One Pot Wonder: Make Bicol Express in your Instant Pot

Image source -

Having lived in the Philippines my whole life, I can say with confidence that Bicol Express is one of our most famous regional dishes. Originating from Bicol province in southern Luzon, Bicol Express is known for its intense heat from our local siling labuyo. However, many people are hesitant to make it at home because it usually requires long simmering on the stovetop. Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that your Instant Pot can handle this dish with ease!

Growing up in Marinduque, an island province southwest of Manila, it was always a treat when Nanay would make Bicol Express. While we have the same variety of chilies here that they have in Bicol, nanay would make sure to use only siling haba due to its lower spiciness level so the dish was never as tongue-numbing hot as it is originally. But it was still so flavorful with the coconut milk, pork, and the small fresh shrimp locally called balaw. These days it’s not so easy for me to get all the ingredients since Balaw is not as common as before.

The first thing to note about making Bicol Express in the Instant Pot is that you do need to use chilies for the authentic heat. If there is no available Siling labuyo, feel free to use Thai Chilies which has more or less the same level of heat.

One Pot Wonder: Make Bicol Express in your Instant Pot 1

Here is the recipe I use:

Instant Pot Bicol Express Recipe


  • 1/2 kilo pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup balaw (small shrimps), cleaned (or alamang if not available)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 5 green chilies, stems removed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Steamed white rice for serving


  1. Press the “Sauté” function on your Instant Pot and heat up some oil. Working in batches, brown the pork belly cubes on all sides until caramelized. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add more oil if needed and sauté the shrimp just until pink. Remove and add to the pork.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant. Add tomatoes and continue sauteing until soft, about 3 minutes.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk and coconut cream, fish sauce, and chopped chilies. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Nestle the pork and shrimp into the sauce. Secure the lid and set the valve to “Sealing”.
  6. Select the “Meat” function and set the cooking time for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining steam.
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve the Bicol Express piping hot over steamed white rice. Enjoy!

The beauty of making this traditionally stovetop-simmered dish in the Instant Pot is that it allows the flavors to meld together intensely in a fraction of the time. The pressure cooking locks in maximum flavor while keeping the meat fork-tender. And cleanup is a breeze since there’s only one pot!

You may notice I left the chilies a bit bigger instead of chopping them really fine like some recipes do. This lets people adjust the heat level to their tolerance by removing chilies from their serving. It also gives more flavor without overwhelming the palate. Feel free to chop the chilies more finely if you want more heat throughout each bite.

I will sometimes substitute part of the pork with chicken thighs for a lighter version. And when the winged beans is in season here, I like to add some at the end of cooking. The crunchy vegetable complements the rich curry-like flavors brilliantly.

If you can’t find all the authentic ingredients where you are, don’t hesitate to give this Instant Pot Bicol Express a try using substitutions. The depth of flavor from long braising makes it very forgiving. Just be sure not to overcrowd the pot so the liquid reduces properly. Let me know if you have any other questions!

That’s it for today’s one pot wonder. As always, thanks for following along on my cooking adventures here in Marinduque. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter below to get new recipes and posts delivered to your inbox every week. See you next time!

Related articles

You may also be interested in

New updates right into your inbox.


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.
Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.