Ditch the boxed mix and make homemade Hamburger Helper in your Instant Pot! This deliciously cheesy Instant Pot Hamburger Helper recipe is one-pot, hands-off cooking, and on the table in under 30 minutes.
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Don’t get me wrong. I love the convenience of Hamburger Helper and other boxed dinner mixes. But, I also like the control the ingredients and want to get maximum flavor. So, I set out to make an easy, one-pot dinner that is quick enough for busy weeknights and we all know I love my Instant Pot because I can set it and walk away.
And here we are. Perfectly cooked pasta that doesn’t require any draining, cheesy rich sauce and ground meat of your choice. Add optional frozen peas or diced tomatoes for a complete meal!
Ground Beef: I prefer to use 80/20 ground beef when cooking. It has enough fat to still have really good flavor. You can also use ground turkey, pork or chicken in this recipe.
Onion and Garlic: I’m using fresh, but you can absolutely use ground onion and garlic if you want to skip the chopping. If using the spices, you’ll need 1 Tablespoon of ground onion and 1 teaspoon of ground garlic.
Tomato Paste: I know it is annoying to open a can of tomato paste just to use 2 Tablespoons. That’s why I love the tubes of tomato paste. I can squeeze out just what I need and store the rest in the fridge. If you do have leftover tomato paste from a can, I love to scoop it onto parchment paper in 1 Tablespoon portions, twist it up in the parchment paper like a little piece of candy and store it in the freezer. Then, I can grab one or two when I need it.
Beef Broth: Beef broth adds a rich, meaty flavor to this dish because the pasta is absorbing the broth when cooking. You can use water or you can mix water and beef bouillon to make your own broth. Better than Bouillon is my absolute favorite!
Dried Pasta: I’m using elbow macaroni for that nostalgic hamburger helper shape, but you could also use rotini, penne, ziti, or shells. You’ll need a 1 pound (16 oz) box.
Shredded Cheese: Cheddar is classic for this recipe and I definitely recommend buying block cheese and shredding it yourself. (The shredding disc of a food processor is a money and time saver!) Pre-shredded cheese has additives to keep it from clumping together and makes it not melt as smoothly into the sauce. If you’re not a fan of cheddar, you could use colby-jack, gouda, or your favorite melty cheese.
- Instant Pot (I use a 6 quart) or other electric pressure cooker
- Measuring Cup
- Measuring Spoon
- Cutting Board
- Mixing Spoon
How to Make Instant Pot Hamburger Helper
Start by heating your oil in the Instant Pot on “Saute.” Add your onions and garlic and saute until softened.
Add your ground beef and continue sauteing, breaking up the beef, until it is no longer pink.
Then, you’ll add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pressure cook on High for 2 minutes and natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
Finally, release any remaining pressure, remove the lid and stir in your shredded cheese in batches until it is all melted and ooey-gooey. Yum!
As mentioned before, you can swap out the ground beef for ground turkey or other ground meat and you can use different pasta shapes. You can also swap out the cheddar cheese for your favorite or even do a mix of a couple different cheeses.
I also like to add a bag of frozen peas to the Instant Pot when I add the pasta. You can also stir in a can of drained, diced tomatoes for a chili mac feel. Salsa would also be delicious for a tex-mex homemade hamburger helper.
The most important ratio for cooking pasta dishes in your Instant Pot is 2 cups of liquid and 1 teaspoon of salt for each 8 ounces of pasta. From there, get creative with the flavors!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, in addition to elbow macaroni, you can use penne, rotini or ziti with no change to the cooking time. If you’re using a smaller or thinner pasta like mini shells or spaghetti, you’ll wan to reduce the pressure cooking time to 1 minute. Allow to natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
I have found that pasta does not do well with freezing and reheating. It tends to dry out a lot. You can store this recipe in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days. When reheating, you’ll want to add a bit of liquid and then stir well once heated to get the sauce saucy again.
Yes, it really is. Rather than pressure cooking for a longer time and then quick releasing, I found that the pasta retains its texture better with a shorter pressure cooking time and then it continues cooking during the natural pressure release. So, don’t skip that part.
More Instant Pot Dinner Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken Spaghetti
- Instant Pot Sloppy Joes
- Easy Instant Pot Chicken Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- Vegetarian Lentil Soup (Instant Pot or Slow Cooker)
Instant Pot Hamburger Helper Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 ounces ground beef (or turkey)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups beef broth (or water)
- 16 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- 3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- Press "Saute" function on Instant Pot and add vegetable oil. Allow to heat for 30-60 seconds.
- Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add ground beef to the pot and continue to saute, breaking up the beef, until you no longer see pink. This should take 3-4 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef broth and dried macaroni and stire to combine. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any meat and make sure the macaroni is at least level with the liquid.
- Cover with lid and seal the steam valve. Press cancel to turn off "Saute" and press "Manual" or "Pressure Cook" for high pressure and set time for 2 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, allow to natural pressure release for 10 minutes. This is important as the pasta is still cooking. After 10 minutes, turn the steam valve to release any remaining pressure and remove the lid.
- Stir in shredded cheese a handful at a time until all the cheese is mixed in and melty. And enjoy!
Feel free to add a bag of frozen peas or a can of drained diced tomatoes when you add the macaroni and liquid to add some vegetables to the mix.
If you don't have tomato paste, you can use an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.
If you can, buy block cheese and shred it yourself. This will give you the best flavor and melt better than pre-shredded cheese.
You can substitute other thick pasta such as rotini or ziti in place of the macaroni with no change to the cooking time. If you are using a thinner pasta such as mini shells, you will want to reduce the pressure cooking time to 1 minute. Still allow to natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
Storage: Store your leftover hamburger helper in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You may need to add a splash of liquid when reheating.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 600Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 1770mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 40g