How Much Liquid To Add To Your Instant Pot + How To Remove Excess!

There’s certainly a learning process that goes into using an Instant Pot. An while I’d agree that the process is well worth it, it can at times be frustrating.

In fact, one of the biggest issues I had when we first bought an Instant Pot was the amount of excess liquid after cooking.

Instant Pots work by converting water into steam. As a result, at least one cup of liquid is always required when cooking in an Instant Pot. You can remove excess water from your Instant Pot by adjusting the settings to saute mode either prior to or post-cooking.

Of course, the exact amount of liquid varies depending on what you’re cooking and how much you’re cooking.

For example, a pasta sauce will often include chopped tomatoes which are already very liquid-based. You’ll therefore need little to no additional liquid.

Meanwhile, a stew is liquid-based and will therefore require some additional liquid, likely in the form of broth in order for the finished texture of the meal to be as you’d likely expect.

Do You Have To Put Liquid In An Instant Pot?

Instant Pots work by converting the water into steam to generate pressure. As a result, at least one cup of liquid is always required when cooking any meal in an Instant Pot.

Side note: Instant Pot used to recommend at least two cups, however, they since updated to just one cup. Which is why you might see some people mention two cups online, or your instruction manual might say two cups when I’m just saying one.

However, the exact amount required is likely to depend on the food you’re cooking and the recipe you’re following.

Foods that are water-based such as tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and cabbage are generally going to require less water than other more dense foods such as steak.

The same goes for sauces. As these are already a form of liquid you’ll need to add little to no additional water to the pot in order for it to cook the food effectively.

If you’re cooking a specific Instant Pot recipe then knowing the exact amount of water isn’t an issue as it’ll be included in the recipe. However, if you’re simply cooking ingredients then check out my chart below.

If your exact ingredient isn’t on this list either look for something with similar consistancy or simply Google ‘[ingredient] Instant Pot’.

From there you’ll likely get some basic cooking instructions for that particular ingredient with the Instant Pot. You can even average the water content between the top three recipes if you’re unsure.

If you’re in doubt refer back to the manual which came with your Instant Pot, which goes over the basics of water requirements for different basic ingredients and recipes in general.

If you’re converting a traditional recipe into an Instant Pot recipe then you’ll want to cook the amount of liquid required in half as there’s little to no liquid lost during the cooking process because of the way the Instant Pot is sealed.

How Much Liquid To Add To Instant Pot – Based On Ingredient

The chart below is a rough guide as to how much liquid you should add when cooking a select number of ingredients in the Instant Pot.

IngredientMeasurement / SizeAmount of Liquid
Chicken Breast1 – 2 pounds1 cup
Chicken Thighs1 – 2 pounds1 cup
Rice1 cup1 cup
Pork Chops1″ Thick Boneless1 cup
Potatoes2 Pounds1 cup
Pasta8oz2 cups
Ribs1 – 2 pounds1 cup
Lentils1 cup1.5 cups

What Happens If You Put Too Much Liquid In An Instant Pot

It’s very important that you do not put too much food or liquid inside your Instant Pot.

This could potentially lead to dangerous pressure levels or cause your venting knob to clog. Both of which are likely to cause significant damage to your machine.

All Instant Pots have a fill line on the metal insert bowl which provides you with guidance to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

If you add slightly more liquid than required but still fill the Instant Pot to below the MAX line then you’ll likely find that your food takes longer to cook.

This is due to the amount of time it takes for the high power to push the large volume of liquid to a temperature which is suitable for pressure cooking.

What Happens If You Put Too Little Liquid In An Instant Pot

An Instant Pot works with liquid, and while this can often be found naturally in some foods (such as sauces or meats).

It’s still advisable to add additional amounts to ensure that the pressure can build effectively inside the pot, this is required to complete the pressure cooking process which will be used to cook the ingredients inside your Instant Pot.

If you don’t put enough liquid inside your Instant Pot then you may find that your Instant Pot is unable to reach the target pressure point and never begins the cooking process.

You’ll know this as the timer on the Instant Pot only begins once the pressure has been reached and the cooking process begins.

Not enough liquid in the Instant Pot could also lead to the food burning and sticking to the inside of the Instant Pot rather than cooking. In this case, you may also experience the ‘BURN’ error on your Instant Pot.

How To Reduce Excess Liquid In An Instant Pot

The methods you can use to remove excess liquid inside your Instant Pot are likely to depend on the volume of liquid and the food you’re cooking. Below are a number of different techniques I’ve found work well.

In most cases, using your Instant Pot is trial and error and eventually, you’ll learn exactly how much liquid to add to an ingredient to minimize excess liquid while cooking your food without complications.

Saute On Low – Depending on the dish you can use the saute setting on your Instant Pot to bring the liquid up to a boil prior to beginning the pressure cooking process or after the cooking process to cook down the amount of excess liquid.

If you follow this process then be sure to monitor your Instant Pot at all times.

Use Cornstarch – Cornstarch or plain flour can be a great ingredient used to thicken liquids into more of a sauce which can be delicious in some recipes.

I’ve also found xanthan gum works really well too. The right ingredient is likely to depend on the dish you’re cooking.

Instant Pot Recipes – The amount of water used in a standard recipe when compared to the amount of water (or other liquid) used in an Instant Pot recipe should be significantly different due to the way an Instant Pot cooks foods.

Be sure to follow a dedicated Instant Pot recipe to ensure you’re adding the right amount of liquid, to begin with.

Consider The Ingredients – Frozen chicken often has water injected in it to help it freeze better, meanwhile, mushrooms are actually 92% water. You should consider the foods you’re putting into your Instant Pot and use that as a guide when adding liquid.

If the ingredients are likely to have a high water content then you need less additional liquid. Meanwhile, if the ingredients are dry you may need more.

Drain Excess – Again, depending on what you’re cooking in your Instant Pot you may be able to drain the excess water either into a pan to thicken into a sauce or gravy or simply into the bin / down the sink.

Be sure to take note of how much liquid you used in the dish so you can reduce in stages each time you cook to find the right amount of liquid.