Thanksgiving side dishes: other than quality family time, it’s the #1 reason we go home on the holidays, amirite? Yeah, the main turkey is good and all, but we come back for those sides. The mashed potatoes and gravy. The green bean casserole. Creamed corned. Dressing (aka your grandma’s stuffing). Cranberry sauce... Side note: I am actually not convinced anyone comes for the cranberry sauce, but we always make it for that one person.
We all know the basic methods of making a Thanksgiving dinner. You (or someone you love) spends hours in the kitchen with, usually, one oven using tried and true recipes. Well, in honor of the grand prize, an 8 qt Instant Pot, I wanted to present an entire Thanksgiving meal made from the pressure cooker with a cult following. The main feature of this Instructable is showing the versatility of the Instant Pot with all the best side dishes, but I did include a bonus ”how to cook a turkey breast and gravy” because fresh gravy is way better than the bagged stuff. Plus, we need it for our mashed potatoes side dish!
The Instant Pot - specifically the pressure cooker function - works by cooking food under intense pressure. Each recipe specifies a certain amount of liquid needed to created the steam required to build that pressure. The water inside the pot can boil up to 248 degrees F (instead of the normal 212 degrees F), which cooks food a lot faster than normal. I mean, an entire-frozen-chicken-in-35-minutes fast. (Disclaimer: cook time does not include the time it takes to come to pressure, which could take 20-30 minutes for a frozen chicken. However, frozen chicken in under an hour? WOW). It is said you can save about 70% of time cooking in a pressure cooker. That is PERFECT for Thanksgiving. You are also saving on water and energy; pressure cookers are said to be the most energy efficient cooking appliance after microwaves. (New challenge idea: entire Thanksgiving meal in the microwave…)
The point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with your loved ones, so pop some side dishes in your pressure cooker and get back to enjoying your family!
Step 1: Cranberry Sauce
Okay, I joke about no one liking cranberry sauce, but I mean... someone is eating it since 80 million pounds of cranberries are used in the U.S. during Thanksgiving alone! Not only is it actually a great pairing with poultry and pork, it’s one of the oldest Thanksgiving meal traditions!
If you’ve cooked cranberry sauce on a stove before, you know it’s unnecessarily laborious. If you do not stir constantly, you can burn the sugar to the bottom of the pot. By cooking the sauce in a pressure cooker, you just need to first melt the sugar and orange juice (or water) so the sugar doesn’t stick, toss in the rest of the ingredients, and start pressure cooking. Quick and easy recipes are what we need during this family time! Or… just buy the canned gel for that special person in your life.
- 1 large orange, zested and juiced (1/3 cup juice and 1 tsp zest)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 lb cranberries, frozen or fresh
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- Using a zester or fine grater, gently zest the orange. Don't dig too deep with the grater or you will hit the bitter white part of the peel.
- Firmly roll the orange on the counter with the palm of your hand. You are trying to break up the insides of the orange so it's easier to juice. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the liquid gold into a measuring cup. (Is this why orange juice is so expensive?; there's nothing there!) If you can't get 1/3 cup of juice, fill up the rest of the way with water.
- Turn on the low sauté setting of the Instant Pot and add the orange juice and sugar. Stir until dissolved, and then cancel the sauté setting.
- Add the rest of the ingredients - cranberries, orange zest, and cinnamon -, stir, make sure the lid and steam release is sealed, and set the pressure cooker to manual for 2 minutes. You don't have to watch it thicken or stir it the whole time; it's kitchen magic!
- Let the cranberry mixture naturally release for 5 minutes (to let the foam inside rest), and then manually release the rest of the steam.
- Stir the sauce, put it in a side casserole dish if desired, and let cool.
This is a side dish that is best served cool, so get it done and out of the way early on!
Step 2: Grean Bean Casserole
Other than mashed potatoes, I don’t know if there is anything more classic than green bean casserole. The Instant Pot does a good job of fusing all the flavors together, and by using fresh ingredients, rather than cream of mushroom soup, the flavor is more wholesome. I personally used 24 oz (2 - 12 oz bags) of frozen green beans because they hold their shape well, but you can use a 16 oz can instead.
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 12 oz mushroom, sliced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 16- 24 oz green beans
- 1-2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup french fried onions (ie. French's Onions)
- 1 tsp salt + to taste ·
- Set your Instant Pot to sauté and add butter to melt.
- Slice the mushrooms, dice the onions, and add them to the pot. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the onions are soft.
- Add the chicken broth, heavy cream, salt, and green beans and stir.
- Place on manual pressure for 15 minutes. After the time is up, do a quick release.
- The mixture will be soupy. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the mixture. Pro tip: don't dump the cornstarch in one spot like I did in the picture. It globs quickly, and you don't want cornstarch balls in your casserole. If the mixture isn't thickening to your liking, turn on the sauté feature and reduce the liquid. Do a quick taste taste; if the mixture needs more salt, add it now.
- When thickened, pour into a side casserole dish and top with french fried onions.
Step 3: Dressing* (aka Stuffing)
A wonderful feature of cooking in an Instant Pot is that you don’t have to cook solely in the inner pot. Especially when you are making multiple recipes back to back, and you don’t want to have to scrub the pot each time, you can sometimes use the pot-in-pot method (PIP). You can take any dish that is oven safe and set it on the metal trivet - which comes with many pots - and have it separate from the liquid it takes to come to pressure. For example, in this recipe there is turkey broth in the dressing and there is also turkey broth underneath the pot to use as steam. This way the dressing is cooked in it’s own separate vessel but also infused and moistened by flavorful broth. If we did not separate the liquid, the dressing would be soupy and mushy. No thanks! I personally use a plain jane 1.6-liter white casserole dish and it fits perfectly.
*This is dressing rather than stuffing because the mixture is not cooked inside something else (like a turkey) to get it’s flavor.
- 12 ounces stuffing mix
- 2.5 cups turkey broth
- 2 cups celery, diced
- 2 cups onion, diced
- 1 cup butter, melted
- Optional: 1 egg, beat
- Optional: pinch ground sage
- Chop up vegetables into small pieces and beat the egg.
- Add all ingredients to a large bowl except 1 1/4 cup of turkey broth. The optional egg will make the dressing a bit fluffier and the sage adds a little flavor; I would recommend both. Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish, but don't pack it down.
- Pour the rest of the broth into the bottom of the Instant Pot and set the trivet on top. Place the dressing dish on the trivet and close the lid.
- Cook on high pressure for 13 minutes. After timer goes off, let the valve natural release for 10 minutes, and then quick release the rest of the pressure.
Step 4: Creamed Corn
Creamed corn is one of those recipes that sits in the crockpot for hours on Thanksgiving, taking up precious real estate. By cooking it in the Instant Pot, the corn is ready to eat in less than 20 minutes. In a rush and need a quick side dish? This is the recipe for you!
- (1) 24 oz bag frozen corn
- 8 oz heavy cream
- 8 oz milk
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tbsp flour (or cornstarch)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Turn your Instant Pot sauté setting to high, and add the corn, heavy cream, and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil. This takes a few minutes, so move onto step 2 while you wait.
- Microwave and melt the butter and then add the cornstarch or flour. We are making a roux - aka a thick sludge - to thicken the creamed corn.
- Once the corn comes to a boil, add the flour/butter mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let boil for 1-2 more minutes to allow it to thicken.
- Place the lid on the pot and set manual to high pressure for 1 minute. After the timer ends, perform a quick release.
- Stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, pour into a side dish, and top with the other 1/2 cup of cheese. Let thicken for 5 minutes longer.
Step 5: Mashed Potatoes
If you take nothing else from this Instructable, and don’t want to implement any other side dish, try this recipe. These mashed potatoes are flavor packed. With pressure cooking, heat is very evenly and DEEPLY distributed. Unlike regular boiled potatoes, you don’t need to immerse these in water, just enough to create steam. Because of this, vitamins and minerals are not leached into the water and out of the food. This also means that the steam is infused into your food. Thus, if you use a chicken or turkey broth, all those flavors meld into the potatoes! These aren’t the potatoes that you need to mix in a ton of extra salt, cheese, sour cream, milk, bacon bits, or smother in gravy; these are good by themselves. But yes, I did add sour cream; I’m not an animal.
Lastly, I don’t peel the potatoes. We are trying to save time here, right? Besides, the skins add so much flavor and pretty color. When deciding which potatoes, look for Red, Russet, or Yukon Gold. I personally like the red potatoes best!
- 2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1.5" pieces
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 2-4 tablespoons butter
- Optional: 1/2 cup sour cream
- additional salt and pepper to taste
- Without using a trivet, add the chopped potatoes to the pressure cooker pot.
- Pour in the chicken broth, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper. Stir.
- Close the lid and set it for 10 minutes on high pressure. After the timer is ended, let the pot natural release for 5 minutes and then finish with a quick release. The potatoes should be soft if poked with a fork.
- Add butter (and sour cream if desired) and mash or hand mix until your desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
Step 6: Bonus - Turkey Breast and Gravy
Of course if you have a huge family coming over for Thanksgiving, you are not going to just cook a turkey breast. However, if you have a family of two, the breast might just be the perfect size! Sometimes people say turkey is dry, but cooking it in a pressure cooker makes it moist, tender, and packed with flavor.
As I mentioned earlier, the cook time you set the pressure cooker for is not the total time the food will be in the pot. After you put the lid on, the timer doesn’t start counting down until the pressure has built up inside the pot. The time it takes depends on how full the pot is, whether the food is frozen or not, how much liquid there is, and the size of your Instant Pot**. Therefore, the frozen turkey breast will take the longest to come to pressure – the pot is more full, there’s a bunch of liquid, and it’s frozen solid. Still, it took about 20 minutes to come to pressure. Meats also usually require a longer natural release method to ensure it stays tender. Even after the timer is done, you will need to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes.
- 1 (3lb) frozen* turkey breast roast
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning
- 2 tbsp butter, cut into pats
- 1-2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 onion, quartered
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 2.5 cups chicken broth
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 turkey gravy packets
- Cut the vegetables into large pieces and place in the Instant Pot. You don't need to worry about cutting into small pieces because the veggies are only added to flavor the gravy and turkey. They will be removed in the end.
- To cut a garlic clove, slice off the rough ends, lay your knife blade or spoon over the clove and press down until you hear a crackle pop. The peel should fall right off.
- Pour chicken broth over the vegetables in the pot and set metal trivet on top. This will keep the turkey off the vegetables.
- Remove the turkey from its plastic bag. Under the wrapper the turkey should be secured with a cotton netting and a gravy pack attached to it. Remove the gravy packet; if you're having trouble, run under warm water. Leave the netting on for now as it will help the turkey keep its shape.
- Rub poultry seasoning all over the turkey and set on top of the trivet in the pot. Add butter pats and rosemary sprigs on top.
- Close the lid and set on manual pressure for 55 minutes. After the timer is done, let the sealing valve naturally release for 20 minutes. After that you can quick release.
- Check the internal temperature all around the turkey to ensure it's 170 degrees F. Remove the turkey and set aside to rest. Once it rests for 10 minutes, you can cut off the netting.
- Optional: If you want a crispy skin on your turkey, you can pop it in the oven on low broil for a few minutes to give it a little color. I added a couple pats or butter to the top to give it the ultimate crisp. Cut into 1/4-1/2 slices.
- Remove the vegetables from the pot. You can use a strainer, but I just used a slotted spoon and dumped the veggies in a waste bowl. Reserve as much liquid as possible for gravy!
- Add both gravy mixes and turn the pot to sauté. Whisk continuously.
- Once the gravy starts to boil, whisk 3-5 additional minutes until the sauce thickens. Turn the cooker off and set aside. The gravy will continue to thicken while cooling.
*This turkey was cooked from frozen. If your turkey is thawed, you can decrease the cook time.
**Bigger Instant Pots take longer to come to pressure due to their larger volume.
Step 7: Gather Round the Table
The entire cooking process - with cranberry sauce, turkey and gravy, green bean casserole, dressing, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes- took about 5-6 hours. Unless you have multiple Instant Pots or you win one in an Instructables challenge, I do not recommend making your entire Thanksgiving meal like this. However, if you know you are going to a friend or family gathering and the oven and stove top is going to be crowded, bring one of these easy Instant Pot/pressure cooker side dishes; the food will be warm and people will be impressed!
First Prize in the
Side Dishes Challenge