Vegetarian Made Easy: 3 Instant Pot Recipes Under $2 Per Serving

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At first, my Instant Pot sat in its box, staring menacingly at me from across the room.

I have to admit I was pretty intimidated at the thought of using a pressure cooker to make meals, so for a while, I simply pretended it didn’t exist.

Of all the pressure cookers out there, the name Instant Pot seems to come up regularly in my circles. My friends raved about the ease of use and bragged about how little time they now spent cooking nutritious and delicious meals for their families. And so, when the Instant Pot was on sale on Amazon at the end of 2016, I took the plunge.

But soon enough, I realized I needed to stop being a wuss and just try it. And once I did, I understood why my friends were such huge fans of this appliance.

Now, many people rave about how easy it is to cook meat in the pressure cooker, and I’m sure that is true. But as a vegetarian, I was looking for meatless meals I could make in my Instant Pot.

When I first started searching, I realized most veggie-based Instant Pot recipes were for side dishes and quickly got discouraged. But once I’d tried out a few recipes and felt more confident, I decided to start converting some of my favorite recipes to Instant Pot recipes.

After some trial and error, I have a list of my favorite vegetarian Instant Pot recipes — some designed for pressure-cooking and some that I have converted. Here are three of my favorites.

Chillie in a bowl next to vegetables
Quinoa chili is vegetarian friendly without sacrificing flavor or texture. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Leek and Potato Soup

I’ve always been a fan of leek and potato soup, so I was thrilled to see this recipe from Instant Pot Eats. The soup requires some sauteeing before pressure-cooking, which is easy using the Instant Pot’s sauté setting. Before eating, I puree the soup using my hand blender, which I find easier than pouring the soup into a traditional blender in batches.

The original recipe calls for you to peel the potatoes, but I skipped this step because I wanted the extra nutrients from the potato skin.


1.2-1.4 ounces of butter (about 3 tablespoons): 30 cents

2 large leeks, sliced: $1

1.3 pounds white potatoes, diced into large cubes: $1

3 large handfuls of kale leaves: 49 cents

3 cloves garlic, diced: 18 cents

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard: 3 cents

1.5 liter vegetable broth (about 4 cups): $1.99

Salt and pepper, to taste

Total: $4.99 for 4 servings

Red Lentil Masala with Spinach

This red lentil masala from Naturally Ella has been one of my favorite recipes for a while. It’s tasty, filling and comforting, and it pairs well with rice or naan bread — or both, if you can’t choose!

This isn’t a pressure-cooker recipe, but I was able to convert it using the recipe guide that came with my Instant Pot. I followed the original recipe up until I added the lentils, coconut milk and tomatoes, and then cooked for 15 minutes using the manual setting.

Once the 15 minutes were up, I left the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes and then released the remaining pressure using the quick-release function. I then added the spinach and put the lid back on, letting it remain on the warm setting for about 5 minutes before serving.


1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil: 10 cents

1 small red onion, diced: 49 cents

2 cloves garlic, minced: 16 cents

1/3 cup masala paste (see original recipe for details): $2.44

1 cup stewed tomatoes: 99 cents

1 cup coconut milk: $1.25

1/2 cup red lentils: 47 cents

2 cups spinach, packed: 31 cents

Total: $6.21 for 4 servings

Quinoa Chili

quinoa being poured into insta pot
 One benefit of the Instant Pot is that you no longer have to pre-cook the quinoa; it can be added right along with the other ingredients. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Cooking Classy’s quinoa chili is another recipe I adapted for the Instant Pot. I’ve tried many recipes for vegetarian chili, but they all seemed to be missing something.

The addition of quinoa in this recipe adds texture and flavor to the chili, which has become one of my favorites. I like to serve it on top of a baked sweet potato, but it’s equally good with a toasted peanut butter sandwich (go ahead and call me weird).

Rather than pre-cooking the quinoa like the original recipe suggests, I add mine into the Instant Pot raw at the same time as the remaining ingredients. Per my Instant Pot recipe guide, I use a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid, which means I add 1 ⅓ cups of water to the chili before cooking.

Once the quinoa is cooked, I let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes before releasing any remaining pressure manually. I then add the corn and beans and let it sit for a few minutes to warm through before serving.

Broth being poured into an insta pot
The time required for meal prep and clean-up is cut in half when using the Instant Pot. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder


⅔ cup quinoa: 56 cents

1 ⅓ cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil: 10 cents

1 large yellow onion, diced: 49 cents

4 cloves garlic, minced: 24 cents

Two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes: $1.98

One 15-ounce can tomato sauce: 99 cents

One 14.5-ounce can vegetable broth: 99 cents

One 7-ounce can diced green chiles: 49 cents

Seasonings: 68 cents

Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed: $1.98

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed: 99 cents

1 ½ cups frozen corn: 33 cents

¼ cup chopped cilantro: 35 cents

1 tablespoon lime juice: 7 cents

Total: $10.24 for 6 to 8 servings

If you’re intrigued by pressure cooking but feel intimidated by the sheer number of recipes out there, give these vegetarian options a try — you’re sure to become an Instant Pot convert in no time!

Pressure cookers seem to be all the rage lately. Gone are the pressure cookers of yore that were intimidating to use and potentially dangerous. Today’s models are electric, easy to use and affordable.

Catherine Hiles loves trying new recipes out on her family, especially now that she has discovered pressure cooking. She also enjoys running, working out, reading and watching “Sesame Street” with her toddler.