Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes
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Cheesy, saucy, Instant Pot Hamburger Helper is a family dinner that is so good everyone will want to go back for seconds! Quick and easy, it’s also a favorite for busy cooks.

An Easy, Cheesy Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

Remember Hamburger Helper, that cozy, comforting skillet dinner? I used to love it when it was Hamburger Helper night. There’s something about ground beef, pasta, and all that cheesy sauce. You really couldn’t beat it. Until now, that is!

This homemade version of boxed Hamburger Helper comes together in the Instant Pot, which makes it super quick and super easy. Best of all, it has that same cheesy goodness you know and love, but instead of coming from a box, it’s made with staples you probably keep in your pantry. No processed stuff – perfect for a family dinner you’ll be happy to serve.

Need a stove top version? I got you! Try this amazing Homemade Hamburger Helper!

Close-up shot of cheesy homemade Hamburger Helper.

Why You’ll Love This Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

  • It’s Healthy: With lean ground beef, tender Pasta, a homemade sauce, and even a few veggies(!), this is an easy meal that’s also good for you.
  • It’s Simple to Make! This recipe is made entirely in the instant pot, no other pots and pans needed, and it only takes a couple of steps.
  • Bold and Zesty: With tomato paste, chili powder, and plenty of cheese, this well-seasoned dish is full of flavor while still being kid-friendly.
  • Fast: Homemade hamburger helper is done in under an hour, and most of that time is hands-off.
Instant Pot Hamburger Helper with a spoon resting in it.

What Does an Instant Pot Actually Do?

An Instant Pot does a little bit of everything, to be honest. It’s most famous for being a pressure cooker. That means you can lock the lid in place, and cook food at a higher pressure than a normal pot. Food gets done faster and is often more tender than it would be if you cooked it on the stove. 

Additionally, Instant Pots can be used for sautéing, simmering, and slow cooking. Some Instant Pots even have functions for making yogurt and other specialty items! For this recipe, we’ll be using the saute function to brown the beef, and then the pressure cooker function to finish the dish.

Ingredients for homemade Instant Pot Hamburger Helper, measured and arranged on a work surface.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

The simple recipe only needs a handful of ordinary ingredients. You probably have most of them on hand already! Here’s what you’ll need to round up:

  • Olive Oil: Or another neutral oil for sauteing.
  • Ground Beef: Lean ground beef works really well here, because you don’t have to drain it.
  • Aromatic Veggies: Onion, bell pepper, and garlic add plenty of flavor and some extra nutrition, too.
  • Seasonings: All you need to season this recipe is chili powder, salt, and pepper – so easy!
  • Tomato Paste: Be sure to grab tomato paste, not sauce – paste is much thicker and more flavorful.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Measure this one carefully – a little Worcestershire is zesty and tasty, while too much Worcestershire can really overpower a dish.
  • Broth: I use beef broth for a good, hearty flavor, but chicken broth or vegetable broth would also work. Use what you have on hand, no worries!
  • Macaroni: Other pasta shapes are also fine, but I love classic elbow mac for this recipe.
  • Cheddar: Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded. Boy, this recipe makes me hungry.
Two dinner plates with glasses, forks, and cloth napkins, and helpings of cheesy beef and pasta.

How to Make Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

Now to get down to the nitty gritty – how do you actually cook the hamburger helper in your Instant Pot? It’s actually super easy, I’m happy to say. Here’s how to do it:

  • Saute the Ground Beef in the Instant Pot. To get started, heat up the instant pot on the saute setting, and then add your cooking oil. Gently place the ground beef in the pot, avoiding spatters, and let it cook for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you go. Once it’s browned, drain it as needed.
  • Add the Aromatics and Seasonings. Next, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking these ingredients with the beef for another 4 minutes, or until the onions and pepper start to soften up.
  • Add the Remaining Ingredients, Except Cheese. We’re saving the cheese for last, of course, so just add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire, and beef broth. Scrape the bottom of the pot well with a wooden spoon, to make sure nothing is stuck. This is important to avoid a burn notice! Finally, add the macaroni and stir again.
  • Pressure Cook. Lock the Instant Pot lid into place, and set the valve to the “sealing” position if it’s not already sealed. Pressure cook on HIGH for 5 minutes. Remember, this will take a bit longer than 5 minutes, because the pressure has to build up before the minutes count down.
  • Quick Release the Pressure, and Add Cheese. When the cooking time is over, do a quick release of the pressure. Once the pressure is all released and the safety indicator is down, open the pot, and stir the cheese into the Hamburger Helper. Be really careful, because that food is super hot!
  • Enjoy! Serve your Instant Pot Hamburger Helper with a garnish of chopped parsley on top, if desired.

Tips for Success

And now, for a few tips. In developing this recipe, I really wanted to make a dinner option that would be as flexible, savory, and kid-friendly as regular Hamburger Helper. These tips for making the recipe are some bits and pieces I learned along the way, that help make this dish easier on the cook:

  • Protein Options: This recipe would also be great with ground turkey instead of ground beef. And while I usually go for lean ground beef, it’s totally fine to use any ground beef you like – just be sure to carefully drain the excess grease once it has browned.
  • Shredded Cheddar: There’s no shame in using pre-shredded cheese – it’s fast, convenient, and tasty! But if you have the time to shred your own cheese, that will make your Hamburger Helper even better. Freshly shredded cheese melts better than packaged, shredded cheese, because it doesn’t have any anti-caking agents.
  • Add Heat: You know we like things spicy around here. To add some heat to this dish, I recommend sprinkling a little bit of crushed red pepper on top of each serving. You could also add a jalapeño when you add the bell pepper.
  • Bell Pepper Notes: For this recipe, I prefer using an orange, red, or yellow bell pepper instead of a green one. The reason is that green bell peppers have the strongest taste, and I want a milder, sweeter taste in this dish. However, any bell pepper will work just fine.
Spooning macaroni and beef out of a pot.

How Do You Fix a Burn Notice on an Instant Pot?

Sometimes, the Instant Pot will give you what’s known as a “burn notice.” This means that the Instant Pot sensors indicate that food may be sticking and scorching. Some sources say that if you ignore a burn notice, the Instant Pot will automatically cool itself down and start the cooking cycle over.

(I haven’t tried that option, but my best advice is to avoid getting a burn notice in the first place if possible. To do this, always make sure to stir your food according to the recipe instructions, scrape the bottom of the pot if anything is sticking, and add the right amount of liquid. If you do those things, you shouldn’t get a burn notice.)

However, if you do get a burn notice and you want to stop the cooking process, you can turn off or unplug the Instant Pot, and do a quick release of the pressure. Once the pressure has been released, you can safely open it up and inspect your food. It is sometimes possible to save a dish that has burned a little bit on the bottom, by scooping out the un-burned portion, and finishing it on the stovetop.

A dinner plate with Instant Pot Hamburger Helper and a fork.

What to Serve with Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

This kid-friendly, crowd-pleasing recipe is perfect with all of your favorite sides. Sometimes a salad is plenty! But you could also go with one or more of these classic recipes:

  • Green Beans: Simple Sauteed Green Beans can be blanched or not, whichever you prefer. They’re crisp-tender, tasty, and good for you, too.
  • Garlic Bread: Garlic bread is one of those dishes that’s low-effort with a huge payoff! This Goat Cheese Garlic Bread is even better than regular garlic bread, thanks to the tangy, creamy addition of goat cheese.
  • Corn: Corn on the cob is another beloved side dish that’s guaranteed to earn the cook brownie points with everyone at the table. Lately, I’ve been loving this Air Fryer Corn on the Cob. It’s so flavorful and so quick.
Overhead shot of cheesy pasta with ground beef.

Storing and Reheating

You can store leftover Instant Pot hamburger helper in your fridge, for up to 5 days. Make sure to cover or seal it tightly.

Reheat the leftovers in the oven at 350°F, on the stove over medium-low heat, or in the microwave. Make sure to stir now and then so it heats up evenly.

Can I Freeze Hamburger Helper?

Sure! This easy dinner freezes so well, you might want to make a second batch just for the freezer. 

To freeze homemade Instant Pot hamburger helper, just cool it down and then pack it into your favorite freezer container (foil pan, zip-top freezer bags, an airtight plastic container, etc). Seal it tightly, and mark it with the date. This will keep for up to 3 months.

Close-up landscape shot of homemade beef and pasta.
5 from 3 votes
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Yield: 4 Servings

Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

Cheesy, saucy, Instant Pot Hamburger Helper is a family dinner that is so good everyone will want to go back for seconds! Quick and easy, it's also a favorite for busy cooks.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time18 minutes
Additional Time10 minutes
Total Time38 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion, about ½ an onion
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper, about 1 pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions 

  • Set instant pot to the sauté setting. When hot, add the oil. Then, add the ground beef. Cook, breaking up the meat and stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Drain off any excess grease.
  • Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 4 minutes, or until the onions and pepper soften.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth, making sure to scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pot so you don’t get the burn warning.
  • Pour in the macaroni and stir. Cover with the lid. Set the valve to the “sealing” position and pressure cook on high for 5 minutes.
  • Once the cook time has finished, do a quick release and open the lid. Carefully stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.
  • Serve hamburger helper hot garnished with chopped parsley on top, if desired.

Notes

  • Storing: You can store cooled, leftover Instant Pot Hamburger Helper in the fridge for up to 5 days, in an airtight container or food storage bag.
  • Reheating: Reheat the leftovers in the oven at 350°F, on the stove over medium-low heat, or in the microwave. Make sure to stir now and then so it heats up evenly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 985kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 73g, Fat: 66g, Saturated Fat: 34g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g, Trans Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 241mg, Sodium: 2121mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.