Instant Pot Taco Mac is a take on a classic recipe that combines the flavor of traditional tacos into a cheesy macaroni dish that even the pickiest eater will love.
But this time, instead of opening a box and following the directions on the back of a package, you can make it all in one pot and with very little, hands on effort.
In fact, it takes just 5 minutes of prep time. Then throw everything else in the pot and dinner will be on the table and ready to eat in under 30 minutes!
However, you could make this weeknight meal even faster if you did a little prep work ahead of time. Then this meal could become and easy dump and go recipe. And who couldn’t use that on a busy weeknight?
Instant Pot Taco Mac
This recipe was tested in both a 6 quart Instant Pot Duo and an 8 quart Instant Pot Ultra. Any brand of pressure cooker will work, however the specific instructions on which button to push may vary based on the brand used.
1. Lean Ground Beef
Be sure to use at least 90/10 ground beef for this recipe. Not only is it healthier because it has a lower fat content, but you won’t have to drain the grease after the beef browns.
As a healthy alternative to the beef, you can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken instead. However, you will need to add a little oil to the pot to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot while being cooked.
And if you prefer, you could also use plant based crumbles as well.
If you like to meal prep so your evenings go a little smoother, brown and drain the ground beef a few days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
Then dump the cooked meat into the Instant Pot with the other ingredients and dinner will be on the table in less than 20 minutes!
2. Taco Seasoning
This recipe calls for one packet of dry taco seasoning mix. Most standard packets that you purchase from the grocery store contain 1 ounce of seasoning.
However, you can also buy taco seasoning in large, bulk containers. Two tablespoons of taco seasoning mix is equal to 1 package of taco seasoning.
3. Diced Onion
Although not absolutely necessary, diced onion adds another layer of flavor to make your Instant Pot Taco Mac taste delicious.
This is one area where you can have your onions diced ahead of time so that you can prepare this even faster on a busy weeknight.
Even better, if you cook your ground beef ahead of time, go ahead and add the onions in while the beef continues to cook. Then drain and refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to make dinner.
However, you can also add the raw, diced onions into the pot even if you have already browned the beef. Just skip the saute process and mix the onions in with the other ingredients.
4. Garlic Cloves
Fresh garlic is always best to use. However, you can substitute jarred minced garlic if you prefer.
1 teaspoon of minced garlic = 1 medium clove of garlic
5. Chicken Broth
Although you could use beef or vegetable broth, I prefer to use chicken broth as the liquid in this recipe. I always have chicken stock on hand and it adds so much flavor to the noodles as they cook.
However, you can use beef or vegetable broth, or even water if prefer. Just expect a slightly different taste than if you use chicken broth.
The taste and consistency of store bought salsa varies tremendously. I prefer to use a thick, chunky salsa that will hold up somewhat during the cooking process.
If you use a super thin salsa, like Picante sauce, your Instant Pot Taco Mac may come out a little runny.
7. Elbow Pasta or Pasta Shells
Traditional taco mac is made with elbow pasta. However, I prefer to use small pasta shells so that the little opening of the shell can hold the taco meat, cheese and salsa.
The choice is totally up to you. In fact, you can even use penne pasta if you prefer.
The important thing to remember when cooking pasta in a pressure cooker is to set the cook time based on the instructions that you find on the back of the pasta packaging.
Cut the recommended boiling time listed in half. If it states a range of numbers, such as 9-10 minutes, use the lower number and divide that in half.
And because you can’t add seconds to the cook time on a pressure cooker, round the divided number down. Therefore if the package recommends 9-10 minutes for boiling pasta to al dente, you would set the Instant Pot cook time for 4 minutes.
8. Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
You can typically find packages of shredded Mexican blend cheese in most large grocery stores. However, if you can’t find it, simply use half shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese and half Monterey Jack cheese.
If you have not done any meal prep and are starting to make this Instant Pot Taco Mac from scratch, the first step is to turn the Instant Pot on Saute Mode.
Wait for the display to read HOT and add the ground beef. *Remember, if you are using ground turkey, chicken or plant based crumbles, be sure to add a little olive oil to the pot so that the meat doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Saute the beef until it is mostly browned and then add in the taco seasoning, diced onions and garlic. Then continue to saute until the beef is no longer pink.
*If you did not use a lean ground beef mixture, you may want to drain the meat at this time. Then return the meat to the pan.
Next pour in the chicken broth and salsa and stir while it is still on the SAUTE mode. Let the pot continue to heat up for 5 minutes so that the liquid has time to get warm.
Then press Cancel. Stir in the pasta and press any noodles that are floating above the liquid down so that they are mostly submerged.
Lock the lid in place and move the valve to the SEALING position (if required). Press Pressure Cook/Manual on HIGH pressure and adjust the cook time for 5 minutes.
*Remember to adjust the cook time based on the noodles that you are using.
After the cook time is up, slowly move the valve to the venting position until the pin drops. Then carefully remove the lid and stir in the cheese until melted.
Serve immediately or place the lid back on the pot keep it on the KEEP WARM setting until ready to be served.
Other Easy Weeknight Instant Pot Meals
- Johnny Marzetti
- Chicken Fajita Casserole
- Ranch Chicken & Potatoes
- Chicken Burrito Bowl
- Beef Strogranoff
- Chicken Tacos
- Pork Chops
- Sausage Rigatoni
- Baked Ziti
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- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 oz taco seasoning (1 packet)
- ¼ cup diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
- 1 cup salsa
- 12 oz elbow pasta or pasta shells
- 2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
- Turn the Instant Pot on Saute Mode. Wait for the display to read HOT and add the ground beef. Saute until the beef is mostly browned and then add in the taco seasoning, diced onions and garlic and continue to saute until the beef is no longer pink.
- Pour in the chicken broth and salsa and stir. Let the pot continue to saute for 5 minutes so that the liquid has time to get warm.
- Press Cancel. Stir in the pasta and press any noodles that are floating above the liquid down so that they are mostly submerged.
- Lock the lid in place and move the valve to the SEALING position (if required). Pressure Cook/Manual on HIGH pressure for 5 minutes*
- After the cook time is up, slowly move the valve to the venting position until the pin drops.
- Remove the lid and stir in the cheese until melted.
Serve immediately or place the lid back on the pot and KEEP WARM until ready to be served.
Recipe provided by Make Your Meals