Tacos are one of my family’s favorite dinners! And this easy Instant Pot taco meat recipe is the best way to make tacos even if you forgot to thaw the meat! Ground beef combines with homemade seasoning for a perfect family dinner on a busy weeknight.
Tacos are perfect for days we don’t feel much like cooking, because they are so quick and easy to make. In addition the variety of toppings and taco fillings make it possible to eat tacos weekly without getting bored!
Why You will Love this Instant Pot Taco Meat
- You don’t have to remember to thaw the meat.
- Kids love tacos, so this is a family friendly meal.
- While I call this “taco meat” you can use it for many other dinners. Burritos, nachos, taco salads and more are all delicious with this as a base.
- This makes a lot of taco meat, so you can use it for more than one dinner or have it for lunch all week long.
- From frozen meat to dinner on the table takes less than 45 minutes.
- This is an easy to make dump and go dinner. While it does take time to thaw and cook the it is mostly hands off time.
Make from Frozen Meat
While tacos are a staple they aren’t a dinner I always have planned in advance. That is why this taco meat recipe is so great – you can easily make it with frozen meat!
I like to buy big family packs of ground beef, which I then break into 1 pound balls and freeze. So I usually have ground beef in the freezer, but I don’t necessarily have any in the refrigerator.
The Instant Pot is excellent for quickly defrosting and cooking ground beef. The high pressure inside it helps it thaw and cook at the same time.
But there is one important consideration – for this recipe the meat needs to be frozen in individual 1 pound blocks or balls. Don’t try to make this with a huge 2 pound block of meat.
- Meat – while I usually make this with ground beef any ground meat will work. Ground pork or ground turkey will taste great too. You can mix things up and use 1 pound of beef and 1 pound of turkey.
- Taco seasoning – In the recipe card below I give the measurements for a simple homemade taco seasoning made with cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, oregano and pepper. But if you have a taco seasoning packet or a homemade seasoning that will work fine instead.
- Cornstarch – The cornstarch mixes with the water and helps thicken the taco meat after it is pressure cooked. If you are using a premade taco seasoning you can leave the cornstarch out, because grocery store taco seasonings include a thickener. If you are using a homemade taco seasoning make sure you add the cornstarch.
- Water – The water is necessary to allow the pressure cooker to reach pressure.
Step by Step Instructions
1. Pressure Cook
There is very little preparation to do for this meal. Put the frozen ground meat, water and all the spices into the Instant Pot.
Put the lid on the pressure cooker, checking to make sure the sealing ring is in place and close the valve. Then set the Instant Pot for Manual, High pressure, for 20 minutes.
Because the meat is frozen it will take longer than normal for the pressure cooker to reach pressure. Expect this to take about 15 minutes.
While the pressure cooker works there is time to decide what toppings to serve with the tacos and get everything else ready to go.
2. Saute the Meat
Once the Instant Pot is done manually release the pressure and take the lid off the pressure cooker. The meat will still be in big balls inside the Instant Pot that need to be broken up.
It is important to realize that the meat will NOT be completely cooked when the pressure cooker finishes. When you break the meat up there will still be pink inside.
If you cooked the meat long enough to completely cook the middle the outside would become tough. So you are pressure cooking long enough to thaw the middle and the meat will finish cooking on Saute.
Put the Instant Pot on Saute and use a spoon to break up the meat. It will take some effort to crumble the meat down into smaller pieces. You can do it with a spoon and some effort.
Cook the meat on Saute for 5-6 minutes. This finishes cooking the meat and lets the taco meat thicken slightly.
How to Serve
Serve this taco meat with your favorite taco shells, whether it is hard shells, soft shells or lettuce wraps. Here are some delicious suggestions for topping off the tacos!
How to Store
This recipe makes quite a lot of taco meat so we usually have leftovers. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days in an airtight container.
My family loves to eat this by making a taco salad or nachos with the Instant Pot taco meat for lunches. But you can also freeze the leftovers.
To freeze package the leftover meat in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and reheat it on the stove or in the Instant Pot on Saute.
If you are feeding a crowd you can stretch this recipe out to make it go farther by adding 1-2 cans of drained beans to the Instant Pot. Mash them in with the taco meat as it cooks on Saute.
What if my Meat isn’t Frozen?
You can use this recipe with non-frozen meat. Simply skip the pressure cooking and reduce the amount of water in the recipe to 1/4 of a cup.
But if the meat isn’t frozen I don’t bother using an Instant Pot to cook taco meat. It is just as easy to make it on the stove top, unless you have other reasons for preferring an Instant Pot!
Find More Instant Pot Dinner Ideas
- 2 pounds ground beef, frozen
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoons chili powder, use 2 Tablespoons if want it spicier
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- Add the ground beef to the Instant Pot along with all the spices and water. See notes if you want to subsitute a premade taco seasoning mix for the suggested spices.
- Put the ild on the pressure cooker, making sure the sealing ring is in place and the valve is shut. Set it for Manual, high pressure, for 20 minutes.
- It will take about 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to reach pressure. Once it is done cooking manually release the pressure using the valve.
- Important - The frozen beef will not be completely cooked yet! It will still be pink in the middle.
- Turn the Instant Pot to Saute and use a wooden spoon to break apart the big clumps of meat. Once the meat is mostly apart use a spoon, potato masher or meat chopper to break it into smaller pieces. It can take some mashing to do this.
- Let the taco meat cook on Saute in the Instant Pot with the lid off for 5-6 minutes. This will finish cooking the meat and let it thicken.
- Serve with your favorite taco shells and toppings.
For this recipe the beef needs to be frozen in two 1 pound blocks. This recipe won't work with a large 2 pound block of ground beef.
This recipe works fine for frozen ground turkey or ground pork.
You can substitute pre-made taco seasoniong for all the spices (cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, oregano, pepper, cayenne pepper). If you use a store bought taco seasoning you can skip the cornstarch, but if you are using a homemade seasoning mix add it to thicken the taco meat.
Stir a can (or two) of drained beans into the taco meat after pressure cooking to make it stretch and go farther.
If you aren't using frozen meat reduce the water to 1/4 cup and skip pressure cooking the beef. You can just saute it until it is no longer pink.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 255Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 319mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 25g
Nutrition facts are estimates and only include the taco meat, not any toppings or taco shells.