How to halve Instant Pot recipes: Do you have a mini 3 quart Instant Pot? Or do you simply want to cook for 2 or 3 people in your 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot? You’ll need to cut the Instant Pot recipes in half first. Here are the things you need to know to get started.
For best results and to understand more about the Instant Pot read this entire article.
How to halve Instant Pot recipes in a 6 quart Instant Pot (plus video)
If you’re only cooking for two people making a meal that serves 8 people can seem overwhelming. This is especially true when you don’t like leftovers or if the meal doesn’t freeze well. Even if you do like leftovers you might not want to eat the same thing for lunch 5 times in a row.
Practically all the recipes I post on my website have been made in a 6 Quart Instant Pot* and serve 4-8 people. I get a variation of this question a lot, “can I halve this recipe? Do I need to change the cooking time?” Most of the time I say, “YES! You can halve this recipe. Keep the cooking time the same and just halve all the ingredients.” Don’t stop reading here…there’s more to this question.
How much liquid is required to bring a 6 quart Instant Pot to pressure?
Sometimes it’s more complicated than just halving all the ingredients. Let me explain. The most important thing about a pressure cooker is that it requires pressure to cook (an a-ha moment right there!). But how does the pot build pressure? It uses any liquid in the pot to build the pressure. If the Instant Pot does not have enough liquid it cannot build enough pressure to cook the food the way it’s supposed to. In my experience, the 6 quart Instant Pot needs approximately 1 cup to reach pressure. The official answer from Instant Pot is that the pot needs 1.5 cups to reach pressure (see the chart below).
The general point is to have enough liquid to reach and maintain pressure. When cooking absorbent foods, like rice or steel cut oats, you will need enough liquid for the food to absorb, plus some to bring the pot to pressure. When cooking moisture containing foods, say chicken–which releases moisture when cooked–this can be achieved with less added liquid. So the answer to how much liquid you need is “it depends“. Which is annoying, I know.
So let’s say you want to halve a recipe. The original recipe calls for ¾ cup of broth–plus some mushrooms and a little chicken. The chicken and mushrooms will be releasing moisture. For each one pound of chicken you’ll get approximately ½ cup to 1 cup of liquid released (especially with frozen chicken). That’s why the recipe only called for ¾ cup of broth because the chicken and mushrooms are both moisture containing foods and the moisture released from them is enough to bring the pot to pressure and maintain the pressure. Make sense?
So how would you halve the following recipe?
Fake Chicken Recipe I Just Made Up
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 pound chicken breasts
- 1 pound mushrooms
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 bag of frozen peas
Instructions: Add chicken broth, chicken breasts, mushrooms, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to the Instant Pot. Cover and make sure valve is set to sealing. Set the manual/pressure cook button to 12 minutes for thawed chicken or 15 minutes for frozen chicken. When the time is up let the pot sit there for 5 minutes and then move valve to venting. Remove the lid. Shred the chicken. Thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Add in the frozen peas. Let the peas warm through. Serve the chicken and sauce over toast, mashed potatoes or noodles.
How to halve the chicken recipe above: First I look at the list of ingredients and realize there is only ¾ cup broth. I keep looking and see that there is a pound of chicken and a pound of mushrooms. I realize that both of those ingredients release a lot of moisture. If I halve the amount of chicken it will still give off about ¼ to ½ cup of liquid. And the mushrooms will give off at least a couple tablespoons, if not more, of liquid. So that means that I have 6 Tbsp broth + ½ cup chicken juices + 2-4 Tbsp of mushroom moisture = A cup of liquid. Bingo! Enough to bring the pot to pressure. So with the above recipe I would halve all the ingredients and keep the cooking time the same.
But wait a minute! You want to make another recipe that doesn’t have moisture releasing ingredients. What do you do then? Remember the rule: approximately 1 cup of liquid for the 6 quart to come to pressure. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of broth and no other moisture containing ingredients then you’ll want to keep the 1 cup of broth and halve all the other ingredients.
This isn’t a perfect solution, I know. You’ll end up with food that is more runny than it is supposed to be but that is how it goes. I’m sorry. One thing I like to do after the food has cooked is use a cornstarch slurry (equal parts water and cornstarch mixed until smooth) to thicken my foods that are too runny. You can also drain or spoon some of the liquid off after the food has cooked.
Using the pot-in-pot method for halved recipes
Another choice, depending on the recipe, would be to use the pot-in-pot method. You do this by pouring 1.5 cups of water in the bottom of your pot and placing a trivet (I use this trivet/sling*, it’s my favorite) in the bottom. Then piling the recipe ingredients (with all ingredients halved) in an oven safe pan that fits inside your pot (I use this one a lot*). Then lowering the pan carefully down onto the trivet. The food will be cooking inside the pan instead of directly in the pot. The water in the pot will bring the pot to pressure. If you use this method you may need to increase the pressure cooking time by a few minutes. This is because the food is not directly in the pot. Plus the pot will come to pressure a lot quicker which means there is less build up/cooking time.
Does the cooking time change when you halve a recipe?
Most of the time the cooking time will be the same when you halve a recipe. Pressure cooking cooks each piece of food equally. That means that each piece of chicken (2, 4 or 8) will require the same cooking time, and so will each grain of rice. That’s because the pressure cooking time is determined by the size and not the quantity of food. In other words, the pressure cooking time is the amount of time the food requires to be cooked all the way to the center.
However, more items in a pressure cooker will make it fuller which means it will take longer for the cooker to reach pressure. For recipes that are more finicky and get overcooked quickly, like pasta, you’ll actually need to decrease pressure cooking time the fuller the pot is. Make sense?
How to halve recipes in an 8 quart Instant Pot?
For the 8 quart pot, you must keep the same rules that I stated earlier. You must have enough liquid to come to pressure. However the 8 quart pot takes more liquid to reach pressure–2 cups. So halving some recipes may become a little tricky with the 8 quart pot. Soups will always be a good choice to halve since they are liquid-based, generally.
Also remember with a larger pot it takes longer to reach pressure. This means the food will be cooking for a longer amount of time. Depending on the type of food you may want to subtract time from the cooking time. For example with pasta and other food that is delicate subtract a minute or two. For soups and roasts, you should be fine to keep the same cooking time.
See my notes above about pot-in-pot cooking. You may want to use that method when halving a recipe in the 8 quart Instant Pot.
How to halve recipes in the 3 quart Mini Instant Pot?
If you have a 3 quart mini you may have no choice but to halve certain recipes. Make sure you have enough liquid. You’ll need about 1 cup of liquid for the 3 quart Instant Pot to come to pressure. As always, a portion of this liquid can come from the ingredients themselves. If the recipe is meant to be steamed with a steamer basket – just use the minimum liquid requirement under the steamer basket for the cooker to build pressure. If the recipe contains rice or grains – the liquid ratio needs to remain the same. What that means is if you halve a recipe, you should halve the liquid. However, keep in mind that the liquid cannot go below the minimum required liquid for the pot to come to pressure.
Make sure you do not overfill your pot. Do not fill the inner pot higher than 2/3 full. When cooking foods that expand or foam such as rice or beans or pasta, do not fill the appliance over half full.
For the 3 quart mini Instant Pot:
- Half full = 6 cups
- 2/3 full = 8 cups
- Max 2 cups of dried beans + 4 cups liquid
- Max 2 cups of dry rice + 3 cups liquid
- Max 3.5 pounds of meat + 1 cup liquid
- Max 7 cups vegetables + 1 cup liquid
The Instant Pot Mini 3 Quart has a working pressure of 10.1psi (pressure per square inch). The other models and sizes of Instant Pot operate at 11.6psi. The pressure difference is not that big of a deal for most recipes. However the 3 quart pot also takes a shorter amount of time to reach pressure and to release pressure. These differences are most apparent in longer-cooking foods such as whole grains or tough meats (i.e. barley and pork butt roast). You might need to add anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes to the pressure cooking time for specific recipes.
What does it mean when I get the BURN error message on my Instant Pot?
Personally I have never gotten the BURN message error. I have, however, had my pot start counting down without it having come to pressure. So basically you think your food is cooking normally and you go to release the pressure and there was never any pressure in it in the first place. BLAH!!! These things can be so annoying and if they happen to you I’m very sorry.
Here is the best explanation I’ve read about the BURN message error. It was from someone who works at Instant Pot. I think it will really help you too.
“To avoid getting a burn warning on your pot or a countdown without pressure, or if you get one and need to fix it, you just need to understand the basics of how pressure cooking works. The liquid inside the pot boils, which creates the steam and ultimately the pressure because it’s in a sealed pot where the steam can’t escape. So to successfully cook in it, you need liquid that can boil without scorching….it needs to be on the bottom and water consistency. Burn problems come in when you start adding things that thicken and stir them into your liquid (examples would be tomato sauce or other tomato products, cream soups, thick sauces, etc). When you do that, now that liquid is too thick to boil without burning on the bottom of the pot. Once that happens, the pot will never come to pressure until you scrape off anything burned on the bottom and add more liquid to thin it out.
One helpful way to think of it is this: could I put this on the stove in a pot and bring it to a boil and never stir, and not have it burn? If the answer is no (lasagna, chili, spaghetti sauce, gravy, etc) then it won’t work in the Instant Pot either without some work-arounds.
One of the best work-arounds (besides pot-in-pot or PIP) is layering. So for something like spaghetti, you put your meat in the bottom, then your pasta, then your water, then pour the sauce on top and don’t stir. This lets you cook with a thick sauce without it thickening your thin liquid and keeps it off the bottom of the pot.
Keep in mind that casserole-type dishes (thick, layered dishes like lasagna, taco pies, egg bakes, etc.) do not work directly in the pot because they just absorb your liquid, leaving nothing to pressurize the pot. You need to do them pot-in-pot, which means in another dish inside the pot on the trivet, with water in the bottom.”
Hopefully this information helps you if you get the BURN error message on your Instant Pot! I know it helped me to understand better.
Help with Dividing Recipes
To help divide recipes, remember:
1 cup = 16 tablespoons
1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
1 fluid ounce = 2 tablespoons
1 pound = 16 ounces (weight)
1 pint = 2 cups
2 pints = 1 quart
1 quart = 2 pints
To make ½ of a recipe:
|Original Amount||Half the Amount|
|¼ cup||2 Tablespoons|
|1/3 cup||2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons|
|½ cup||1/4 cup|
|2/3 cup||1/3 cup|
|¾ cup||6 Tablespoons|
|1 cup||½ cup|
|1 Tablespoon||1 ½ teaspoons|
|1 teaspoon||½ teaspoon|
|½ teaspoon||¼ teaspoon|
|¼ teaspoon||⅛ teaspoon|
What Pressure Cooker Do You Use?
Generally I use my 6 quart Instant Pot Duo 60 7 in 1*. I love this Instant Pot because it has the yogurt making function which I use almost weekly. It has two pressure settings (high and low), and there are also little slots in the handles so that you can rest the lid there instead of putting it down on your counter-top.
Also helpful for Instant Pot beginners…
*Karen Petersen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.