How to Sauté in the Instant Pot

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Using the sauté function of your Instant Pot can save you time and help you to make Instant Pot meals with tons of flavor without using multiple pans. In this article, we’ll show you how to sauté in the Instant Pot.

If you haven’t really started to use your Instant Pot yet, you might not know that you can use the Instant Pot for so many more things than just to pressure cook. In fact, you can use it to bake cakes, proof dough, make yogurt, etc. One of the most useful features that I use all the time is the sauté function.

saute mode

Once you know how to sauté in the Instant Pot, the possibilities for using this appliance expand exponentially. Sautéing is a great way to add flavor and brown your food, so it’s in integral part of many recipes, but now you can do it without having to dirty another pan.


What is the Saute Function For on the Instant Pot?

The saute function was a fantastic addition to the Instant Pot because it allows you to do some of the prep without having to use a different pan. You can use it to saute onions, garlic, and other aromatics; to give a nice browned crust on you meat before continuing on with the cooking; and even to use as a “stove top” when you don’t have access to one.

Three of the main uses for sauté mode in the Instant Pot are: 

Sautéing vegetables – Many soup recipes call for sauteing the onions, garlic, and other aromatics before adding broth and other ingredients. 

Instant Pot saute is a great way to add flavor and aromatics to soups and stews. Start by heating the oil in the instant pot until hot. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add the desired amount of broth or water, plus any desired spices, and then pressure cook on high for the amount of time requested in the recipe.

searing meat on saute mode in the instant pot

Browning or searing meat – The maillard reaction that occurs when meat is seared, which creates that nice browned, caramelized flavor on the exterior of your meat is a step you don’t want to miss. For instance, you can brown your pork roast before you cook it, adding tons of flavor.

Using saute mode on your Instant Pot allows you to quickly sear your meat before adding any other ingredients or pressure cooking it.

Thickening sauces – You can use the sauté mode to thicken your sauce once the recipe has cooked. We do this in a number of our recipes, including our Bourbon Chicken.

bourbon sauce

What is the Difference Between the Saute function and the Pressure Cooker?

The pressure cooker is a feature on the Instant Pot that speeds up the cooking time by using high pressure and heat. The sauté function is just like using a pan on the stovetop; you are not using the pressure cooker when in sauté mode.

The sauté function is meant to be used without the lid. The base heating element will heat up the inner pot so that the surface is very hot.

When using the saute function, you are not using the “pressure cooker”, you are actually just using the heating element, with the inner pot as your pan, just like a pan on the stovetop.

You might be wondering why you would choose to use the saute mode rather than just using the stove. The answer is that this allows you to cook everything in just one pan. There’s no need to saute or brown your food in another pan.

If you’re like me, using just one pot to cook a meal is very important, and sometimes I don’t want to turn on the stove, or I don’t have access to the stove (like when we’re camping). I can use the saute mode to cook anything – bacon, veggie side dishes, reheat food, you name it.

Celery, onions and carrots in the Instant Pot

How to Use Sauté Mode

Here is how to sauté in the Instant Pot:

  1. Use a low or medium heat setting when sautéing in the Instant Pot. If you use a high heat setting, the element might become too hot and start the burn notice, or your food might stick to the bottom of the pot and be difficult to remove.
  2. Add a small amount of oil or fat to the Instant Pot before adding your food. This will help prevent sticking and make your food brown easier.
  3. Add your food to the Instant Pot and spread it out into an even layer. After it’s cooked for a few minutes, use a utensil to carefully flip it over or move it around in the pot.
  4. You can turn off the sauté mode and continue on cooking in the pressure cooker, if that’s what the recipe calls for.

If you’re using a high heat setting, you may need to add more oil or fat to the Instant Pot before adding your food in order to prevent it burning on the bottom.

How to Adjust the Heat of Sauté Mode

Unfortunately some models don’t let you change the heat setting at all, which is a bit of a bummer when you need to cook things at a lower temperature, but you can make due by turning on and off sauté mode a few times to reduce the heat.

Most newer and higher end models have either two or three different heat levels: low, medium, and high.

You can change how hot your Instant Pot is while in saute mode. This allows you to choose the heat setting most appropriate for what you’re cooking.

To adjust the heat level, press the “Adjust” button and then choose between “Less,” “Normal,” and “More.”

If your model doesn’t have an “Adjust” button, pressing the “Saute” button more than once will toggle between the different heat levels.

  • “Less” is good for simmering sauces and keeping them from boiling too hard.
  • “Normal” is good for sautéing vegetables without burning them.
  • “More” is good for browning or searing meats.

Sautéing in the Instant Pot is a great way to quickly make a dish that’s both flavorful and quick, without having to use a second pan to do the prep work.

Why Use An Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is one of the most useful kitchen appliances you can buy, because it drastically cuts down on the cooking time for developing flavors in soups and stews, getting tough cuts of meat tender, and even baking a cheesecake. And there are many accessories that will help you get more out of your Instant Pot.

If you don’t have one yet, check out our guide on which one to buy. Also see our guide to How to Use an Instant Pot for more information.


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how to saute in the instant pot

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