Instant Stew

First of all, sorry about that title. Just like the elusive free lunch, there is no such thing as an “Instant Stew”. You see, I recently asked my Facebook followers what dish they’d like to see me develop, and I received several requests for pressure cooker and stew recipes. We use (and love) an electric pressure cooker called an Instant Pot, so that’s what I used for this recipe (and hence the name).

At its heart, this dish is similar to many of my other stew recipes, but with a new approach. When it comes to simple weeknight recipes, many folks like the idea of crockpot stews (wherein you leave the ingredients to slow-cook while away at work). But I’ve found that more often than not, the vegetables become too mushy and tired after a long simmer. This is where a pressure cooker really shines, as it shaves a multi-hour recipe into just over an hour, making it a potential weeknight option with superior texture.

If you want to make this dish without any fancy (awesome) gadgetry, I’ve also included stovetop instructions below.


Dusting the beef in rice flour helps to thicken the sauce, but can be omitted if you’re avoiding rice.

Instant Stew (Pressure Cooker recipe)

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

3 lbs stew beef (or chuck roast or short ribs, see note below), cut into chunks
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp white rice flour (optional)
2 tbsp ghee

1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine (Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
3 cups beef broth
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
1.5 lbs waxy potatoes (red, golden, etc), cut into chunks
3 sprigs fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried okay)
salt and pepper to taste
1 small handful parsley, chopped

1. Combine the beef, salt, pepper, and rice flour; toss to dust the beef evenly.

2. Plug in your Instant Pot and press the “Sauté” button. Add the ghee and warm until melted and shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 of the beef and sauté until browned, about 6 minutes, then remove the beef and add another 1/3 of the beef. Continue until the rest of the beef has cooked, about 20 minutes total; set the beef aside.

3. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato paste. Sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then add the wine and broth. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beef (and any accumulated juices), carrots, parsnips, celery, potatoes, and thyme.

4. Cover and set the Instant Pot to “Meat/Stew” (high pressure) for 20 minutes. Once the Instant Pot finishes, wait until it depressurizes, about 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can remove the lid easily.

5. Gently remove the solid ingredients from the pot (the carrots and parsnips will be very tender) and set aside. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” again and simmer the sauce until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed. Return the solid ingredients to the pot, stir in the chopped parsley, then serve.

** STOVETOP INSTRUCTIONS: In step #2, set the stovetop to medium heat and use a dutch oven. In step #3, only add the beef and thyme. In step #4, cover and simmer on low until the beef is just tender, about 1.5 to 2 hours, then add the vegetables; simmer until the vegetables and meat are tender, another 20 minutes. Proceed to step #5 to finish the recipe.

** Stew beef is fairly lean and sourced from various beef cuts; 20 mins is a pretty standard pressure cooking time for most cuts. You can also use a cut with more connective tissue, like chuck or short ribs; be sure to adjust the pressure cooking time to 25 minutes to make sure it’s tender. If you’re using bone-in meat, throw the bones into the pot after cutting up the meat. Fish them out before serving, and re-use them to make broth as well.

** Instead of celery stalks, consider using celery root (cut into chunks). The texture is similar to potatoes and still imparts a celery flavor. Other root vegetables will work as well, like turnips and rutabaga.

** When making meat dishes, it’s important not to force-depressurize the Instant Pot by turning its valve to “steam”, as it can result in a mealy texture. Just give it time to depressurize on its own.

You want a nice crust to develop when browning the meat. It’ll scrape up easily later on in the cooking process, and impart a rich, roasted flavor.

The vegetables will be very tender, so be careful when removing them from the pot.

While there is no such thing as an instant stew, my Stew for You (or Two) recipe is pretty close, if you don’t factor in the 3-hour cook time beforehand to create the stew packets.

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79 thoughts on “Instant Stew

  1. I’ve never seen the attraction of crockpots (we simply call them slow-cookers in the UK) personally, even though they seem to be quite fashionable at the moment. Preparing things ahead of time, either in the morning or the night before, just means deferring preparation time to when I’d rather be doing something else. Since getting a pressure cooker though, I can enjoy stews and “slow-cooked” food in a hurry without having to change my habits so drastically: I can start cooking just as I would for any other kind of meal, so I’m a big convert. Thanks for sharing a recipe using one — good ones are often few and far between.

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      1. Sorry, but crockpot cooking is awesome. Nothing beats doing a good Guinness Beef Stew in a crockpot. I do all my stews and soups in a crockpot and folks rave over the fabulous flavors melding together for hours. Being from Hawaii the only way we do Kalua pig is with tea leaves and in my oven. You have great recipes and I will continue to try most of them. Keep on cooking.

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        1. Hi Jim, I agree that crockpot dishes make for great flavor, but I’m personally turned off by the mushy texture that comes with extended cooking times at a constant temperature. I prefer to braise in a dutch oven, or cook in a pressure cooker, where I have more control over temperature, intensity, and texture. Crockpot cooking isn’t irredeemable, and I’ve found that by pacing my ingredients (adding them at appropriate times vice dumping it all in at once) can give you the best of both worlds – flavor and texture! My wife is also from Hawaii, and I lived there for nearly ten years – but without access to tea leaves, we tend to use the crockpot (or dutch oven!) vice the oven :)

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          1. Russ…thanks for the comment. I have to agree on the mushiness on some of the items. I’ve learned through messing a few things up that although I’m crockpot cooking I still have to be around to watch it, to make sure I add veggies or whatever at the last in order to reduce the mushiness. Moved to CA from Denver and love to cook. Im now at a lower altitude and cooking with gas, whereas in Denver the altitude us much higher and I cooked with electric. Wiw, whst a difference. I don’t know if I like this gas cooking, takes a lot of getting gas to. But, scrambling an egg is ez….lol

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  2. Just ordered the Instant Pot after reading this post – sounds wonderful and am anxious to try this recipe when I receive the pot. Would love to see more recipes using it. Thank you for sharing all your delicious recipes!

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  3. Wish I had known about the Instant Pot before I spent the money on my rice cooker – that just cooks rice and that’s all it does – I think I will be investing in one of these for sure. And the recipe looks fabulous as well. I happen to have a food sensitivity to beef right now(hope that goes away!) but anyway I plan on using Bison stew meat in this and I’m guessing chicken broth would be a suitable substitute for beef broth? Would I need to offset it with a few more herbs/spices?

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    1. Jackie, we still use our rice cooker frequently – the Instant Pot is awesome, but it only cooks one thing at a time, so we need it to make the rice while whatever creation we’ve whipped up in the Instant Pot finishes. Regarding chicken broth, it should work fine! Maybe add a dash of tamari or coconut amino to add some richness, but it’s not necessary.

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  4. Wow just in time. The weather in the Sierra Mountains is, well wintery. I found a lovely, nearly new pressure cooker at Goodwill for 25.00. This will be the first meal using this cooker. I usually make stew in my slow cooker, but having a pressure cooker recipe to fall back onto is wonderful. Sometimes homeschooling 3 kids gets hectic. Keep those pressure cooker recipes coming.

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  5. I was led to believe that pressure cooking is less healthy than slow cooking. Is this not true?
    I have a pressure cooker but just haven’t used it for a year or two.

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    1. Claire, I would argue the opposite. By nature, a pressure cooker boils water at a lower temperature, so vegetables potentially preserve more nutrients since they cook for less time and at a lower temp than a slow cooker. Because of the way it denatures the proteins in meat, I would also assume that their nutrients are more bioavailabile as well. Lastly, pressure cooking has shown to reduce lectin and phytic acid (two common anti-nutrients) more than any other cooking method, to the point where they are almost as good as fermentation in terms of reducing toxins. Hope that helps!

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      1. PV = nRT, increase pressure increase and keep everything else the same then increases the temperature. Pressure cookers actually boil water at a HIGHER temperature. It’s the fact that they are not bathing the food in boiling water but misting it with vapor that helps preserve the nutrients.

        I liked the recipe but next time think I’ll use turnip instead of parsnips. Also I think it’s a bit overly complex. You don’t really need to pre cook the beef and taking everything out to reduce the broth at the end seems like a pain. Cheers.

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        1. Matt, thanks for the clarification re: temperature, I knew there was better retention of nutrients but wasn’t totally aware of the mechanisms in place. I brown the meat ahead of time to produce better texture and taste via the Maillard reaction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction) and to toast the rice flour so that the sauce thickens without a floury aftertaste. Reducing the broth at the end concentrates the flavors in the same way that braising reduces the liquid and concentrates flavors over its extended cooking time. Those steps aren’t 100% necessary to put food on the table but go a long way towards improving the dish’s overall taste and texture.

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  6. I’m not sure how healthy this stew is (and I don’t give a damn) but it looks great. I will try to prepare it with a pressure cooker as you suggest not because I want less tired veggies in it, but because I’m too lazy to cook for a longer time. And then a sip of a crafted beer and bon appétit.

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  7. Russ, I made this w/ 2-lbs buffalo stew meat and adjusted the recipe accordingly, but left the wine the same. Ha! One major thing I added was one zucchini and one yellow crook-neck squash. Can report that it melded into the sauce just fine and added some body. Don’t have a feel for how the flavors changed, because I’m more of a chemist than a real cook! Anyway, for those who’ve said they think it looks good and for those who have promised to try it, DO! This is an awesome recipe; is an awesome technique; and is an awesome-tasting dish! Worthy of company! Love your recipes!

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  8. Do the veggies come out overly mushy with 20 minutes in the pressure cooker (+ 15 min depressurize time)? I’ve done stews in my instant pot and I’ll normally cook the meat/aromatics first, do a quick release then add the veggies and cook for about 10± minutes, depending on what veggies and quantity. I like the veggies to have a little bite left for texture.

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    1. The potatoes and carrots were perfect. The summer squash was super-mushy. The mushy squash gave the broth a little body, in addition to the thickening from reducing-by-half.

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  9. Hi Russ,
    Just made this for today’s lunch — thank you, thank you!!! It is sooooo delicious! There are few things more comforting than a perfect stew on a cold & snowy day.
    I used stew pork & pork broth instead of beef, and added celery root before I even saw your note about it. Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, but it is absolutely perfect. The sauce reduced to the precise yummy flavour in my Instant Pot, and it was just a big, big hit.
    And yes, please keep the Instant Pot recipes coming! :-)

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  10. Hi, I’m hoping you can reply as soon as possible since I am making this today.
    Can I skip on the red wine altogether since I do not use alcohol in my cooking. Or is there an easy alternative that I might have on hand? (Some sort of vinegar).

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      1. I made this today using the stove top directions and did not use the red wine. I didn’t read the comments so I didn’t see you suggested vinegar instead. Anyway, I will tell you that my family thought it was the best stew I’ve ever made. My son had 3rds.

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  11. “The best stew I’ve ever had” that quote from my 21-year-old, college athlete son who is obsessed with a healthy life-style. Even my picky child had seconds. I only made a couple changes in that I added a little more of everything since I’ll be out of town for a couple of days and wanted leftovers, but there may be enough for only a lite lunch for one.

    I was expecting delivery of my new Instant Pot (before 8:00pm), so I went ahead and prepared all the ingredients. Got the IP around 5:00, quickly read the basic instructions, followed the recipe and voila! dinner. I will definitely be making this again. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi!
    This looks deelish! Do you think beef heart could be substituted for the other meat choices you provided? If so, do you recommend any alteration to the cooking time or otherwise? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Sunshyne, beef heart can most definitely be used but will require more pressure cooking time, which means the vegetables will be overcooked. So what I could do would be to follow the instructions through step 3 but don’t add the carrots, parsnips, celery, and potatoes. Pressure cook for 35 minutes, depressurize, then simmer to reduce the sauce, then add the vegetables and simmer until they are tender (about 10-15 mins). Let me know if that doesn’t make sense, good luck!

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  13. I have a question and need clarification. Once I am done with all the pre-cook stuff and put my instant pot meat/stew, the cycle goes to about 40 minutes. You specify 20 minutes. Which should I follow? After 20 minutes my pressure cooker is a 28 minutes. What do I follow?

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    1. Hi Jodi, the default setting for meat/stew is 40 minutes, but that is too long for this stew – the vegetables would turn to mush under pressure that long. So once you press the meat/stew button, you’ll want to press the “-” button until it goes down to 20, then let it sit for a second and it’ll start cooking. Please also note that the Instant Pot requires some time to come to pressure, so the 20-minute timer won’t start for a few minutes. Hope that helps!

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  14. I just received my instant pot and used this recipe as my base for my first instant pot meal. So happy!!!! Great instructions and recipe. I substituted lamb for beef, Guinness for wine, added rosemary and used arrow root to thicken. Kept all amounts, measurements, and techniques as in your recipe…. Perfect! Just found your site this morning while looking for recipes, just ordered both your books….. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!!

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  15. I am still learning how to use the instant pot. This is a wonderful addition to our meals. BTW – my toddler loved it (14 months). Thanks for sharing your recipe!

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  16. This was a perfect meal for a 23 degree night! I received an Instant Pot for Christmas and love it! It took me slightly longer than the 1 hour and 10 minutes stated but beef stew from prep to finish in 1 hour 30 minutes is awesome! Will def add this to my rotation! Thank you and will look forward to trying more of your recipes!

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    1. Aside from the flavor imparted by the maillard reaction that comes with browning, the texture of the meat will be a bit “boiled” looking and feeling in your mouth – much like traditional corned beef. It’s not inedible by any means, but you’ll want to assess which tradeoff works best for you – convenience or texture/flavor.

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  17. I’ve just started using my Instant Pot and this will be the first of the beef recipes I’ll try out. I had review many stew recipes, yours, by far, looked the best and I love the combination of flavors from wine to turnips. I hope my blog readers agree.

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  18. Hi.
    I love my instant pot for yogurt , hard boiled eggs and brown rice. But my problem with making “dinner” in the instant pot is that I never know when it will be finished. I made the ” instant stew” tonight and waiting for the pressure yo come back down took 54 (long) minutes, not the 15 minutes that you stated in the recipe. Any idea why the discrepancy?

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    1. Hi Melissa, the amount of food in the Instant Pot can determine how long it takes to depressurize naturally. What I typically do is give the Instant Pot 15 minutes to depressurize naturally, then force-depressurize whatever pressure is left in the pot; force-depressurizing meat dishes immediately after they’re done cooking will end up boiling the meat and producing an unwanted texture – force-depressurizing after a 15-minute resting period avoids that. Hope that makes sense, please let me know if you have any other questions!

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      1. Ah. Thanks for the clarification. You might want to clarify it in your instructions because what it actually says is:
        “Once the Instant Pot finishes, wait until it depressurizes, about 15 minutes. **When making meat dishes, it’s important not to force-depressurization the Instant Pot by turning its valve to “steam”, as it can result in a mealy texture. just give it time to depressurize on its own.”

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  19. I adapted this recipe for your recipe for collapse Swedish beef stew came out wonderful in the in the pressure cooker

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  20. Wonderful sounding recipe. I’ve been fooling around with the Instant Pot for several months now and almost everything has turned out great. The only minor change I would make is to add about a tablespoon of Asian fish sauce to the stock before putting it in the Pot. It adds a depth of flavor that is remarkable. I rarely cook a savory meal without using it.

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  21. I made this last night and it was DELICIOUS! I left out the parsnips and added 1 bunch of roughly chopped collard greens instead with no changes in cook time. I also skipped the rice flour and at the end the broth was so delicious that I didn’t separate anything to thicken it–I just served it right out of the instant pot. My partner and I loved it and I will make again! This is my first recipe of yours and I will definitely be checking out more.

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