Pressure Cooker Farro with Tomatoes and Spinach

Pause whatever you’re planning for your weekly food prep, y’all.  I’ve got a quick pressure cooker farro recipe that you can double (or treble!), that reheats well, and that can serve as a side dish or a main meal!  Scroll down past the recipe for step-by-step instructions and my musings on the glories of farro!

Pressure Cooker Farro with Tomatoes and Spinach

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A one-pot meal or hearty side featuring farro, tomato, and spinach.

Inspired by:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 large vidalia onion, quartered and sliced very thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped or finely diced
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock/broth
  • 1.5 cups farro
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish


  1. In your preheated Instant Pot (set to Saute on Normal), add olive oil.  When heated, add fennel seeds and let them sizzle in the oil for about a minute.  Don’t let them burn.
  2. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until translucent (a good dash of salt will help the onions cook faster), about 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach and incorporate thoroughly.
  4. Add in farro, stock and red pepper flakes, stir once more, and immediately close the lid.
  5. 5. Cancel the sauté setting, and set the Instant Pot to Manual (high pressure) for 12 minutes.  When the time is up, Quick Release the pressure (which will take about 2 minutes) .
  6. Open lid and stir.  If still a little wet, cook down (over Saute mode) until nearly desired consistency.
  7. Stir in parmesan and most of the basil.
  8. Serve, garnished with remaining basil and additional parmesan (optional).

My G-d, y’all, this recipe.  It’s that wonderful combination of grains and vegetables with savory broth and spices that just speaks to you on the last cold days of the winter. (We’ve gone from 70 degrees on Thursday to 29 degrees this morning.  My brain and stomach are so confused right now)!

img_3283This third installment of my Discovering Food series is sponsored in part by farro.  I went through a farro phase two years ago.  Originally, I discovered the amazing grain looking for protein-rich breakfast options for a no-eggs vegetarian.  Farro is so versatile–you can use it like an oatmeal for breakfast and like a rice for dinner.  Consistency-wise, farro is somewhere between brown rice and barley, and it’s just so filling. I was staying in California when I discovered farro, so picking it up at Trader Joe’s was easy.  When I came back to Virginia (where our closest Trader Joe’s is 2 hours away in Winston-Salem, NC), I couldn’t find it easily, so I began stockpiling it whenever I’d go home to Baltimore.  Then, as so often happens, I got distracted by a new set of recipes and foods, and a bag of farro languished in the back of my pantry.  For what it’s worth, farro is now readily available at Kroger, so I have a feeling I’ll be eating far more of it again.

So when this old recipe on smitten kitchen for farro with tomatoes resurfaced on my feed, I remembered how much I’d liked making it in the past.  I thought to convert it to make in my Instant Pot, and I was not disappointed in the results following the ingredients to spec.

But then, as I was eating it, I started getting modification ideas…  More veggies! And fennel seeds! And broth!  And then I invented something new.

Farro is a hearty grain.  This is a recipe to which, if I were still eating meat, I would add browned sausage crumbles.  Fennel was my favorite part of a good sausage, so I started their with my reimagining (alternatively, you could slice some fennel very thinly and either add them to the onion or replace the onion).

Okay, so the how-to.  I find it easiest with recipes like this to prep all the produce first, as once you start sautéing, it comes together very quickly.  Take your half an onion, quarter, and slice it very thinly.  Mince your garlic.  Quarter your grape or cherry tomatoes.  Chop up your mushrooms.  I finely diced mine because I wanted them to break down into the vegetable stock , but if you want larger pieces of mushroom in your meal, by all means, chop them bigger!


This recipe could easily be made in a large, stovetop pressure cooker (just sauté everything directly in the pot and cook the farro for 12 minutes once high pressure has been reached.  For other electric pressure cookers, you may have to saute in a separate stovetop pan first. You could also make it on the stovetop in a dutch oven–just adjust your cook time for whatever your farro package recommends.

For those using an Instant Pot, plug it in and set it to Saute mode.  Heat oil and add fennel seeds.  The seeds will sizzle.  Move them around for about a minute, making sure they don’t burn.  This is a really important part of the process, as the oil will infuse with the fennel flavor, adding that savory, almost meat-like quality to your dish.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are become translucent, about three minutes (add salt to speed this up, if you wish).  Now, add your tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes and mix well.

Add farro, pour in broth, and stir once more, then immediately put on the lid.  Normally, when pressure cooking farro, you’ll want proportions of 2 parts water to 1 part farro.  However, with the amount of water-releasing vegetables and fruits in this recipe, I cut back on the liquid a half a cup.  This made the farro still a little watery after pressure cooking, but I prefer to cook down this recipe until it’s the consistency I want rather than risk not having enough water.  Play around with the proportions as it works for you.  Cancel the Sauté setting and set your pressure cooker to 12 minutes at high pressure.  Make sure your pressure release knob is set to the Sealing Position.  Once the pressure cooker indicates it’s done, Quick Release the pressure (the Instant Pot took about 2 minutes).

There will probably still a little bit of liquid left over (all farro brands cook a little differently), so set the Instant Pot back to Saute and cook down a little.  When your dish is about the consistency you would like, add in parmesan and most of the basil, stirring well.  Serve, garnished with remaining basil and parmesan to taste.  Don’t be surprised if you end up having leftovers – I was only able to eat about half of this bowl (it’s so filling)!



3 thoughts on “Pressure Cooker Farro with Tomatoes and Spinach

  1. This was absolutely wonderful! Full of flavor, awesome texture from the farro, and so easy to throw together! Just one question – wondering how much fennel seed to use. We skipped them this time because our fennel seeds were crawling with bugs (yuk!), but I’d like to add them next time.


    1. Sarah!! Thank you so much for your comment. I was particularly happy with how this turned out, so I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Between 1/4 and 1/2 of a tsp is good for the fennel (Thanks for the comment, btw. I didn’t realize I’d accidentally left that out of the recipe). Fennel can be overpowering, so I generally start low with it and then tweak from there depending on how much you like it!


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