Instant Pot – Rice

Table of Contents

Cooking Rice

Any vessel that can hold rice and water can cook rice. A rice cooker applicance, a pot on a stove top, or a pressure cooker all cook rice. For steamed long grain white rice, including Basmati, I often use a normal pot on the stove. I use the Instant Pot for brown rice. I may use the Instant Pot for white rice particularly when I will add the rice to a wok (e.g. nasi goreng) or when I am working on another dish on the stove and want to get the rice ready at the same time.

The cooking directions on a package of rice typically are for steamed rice in an ordinary pot on stovetop, or a microwave – typically there are no directions for pressure cookers. Typically, such directions suggest 2 or more cups of water for a cup of rice. This approach typically produces soggy rice in stove-top pot or a pressure cooker. (Bad results if the rice is left on the heat too long). A stovetop recipe can be adapted. Package directions have to adjusted, depending on how you like your rice

The ratio of rice to water may be the same for a pressure cooker as a stovetop pot. One variable is evaporation – a pressure cooker is sealed, but can release some steam. A pressure cooker requires less water. The ratio, whether cooking the rice in a stovetop pan or pressure cooker, will depend on in part whether the rice has been rinsed or soaked, which partially hydrates the rice.

Instant Pot

A Pressure Multicooker

In any pressure cooker, including an Instant Pot, the preheat and the time at operating pressure bring the water to a boil, and up to operating temperature. The rice is boiled, and then simmers during a 15- 20 minute natural release period (the vessel is sealed, the heat is off and temperature and pressure drop over time). Using the pressure cooker progam with natural release adapts the normal approach to steamed rice.

The advice for stovetop or pressure cooker converges on a ratio of 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice for the first cup of dry rice. Jill Nussenow, the Veggie Queen, will decrease the water for larger amounts of rice. She suggests 1.5 cups of water for the first cup of rice, 1.25 cups of water for the second cup of rice – which means 2.75 cups of water for two cups of rice.

Rice can be cooked in the Instant Pot insert (cooking vessel), or by a bain-marie method: rice and water in a heat proof ceramic or glass vessel on a trivet above water in base of the pressure vessel. Some ceramic vessels such as Corningware can be used for cooking and serving, and for storage of left-over cooked rice. The cooking times are the same. The amount of rice that can be cooked in a ceramic vessel will be less than can be cooked in the Instant Pot insert.

Rice Program

Information posted by Instant Pot about the rice program:

  • It uses low pressure and “automatically adjusts the time based on the volume of rice [and water?] you add to the inner pot”;
  • It cooks “the ever-popular parboiled long grain white rice”, long grain white rice, and medium grain white rice;
  • There is a suggested recipe and method for steamed (white) rice using rinsed rice and water in a 1:1 ratio.

Other pressure multi-cookers have similiar programs. It is for medium and long grain white rice, and cooks plain white steamed rice.

The Instant Pot web site recommends the rice program for medium and long grain white rice. It recommends using the pressure cooker program, rather than the rice program, for other kinds of rice. Laura Pazzaglia’s 2009 review of the Instant Pot (links in the Instant Pot manual pages for all models on her site) noted the limitations of the rice program:

Pressure programs designed to cook rice and grains.  Because of the decreased evaporation, conventional rice recipes (water to grain ratios) will need to be updated for use in the cooker.  We have written a comprehensive guide for pressure cooking rice and grains with the appropriate ratios and cooking times.  If the “Rice” setting won’t let you adjust the cooking time, use the “Pressure Cook” setting and adjust the pressure to Instant Pot’s recommended “low” following the same cooking times and ratios recommended in our guide. Remember not to ever fill the inner pot more than the 1/2 full mark with rice/grains and their cooking liquid.

The pressure cooker programs allow are choice of pressure, and setting a cooking time. The rice program uses the low pressure settings of the device and automates the preheat, cooking and release/rest time.

In the rice program, in the Ultra model, the display shows a pressure cooking time of 12 minutes at the first step of starting the rice progam. The time cannot be adjusted from the control panel. In the Ultra Panel, there is an option for Low/High, which does not appear to be a pressure choice within the rice program – it seems to affect cooking time. The display changes to Auto in my Ultra model when the program starts to run, and through the preheat. It changes to a time, in minutes, when the device comes to pressure. I have not used a Less-Normal-More Instant Pot, such as the Duo. The displayed time seems to be pressure cooking time, and is said to be based on the amount of water and rice, however the machine determines that.

ModelProgram SelectionInstant Pot explanationEffect
UltraLow≥12 minutes
UltraHigh≥14 minutes
e.g. Duo
Less“Tender but firm to bite”
e.g. Duo
Normal“Normal texture white rice”≥12 minutes
e.g. Duo
More“Softer texture white rice”

There is contradictory information about white Basmati rice:

  • Instant Pot’s web material has indicates that white Basmati rice needed a different cooking time and ratio than American white long grain, and should be cooked in the pressure cooker program rather than the rice program. Recipes for the pressure cooker program (e.g. Pazzaglia, Nussenow) recommend 1 ¼ cups water to 1 cup of rice and 2 minutes at high pressure.
  • Madhur Jaffrey says in Instantly Indian Cooking, the rice program cooks rinsed white Basmati rice in her Duo model. She used rice and water at the ratio of 1:1.3.

The rice program is fine, for rinsed white Basmati rice at the right ratio. I get fluffier rice by using slightly (as in only couple tablespoons) less fluid than 1 ¼ cups water for 1 cup of rice. I cook in a ceramic casserole on a trivet inside the Instant Pot (the bain marie method, above). I can do 1.5 cups of rice in 2 cups water in the casserole that fits in a 6 quart Instant pot. This produces fluffy distinct grains. It is dependent on the rice – age and quality.

Other Instant Pot Indian food recipes recommend the rice program for white Basmati rice: plain, in pilafs and in dry khichri (also spelled khichdi in English language resources – yellow and/or red lentils and rice).

The rice program can be used with other recipes. It may not lead to the expected outcome.

There are some questionable recipes available. An example. The MaoMaoMom’s Kitchen recipe for Chicken Potato Rice presented on her web site uses the rice program. That recipe works. The same recipe as presented in the 2018 Instant Pot Recipe Booklet said Rice Program, “set to 35 minutes”. A cooking time cannot be set in the rice program; cooking this for 35 minutes in the pressure cooking Program fails – the food burns. The comments on the online recipe indicate misunderstandings about the setting, and the version of that recipe presented in the manual.

Pressure Program

White Rice

The conventional pressure cooker advice for long grain white rice, unrinsed, is a few minutes at High Pressure, typically 3 minutes, followed by 10 minutes or more natural release (letting the pot cool). Christopher Kimball, in Milk Street, Fast and Slow recommends 10 minutes at Low Pressure followed by a natural release. Laura Pazzaglia incorrectly used a 1:2 ratio of long grain white rice and water (1.5 cups rice, 3 cups water) in her printed work, Hip Pressure Cooking (2014) but adjusted to 1:1.5 in her online guide.

For rinsed rice, writers recommend 1.25 cups of water (or less) to 1 cup of rice. Jill Nussenow’s caution about using ratios as the amount of rice is increased (above) is justified.

Recipes for more complex rice dishes can be carried out in Instant Pots and other pressure multicookers, with limitations. There are pressure cooker techniques and recipes for:

  • pulao and pilaf;
  • risotto (normally made with starchy short grain white rice e.g. Arborio, Carnarolli);
  • paella (normally made with certain varieties of short grain white rice e.g. Bomba).

Brown Rice

Brown rice should be done in the pressure cooker program. It takes longer than white rice. An Instant Pot, pressure multi-cooker or pressure cooker is somewhat faster than a pot on a stove. It looks much faster – but a pressure cooker recipe specifies the time at pressure. Where a recipe says the cooking time is 20 minutes, the device heats and boils the rice for 10-15 minutes before it reaches high pressure and the cooking temperature. An Instant Pot is just simpler.

The pressure setting is usually the high setting. Low pressure might work but the cooking time would be longer than at high pressure. The cooking time depends on the rice and the way you like it. Jill Nussenow suggests that for some brown rice, the grower/seller’s “stovetop” suggested cooking time should be halved. Her default suggestion for brown rice is 22 minutes at high pressure. The ratio water to rice is normally 1.5 cups of water for the first cup of dry (neither soaked or rinsed) rice. For 1.5 cups of rice, 2 to 2 ¼ cups of water produces soft but not mushy rice, with 22 minutes at high pressure.


Resources and recipes for Instant Pot, pressure cookers and pressure multi-cookers:

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