Why Does Instant Pot Food Burn?

the dreaded instant pot food burn
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Why does Instant Pot food burn? What would cause the Instant Pot food burn error indicator to come on? There are several reasons that your Instant Pot may display “burn”, fortunately they are all easily remedied. Vegan food, like any other food, can burn in an Instant Pot under certain conditions. Of course, the reasons that your food may burn in your Instant Pot, and the remedies, don’t just apply to vegan food, they apply to any food that ends up displaying the ‘burn’ message in your Instant Pot.

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The Dreaded Instant Pot Food Burn Message
the dreaded instant pot food burn

Below are the main reasons that your IP may display the Instant Pot food burn error. You also may want to take a look at our Instant Pot Quick Start guide, and of course all of our yummy gluten-free vegan Instant Pot recipes!

The following are things which can cause your Instant Pot to display the ‘burn’ error:

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Reasons for the Instant Pot Food Burn Message

Insufficient Liquid

By far and away, the primary case of your Instant Pot displaying the ‘burn’ error is that you did not put enough liquid in the pot before starting it. Instant Pots, like all pressure cookers, rely on steam pressure to cook food. If there isn’t enough liquid in the pot, the food can burn as it cooks. Make sure there’s enough liquid in the pot.

There Was Sufficient Liquid but it Escaped

Make sure that your pressure release valve is set to ‘closed’ (turned clockwise) before starting your Instant Pot. Otherwise steam (moisture) will escape, causing the amount of liquid in the pot to drop. If you are sure it’s closed, but after it comes to pressure you still hear steam escaping, then your sealing ring may need to be replaced.

Too-Thick Sauces

Thick sauces, like tomato-based ones, can burn more easily in an Instant Pot. To prevent this, you can add a layer of water or broth beneath the sauce, or thin out the sauce with more liquid.

Overfilling the Pot

If there’s too much food in the pot, some food may stick to the bottom and burn. So don’t overfill the pot, and also make sure to stir the ingredients before cooking.

Layering Ingredients

Non-pressure cooking recipes often involve layering ingredients, such as vegetables, grains, and legumes. While this approach works well in traditional cooking, it can be problematic in an Instant Pot. The pressure cooker relies on even heat distribution, and layering ingredients can create uneven cooking surfaces and hot spots, leading to burning.


Some Less Likely But Still Possible Reasons

Incorrect Pressure Setting or Cooking Time

Sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) overcooked food can lead to burning. Vegan food can sometimes cook faster than non-vegan food because plant-based ingredients, like vegetables, generally cook faster.

Natural Pressure Release vs. Quick Release

Some recipes require a natural pressure release (NPR), which allows the pressure to gradually decrease. This method can help prevent food from sticking and burning. When you quick release (QR) the pressure, in some instances, especially if the food is delicate, the bottom of the pan may still be sufficiently hot so as to cause it to scorch once the pot has been emptied of steam.

Low Fat Content

Plant-based ingredients often contain less fat than their animal-based counterparts. Fat can play a crucial role in cooking by providing a buffer between the heat source and the ingredients. Without sufficient fat, the food may be more susceptible to direct heat exposure, leading to scorching or burning.

High Sugar Content

Many vegan recipes include natural sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar, or dates. These sweeteners are high in sugar content, which can cause caramelization and burning when exposed to high heat with insufficient moisture. If cooking something sweet at high pressure for extended periods be sure to include enough liquid.

These are the most likely (and some less likely) reasons that your Instant Pot may display the “burn” error, and that your food may scorch or burn in your Instant Pot. The most important thing to remember is that if your Instant Pot does display the ‘burn’ error, turn it off, let it cool down, and then open it up and clean it out. You may even be able to salvage most of the food in there!


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