[Instant Pot] Double Decker Korean Sesame Beef + Zoodles

Double Decker Dinner is a personal favorite Instant Pot recipe theme, all about finding the right combination of foods that pair together as a balanced meal and that can be stacked and cooked at the same time in the same pressure cooker. It’s one-pot wonderful! 

Using your Instant Pot to cook zucchini noodles is handy. It’s even handier when you can cook everything you need to round out a balanced meal all at the same time!

These zoodles resemble classic Korean japchae noodles, dressed up with a spicy-sweet sauce, ground beef, extra veggies and a flourish of toasty sesame seeds.

graphic showing double decker cooking

Ingredients: The Fuel & Flavors Behind Korean Sesame Beef + Zoodles

Zucchini noodles are the star ingredient. This dish is built on a foundation of beautiful, bouncy swirls of summer squash. They are really fun to make if you have a spiralizer.

Ground beef is always a weeknight winner in my house. I always cook with grass fed beef; compared to conventional beef, it’s much leaner and its fatty acid profile provides more essential omega 3s and conjugated linoleic acid. In recipes like this one, you can brown the beef right in your instant pot without having to pour out puddles of grease.

Sesame oil has a distinctively rich, nutty aroma – integral to Korean cuisine.
Garlic and ginger are essential aromatics.

Soy sauce is the recipe’s source of salt. If you need to avoid gluten, use tamari instead.

Brown sugar provides sweetness. I try to be conservative with the amount of sugar I add to meals – but when I make this dish for my family, I can’t resist sweetening it a little to recreate the flavor of the bulgogi beef we still crave from the restaurants we used to visit in southern California. You can scale the sugar up or down to taste.

Dried red chili peppers are there to fire it up. Gochugaru are the traditional threads of red peppers available at Korean markets, but other dried red chili flakes will work in a pinch.

Sliced carrots and baby spinach round things out with more colorful veggie goodness. Other vegetables would work just as nicely, like sliced bell peppers or mushrooms.

Sesame seeds and sliced green onions top it all off!

close up bowl of zucchini noodles with korean ground beef

Can I make this without a spiralizer?

If you don’t have a spiralizer tool, you can use a chef’s knife to cut zucchini into long, thin julienne slices. Aim for about 1/4 inch thickness. These slices will not be as easy to toss and swirl, but they can use the same cook time.

Cooking with Grass Fed Beef

I am committed to cooking meat that is produced responsibly, without factory farming. My strategy is to source most of the meat my family eats through a Butcherbox subscription. It is very convenient, I have been extremely satisfied with their quality, and it is more affordable than other options I’ve researched in my area. If you’re interested in trying it yourself, use this link for $30 off your first box. At the time of writing this, the link will also win you FREE BACON FOR LIFE (these free-for-life deals are KEY to making the most from your subscription!)

Step By Step: How to Cook

Start by getting your zucchini noodles ready. Some well-stocked produce markets may carry ready-to-use zoodles, but I make mine at home with a spiralizer (I’ve tried several in different kitchens, and this one is the best!) About three medium size zucchini will fit – you will need to really mound them high on your steamer basket.

cooking ground beef in Instant Pot

Next, use Instant Pot’s Saute function to brown your ground beef. It is best to get it fully cooked in this step, because the pressure cook time for the zucchini noodles is so short. If you use grass fed beef, it is unlikely that the meat will render much fat – but if you end up with a lot of grease, you can carefully drain off some excess fat before you continue.

pouring cup of sauce into ground beef

After the beef is cooked, pour in the spicy-sweet sauce and cook for another minute until you start to smell the garlic and ginger. Mmm!

seasoned ground beef with carrots and spinach in Instant Pot

Then, mix in the sliced carrots and baby spinach. Don’t worry about getting the carrots cooked; they will become tender-crisp after pressure cooking.

raw zucchini noodles in instant pot

Grab the steamer basket that you loaded up with zoodles, and place it directly on top of the beef mixture. Close the lid, seal the pressure valve, and use the “Manual” button to set a custom cook time to zero minutes, and the “Adjust” button to change to the machine’s Low Pressure setting.

When the timer chimes, open the pressure valve right away to avoid overcooking the zucchini. In a large serving dish or individual portion bowls, gently toss together the zoodles with the seasoned beef & veggies. Finish by generously sprinkling the top with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions. Have some extra hot sauce at the table, and get twirling!

Nutrition Insights

Food for thought, from your friendly neighborhood Registered Dietitian Nutritionist + food science buff!

Built from lean beef and mountains of colorful veggies, this meal is high in protein, low in calories and carbs, and covers a diverse range of vitamins and minerals.

For people following a ketogenic diet, this meal may be a good choice, depending on your personal carbohydrate tolerance. Each serving has about 5 grams of fiber, so the net carbs are about 16 grams. If you skip the carrots, the net carbs drop to about 10 grams.

Serving SizeCaloriesCarbsProteinFatNotable Micronutrients
1/4 Recipe370212720iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B12
bowl of zucchini noodles with korean ground beef

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close up bowl of zucchini noodles with korean ground beef

[Instant Pot] Double Decker Korean Sesame Beef + Zoodles

Mary Clare Fraker, MS RD
Spicy-sweet japchae style zucchini noodles made with ground beef and vegetables, all in the same pressure cooker.
Prep Time 20 mins
Time To Pressure 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Korean
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 370 kcal


  • 1 pound grass fed ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 4 medium cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili pepper threads or flakes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach or other leafy greens
  • 3 medium zucchini about 650 grams, or 8 heaping cups spiralized
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 medium green onions thinly sliced


  • Use a spiralizer tool to cut the zucchini into thick curly noodles. While spiralizing, use your hands to break the zucchini noodles into manageable lengths (no longer than about 8-10 inches). Mound the zucchini noodles evenly onto a steamer basket.
  • Using the saute function, heat the pressure cooker and add the ground beef. Break the meat into crumbles and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  • In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and water. Stir this sauce into the beef and continue cooking for 1-2 more minutes, until the garlic and ginger are fragrant.
  • Add the sliced carrots and baby spinach, and toss together with the beef. Place the steamer basket of zucchini noodles directly on top of the beef and vegetable mixture.
  • Close the lid, with the valve set to sealing position. Cook on low pressure for 0 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is complete, carefully open the valve to manually release the pressure immediately.
  • In a large serving dish or individual portion bowls, gently toss together the zoodles with the seasoned beef and vegetables. Top with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.
Keyword gluten free, keto, zoodles
Instant Pot Recipe Index

[Instant Pot] Saucy Chicken Tinga

Tinga de pollo!  In Mexican cuisine, this means shredded chicken, braised in a sauce made with chipotle chilies, tomato and onion. It’s savory, spicy, smoky, and deliciously saucy. It makes incredible tacos, and this year I used it as the star filling in one of my family’s favorite festive holiday traditions: our annual Tamale Party, fueled by Instant Pot!

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[Instant Pot] Insta-Spaghetti!

This recipe is one of my go-to lazy-cook dinners – especially helpful right now while I’ve been learning how to manage dinnertime with a newborn baby in the house! My back-pocket beef & veggie bolognese is lovingly known as “insta-spaghetti”, and while it’s not the same as your all-day ‘Sunday Sauce’ fancy bolognese affair, it is a filling, nourishing, very easy comfort food dish. The recipe combines grass-fed ground beef, lots of chopped mixed vegetables, canned tomatoes and whole-wheat pasta – all in one pressure cooker. 

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[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

As I waddled through the third trimester of my first pregnancy, my attention turned toward strategies for make-ahead meal prep and easy-cooking plans to keep myself well-fed this winter when my life turned happily upside-down!

That’s right… the time has come for us to dish about Instant Pot Freezer Meals! As part of my post-partum food prep strategy, I embarked on a little project to store a lineup of five of my favorite freezer-friendly pressure cooker dinners. Today I’m here to share what I’ve learned along the way – and all of the recipes too, of course!

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[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Coffee Pot Roast + Butternut Mash

Double Decker Dinner is a personal favorite Instant Pot recipe theme, all about finding the right combination of foods that pair together as a balanced meal and that can be stacked and cooked at the same time in the same pressure cooker. It’s one-pot wonderful! 

I’ve been told that my grandmother cooked a famously aromatic pot roast made with coffee. Unfortunately nobody knows the recipe, so I imagined how I would like it to taste. Deeply savory, slightly bitter but countered with natural sweetness from onions, enhanced with thyme and bay leaf, and finished with a touch of syrupy acidity from aged balsamic vinegar. I gave it a shot, and it was love at first bite. Now, I am here to make sure nobody loses this recipe!

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[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers + Quinoa

It’s Double Decker Dinner Time! My favorite kind of one-pot wonderful balanced meal – there’s just something so satisfying about stacking and cooking two foods in one Instant Pot.

This easy recipe begins by using Instant Pot to saute a mix of seasoned grass-fed ground beef taco meat with chopped veggies. We stuff as much as we can into split bell peppers, arranged on a steamer basket – and whatever doesn’t fit is left in the pot and joined by a cup of quinoa. Both layers cook together in just one minute pressure-cooking time!

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[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Chicken Marsala + Parmesan Polenta

Today, we make a long overdue return to Double-Decker Dinners! This pressure-cooker recipe theme is all about finding the right combination of foods that compliment each other to round out a satisfying meal, and also happen to harmoniously take the same amount of time to cook together in my Instant Pot. This challenge never fails to pique my culinary imagination, so stay tuned – more experiments are in the works.

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[Instant Pot] Sundubu Jjigae: Korean Spicy Soft Tofu Stew

When I start cooking Korean food, I have a hard time stopping. Mostly because when I bring home a bucket of kimchi, I want it on EVERYTHING.

The last recipe I posted (Korean BBQ Beef Roast) is an old favorite in my house. After writing that up, I decided to finally tackle a new dish that I’ve been scheming to cook ever since first trying it in a restaurant a few months ago: sundubu jjigae!

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[Instant Pot] Double-Decker Coq Au Vin + Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Bonjour, my friends. To begin this month’s pressure-cooking extravaganza (Insta-Pot-tober??), let’s kick off with something special: it’s French, it’s fancy, and it’s a double-decker one-pot wonder:

Layer 1 is the classic French braise featuring chicken, bacon, wine, vegetables & mushrooms: coq au vin. (ooh la la!)

Layer 2 is a basket full of quartered potatoes and whole garlic cloves, which happen to steam to mashable perfection in the same pressure-cooking time as your main course. (sacre bleu!!)

See category: Double Decker Dinners!

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[Instant Pot] Chicken Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup

“#1. Make a Lot of Soup”

This was the first directive scribbled to myself on a note titled “Foodprep Strategy,” a deliberate attempt at eating well and staying sane in this time of post-movingnew-life-upheaval. New year, new city, new kitchen, new climate, new grocery stores, new work-from-home transition, all around brand new routine.

In my disoriented state, emerging from a maze of cardboard boxes to hit the ground running as Dinner Captain once again, I turned to soup. Nourishing, crowd-pleasing, inexpensive, efficient to cook in large batches, quick to reheat, and warming for cold bellies… soup has been serving me well.

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[Instant Pot] Ropa Vieja: Cuban Shredded Beef Stew

Ropa vieja. Be still, my heart.

While I was studying to become a dietitian, I lived in Miami for three years. Moving to Miami can cause some serious culture shock, even for a Florida native, but I have to admit that crazy town has some perks.

Some of the best perks were getting to know Cuban friends and their Cuban FOOD. In Miami, I met some of the world’s nicest people who got me very well acquainted with Cuba’s rich culinary traditions. Cafecitos. Maduros. Picadillo. Pastelitos. And one of my personal favorites, ropa vieja, a classic comfort food that makes you feel at home whether you grew up eating it or not. It’s a flavorful stew made with peppers, tomatoes, and flank steak cooked low-and-slow until the meat is tender enough to effortlessly pull apart into long shreds that resemble the fibers of threadbare cloth, hence the name (ropa vieja = old clothes).

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[Instant Pot] Chipotle Chocolate Chili

I’ve never competed in a chili cook-off, but if I did, this is the contender I would bring to the ring.

Since spying the recipe in an issue of Cooking Light years ago, it’s been a go-to for me and for Grant. I have to give him credit, as he’s taken the recipe on as his specialty – he really makes a mean pot of chili! And as much as I love to cook, there’s something extra-tasty about a home-cooked meal where somebody else does the home-cooking, you know?

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[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken! (or, how pressure cooking revolutionized my weeknight dinners)

Most of the time, I love to cook. But some nights, I wish dinner would just cook itself.

Thankfully, I finally figured out the solution to my problem. And knowing myself, I really shouldn’t be surprised that it involves Instant Pot, my loyal kitchen companion. I’ve learned that with the magic of pressure-cooking, I can effortlessly cook chicken breasts from frozen. Yes, STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Each pound yields enough shredded meat for dinner + leftovers for 2. The chicken braises itself into tender, moist perfection with the help of whatever flavorful liquid your heart desires. Along with the rest of my Instant Pot recipes, it’s really been a game-changer for my weeknight cooking. If you’re a fellow pressure-cooking devotee, read on for the simple steps!

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!
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[Instant Pot] Everyday Lentil & Spinach Dal

These days I do most of my recipe-clipping on Pinterest, but I still have a recipe folder on my browser’s bookmarks bar dating back from the days before ‘pinning’ was a household term (shocking, I know). The heart of the collection is a sub-folder marked “Tried and True,” which holds those special recipes that I’ve come back to again and again… the keepers! Along with the formula behind killer pumpkin garlic knots, this folder is also home to an unassuming yellow dal bookmarked from Smitten Kitchen. I made this recipe for the first time in college, just starting to dip my toes into Indian cooking, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve served it up since then!

This dish has been a dinner staple in my house for a lot of reasons. For one, the recipe is really straightforward, easy enough to commit to memory. It’s also super inexpensive. I do my best to cook with economy and grace, and these tasty lentils make it easy: all of the budget-friendly benefits of dried beans, but with no soaking needed. It’s a hearty vegetarian (easily vegan) source of protein – about 14 grams per serving, before the yogurt garnish. And those healthy legumes are filled out with plenty of vegetables and nutritious spices. I’ve been putting more focus on anti-inflammatory foods in my diet lately, and the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and garlic in this recipe all offer functional health benefits to reduce inflammation in the body. This is definitely an example of getting your flavor from real food, and this enticing combination is so nutritious that it’s practically medicinal!

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[Instant Pot] Vegan Caribbean Coconut Curry

Had a hard week? You need an easy weeknight dinner. Fortunately for us, this one is packed with nutrient dense vegetables and layers of slow-cooked flavors… without the slow-cooking. The veggies all cook quickly, so there’s no advance planning needed. Just a little therapeutic chopping and simmering while you decompress from the challenges of the day, and you can have this wholesome vegan dinner on the table in no time.

If you’re a seasoned Caribbean foodie, please note that I’m not claiming any authenticity. When I dreamed up this stew, I was going for a hearty foundation of powerful plant foods, tempered with tropical coconut milk and some warm spices as my simplified allusion to Jamaican jerk-style seasoning. Authentic cuisine? Not exactly. Super satisfying healthy dinner? Most definitely!

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[Instant Pot] Tamale Party!

Update December 22, 2021: This recipe is now available in Web Story format with video instructions! You can view it here.

Cinco de Mayo is coming up – and while I don’t exactly have a vested interest in commemorating the military victories of our neighbors to the south, I will take any excuse to appreciate delicious Mexican food.

I absolutely love tamales, and from the moment I first read about steaming them in a pressure cooker via this epic Mexican feast on hippressurecooking, I’ve been eager to try out a big batch in my Instant Pot.

Basically… excuse to eat Mexican food + excuse to play with Instant Pot = TAMALE PARTY, AMIGOS.

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[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.

But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.

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