Kid-Friendly Weeknight Instant Pot Recipes | Working Mother

5 Weeknight Instant Pot Recipes Your Kids Will Love

With hidden veggies!

The first time I used an Instant Pot, I knew my cooking life had changed forever—and for the better. I made my Chuck Roast with Balsamic & Dijon that normally takes hours to braise, but just 50 minutes under pressure turned out a roast so tender I was in awe. That was the first recipe I put in my new cookbook, Weeknight Cooking with your Instant Pot, which is filled with simple kid-friendly recipes with upscale twists your entire family will love. Here are a few recipes from the book to get you going with your Instant Pot!

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese

Trick your kids into eating their veggies.

Kristy Bernardo

This is a recipe I’ve made for years, and I make it even more so now that I cook with my Instant Pot. I made it for a kid’s cooking class I used to teach, and it was always a hit with both the kids and their parents! I love the fact that it’s a familiar comfort food, but it also has that extra special something. It comes together so quickly in my Instant Pot, and I love that I don’t need to sauté the squash separately anymore!


4 to 6 servings

2 tsp (10 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups (280 g) diced butternut squash
1 small onion, chopped 1 lb (454 g)
dried macaroni 4 cups (944 ml)
water 1 cup (236 ml)
whole milk 1 cup (236 ml)
heavy cream 3 cups (340 g)
shredded cheddar cheese (or more, see note)
1 tsp coarse salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste


  1. Press "Saute" to preheat your Instant Pot. When the word "hot" appears on the display, add the olive oil, then the squash and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft, about 5 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if it starts to stick. Press "Cancel" to turn off the Instant Pot, then mash the squash with a potato masher until smooth.

  2. Add the pasta to the Instant Pot and pour the water over, taking care that all the pasta is submerged. Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Press "Manual" and adjust the timer to 4 minutes. If you’re using a different pasta, set the timer for half the time on the package cooking directions. Check that the cooking pressure is on "high" and that the release valve is set to "Sealing."

3.When the time is up, open the Instant Pot using "Quick Pressure Release." Stir the pasta, then add the milk, cream and cheese; stir until completely incorporated and the cheese has melted and coated the pasta.

  1. Season well with salt and pepper.


If desired, you can transfer the mixture to a baking dish once it’s done, top with a bit more cheese and broil for a few minutes until the cheese has browned.

Carne Asada Tacos

Carne Asada Tacos

Great for picky eaters.

Kristy Bernardo

We used to drive down to Rosarito, Mexico, at least once a month when I lived in Southern California just to get these tacos. They’re simple without any fuss, just the way they serve them there. Add an ice cold Pacífico or Corona with a lime, and it’s the perfect Mexican treat. The recipe makes plenty of steak for filling tacos, so you can plan to have tacos another night or even use the leftover meat to serve with eggs for breakfast.


8 to 10 servings

STEAK 3 lb (1.4 kg) flank steak, cut into 2 or 3 large pieces
Coarse salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice from 3 limes
1 cup (226 ml) beef broth

TOMATILLO SAUCE 1 lb (454 g) fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
1 jalapeño
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (7 g) fresh cilantro
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

FOR SERVING Corn tortillas
Chopped white onion
Chopped cilantro
Sliced avocado


  1. Place the steak in a large baking dish and season both sides with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze the lime juice over the steak and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, make the tomatillo sauce. Preheat the oven to broil and place the tomatillos cut-side down on a sheet pan. Add the jalapeño and garlic and drizzle with the olive oil. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until charred and blackened in spots. Place in a high-powered blender along with the cilantro, salt and pepper. Puree until very smooth.

  3. Put the steak in the Instant Pot and pour in the beef broth. Close and lock the lid. Press "Manual" and adjust the timer to 20 minutes. Check that the cooking pressure is on "high" and that the release valve is set to "Sealing."

  4. When the time is up, allow the Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. Carefully open the lid and remove the steak. The liquid can be discarded. Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes, then thinly slice it against the grain.

  5. Grill the tortillas, if desired. Assemble the tacos by putting a few slices of steak and some onion, cilantro, and avocado in a corn tortilla. Top with the tomatillo mixture.

Chocolate Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries

Chocolate Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries

Yes, dessert too.

Kristy Bernardo

I first began making cheesecake in my Instant Pot in the summertime when I realized I wouldn’t have to turn on my oven. Now I use it because I don’t have to mess with a water bath or cracks in my cheesecake. This chocolate version is incredibly rich and pairs wonderfully with the fresh, sweet raspberries.

(UNDER PRESSURE) 40 minutes

6 to 8 servings

1 cup (227 g) crushed chocolate sandwich cookies with cream filling (such as Oreos)
2 tbsp (28 g) butter, melted
16 oz (454 g) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup (144 g) sugar
¼ cup (56 g) sour cream
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1¼ cups (225 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (236 ml) water
2 pints (572 g) fresh raspberries


  1. Spray a 7-inch (18-cm) cheesecake pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Mix the crushed cookies and butter together, then press them into the bottom of the pan.

  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sour cream and eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

  3. Melt the chocolate chips by microwaving in 30-second increments until they’re melted enough to stir. They should still hold their shape somewhat when you begin stirring. Continue to stir until smooth and all the chips are completely melted. Stir the melted chips into the cheesecake batter.

  4. Pour the batter into the cheesecake pan then cover it tightly with foil. Make a foil sling, folding lengthwise twice, then set the cheesecake pan in the center. Pour the water into the pot then put the trivet on top. Place the cheesecake on the sling in the pot, taking care to fold the sling handles down so they don’t interfere with closing the pot.

  5. Close and lock the lid. Press “Manual” and adjust the timer to 40 minutes. Check that the cooking pressure is on “high” and that the release valve is set to “Sealing.”

  6. When the time is up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes then release any remaining pressure using “Quick Pressure Release.” Carefully remove the cheesecake using the sling, then cool it completely on a wire rack. Chill for at least 4 hours. Starting in the center and moving in a circle, top the cheesecake with fresh raspberries.

Loaded Veggie Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze

Loaded Veggie Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze

More hidden veggies.

Kristy Bernardo

This meatloaf has long been a family favorite and making it in my Instant Pot is a breeze! The combination of beef and Italian sausage gives great flavor, and I love that it has veggies baked right in. Make sure your veggies are cut into very small pieces to ensure they cook all the way through. It’s perfect with Creamy Mashed Potatoes (page 126) and Two-Minute Maple-Glazed Carrots (page 135)


6 to 8 servings

2 tsp (10 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium zucchini, diced
½ medium red onion, diced
½ yellow bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (454 g) ground beef
1 lb (454 g) ground Italian sausage
1 cup (108 g) panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup (10 g) chopped parsley
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup (90 g) shaved Parmesan
¼ cup (61 g) ketchup
¼ cup (59 ml) balsamic vinegar


  1. Press "Saute" to preheat the Instant Pot. When the word "hot" appears on the display, add the olive oil, then the zucchini, onions, bell peppers and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about another minute, stirring frequently. Press "Cancel" to turn off the Instant Pot.

  2. Place the veggie mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground beef, Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, salt and Parmesan. Using your hands, mix until it’s just incorporated. Form it gently into a meatloaf shape.

  3. Place 1 cup (236 ml) of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot, then place the steam rack inside the pot. Fold two large pieces of tinfoil in half lengthwise, then overlap them in the middle to make a "plus" sign. Place the meatloaf in the center. Using the foil as handles, place the meatloaf into the Instant Pot on top of the steam rack, leaving the foil in place and folding it over as needed so as not to obstruct placement of the lid.

  4. Mix together the ketchup and balsamic vinegar, then brush over the top and sides of the meatloaf.

  5. Close and lock the lid. Press "Manual" and adjust the timer to 30 minutes. Check that the cooking pressure is on "high" and that the release valve is set to "Sealing."

  6. When the time is up, open the Instant Pot using "Quick Pressure Release." Allow the meatloaf to rest about 5 minutes, then remove it from the pot using the foil handles. Slice it and serve.

Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken

Perfect for leftover rice.

Kristy Bernardo

You’ll love cooking chicken thighs in your Instant Pot! They’re not too thick so they cook quickly, plus they have a great flavor. This simple recipe is one of my girls’ favorites.


4 to 6 servings

2 lb (0.9 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup (59 ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
3 tbsp (45 ml) mirin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp (20 g) sesame seeds
2–3 green onions, sliced
Rice and vegetables, for serving


  1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs.

  2. Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of the Instant Pot. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, mirin, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Pour the sauce over the chicken, tossing it to coat. Close the lid, and press "Manual." Set the timer for 6 minutes, making sure that the Instant Pot is set to "high" and that the release valve is set to "Sealing."

  3. When the time is up, open the Instant Pot using "Quick Pressure Release." Once the pressure is completely released, remove the lid. Remove the chicken and set it aside on a plate tented with foil. Switch the Instant Pot to "Saute" and set it to "More." Gently boil until the sauce is thick, sticky and coats a spoon, about 7 to 8 minutes. Place the chicken back into the sauce and toss it gently to reheat.

  4. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and green onions over the chicken. Serve it immediately over rice with a side of your favorite vegetables. I love steamed sugar snap peas with this.

Weeknight Cooking With Your Instant Pot

Get cooking!

Kristy Bernardo


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