My cousin Rachel told me last weekend that she never realized she afraid of her Instant Pot until she read a recipe that said “Don’t be afraid! Just use it!” And then she realized she WAS afraid!
So in case anyone got an Instant Pot last month (or last year) and there it sits in the box, I'm here to push you out of the nest with a fail-proof side dish to break that baby in. An Instant Pot is a great tool for things like rice and quinoa as it can act kind of like a rice cooker, giving you perfectly cooked grains and seeds (did you know that quinoa is technically a seed?).
This quinoa is the perfect side dish for, well, anything really. I especially love it alongside salmon or grilled chicken! With the addition of some pecorino cheese and milk, this quinoa is a bit creamy, like risotto! Quinoa risotto…Quinoa-sotto? Risott-oa? That’s a decision for another day.
Everything, even the toasted almonds, is cooked right in the Instant Pot, so it’s super easy.
I think you will LOVE this recipe because:
It’s one-pot (Instant Pot to be exact)
It’s got a sweet/savory combo going on
The texture, with the soft cranberries and the crunchy almonds, is on point
A few things to keep in mind before we dive in:
I like to add the dried cranberries in before cooking, which results in some sweetness being released into the quinoa. If you want, you could stir in the cranberries at the end!
If you toast the almonds first, then reserve them and stir them in after the quinoa has cooked, they’ll retain more of their crunch. But if you’re not looking for a big texture contrast, just add them in before cooking the quinoa!
The cook time on this is 1 minute. Yep, you read that right. HOWEVER, you can expect that it will take some time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure (so it’s starting to cook then), AND after the timer goes off, you’ll let it sit and “naturally release” for 10 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure and opening the lid. This results in perfectly cooked quinoa!
At the end, you’ll add the cheese and milk to make kind of a creamy sauce. If it seems too tight/thick, add a bit more milk to thin it out. If it seems too loose/thin, add more cheese!
Instant Pot Cranberry Almond Quinoa
1 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups quinoa, rinsed
4 cups water or broth (whatever kind you have, I used chicken broth)
1/3 cup grated pecorino, romano, or parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk (whatever kind you have)
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
kosher salt (maybe 1/4 tsp to taste, hard cheeses and broth can both be salty)
1/4 tsp black pepper
Turn Instant Pot to Saute mode and let it heat up a bit. Add the slivered almonds and stir around with a spoon while letting them toast. Once you can start to smell them and they are lightly browned, remove the almonds to a small bowl for later.
Keep the Instant Pot on Saute mode and add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of the insert. Add onions and quinoa and cook 3-5 minutes. Stir in dried cranberries and full quart of broth.
Seal the instant pot and set to cook for 1 minute (yes you read that right) on high manual pressure.
TIP: The “cook time” is short, but the quinoa will continue to cook in the next step!
Once Instant Pot heats up, and finishes the one minute cook time, allow it to naturally release for 10 minutes, then manually release the rest of the pressure.
TIP: Natural release just means do nothing for 10 minutes! Don’t release the pressure until the display reads L0:10 (has been on low, after cook time, for 10 minutes).
Take the lid off and add in pecorino (or other) cheese, and 1/4 cup milk. Stir to combine and allow the cheese to melt and form a tasty sauce with the milk.
TIP: If it seems too tight/thick, add some more milk until you like the consistency. If it seems too loose/thin, add more cheese.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and at the last minute sprinkle in fresh parsley and toasted almonds from step 1.
Serve alongside a simple protein like grilled chicken or baked fish and roasted veggies.