[Instant Pot] Double Decker Korean Sesame Beef + Zoodles

bowl of zucchini noodles with korean ground beef

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

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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

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