Ditch the box and make this Homemade Instant Pot Hamburger Helper instead. This quick and easy from-scratch meal is ready in less than 30 minutes!!
If you love Boxed Hamburger Helper or Homemade Hamburger Helper, this recipe for Instant Pot Hamburger Helper is going to quickly become a favorite meal.
Made with ground beef, tender elbow noodles, and a perfectly spiced tomato sauce, this Instant Pot Hamburger Helper is a delicious, economical meal that is picky-eater-approved.
And don't worry, it is just as easy to make as a boxed mix with the added benefit that this recipe is lower in sodium and preservative-free. Personally, I think the taste is a million times better as well. Win-win!
Notes on Ingredients
This recipe for Instant Pot Hamburger Helper is made with pantry staples and ground beef. While you can add a diced onion or minced garlic to the meat while it is browning, I wanted to keep this recipe as simple and economical as possible. Not to mention kid-friendly! Some kids will turn their noses up at a dish if they see a speck of minced onion but will be none-the-wiser to onion powder.
- Ground Meat: Use ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken for this recipe. Keep in mind that the leaner the meat you use, the lower in fat this recipe will be.
- Beef Broth: Be sure to use low-sodium beef broth to control the sodium level in the final dish. The broth helps to flavor the noodles as they cook, so don't be tempted to substitute it for water.
- Seasonings: Onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika are used to add flavor to the Hamburger Helper without the need to saute an onion or garlic with the beef.
- Salt: One benefit of making Hamburger Helper from scratch is that you are in charge of the sodium added. Use low-sodium broth, low-sodium Worcestershire sauce, and low-sodium canned tomatoes, and then adjust the added salt as needed or desired.
- Noodles: The cooking time for this recipe for Hamburger Helper has been determined using elbow noodles which are the classic choice. You can use whole wheat or regular elbow noodles with equal success.
- Worcestershire Sauce: I recommend always having Worcestershire sauce on hand in the refrigerator, as it lasts forever and adds incredible flavor and umami to so many dishes, this recipe for Hamburger Helper included.
- Tomato Sauce: Use canned tomato sauce or puree for this recipe. Opt for low-sodium if needed.
How To Make Hamburger Helper in Instant Pot
Step One: Saute Meat
If you are using meat that is not lean, such as 80/20 ground beef, you will not need to add any oil to the inner pot before sauteeing the ground meat, as it will render off enough fat as it cooks. That said, if you are using lean ground meat, you will need to add 2 teaspoons of canola oil before proceeding to saute the meat. This will prevent the meat from sticking to the inner pot.
- Turn Instant Pot to saute, add in the oil, and allow it to heat up for a couple of minutes. Some models will read hot once heated. If not, just give it a minute or two before you begin to saute the beef.
- Once heated, add in the ground meat of your choice and allow it to brown, being sure to break the meat into small pieces as it cooks.
- Once the meat is browned, turn off the pressure cooker by hitting cancel, drain off any fat if needed, and return the inner pot with the sauteed meat back to the pressure cooker.
Step Two: Deglaze Pan
Anytime that you use the saute function on an electric pressure cooker, you must scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the inner pot. If you skip this step, you could very easily end up with a burn notice.
- Once the meat is sauteed and the grease drained off, pour ½ cup of the broth into the inner pot.
- Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot, removing any browned bits.
Step Three: Layer Ingredients
When cooking any type of pasta dish or dish with a tomato-based product, it is crucial to follow the direction in the order in which to layer the ingredients. You want to be sure the tomato product is not touching the bottom of the inner pot which can cause a burn notice and that the noodles are submerged in a liquid of some sort to ensure they fully cook.
- Pour the remaining beef broth into the inner pot.
- Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
- Add the noodles to the inner pot and using the back of a spoon, gently push down to just submerge them into the liquid.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the noodles. DO NOT stir! Leaving the tomato sauce on the top layer will prevent a burn notice AND help to keep the top of the noodles from drying out as they pressure cook.
Step Four: Pressure Cook
I have perfected the perfect cooking time for elbow noodles using the Instant Pot so that they turn out perfectly cooked. Keep in mind using a different type of noodle will yield a different cooking time.
- Place the lid on the pressure cooker and be sure to seal the vent knob.
- Set to cook on HIGH pressure for 3 minutes by hitting manual or pressure cook and then using the +/- buttons to adjust until the timing reads "3."
- Once the cooking time has elapsed, allow the pressure to release naturally for EXACTLY 5 minutes--this is crucial for perfectly cooked noodles.
- After 5 minutes have passed, do a quick release of any remaining pressure, by using a long spoon to move the venting knob from the sealed to the venting position. And be sure to stand away from the vent knob when releasing pressure to prevent burning yourself from the steam.
- Gently stir together the pasta, meat, and tomato sauce together to evenly incorporate everything.
Recipe Modifications and Notes
- Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper: If you would like a cheesy version of Hamburger Helper, stir in 4 ounces of diced Velveeta Cheese or 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese AFTER cooking. Place the lid back on the inner pot after stirring in the cheese and let it sit for a minute or two to allow the residual heat to melt the cheese.
- Gluten-Free Instant Pot Hamburger Helper: I have had success making this recipe using Barilla Gluten-Free elbow noodles and gluten-free Worcestershire sauce. I can not recommend using other brands of gluten-free noodles as they tend to give off too much starch to work in this recipe.
- Changing the Quantity: This recipe can be halved and prepared in any size pressure cooker. Or you can double the recipe if you have an 8-quart or larger pressure cooker. Simply double or half the ingredients and leave the cooking time the same.
More Instant Pot One-Pot Meals
- Instant Pot Mongolian Beef
- Instant Pot Beef Stew
- Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
- Instant Pot Pot Roast
- Instant Pot Spaghetti
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If you enjoyed this Instant Pot Hamburger Helper, I would love for you to leave a comment below.
Instant Pot Hamburger Helper
- Turn Instant Pot to saute, add oil, and let heat.
- Once the oil has heated, add in the meat and brown it fully, breaking it up into small pieces. Once the meat is cooked, turn off the pressure cooker. Drain off any fat and return the inner pot back to the inner pot.
- Add 1 cup of beef broth to the inner pot and use a spatula or spoon to scrape up all the browned bits off the bottom of the inner pot.
- Add in the remaining broth,garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir well to combine.
- Add in noodles and gently push them down into the sauce. You want the noodles just submerged into the liquid. Top the noodles with tomato sauce.
- Set to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes (hit manual or pressure cook and adjust time by using +/_ buttons until the timer reads 3).
- Once the cooking time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of any remaining pressure--be sure to stand away from the vent knob when releasing pressure.
- Fluff the noodles with a fork to incorporate everything. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed and serve.
This post was originally published in 2018 but was updated in 2022.