Instant Pot Fennel, Chickpea, and Brown Rice Stew

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This Instant Pot Chickpea and Brown Rice Stew is a complete, balanced meal and is so simple - just add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot and dinner will be waiting for you! Healthy, vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free, and soy-free.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 50 minutes
4.9 from 31 votes

As I write this, we are experiencing unprecedented times, and people are seriously stocking up their pantries. I have nothing novel to say about it or secrets on how to protect yourself (I leave that to the public health experts), but I do have some pantry-friendly recipes that can be made with just pantry staples.

A few pantry meals from last week’s Youtube video include:

And by no coincidence, this Instant Pot Fennel, Chickpea, and Brown Rice Stew is also a mostly pantry-ready meal (the section “how to make this recipe with pantry-only ingredients” includes tips on how to fully make it a pantry-only meal). Oh, one more easy Instant Pot recipe that’s mostly pantry-friendly is this White Bean Stew!

Plus, regardless of whether you need to limit yourself to pantry staples or if you’re reading this during less stressful times, this stew is an easy dump-and-go recipe, which means you can quite literally, dump all the ingredients into the Instant Pot, do no hands-on cooking, and come back to a warm, delicious dinner!

Why you’re going to like this recipe 

Dump-and-go. We already talked about this, but it’s impossible to dislike a recipe that requires zero hands-on cooking!

Weeknight-friendly. See above. You can have dinner on the table and all you need to do is 10ish minutes of chopping. Oh, and one-pot meals also mean minimal dishwashing! Bonus: the Instant Pot inner pot is dishwasher safe!

A complete balanced meal. Protein? Check. Complex Carbs? Check. Lots of Veggies? Check. Say hello to chickpeas and brown rice, along with fennel, tomatoes, onions, and greens!

Allergen-friendly and healthy. This stew is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, and nut-free so it is definitely allergen-friendly!

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Ingredient Rundown

The aromatics. As with most of savory recipes, you know that I usually like to start with some aromatics. This could be as simple as onions or garlic, but it always varies based on the flavor profile and cuisine of the dish.

This recipe features my ride-or-dies onions and garlic, but also a new favorite of mine: fennel. Fennel has this anise-like sweetness that is SO good in this stew. It adds a nice subtly sweetness that brings a complexity of flavor to this meal that’s otherwise made with mostly pantry ingredients.

If you’re thinking, I could probably make this without fennel…you could…but it is SO much better with the fennel (I know because I’ve made both versions). So if you can get fennel at your grocery store, please buy it!

This recipe is a bit different than most in that you don’t cook the aromatics in oil before adding the remaining ingredients. That’s because there’s no hands-on cooking involved. But don’t omit the aromatics – they still add a good amount of flavor.

I also add fresh thyme, but no worries – you don’t have to chop up the thyme. Just strip off the leaves and add them whole to the Instant Pot. Or, if you have kitchen twine, you can tie up a small handful of thyme sprigs together into a bouquet garni, and add that directly to the pot.

Dried chickpeas. The beauty of the Instant Pot is that it makes it much simpler to cook beans from scratch. No need to babysit the pot, wait for it to boil, or check to see if your beans are burning.

You do need to soak the chickpeas for this recipe overnight or for 8 hours, so it does require a little advance planning. But as long as you can remember to soak the beans, but it takes just 2 minutes to soak the beans.

Note: I do not recommend making this with canned chickpeas because you need to cook this stew for 12 minutes in order for the brown rice to fully cook, and this is too much time to cook canned chickpeas (which are already cooked), so they’ll likely turn to mush.

Similarly, I also do not recommend making this with unsoaked dried chickpeas. That’s because they’ll need a much longer time to cook than 12 minutes-a minimum of 35 minutes, which is too long for brown rice.

Brown Rice. Use a long-grain brown rice variety, such as Basmati brown rice. Short-grain varieties are denser and bind together. Great for rice pudding, not so great for stews like this.

Crushed tomatoes. Read up, this part is important! Thick ingredients like crushed tomatoes tend to burn in the Instant Pot. To avoid this, add the crushed tomatoes (and tomato sauce) at the end and layer them on top of all of the other ingredients without mixing in. The tomatoes are less likely to mix into everything and sink to the bottom of the pot if you pour them as low and close to the pot as possible and not from high above.

Tomato sauce. See above :)

Greens. I stir in a generous few handfuls of greens at the end because, after all, this is a complete balanced meal! I used baby kale, but any green will do – baby spinach, or something hardier like regular kale or Swiss chard. If you do use a heartier green, you’ll need to cook it for a few minutes longer at the end.

How to make this recipe with pantry-only ingredients

I am going to count onions, garlic, and lemon as pantry ingredients since they have a long shelf-life.

Other than that, to make this pantry-friendly, do the following:

  • Omit the fennel. I know, it’s my favorite part. But if you’re quarantined to your apartment and can’t go out to get fennel, it’ll be fine. If you have fennel seeds, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of them.

  • Replace the fresh thyme with dried thyme (1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons).

  • Omit the greens at the end. Sorry, the greens have to go!

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!

Finally, this recipe couldn’t be simpler, but if you want a visual (always helpful IMO), check out this video on my dump-and-go Instant Pot recipes! This Instant Pot Fennel, Chickpea, and Brown Rice Stew recipe is the last one and begins at the 05:01 mark.

Instant Pot Fennel, Chickpea, and Brown Rice Stew

4.9 from 31 votes
This Instant Pot Chickpea and Brown Rice Stew is a complete, balanced meal and is so simple - just add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot and dinner will be waiting for you! Healthy, vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free, and soy-free.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 4


  • 1 cup (200g) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight*
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds**
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
  • 4 cups (950 mL) vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice (about 8 ounces, or 225g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt + more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce / 410g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce / 227g) can tomato sauce
  • 3 to 4 large handfuls of baby spinach or kale (or other greens of choice), chopped roughly
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


  • Pour the vegetable broth into the Instant Pot. Add the soaked and drained chickpeas, onions, fennel, garlic, whole thyme leaves, broth, brown rice, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • Pour the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce on top of the other ingredients, but do not stir, allowing the tomatoes to sit on top (this prevents the tomatoes from blocking the Instant Pot’s heat sensory and burning).
  • Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 12 minutes.
  • Once the 12-minute timer has completed and beeps, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes and then switch the Pressure Release knob from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
  • Open the pot and stir in the greens and lemon juice. Select the Sauté́ setting and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and the stew has slightly thickened. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer stew to individual bowls and garnish with the chopped parsley and the reserved fennel fronds. Store leftovers in the fridge for up 5 to 6 days.


* Cover the beans with 4 to 5 cups (about 1 L) water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Soak for 8 hours or overnight, then drain and rinse them under cold water.
** To prepare the fennel, chop off the tops/stems of the fennel bulbs (discard them or save to make vegetable broth). Reserve the fronds, chop up finely, and set aside. Slice off the thick bottom core from the fennel bulb and slice the fennel bulb in half. Then chop up the bulb into small pieces.

Calories: 363kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 834mg | Potassium: 1470mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 4142IU | Vitamin C: 49mg | Calcium: 191mg | Iron: 7mg

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58 comments on Instant Pot Fennel, Chickpea, and Brown Rice Stew

  1. Confused

    Hi, I made this recipe this evening. The flavors were nice, but the final product is more of a rice dish than a stew. Is the 1.14 cup rice correct?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi! Yes, did you soak the cashews overnight? Also, did you use 4 cups of vegetable broth, can of crushed tomatoes and can of tomato sauce?

  2. Nikki L

    5 stars
    Excited to try this! Does anyone know if this is a freezer friendly meal? (Ie can be made in advance, stored in the freezer and then thawed out when ready to eat?)

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Nikki! I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to store leftovers in an airtight container and put them in the freezer. To thaw, place back in fridge for a day or so and heat on stovetop, stirring enough to help it cook evenly through. We hope you get the chance to make it!

  3. Subir

    5 stars
    Nisha has done it again! This was so easy to make and super tasty. I will definitely be making it again. I have never eaten fennel before so I was not sure what to expect but this was a knockout! Highly recommend

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Glad you got to experience how delicious fennel is! Thank you for making the recipe and for the nice review :)

  4. Karen horn

    How do I modify this if cooking stove top?

  5. Maya

    4 stars
    This was really good! We made so many substitutions, and yet everything tasted delicious and perfectly cooked. The effort: yield ratio is fantastic!

  6. Joyce

    5 stars
    This dish is delicious and easy to make. It’s a great new way to have beans and rice. The leftovers are also fantastic so don’t be afraid to make extra servings.

  7. Madelyn A.

    5 stars
    5 Star rating!
    Delicious and easy to put together. All I did was add
    some Tabasco and vegan parm on top and it was great.
    Thank you for all your recipes.

  8. Kathy

    5 stars
    Made this scrumptious recipe last night! Even my meat eating husband loved it. I doubled the batch which just barely fit in my Insta pot… It was so worth it. We’re on day three and we finished all of it. I am definitely going to make this again soon.

    1. Teja

      Hi Kathy,

      When you double it. Did you double onions, garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce too? Or some other ratio

  9. Erika

    I am just about to make this meal. I have everything ready to go, accept, I forgot to soak my chickpeas. I only have about 3-4 hour until I have to have dinner ready. Should I quickly make something else or I will be fine ? Please advice.

  10. Katie

    5 stars
    Couldn’t find fennel anywhere in my area so I left it out. Realized this recipe was too big for my 3qt instant pot so I downsized to: 3 cups broth, 1 cup rice, and just 1 can crushed tomatoes. Added some ground cumin since it’s my favorite spice and I didn’t have the chili flakes. Very tasty and will be eating this for my lunches this week!

  11. Alice

    My grocery store only had anise bulb, I am hoping it will taste ok to substitute that for fennel

  12. Kira

    Can I use sweet potato in this recipe? Looks so yummy but I would love to use up some SP I have and thought this might be a nice way to do so.

  13. Rachael

    I decided to break the rules and use 2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1 cup canned to sub in for the dried. I also subtracted 1 cup of broth and used 3 cups total instead since the chickpeas wouldn’t absorb liquid. I just added the chickpeas at the very end instead. It turned out absolutely delicious! I’ll add this to my regular recipe rotation and might even tried the chickpeas soaked overnight next time! :)

  14. Cindy

    Hi Nisha,This recipe is delicious! Can you post the nutrition information for this recipe? Thanks!

  15. Anthony

    Nisha this recipe was absolutely amazing! A perfect pantry staple recipe for me anyway during this COVID19 quarantine crisis. I followed your suggestions about the dried thyme and fennel seeds (so sad I didn’t have fresh fennel, it’s one of my favorite vegetables!) and substituted a 28oz can of diced tomatoes for the two cans of tomato products you have here. I also added a tablespoon of tamari and tomato paste. Came out perfect and tastes just like italian sausage. I still have to work my way through your cookbook. Thanks so much for this and hope you’re staying safe!

  16. Coll

    Hi Nisha,
    Please could you put recipes in a easy t print PDF would really help us to cook.
    Thank you for a wonderful site and channel, plus recipes ;>
    Stay healthy

  17. Katie

    Can I use white rice instead?

  18. SB

    So sorry — but your recipes look amazing. What if you don’t have an "instant" pot? I have a slow cooker and a stove :D

  19. Heather Hennick

    I’m assuming to add the chick peas in step one.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Oops, yes, you are right – just add the soaked chickpeas with all the other ingredients in step 1. Will update the recipe :)

  20. Melissa

    I don’t see the chickpeas included in the directions.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Forgot to include it, oops! But the soaked chickpeas go in step 1 with the other ingredients. The recipe is updated now :)

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