Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi: which should you buy this Black Friday?

In this Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi test we put the Instant Pot Pro Crisp and the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid multi-cookers head-to-head

Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi next to eachother on a kitchen counter
(Image credit: Future Studio / Philip Sowels)

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi: which should you buy? If you're in the market for a new multi-cooker, it's likely that you've whittled it down to these two brands. Both are well-respected in their own right, but Instant made its name with its multi-cookers, which is why we have a dedicated guide to the best Instant Pots featuring the Duo, the Pro, and more great options. 

There are fewer iterations of the Ninja Foodi, which is a relative newcomer to the game. These multi-cookers all come with an air frying lid, which is something you'll only find on select Instant Pots. If you're someone who has always wanted to try the best air fryers but would prefer to do your pressure cooking, baking, and air frying in one smart device, there are an increasing number of models for you to choose from.

In this Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi battle, I put the Instant Pot Pro Crisp and the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid multi-cookers head-to-head. Both are some of the latest (and in my opinion, greatest) models from their lineups, with comparable capacities, functions, and styles. 

My verdict? While it's not suitable for every space, the Ninja Foodi is the multi-cooker I'd pick for my kitchen. However, if you're someone who will make good use of the pressure cooker function and sees the air frying setting as a 'nice to have' and not an essential, the Instant Pot will be your best bet. 

Reviewed by
Millie Fender
Reviewed by
Millie Fender

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Homes & Gardens. She was formerly our Small Appliance Editor, meaning she is very familiar with the entire range of Ninja and Instant products, and has compared a fair few multi-cookers in her time. 

Millie compared the Ninja Foodi and Instant Pot for a number of weeks, following the same recipes in each to make sure her tests were fair. 

Price

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The models I tested are incredibly well-matched: both retail for around $250 before discounts. However, if you're asking which is cheaper, Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi, the answer is Instant Pot. 

Instant has a huge range of multi-cookers, and on any given day you can pick up the Instant Pot Duo for under $100, and other less flashy Instant Pots often go on sale for around $70. By comparison, the cheapest Ninja Foodi model is the Ninja Foodi FD402, and it's currently down to $199 on Amazon

With Black Friday home deals just around the corner, we're expecting some big savings on both Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi multi-cookers, but we'd be surprised if you could buy a Ninja Foodi for less than a more basic Instant Pot. 

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker: $99.99 $79 at Amazon (save $21)

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker: $99.99 $79 at Amazon (save $21)
The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker is a classic choice for those who want to pressure cook without the fuss of dealing with dozens of pre-sets. It is packed with safety features and can cook for up to six people, perfect for families.

Ninja OL501 Foodi 6.5 Qt. 14-in-1 Pressure Cooker: $279.99 $129.99 at Amazon (save 54%)

Ninja OL501 Foodi 6.5 Qt. 14-in-1 Pressure Cooker: $279.99 $129.99 at Amazon (save 54%)
The Ninja OL501 is fully set to be the workhorse of your kitchen. It's got a sliding scale lid that can transition easily from pressure cooking to air frying, with added Steam Crisp functions that make moist cakes and delicious meat.

Instant Pot Pro Crisp 11-in-1 Air Fryer and Electric Pressure Cooker Combo: $269 $169 at Amazon (save $100)

Instant Pot Pro Crisp 11-in-1 Air Fryer and Electric Pressure Cooker Combo: $269 $169 at Amazon (save $100)
The Instant Pot Pro Crisp is our favorite Instant Pot, with an oven-safe pot and heat protected handles that prevent it from spinning when you're stirring. A range of the attachments are dishwasher-safe, and you can even pair it with an app.

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi: design

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi:

(Image credit: Future)

To make things fair, I took a look at the most comparable models (at the time of testing) from both brands when comparing. These were the Instant Pot Pro Crisp and the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid: both have air fry options, both have 11 cooking modes, and while the Pro Crisp only comes in an 8-quart capacity, you can buy the Ninja SmartLid in either 6.5 or 8-quart capacities. 

The main difference here is that the Instant Pot has two lids: something you'd have found with any Ninja Foodi that can also air fryer. That is until the SmartLid hit the market. Instead of having to switch from a pressure cooker to an air fry lid, you can now just slide the handle on the lid to choose from different cooking modes. This alters the internal functioning of the cooker, meaning you can pressure cook and air fry using just one lid.

Given that my main gripe with the Instant Pot when I tested it in the Instant Pot Pro Crisp review was its hefty storage requirements, I was excited when Ninja created a cooker that wouldn't require me to store an extra lid alongside the cooker. Instant has very recently come out with a single-lid alternative, too, but we're still reviewing that model.

While I didn't have an extra lid to store, the Ninja isn't quite as self-contained as I'd have liked. It comes with an air fry basket and a rack for roasting or steaming. They can't both go inside the cooking pot at once, so you'll still have to find space to store the insert you're not using. Still, it's an upgrade to only have one lid, so when it comes to storage requirements the Ninja is a winner. 

Extra features

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi:

(Image credit: Future)

The disadvantage of any Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker? That hinged lid. It's something I'd hoped they'd remove when re-designing it for this new line, but unfortunately, the lid SmartLid is still attached to the side of the pot. This means that if you want to cook with the lid up (to brown meat before slow cooking, or to cook off some onions for extra flavor) you'll have to do it in a part of the kitchen without low cabinets. In my kitchen, this is a bit troublesome because I have cabinets over every counter. 

Even if you are cooking with the lid down, you'll need to open it when adding ingredients or stirring your dish. If your kitchen has fewer cabinets or more counters than mine, this won't be such an issue, but I had to do most of my testing from the kitchen table. 

By contrast, the Instant Pot's removable lid meant I could easily fit it onto my counter, and that's despite the taller air frying lid. Simply pull it off using the in-built handle and place it on the resting plate, which comes included with the air fryer to prevent the lid from damaging any surfaces when not. The resting plate is yet another thing to store, but it is a better fit for my kitchen. 

Cooking

Cooking in the Instant Pot and the Ninja Foodi is another well-matched test, but there are some key differences. 

In both models, I pressure-cooked and then air fried a chicken to keep the meat juicy while crisping up the skin. Thankfully, a medium chicken fitted into both models, but the wider pot of the Ninja did mean it was easier to pressure cook in there. Then I had to add it to the air fry basket, which was definitely more of a snug fit as this has to fit inside the main cooking pot. 

Although narrower from the outside, the air fry basket on the Instant Pot actually fitted the chicken very well. However, I did find that the air fry setting wasn't quite as effective as the Ninja when it came to creating a crispy skin. 

Instant Pot roast chicken

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

I also used both machines to create one-pot pasta dishes that involved browning onions, simmering tomato sauce, and adding pasta to bake a nice brown cheesy top. One thing to note is that it's easier to switch between cooking modes on the Ninja than on the Instant Pot because you will not need to switch lids between uses. When switching your cooking setting on the Instant Pot, it will show a pre-heat or a pressurizing panel that can often take a good few minutes. 

When cooking the chicken I found that it took around ten minutes for the pot to pressurize, and when switching to air fry and adding a browned top of my pasta bake I found that the cheese was already bubbling away when the timer started counting down after pre-heating.  

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi: cooking modes

Instant Pot vs Ninja Foodi

(Image credit: Future Studio / Philip Sowels)

Both the Instant Pot Pro Crisp and the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid have 11 cooking modes.

For the Instant Pot Pro Crisp, these are: 

• Pressure Cook
• Sauté
• Slow Cook
• Steam
• Sous Vide
• Warm
• Air Fry
• Roast
• Bake
• Broil
• Dehydrate

And for the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid there is:

• Pressure Cook
• Steam & Crisp
• Steam & Bake
• Air Fry
• Broil
• Bake/Roast
• Dehydrate
• Sear/Sauté
• Steam
• Sous Vide
• Slow Cook
• Yogurt
• Keep Warm
• Proof

Both have all the essentials covered, and in my opinion, it's not a number game with these machines. Sure, if you like the sound of making yogurt in a mode that's specifically designed to do that, then opt for the Ninja. However, it's just a pre-set temperature and timer, something you can easily replicate if you opt for the Warm mode on the Instant Pot

Models available

While we directly compared one model from both lines, Ninja and Instant also offer a huge range of additional multi-cookers. 

All of Ninja's multi-cookers also offer an air fryer lid, which is something you will only find in a number of Instant Pot models: