For the perfect comfort meal, look no further than Instant Pot Beef Ragu. Impossibly tender shreds of beef in a seasoned tomato sauce are the ultimate cozy kitchen creation in the dead of winter. Served over cauliflower mash, this Italian meat sauce is naturally Whole30 and grain free, but if you’re not particular go ahead and enjoy it over polenta or pappardelle noddles.
When you just can’t handle another soup or stew, you reach for ragu. It’s not just a cheesy Mom rhyme, it’s a life fact.
I dare you not to dive deep into this bowl filled with tender chucks of beef simmered in a luscious tomato sauce studded with carrots and fresh herbs. And you can do it tonight, all thanks to the magic of the Instant Pot.
Oh, you wanna double down? That’s cool. We’re also gonna do this the Whole30 way, using just 10 real food ingredients and about 35 minutes of your precious hands-on time.
Is it just me, or is it getting a little hot in here? *fans self*
Surprise! It’s not just canned tomato sauce. Double surprise! It’s SO. MUCH. BETTER.
Traditional beef ragu is an Italian meat-with-tomato sauce served over pasta or polenta. It almost always starts with a base of sautéed vegetables (soffritto) and incorporates tomatoes. From there, the diversity is wide – the liquid can be stock, wine, or cream, and the meat can be ground, cubed, or shredded. Further, the meat can be beef, pork, or lamb (or others!). Seasonings vary from a bit of pancetta to fresh herbs and beyond.
The most important takeaway is that it’s a meat sauce with some tomatoes – not a tomato sauce with some meat.
How to Make Beef Ragu in the Instant Pot
Because there is no single origin for beef ragu, it’s an excellent choose-your-own-adventure recipe. I especially love preparing it when I’m on a Whole30, and even more in the dead of winter. To make this classic Italian comfort food Whole30, the liquid is a combination of beef broth with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Chuck roast becomes impossibly tender and intensely flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and crushed tomatoes. My family loves it served over creamy cauliflower mash, but it’s also terrific with roasted spaghetti squash.
- Slice the chuck roasted into 3″-ish chunks. Trim away large fat deposits as your divide the meat. Unlike a traditional braised ragu, fat isn’t going to render in the Instant Pot – it will get gummy and gross, and ain’t nobody got the tastebuds for that. Keep some fat (fat=flavor!) but do take a few extra minutes to discard the larger fat deposits. Pat the meat dry, then season with salt and pepper.
- Press the “sautee” function on the Instant Pot, adjust the time to 25 minutes, and allow the inner pot to heat up. Add cooking fat of choice and heat until the fat shimmers. Avocado oil, olive oil, and bacon fat are all great choices.
- Add half the chuck roast pieces to the Instant Pot in a single layer. Saute 3-4 minute per side until well-browned and a good crust has formed. Remove the meat, set aside on a plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces. This browning step is important! Remember, you’re removing all that flavorful fat; well-caramelized meat will significantly enhance the flavor of the finished ragu.
- Add diced onions and carrots to the pot. There should be rendered fat or residual oil in the pot, but if there isn’t, add a small splash (about a tablespoon). Saute the carrots and onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sautee until fragrant, about a minute. Then add the tomato paste and stir until it’s worked into the vegetables.
- Add beef broth and balsamic vinegar to the pot and then stir with a wooden spoon until all of the browned bits are scraped from the bottom of the pot. Again, these browned bits add flavor, but they’ll also prevent you from getting the dreaded “burn” notice on your Instant Pot.
- Press the “cancel” button to stop the sautee feature.
- Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot, then give everything a good stir.
- Nestle the browned chuck roast pieces into the tomato sauce.
- Top with fresh thyme and a bay leaf.
- Secure the lid, ensure the pressure valve is set to “sealing”, then cook for high pressure for 40 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to vent naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release until the float valve has dropped. Alternatively, you can allow the pressure to vent naturally completely, and you’ll have an even more tender ragu waiting for you.
- Remove the chuck roast pieces using tongs (carefully! they’ll basically be falling apart), then shred with two forks.
- Fish out the herb stems and bay leaf and discard.
- Return the shredded meat to the pot, and give everything a good stir.
What to Serve with Beef Ragu
Traditional beef ragu is served over polenta or pappardelle noodles. This version is Whole30 and entirely grain free, so I served it over creamy mashed cauliflower. Roasted spaghetti squash is a close second, and zoodles are an option too. To be totally transparent, I didn’t love the zoodles – the cauliflower mash really hit my cozy/comfort zone in just the right spot.
My Tips for Perfect Instant Pot Beef Ragu Every Time
- Remove large fat deposits from the chuck roast before browning. Unlike a long and slow braised ragu, this Instant Pot version won’t render the fat into liquid gold, so you’ll need to remove it unless you really like chewing on gummy fat.
- Brown yo’ meat! Instant pot ragu requires that you trim most of the fat, so enhancing the flavor with caramelized meat is key.
- Finely dice the carrots and onions for best texture.
- Be sure to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot after you add the beef broth and balsamic. Again, those guys are little flavor bombs, but you’ll also avoid getting a “burn” notice on your Instant Pot readout.
- Use the right tomatoes – they make all the difference in flavor. I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes. The fire roasting process brings so much depth to the sauce, especially since this isn’t a long, slow-braised method.
- Fresh herbs are ideal, but life happens – two teaspoons of dried thyme and one teaspoon dried rosemary are a fine substitution.
- Give the ragu a good 10 minutes for a natural pressure release (more if time allows). This will help the meat further tenderize.
More Healthy(ish) Comfort Food Dinner Recipes
- Instant Pot Pot Roast
- Slow Cooker Bolognese
- Steak Bites with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers
- Ground Beef Keema Curry
- Easy Weeknight Picadillo
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- 3 lb chuck roast, cut into 3" chunks, large fat deposits trimmed
- 2 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp avocado oil, or bacon fat or olive oil; divided
- 1 sweet onion, diced to ½”
- 2 medium carrots, diced to ½”
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 c beef broth
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 2 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Slice the chuck roast into 3” pieces, trimming large fast deposits as you go. Pat dry, then season with salt and pepper.
- Set the Instant Pot to the "sautee" function and adjust the timer to 25 minutes.
- Add 2 tbsp cooking fat and heat until it shimmers. Place half the seasoned chuck roast pieces into the pot and brown 3-4 minutes per side, until well-browned and crust forms. Remove the meat, set onto a plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces. Set all browned meat aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon cooking fat, as well as the onions and carrots. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir until it’s worked into the vegetables.
- Add the beef broth and balsamic to deglaze the pot. Stir until all browned bits are scraped from the bottom and incorporated into the liquid. Press the "cancel" button to stop the sautee feature.
- Add crushed tomatoes, then give the sauce a good stir. Nestled the browned meat into the tomato mixture, then top with bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary (tie the fresh herbs with twine for easy stem removal).
- Secure the lid and ensure the vent is set to "sealing". Set to "high pressure" for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then perform a quick release and wait until the float valve has dropped.
- Remove the lid, positioning it away from your body as there will be significant steam. Remove the beef to a plate using tongs, then fish out the bay leaf and herb stems. Shred the beef using two forks, then return the shredded meat back to the pot and mix into the sauce.
- For Whole30, serve over cauliflower mash or roasted spaghetti squash. Alternatively, serve over polenta or pappardelle noodles.
- Remove large fat deposits from the chuck roast before browning. They'll become gummy in the Instant Pot.
- Saute meat until well browned and a nice crust has formed for best flavor.
- Be sure to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot after you add the beef broth and balsamic to avoid getting a "burn" notice on your Instant Pot readout (and for more flavor!).
- Fresh herbs are ideal, but life happens - two teaspoons of dried thyme and one teaspoon dried rosemary are a fine substitution.