See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Sauté – How to use Instant Pot sauté mode, plus tips for success. Using this function of your Instant Pot can save you time and help you to make the best Instant Pot meals!

Instant Pot with display showing "Hot" and Saute button illuminated. Text overlay on image reads, "Saute in your instant pot."

The sauté feature of the Instant Pot is one of the reasons that I love cooking in my Instant Pot pressure cooker. It allows me to make flavorful meals, all in one pot. You can brown meat, sauté vegetables, pressure cook and thicken sauces, all in your Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot sauté mode is fairly straightforward, but I want to answer some common questions and set you up for the best success when using your Instant Pot.

This guide to sauté mode will cover:

If you are new to Instant Pot cooking, start by reading my easy Instant Pot instructions for beginners.

When to use the Sauté button on your Instant Pot

You should use the sauté function of your Instant Pot any time you want your Instant Pot to cook the same way as you would in a pan or pot on the stove. (Never put your Instant Pot base or inner pot on the stove. Always use it as intended.)

Brown or Sauté Ingredients:

Many recipes, such as my Instant Pot Pot Roast, call for browning meat or sautéing vegetables before pressure cooking. Instead of dirtying another pan on the stove, you can do this right in your Instant Pot. Browning beef chuck roast in an Instant Pot.

Thicken Sauces:

After pressure cooking, you can thicken sauces, soups and stews using the sauté function. Recipes often call for stirring in a thickener, such as a cornstarch slurry, to help the sauce thicken as it simmers. Beef stew after thickening in an Instant Pot.

Finish Cooking Food:

Have you ever had the experience where you open your Instant Pot after pressure cooking and your food is almost cooked through, but not quite? You can often finish cooking meat or other food that is not quite done by turning on sauté mode for a few minutes. If your Instant Pot automatically switches to keep warm after pressure cooking, you will need to press Cancel before pressing Sauté.

How to Sauté in an Instant Pot

The basic steps to using Instant Pot sauté to brown meat, vegetables, etc. are:

  1. Press the Sauté button on your Instant Pot. The pot will first display the default sauté time of 30 minutes and then the display will say “On.” Do not worry about trying to change the amount of time, as you can press “Cancel” at any time to turn sauté off. Collage of two photos: Instant Pot display shows "30" and then "On."
  2. Add cooking oil as needed/directed in the recipe.
  3. Wait for the pot to display that it is “Hot.” Instant Pot display shows "Hot."
  4. Add your veggies, meat, etc. to the pot and sauté or brown as directed in the recipe.
  5. Press the “Cancel” button to turn off sauté mode.
  6. Deglaze the pot before pressure cooking by pouring in some of your cooking liquid and scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Be sure to follow the directions in your recipe, as you will sometimes need to remove browned meat before doing this step.

Less/Normal/More Modes

To switch between these modes, press the “Adjust” button. If your Instant Pot does not have an Adjust button, pressing the Sauté button multiple times should switch between modes, or consult the instructions for your Instant Pot model.

  • Use Less when simmering or thickening sauces and other liquids.
  • Use Normal for sautéing vegetables.
  • Use More to brown or sear meat.

Do you sauté with the lid on?

You should never put the Instant Pot lid on when using sauté. If you have a glass lid with a venting hole for your Instant Pot and are concerned about food splattering, you can put it on while sautéing, but this is not necessary. I never sauté with a lid on.

Tips for Instant Pot Sauté Mode

  • After you press the Sauté button, wait for the pot to get hot before adding your food. The display on most models will show “Hot” when the pot is hot.
  • Add cooking oil before adding meats or vegetables to the pot. The exception is that you do not need to add oil if you are browning ground beef or another meat that will release its own fat as it cooks.
  • When browning pieces of meat, such as chicken thighs, do not move the meat until it has formed a browned crust on the bottom. This usually takes a few minutes. Trying to move the meat too soon can cause it to stick to the bottom of the pot. It’s also important to use enough oil, as I have found that delicate meats such as chicken tend to stick easily to the bottom of the pot.
  • Always deglaze the pot after sautéing. This means that you pour in a some of your cooking liquid, such as broth or water, and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. If you do not do this, you are much more likely to get a burn message while pressure cooking. Learn more about how to prevent the Instant Pot burn message here. Pouring broth into an instant pot to deglaze after sauteing.

Does the Instant Pot sauté as well as a pan on the stove?

In my experience, the Instant Pot does not sauté quite as well as a pan on the stove. But I still use the sauté function almost every time that I use my Instant Pot. Why? It works well enough, and it is extremely convenient.

You can expect that it will take a little longer to brown meats or stir fry vegetables in your Instant Pot, compared to cooking on the stove. Not having to wash a second pot and transfer food between pots makes this small inconvenience well worth it for me.

More Instant Pot Resources:

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