Mediterranean Diet Recipes for the Instant Pot

In 2010, an innovative cooking appliance brought a new level of speed and convenience to the kitchen and to an old-world way of eating. The Instant Pot is a multi-function device that offers users a range of cooking options that can significantly cut the prep and clean up time on a wide range of Mediterranean diet dishes.

The Mediterranean diet and the Instant Pot work so well together, in fact, that in 2020, America’s Test Kitchen released ” Mediterranean Instant Pot: Easy, Inspired Meals for Eating Well,” a book that brings their vast experience with recipe development and the convenience of the Instant Pot together to make following a Mediterranean diet easier.

Dan Zuccarello, executive food editor at ATK, which is based in the greater Boston area, says the Instant Pot was an instant hit when it first came on the market a decade ago because it’s incredibly convenient. As the name implies, the Instant Pot can help you get from ingredients to meal very quickly. But even more than that, “people really like convenience. They like one-pot recipes, and most Instant Pot recipes are all done in one pot,” Zuccarello says. So as much as the cooking itself is faster, so is the clean up afterwards.

The Mediterranean diet features a wide variety of foods and cuisines all hailing from around the Mediterranean Sea. It emphasizes lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and heart-healthy fats.

This way of eating is more a lifestyle than a diet and consistently ranks No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of Best Diets. As such, interest in following this approach of eating has only grown in recent years.

[READ: Is the Green Mediterranean Diet Healthier Than Regular Mediterranean?]

Cooking With an Instant Pot

Zuccarello says it made a lot of sense for ATK to explore the diet and how its many flavorful dishes could be made Instant Pot friendly. “I think people really like their Instant Pots,” but it’s not always been clear how to use it for healthy cooking. “Historically, when you look at Instant Pot recipes, they usually focus on the quintessential braised dishes with really rich cuts of meat that are ideal for braising. And while I love cooking short ribs or a pot roast in a pressure cooker, it’s not necessarily the most healthy food to be eating. I don’t think you can do that every night of the week,” Zuccarello says.

So the team at ATK set to work figuring out how to leverage the convenience of the Instant Pot for healthier meals.

Naturally, the beans and whole grains that are staples of the Mediterranean diet do very well in an Instant Pot — the pressure cooker function helps these foods cook faster and completely with little work on the cook’s part. Hearty vegetable soups and stews are also a cinch.

But it might surprise you to learn that yes, it’s entirely possible to make chicken or fish in an Instant Pot. “I think there’s a lot of really surprising recipes in here,” Zuccarello says. “I think people will see it and say, ‘Oh, you know I’m really glad that I can now cook healthy, fast and conveniently.'”

Below, ATK shares two favorite Instant Pot Mediterranean diet recipes.

[SEE: A Day’s Worth of Meals on the Mediterranean Diet.]

Spiced Rice Pilaf With Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate

Why this recipe works:

The chefs at ATK say that using an Instant Pot is a foolproof way of avoiding mushy, blown-out rice. Instead, preparing rice in this device yields fluffy, individual grains. This pilaf gets its vibrant color (and subtle spice) from a healthy dose of turmeric, coriander and cayenne.

The ATK team recommends tossing the spices right in the pot, then stirring in chicken broth, rice and sweet potato. After just a few minutes under pressure, the firm sweet potato transforms into fudgy little chunks dispersed among perfectly cooked rice.

For textural contrast, add pomegranate seeds for bright little pops of color and sweetness and savory, crunchy pistachios to counter the tender sweet potato. The fragrant and floral notes of preserved lemon are an important addition to this dish, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute 1 tablespoon lemon zest.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

— 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1 onion, chopped fine.

— ½ teaspoon table salt.

— 2 garlic cloves, minced.

— 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric.

— 1 teaspoon ground coriander.

— ? teaspoon cayenne pepper.

— 2 cups chicken broth.

— 1½ cups long-grain white rice, rinsed.

— 12 ounces sweet potato, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced ½ inch thick.

— ½ preserved lemon, pulp and white pith removed, rind rinsed and minced (2 tablespoons).

— ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped.

— ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves.

— ¼ cup pomegranate seeds.

1. Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot until shimmering. Add onion and salt and cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, turmeric, coriander and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, rice, and sweet potato.

2. Lock lid in place and close pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook function and cook for 4 minutes. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

3. Add preserved lemon and gently fluff rice with fork to combine. Lay clean dish towel over pot, replace lid, and let sit for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with pistachios, cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

[SEE: 16 Tips From Real People to Succeed on the Mediterranean Diet]

Greek-Style Chicken and Rice

Why this recipe works:

A steaming bowl of oregano-scented rice studded with sweet peas and briny capers, and served alongside juicy chicken breasts, is the ATK team’s idea of a feel-good meal. Bone-in chicken breasts ensured the meat stayed moist, and browning the breasts before cooking them with the rice added depth to the whole dish.

Fluffing the rice with a fork to combine the peas and capers instead of stirring kept the rice from becoming gluey.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

— 2 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed.

— ¾ teaspoon table salt, divided.

— ¼ teaspoon pepper.

— 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1 onion, chopped fine.

— 2 celery ribs, sliced ¼ inch thick.

— 4 garlic cloves, minced.

— 2 cups chicken broth.

— 1½ cups long-grain white rice, rinsed.

— 3 bay leaves.

— ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed.

— 4 teaspoons capers, rinsed.

— 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano.

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot for 5 minutes (or until just smoking). Place chicken skin side down in pot and cook until well browned on one side, about 5 minutes; transfer to plate.

2. Add onion, celery, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to fat left in pot and cook, using highest sauté function, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, rice and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle chicken skin side up into rice and add any accumulated juices. Lock lid in place and close pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook function and cook for 4 minutes.

3. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Transfer chicken to cutting board and discard skin, if desired. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest while finishing rice.

4. Discard bay leaves. Add peas and capers and gently fluff rice with fork to combine. Lay clean dish towel over pot, replace lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently fold in oregano. Carve chicken from bones and slice ½ inch thick. Serve with rice.

More from U.S. News

A Day’s Worth of Meals on the Mediterranean Diet

Favorite Mediterranean Diet Recipes From America’s Test Kitchen

Tips How to Get Started on the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Recipes for the Instant Pot originally appeared on usnews.com

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