How to Make the Most of Your Instant Pot During Thanksgiving

Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipes and tricks save you time, preserve oven and stove real estate, and reduce stress levels all at once.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Breast
Photo: Matthew Clark

Admittedly, you’re probably not going to be able to bake grandma’s vintage Thanksgiving recipes for rolls or pie in a pressure cooker. But there are several stellar Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipes and strategies that you can rely on to make the big day a little less daunting.

The Instant Pot—or your preferred brand of multicooker with a pressure cooker function—can ace a wide variety of pressure cooker recipes and can come in clutch for batch cooking and big meals, such as Thanksgiving dinner. Whether you use it to save precious stovetop or oven space, speed up side dish prep, or make easy apps for guests to savor as they await the main event, this countertop appliance is far too valuable to stay hiding in the cabinet on Thanksgiving. (By the way, the Instant Pot can even save the day if you forgot to thaw your turkey! More on this shortly.)

Read on for our Test Kitchens’ Instant Pot Thanksgiving secrets, plus fan-favorite Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipes to round out your menu for the big day.

5 Instant Pot Thanksgiving Tricks to Save Time and Precious Oven Space

Before we dig into the most tempting Thanksgiving Instant Pot recipes, here are some helpful overall strategies to keep in mind as you prep for success.

1. Hit “fast-forward” on brunch (so you can sleep in).

Instead of being a short-order cook and whipping up batch after batch of pancakes or omelets, pressure cook a family-sized frittata, French toast casserole, breakfast casserole, or other Instant Pot breakfast for Thanksgiving or Black Friday morning.

2. Keep party-sized seasonal drinks warm.

Just like your trusty slow cooker, your electric pressure cooker has a “keep warm” function. So even if you don’t want to cook an entire course in your Instant Pot, you can use it to save a stovetop burner for something else as you keep your sips simmering. Try this concept with a seasonally-appropriate drink recipe like Cider Mulled Wine, Cinnamon-Pumpkin Toddy, Bourbon Citrus Sipper, or Hot Chocolate Seven Ways (the pumpkin spice rendition would be particularly fitting for your Thanksgiving menu!) for an extra festive touch.

3. Utilize the sauté function.

No need to break out another skillet. Save range space and clean-up time by using the sauté setting of your pressure cooker to get a headstart on browning meat or caramelizing flavor-boosters and aromatics. This technique works brilliantly in the Brussels sprouts Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipe below. Simply sauté the bacon, sizzle up the onions in the bacon drippings, then add the sprouts and broth before locking the lid and switching to the pressure cook function.

4. Speed up bread prep.

In case you missed it, one of our favorite anytime Instant Pot hacks is to use the appliance to proof bread dough in half the time. With the jam-packed schedule on Thanksgiving, this can make all the difference between your ability to get a warm loaf of homemade sourdough or fresh batch of rolls on the table—or being forced to stick with spuds as your main carb source instead.

5. Rescue frozen turkey you forgot to thaw.

If you didn’t remember to begin defrosting your turkey at least a full day in advance, you’d usually have to call an audible and make something totally different or drive around town hoping for an open supermarket to snag a fresh turkey to swap in. But get this: You can cook meat directly from the freezer in your Instant Pot. The pressure cooker’s high temperature abilities mean that the meat can rise above the food safety threshold between 40°F and 140°F known as the “danger zone” far quicker than in the oven, so no one should be at any higher risk for illness than if you cooked the turkey any other way. Just plan to tack on extra cook time; a 3-pound frozen turkey breast should be done after about 50 minutes under pressure, and a 6-pound turkey breast takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes. (A full-size turkey probably won’t fit in the multicooker, so we only recommend this strategy for a turkey breast.)

Our Best Instant Pot Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that you have some overarching Instant Pot Thanksgiving tips in your arsenal, let’s dive into the specifics. Ahead, is your course-by-course guide to the best Thanksgiving Instant Pot recipe ideas.

 Instant Pot Thanksgiving Appetizers

As the turkey finishes up, welcome guests with a round of Thanksgiving wine and a holiday appetizer or two, like dressed-up deviled eggs, crostini topped with ricotta or goat cheese and onion jam, or creamy spinach dip.

Instant Pot Thanksgiving Side Dishes

While no Thanksgiving table would be complete without the turkey and pie, let’s be real: the side dishes are the real stars of the show. Stick with a few of your favorite traditional Thanksgiving sides, then round out the line-up with these easy Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipes.

Instant Pot Thanksgiving Main Courses

As we mentioned, you certainly can cook a turkey breast (even from frozen!) in your Instant Pot, if desired. For a vegetarian Thanksgiving entrée, say “cheese” and try our decadent macaroni with cheddar, Parmesan, smoked Gouda, and Gruyère or Swiss.

Instant Pot Thanksgiving Dessert

Instead of—or in addition to—your favorite Thanksgiving pie recipe, consider poaching seasonal fruit like apples or pears in your Instant Pot. We love to offer this as a build-your-own bar option, with warm fruit, whipped cream or ice cream, chopped toasted nuts, and pie crust cookies.

portioned blueberry-french toast casserole ishes
Andy Lyons

Instant Pot Thanksgiving Weekend Brunch

Whether it’s for Thanksgiving morning or Black Friday brunch (before the shopping, sports, or R&R time), keep your multicooker handy to make the morning menu a breeze. Sweet or savory, these shockingly-speedy brunch recipes feed six to eight in case you’re hosting a crowd—or in case you’re in the mood for leftovers the next day.

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