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Do you have to put water in an electric pressure cooker?

When using an electric pressure cooker, one of the most common questions people have is whether you need to add water. The quick answer is yes, you do need to add liquid to an electric pressure cooker before pressure cooking. However, the amount of liquid you need and what type of liquid to use depends on what you’re cooking. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at why you need liquid and how much to use in an electric pressure cooker.

Why Do You Need Liquid in an Electric Pressure Cooker?

Liquid is a necessary component in pressure cooking for several reasons:

  • Creates steam – Pressure cookers work by trapping steam inside the sealed pot. The steam is what allows the food to cook faster. Without any liquid to boil and create steam, the pressure cooker would not be able to build up pressure.
  • Prevents burning – The liquid creates a barrier between the food and the bottom of the pot. This prevents food from scorching or burning on the bottom surface.
  • Even heat distribution – Steam disperses the heat evenly throughout the pressure cooker, ensuring food cooks uniformly.
  • Tenderizes food – Steam penetrates food and helps tenderize meats and beans.
  • Creates sauce – Many dishes benefit from having a sauce or gravy. The liquid helps create more flavorful sauces and gravies.

So in short, liquid is mandatory in an electric pressure cooker. Without it, the appliance would not be able to function properly and you would not achieve the characteristic results of pressure cooked foods.

What Type of Liquid Should You Use?

You have options when it comes to what type of liquid to use in your electric pressure cooker:

  • Water – Plain water is the most common liquid used. Use water for cooking grains, beans, meats, vegetables and more.
  • Broth – Chicken, beef or vegetable broth will add more flavor to dishes. Use broth for cooking rice, beans, meats, soups and stews.
  • Wine – Red or white wine works well for meats and braised dishes.
  • Tomato juice/sauce – Use for dishes that call for a tomato-based liquid.
  • Coconut milk – For cooking curries or infusing Thai/Indian dishes with coconut flavor.

Stick to liquids like water, broths, juices, wine, and milk when pressure cooking. Avoid using cream or thick purees which can scorch on the bottom of the pot.

How Much Liquid is Needed?

As a general rule of thumb, you need at least 1 cup of liquid for the pressure cooker to come up to pressure. However, the exact amount you need depends on:

  • What you’re cooking – Drier foods like rice or beans require more liquid while recipes with a sauce or gravy need less added liquid.
  • Size of pressure cooker – Larger pressure cookers need more liquid than smaller 3-4 quart models.
  • Cooking time – Foods that cook longer need more liquid to keep from drying out.

Specific liquid amounts based on what you’re cooking:


Use a 1:1 ratio of rice to liquid. So for 1 cup of rice, add 1 cup liquid.


Beans need lots of liquid to cook evenly. Use a 3:1 ratio, adding 3 cups liquid for every 1 cup dried beans.


Add 1/2 cup water for every 2 lbs of vegetables. You can also place vegetables in a steamer basket over water.


Use 1/2 – 1 cup liquid for braising meats like beef, pork or chicken. Stews and chilies also need at least 1 cup liquid.


Follow recipe, but make sure finished soup has at least 6 cups liquid for a 6 quart cooker (scale down for smaller sizes).

Grains like Quinoa, Farro, Wheat Berries

Use a 2:1 ratio, adding 2 cups liquid for every 1 cup grain.

Food Liquid Ratio
Rice 1:1 rice to liquid
Beans 3:1 liquid to beans
Vegetables 1/2 cup liquid per 2 lbs veggies
Meats 1/2 – 1 cup liquid
Soups/Chili 6 cups liquid for 6 quart cooker
Grains 2:1 liquid to grains

These liquid ratios are a guide, but you may need to adjust. Always check the pot during cooking and add more liquid as needed if food looks dry.

Tips for Adding Liquid

Here are some useful tips when adding liquid to your electric pressure cooker:

  • Don’t fill past the max fill line – Most electric cookers have a max fill line so don’t exceed this.
  • Use room temperature liquid – Cold liquid from the fridge will increase pressurization time.
  • Add liquid first – Pour liquid in pot before adding food ingredients.
  • Stir/shake ingredients – Give food a stir before securing the lid to evenly distribute liquid.
  • Check pot midway – Quick release pressure after half the cook time to check if more liquid is needed.
  • Prevent scorching – If cooking thicker sauces/purees, place a heat-proof trivet or steamer basket in bottom of pot first.


At least some amount of liquid is required when using an electric pressure cooker. The liquid produces steam which is necessary for pressure cooking. Water, broths, wines, juices and coconut milk are all good options. Use the recommended liquid-to-food ratios based on what you are cooking. Make sure to check the pot periodically and add more liquid as needed. With the right amount of liquid, you’ll get perfect results from your electric pressure cooker.