This easy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe is made completely in one pot and better than the original! A cheesy macaroni and beef pasta made healthier. Ready in 30 MINUTES or less! Includes step by step recipe video.
I know that Hamburger Helper isn’t that classy, and it’s maybe not a “company-ready” dinner, but sometimes we just like things that are easy and taste good, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
To be honest, with a baby, 3 year old and 5 year old I don’t know if we’re a “company-ready” family — you’ve got to take us as we are with all of our crazy!
I can’t honestly remember the last time I purchased or prepared a box of Hamburger Helper.
It’s not that I never have, it’s just that when you can make a homemade, healthier version with real ingredients in about the same amount of time, why would you go for who-knows-what is in those boxes?
In my version of Hamburger Helper, I boosted the nutritional value with some extra veggies like red pepper and spinach, and swapped regular white pasta for high fibre whole wheat pasta. I promise you that no one will even know the difference! (It’s amazing what kind of healthy stuff a good layer of cheese can hide).
I could have called it something like, “One Pot Beefy Macaroni”, but I wanted to appeal to those people who might be eyeing up the Hamburger Helper box on the grocery store shelf. This is just as easy, and way better for you!
If your family isn’t into red pepper or spinach (I promise, they’ll never even know!), feel free to swap out the veggies for others your family enjoys, like mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, or anything else you have taking up space in the fridge.
And if you’re trying to get more veggies into the kids without them knowing, shred them up and cook them into the ground beef when you’re browning it. That way they won’t be able to see or pick at any of the chunks, and you’ll feel better knowing that they’re still getting the nutrition they need 😉
I have definitely made this hamburger helper, doubling the recipe to freeze half or bring to a neighbor or friend in need. If you’re going to freeze and reheat, be sure to only cook the pasta to al dente, and not to overbake when reheating or the pasta will become mushy.
To freeze, simple spread into a foil or freezer safe baking dish and cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then a lid or a layer of tin foil. The plastic wrap helps prevent freezer burn (thanks Grandma for that trick!). If you’re putting a glass dish from the freezer to the oven, it’s a good idea to let the dish sit out at room temperature for a couple hours beforehand.
Tips and Tricks for Making this Homemade Hamburger Helper:
I know there have been a couple comments about people having excess moisture. I’ve never had that problem when I make this dish so here are a few tips to avoid that:
- I use whole wheat or high fiber pasta all the time. If you’re using white pasta, I recommend reducing the broth to 1 cup to start. As the pasta is cooking, if you notice that the liquid is completely absorbed before the pasta is cooked, add in an extra 1/4-3/4 cup broth and continue cooking.
- Cover and let sit for a 3-5 minutes before serving — the pasta will thicken as it cools slightly after the cheese is added (this note has been added to the recipe directions).
Watch the recipe video for this Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe:
Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion diced
- 1/2 red pepper diced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes or more, if you like it spicy!
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 cube frozen spinach or about 1 cup fresh, chopped fine
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cup beef broth
- 2 1/2 cups dry uncooked macaroni
- 1 1/2 cups tomato or pasta sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
- To a large pot add beef, onion, peppers, pepper flakes, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning and spinach. Cook over medium high heat until beef is browned.
- Add in milk, broth, macaroni and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook 12-15 minutes, stirring often.
- Stir in 1 cup of cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, cover and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
**NOTE: Nutrition information is estimated and will vary depending on exact serving size, types and brands of products used.