Hamburger Vegetable Soup (Instant Pot & Slow Cooker-Friendly)
If you’re a frugal cook, you need a Hamburger Vegetable Soup recipe. Easy to adapt to any eating-style: vegetarian, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, dairy-free. And it’s loaded with inexpensive but flavorful ingredients. Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, Stovetop, and Freezer instructions included!
Because we try to save the most money while eating as healthy as possible, my family doesn’t buy a lot of fancy cuts of meat. We try to eat local, grass-fed beef, and that’s expensive. As a result, we generally just keep ground beef at the house.
Ground beef is easy to cook, easy to make ahead, adds a wonderful flavor to every dish, and you can make it stretch by only using a little bit in your dish. Simply round out the meal with vegetables and legumes.
I love doing that by making Hamburger Vegetable Soup. I can use 1 pound of meat to make 2 gallons of soup. Even the meat-lovers in my family love this soup because everyone gets a little ground beef in every bowl. They aren’t stuck fishing around for a chunk of beef like they’re panning for gold.
I’m going to share a recipe with you, but please don’t limit yourself to that recipe. As long as you keep the beef, onion, carrots, and seasoning, you can add or substitute almost anything dying a slow death in your crisper drawer. It’s an easy way to revive leftover vegetables, and it’s flexible for almost any cooking style:
Vegetarian & Vegan
Make it a vegetable soup! Use white beans or lentils instead of beef, and use vegetable broth instead of water.
Depending on whether you eat potatoes, you may wish to substitute them for cauliflower.
DONE! This recipe is already gluten-free.
Remove tomatoes and substitute water with beef broth. You may wish to doctor it with some different spices.
Make it *Really* Frugal
Go Meatless (Or Mostly)
Substitute all or part of the beef with white beans, black-eyed peas, or lentils.
These are a great starch filler for this soup, but you can use anything you have on hand – rice, pasta, quinoa, sweet potatoes, winter squash, or cauliflower. Add these instead of or in addition to the potatoes. Taste test and adjust seasonings as necessary.
In my house, this soup looks different depending on the season. In the early fall, I use the last of the summer squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. In the winter, I use cabbage, winter squash, and frozen mixed vegetables. In the spring, I might use peas, spinach, and other greens. Add these instead of or in addition to the cabbage. Taste test and adjust seasonings as necessary.
I always add onions and carrots. After that, I use any variety of vegetables in place of or in addition to the cabbage. Use what works for you!
- 1/2-1 lb. ground beef (to taste)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 cups carrots, sliced into ¼-inch discs
- 3 cups cabbage, shredded
- Two 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 4-6 cups water or beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp basil
- 1/4 tsp thyme (can substitute oregano)
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
In a large pot, brown ground beef and onion until beef is cooked and onion is almost translucent.
Add everything else to the pot except salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
In a small pan over medium heat, saute onion with 1 tbsp butter or oil until onion is translucent.
Place onion, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, water, bay, basil, and thyme in the slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4, until potatoes and carrots are tender.
30 minutes before serving, brown ground beef in a pan on the stove until cooked through. Add beef to soup and stir well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Set Instant Pot to Saute setting, on medium heat for 15 minutes. Brown ground beef and onion until beef is cooked and onion is almost translucent.
Add everything else to the Pot except salt and pepper. Set to Pressure Cook on High 3 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Season soup with salt and pepper, to taste.
Place onion, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, bay, basil, and thyme in a gallon-size freezer bag. Write “Beef & Veggie Soup” on the bag with a permanent marker.
Write these cooking directions on the bag, and follow them when you’re ready to cook: “Thaw overnight in the fridge with 1 lb ground beef. Add to Slow Cooker with 4-6 cups water. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4. Brown ground beef and add just before serving. Season with salt and pepper.”
Freeze for up to 3 months.
Serve warm with salad, crackers, bread, baked sweet potatoes, or biscuits. You may wish to top the soup with shredded cheese.
- Make-ahead - This is a great way to use The Only Beef You Need to Make!
- Go Meatless - Substitute white beans or lentils for the beef.
- More Starch - Potatoes are a great starch filler for this soup, but you can also use rice, pasta, quinoa, or cauliflower instead of or in addition to the potatoes.
- More Greens - Adding frozen spinach in place of or along with the cabbage is an easy way to get more greens!
- More Veggies - You can add a wide variety of vegetables to this soup in place of the cabbage (and/or potatoes): broccoli, cauliflower, kale, peppers, peas, green beans, summer squash, and winter squash.
More Ground Beef Dishes:
- Picadillo (Mexican Beef & Potato Stew)
- 4-Ingredient Sausage – An easy, clean, and inexpensive way to enjoy sausage!
- The Only Beef You Need To Make – An easy, make-ahead beef you can use for nearly every ground beef recipe.
- Mostly Meatless Nacho Dip
- Modified Macaroni & Cheese: 4 Ways – Easy variations of the Cheapest Homemade Macaroni & Cheese