Pinakbet is a Filipino vegetable dish that uses a medley of vegetables with some protein steamed in a fish or shrimp sauce called bagoong. It is traditionally cooked on a stovetop but I’m introducing a Pinakbet Instant Pot Recipe that will enable you to spend less time in the kitchen when cooking this famous Filipino vegetable dish.
Pinakbet or Pakbet has a lot of variations depending on which province you’re from in the Philippines – Pinakbet Ilokano VS Pinakbet Tagalog, etc.
Origin of Pinakbet
This Filipino vegetable dish – Pinakbet – is an indigenous Filipino dish from the northern regions of the Philippines. The word is the contracted form of the Ilokano word pinakebbet, meaning “shrunk” or “shriveled”.
A pinakbet recipe usually includes eggplant, okra, sitaw (yard-long string beans), and ampalaya (bitter melon). It also includes tomato and the Tagalog version typically has kalabasa (squash). And while most Filipino recipes have either soy sauce and vinegar or fish sauce (patis) in it, the pinakbet recipe uses bagoong to flavor the dish.
Pinakbet Tagalog VS Ilokano
Just like the Filipino Adobo that has many variations, pinakbet has its own variations too depending on which province in the Philippines you grew up from and how your household cook makes them. Ours seem to always make it with ampalaya – that bitter vegetable that’s hard to swallow as a kid! And if there are leftover ampalaya that failed to make it to the pinakbet, you’re guaranteed to have ginisang ampalaya with egg the next day. LOL!
But let’s talk about all the different types of pinakbet. I’ve heard of Pinakbet Ilonggo-style, Pinakbet Kapampangan, and Pinakbet Bisaya, and then there is Pinakbet Tagalog VS Pinakbet Ilokano that I’m more familiar with.
Pinakbet Tagalog uses bagoong alamang (shrimp) while Pinakbet Ilokano, which is the original version, uses bagoong isda (fish). While I grew up eating pinakbet using bagoong isda because I’m from the Northeast of Luzon which is primarily Ilokano, in Manila, most restaurants serve pinakbet that uses bagoong alamang (shrimp). In Filipino restaurants in America, I have yet to order their pinakbet.
So which pinakbet do I prefer? I prefer cooking pinakbet Tagalog that uses bagoong alamang. I find bagoong isda a tad bit more salty but I do like bagoong isda as a condiment for tortang talong (Filipino eggplant omelette dish).
Buying your Pinakbet Ingredients
To buy the ingredients for pinakbet, I recommend visiting a Filipino supermarket like Islands Pacific or Seafood City if you’re from the U.S. In smaller U.S. cities, you may find smaller Filipino grocery stores that sell the vegetable for pinakbet as well. It is hard to find most of the vegetables at your local grocery store. They may have okra and tomato but that’s about it, even the eggplants are the giant oval ones rather than the long thin ones used for pinakbet.
At the vegetable section at Filipino supermarkets, you can even find pre-pack pinakbet vegetables already portioned for pinakbet. All you have to do is wash and maybe cut it further to your liking. Cutting a whole kalabasa for pinakbet is actually really hard so if I can buy it already pre-cut for pinakbet, even better.
The number of vegetables used for pinakbet can vary. You don’t need to stick to the amount recommended in my recipe. An equal amount of the main vegetables in the recipe for pinakbet is recommended but if you want to have more okra than eggplant, go for it. I like putting a lot of okra but hubby actually hates okra. Haha.
I also didn’t include ampalaya (bitter melon) into my Pinakbet Instant Pot Recipe. I’m not exactly a fan of ampalaya in pinakbet but if you want it – go ahead and add it. A tip I learned to make the ampalaya less bitter is to soak the ampalaya in hot water with salt for 30 minutes. I have yet to try it though.
What is Bagoong in Pinakbet
Bagoong is a Philippine condiment partially or completely made of either fermented fish (bagoóng isda) or krill or shrimp paste (alamáng) with salt. The fermentation process also produces fish sauce known as patis (we used patis for our Arroz Caldo Instant Pot Recipe).
For a pinakbet recipe, you can use either type of bagoong but my Pinakbet Instant Pot Recipe will be using the bagoong alamang. In particular, I used the Kamayan brand of Sauteed Shrimp Paste. It’s available as original (mild), spicy, and sweet. There are other brands of bagoong available as well. In the Philippines, you can buy bagoong alamang that hasn’t been sauteed yet.
To most Westerners unfamiliar with bagoong, the smell can be extremely repulsive especially if it is served as a side condiment for green mangoes or our Kare-Kare Instant Pot dish but when added to flavor pinakbet, the smell goes away and it blends in with the vegetables really well.
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How to Cook Pinakbet in the Instant Pot
It is very easy to cook the pinakbet in an Instant Pot. Just prepare the vegetables, saute the flavorings, then cook the main ingredients for 8 minutes.
Prepare the Pinakbet Ingredients
- Minced 3 cloves of garlic. I used a small food processor to make it easier for me since I cook with a lot of fresh garlic all the time.
- Chopped 1/4 of a large onion. Peel the outside then cut them into smaller pieces before chopping. Chopping them on the food processor helps in making sure I don’t turn to tears chopping onions. Haha.
- Wash the eggplant then cut the top off and cut the eggplant diagonally. Set aside
- Wash the okra then cut the top off and the bottom tip. Set aside.
- Wash the sitaw (long string beans) then cut them into 2-3″ long.
- Slice your kalabasa (squash), discard the seeds and harder outer part then cut the squash into cubes.
Saute protein and flavorings in the Instant Pot
- Press Instant Pot’s Saute Mode. Once heated, add some cooking oil then brown all sides of the pork belly.
- Add the garlic and onion and cook for about a minute.
- Add the tomato and bagoong and cook for about a minute. Mix.
- Add water, salt, and pepper and mix everything together.
- Press CANCEL to stop SAUTE mode on the Instant Pot.
Cook the Pinakbet in the Instant Pot
- Add all the remaining ingredients (okra, eggplant, sitaw, kalabasa) into the Instant Pot and mix all the ingredients thoroughly to coat the vegetables with the pork-tomato-bagoong mix we’ve sauteed prior. This will blend all the flavors with the vegetables while cooking the pinakbet without needing to mix it when it has already cooked so the dish won’t get mush.
- Cover the Instant Pot and make sure to set the top to “Sealing” position before cooking the pinakbet.
- Press MANUAL and adjust cooking time to 8 minutes. You can now leave the kitchen and do something else while the Instant Pot builds pressure for about 6-8 minutes, cooks the pinakbet for 8 minutes. Come back to release pressure after that. Releasing pressure will only take about 2 minutes.
Using Instant Pot to Cook Pinakbet
Instant Pot is a pressure cooker and most recipes that can benefit from cooking in one are those that cook long like those with tough cuts of meat. Since Pinakbet does not have a tough cut of meat, why do we need to cook it in an Instant Pot? Well, the answer is so we don’t need to sit on it while the vegetables soften.
Cooking pinakbet on the stovetop versus the Instant Pot may actually take the same amount of time but the amount of time we actually stay to watch it cook would be longer on the traditional stovetop. When I set the pinakbet to cook in the Instant Pot, I can just come back for it when it’s already done cooking. If you’re cooking a lot of dishes, it’s also one dish that doesn’t have to take up space on the stovetop. And for Instant Pot fans, well, we just like to cook everything in the Instant Pot.
Cooking time for pinakbet can also vary in the Instant Pot depending on how soft you want your vegetables. For me and my husband, we like the vegetables soft so I set it to 10 minutes but for this recipe, I set it to 8 minutes as most people want to serve their pinakbet with the vegetables still a little crunchy and holding its form. If you set it to 12 minutes, it would already be too mushy.
Pinakbet Instant Pot Recipe
- 1 tbsp. cooking oil
- 1/4 lb. pork belly, sliced into 1/2" thick or less
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 large onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. bagoong alamang (shrimp)
- 1 cup water
- 2 small eggplant, cut diagonally
- 1 pack of okra (about 15 pieces), cut ends off
- 1 handful long string bean, cut 2" long
- 2 slices of kalabasa squash, seeded, peeled, cut into cubes
- Wash and cut all the vegetables, fruits, and protein for your pinakbet.
- Press SAUTE on Instant Pot Pressure Cooker and wait to heat then add cooking oil.
- Add pork and brown them on all sides for about 5 minutes.
- Add minced garlic, chopped onion and saute for about 1 minute.
- Add tomato and bagoong and saute for about 1 minute to bring out all the flavors and mix.
- Add water, salt, black pepper, and mix thoroughly.
- Press CANCEL to stop SAUTE mode.
- Add all the remaining ingredients (vegetables and fruits) and blend everything together before closing the Instant Pot. By blending the ingredients together, all the vegetables will be full of flavor from the bagoong-tomato sauce we've sauteed so we don't need to mix the pinakbet after it's already cooked as this will mush the vegetables when it's already soft.
- Close the Instant Pot and make sure it is sealed on top.
- Press MANUAL and adjust to 8 minutes of cooking time at a normal level. It will take the Instant Pot about 6-8 minutes to build pressure and about 2 minutes to release steam after cooking.
Is Pinakbet Healthy?
Pinakbet is primarily a vegetable dish so it is a healthy dish except maybe for the sodium content from using bagoong. Here are some health benefits of eating the vegetables and fruits in a pinakbet dish:
- Okra in pinakbet is rich in magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, K1, and A. Okra may benefit pregnant women, heart health, and blood sugar control. It may even have anti-cancer properties.
- Eggplant is a high-fiber, low-calorie food that is rich in nutrients and comes with many potential health benefits – from reducing the risk of heart disease to helping with blood sugar control and weight loss.
- Yard-long String Beans (sitaw) contain a good amount of vitamin C, an excellent source of Vitamin A, and is one of the finest sources of folates. Folate along with vitamin B-12 is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division.
- Calabasa (or Kalabasa in the Philippines) or Squash is a low-calorie food. It is also low-carb even though it is a starchy vegetable. Kalabasa is high in Vitamin A that helps you fight off infections by boosting your immune system and is also essential for helping you see at night. It is also rich in potassium which helps your body maintain fluid and mineral balance while playing an important role in lowering blood pressure. Also in it is Vitamin C which is also an immune booster and supports wound healing. So keep adding kalabasa in your pinakbet, it not only adds color, it’s really healthy for you.
- Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
So I’m curious if we can make a vegetarian pinakbet since it is primarily a vegetable dish and the use of pork or shrimp are just added to enhance the flavor of the pinakbet dish. I have cooked pinakbet without pork before but since what enhances the flavor of the pinakbet dish is the bagoong (fish or shrimp), we can only make a dish inspired by the Filipino pinakbet rather than actually turning it into a vegetarian pinakbet.
For a vegetable dish inspired by the Pinakbet, we can omit the pork and bagoong from the recipe for Pinakbet and add more salt and pepper, and to really intensify the flavor, we’d have to add more garlic and more onions. I would like to try it one of these days and share the recipe with you guys. I’m also excited to make a pinakbet recipe with coconut milk but for now, let’s try making the best pinakbet recipe ever using the Instant Pot.
Serving the Pinakbet
I recommend letting the pinakbet cool down a bit before eating it. Unlike the Bulalo that should be eaten piping hot, pinakbet tastes better when it’s not too hot. Pinakbet is usually a side dish to fried fish or fried food but I like eating it as a main dish with steamed rice. If you haven’t tried, it’s also delicious to have bagoong as a condiment for pinakbet so you basically eat it like how you would have bagoong in Kare-Kare. I know that’s a lot of bagoong already but it’s really good with pinakbet.
Did my kids eat the pinakbet? Not at all but I know they will grow up and they will eat it eventually as I also didn’t want to eat pinakbet as a kid. The best I can do is show them all the Filipino food there is and right now Filipino pork bbq is their favorite.
Hope you guys enjoy my recipe!
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