “Manual”/”Pressure cook” function and set the time manually.

How to steam in an Instant Pot

The process for steaming in an Instant Pot is very simple:

  1. Add 1 cup of liquid to the bottom of the Instant Pot inner bowl.
  2. Add the steamer basket and food.
  3. Place the lid on top and lock it in place, set the pressure valve to “Sealing” mode.
  4. Select the cooking program you want to use – I recommend selecting “Pressure cook” (or “Manual”) on HIGH pressure, though you can also use the “Steam” function if you like.
  5. Select the time by using the -/+ buttons.
  6. When the steaming time is up, press cancel, and perform a quick release to open the Instant Pot.

How long to steam in the Instant Pot?

It can be difficult to get the steaming time just right in an Instant Pot, and you may need to use some trial and error to figure out the right setting for how you like your food steamed.

Check out the Instant Pot steam time estimates in the charts below to get started.

It is important to remember that the Instant Pot will begin heating the water and producing steam while it builds up pressure, and that the food will start steaming during this time.

This means that there are some foods that have a 0 minute cooking time because they steam quickly and so are fully cooked by the time the Instant Pot has reached full pressure.

Instant Pot steam times chart

These Instant Pot steam times charts provide estimates of the length of time various foods should be steamed under pressure in an Instant Pot. 

The steaming time tables are meant to be used as guidelines, always check that your food is correctly cooked before consuming.

VegetablesInstant Pot Steam times1
Asparagus, whole or cut1 min
Fresh beans (green, yellow, wax)1 min
Broccoli florets0 min
Brussels sprouts (whole)1 min
Butternut squash (slices)1-2 mins
Cabbage (wedge)1 min
Cabbage (half)3 mins
Carrots (chunks)1-2 mins
Carrots (whole)3 mins
Cauliflower florets1 min
Corn (kernels, frozen)2 mins
Corn on the cob (fresh)1 min
Frozen mixed vegetables3-4 mins
Leeks2 mins
Peas (frozen)2-3 mins
Potato/ sweet potato cubes1 min
Potatoes (whole, small)2-5 mins
Potatoes (whole, large)5-8 mins
Estimated Instant Pot steam times for vegetables

1. High pressure, Quick Release
Source

FruitInstant Pot Steam times1
Apples (slices, chunks)1-2 mins
Apples (whole) 3-4 mins
Peaches2-3 mins
Pears (sliced)2-3 mins
Pears (whole)3-4 mins
Plums2-3 mins
Estimated Instant Pot steam times for fruits

ProteinsInstant Pot Steam times1
Chicken breast (boneless)6 – 8 per 1lb/ 450g
Turkey, breast (boneless)7 – 9 per 1lb/ 450g
Fish fillet (fresh)2-3 mins
Fish fillet (frozen)3-4 mins
Shrimp/ prawns (fresh)1-3 mins
Eggs (hard-boiled)5 mins
Tofu0 min
Estimated Instant Pot steam times for proteins

FAQ

When steaming in the instant pot do you leave the vent open or closed? (venting or sealing?)

Closed. This allows the steam to be retained in the Instant Pot, steaming the food more quickly and evenly.

Can you steam in the Instant Pot without pressure?

Another option to steam food in your Instant Pot is to use the “Sauté” function, which doesn’t use pressure. Add a cup of water to the Instant Pot inner pot, place the food in a steamer basket in the Instant Pot pot, then cover it with a lid. Note: you can’t use the pressure cooking lid for this as it will give you an error message, but you can purchase a glass lid for your Instant Pot.
This is a convenient way to steam food, as you can check it during cooking, but it will not cook as quickly as if you steamed it using one of the pressure functions.

Instant Pot Steam Instructions

Broccoli and steam in Instant Pot.

How to Steam in an Instant Pot

Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

How to use your Instant Pot to steam food.

Ingredients

  • Water [Note 1]
  • Ingredients to be steamed

Instructions

  1. Add water to the stainless steel bowl [Note 1]
  2. Place the steamer basket or trivet in the Instant Pot bowl
  3. Add food to the steamer basket or trivet [Note 2]
  4. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and turn the valve to 'sealing'.
  5. Set the Instant Pot to low pressure, and select time [Note 3]
  6. When the cooking time is up, use the 'quick release' method to open the Instant Pot and carefully remove the food.

Notes

  1. Check the minimum water requirements for your Instant Pot. You will need at least 1 cup/ 250ml of water.
  2. Use a steamer basket for small food or food that may fall apart once cooked, rather than the trivet.
  3. See the post for estimated cooking times charts.

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I’m Eliza, busy mom, home cook, and blogger. My goal is to help everyone cook good food. Whether you are short on time, skills, or motivation, there is something here for you! We have dozens of quick and easy recipes for dinner, lunch, side dishes, and more. Our recipes use everyday ingredients, for quick delicious meals your family will love! Read more…

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