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Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 6 servings

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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.

one pot hamburger helper overhead on white background in stainless steel pan

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 Homemade Hamburger Helper in one pot with real ingredients in about the same amount of time, why would you go for who-knows-what is in those boxes?

This Hamburger Helper is made with a few healthier swaps and additions, but it all cooks down (and adds flavor!) so that picky eaters will never really notice.

In my version of Hamburger Helper, I boosted the nutritional value with some extra veggies like red pepper and spinach, and swap regular white pasta for high fibre whole wheat pasta.

close up image of hamburger helper in stainless steel pan

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).

And if you love this one pot Hamburger Helper, you’ll enjoy my Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper and my Instant Pot Goulash as well!

Variations on this Homemade Hamburger Helper:

  • If your family isn’t into red pepper or spinach, feel free to swap out the veggies for others your family enjoys, like mushrooms, shredded carrots, zucchini, or anything else you have taking up space in the fridge.
  • Keep the red pepper and spinach, but add even more veggies! Shredded vegetables cooked down in the ground beef are a great way to get more vegetables into anyone’s diet.
  • Use high fiber white or whole wheat macaroni instead of regular white. I do this every time, since that is what I buy, but the recipe just lists dry macaroni as really any variety works fine.
  • Skip the milk (and cheese) and use additional broth, or swap for dairy free milk for a dairy free version of this Homemade Hamburger Helper
  • Skip the ground beef and just cook up extra veggies, swap the beef broth for vegetable broth for a vegetarian option
  • Swap the ground beef for ground chicken or ground turkey if that’s what you have on hand
grey bowl of homemade hamburger helper with fork stuck in the pasta

Make this Hamburger Helper ahead and freeze for later:

I have 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 take a couple minutes off the pasta cook time so it is still slightly firm, so that it is not mushy when reheating.

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 to warm slightly.

More One Pot Pastas you’ll love!

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Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

5 from 27 votes
Easy, cheesy macaroni and beef made completely in one pot!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 6 servings
Calories 469cal


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes or more, if you like it spicy!
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or 1 cup fresh, chopped fine)
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 3/4 cups dry uncooked macaroni (1 375g box)
  • 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.


See doubled ingredients below.
**NOTE: Nutrition information is estimated and will vary depending on exact serving size, types and brands of products used.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 469cal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 126mg | Sodium: 1382mg | Potassium: 1342mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 1380IU | Vitamin C: 22.2mg | Calcium: 722mg | Iron: 3.1mg

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Graham says

    YES! I was originally going to make spaghetti w/meat sauce but, had everything for this recipe and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was, one pot meals are a favorite when we don’t feel like cleaning multiple pans…. plus, my family LOVED it! We had plenty of left-overs for our little family of three, and I’ll use whole grain pasta next time. Looking forward to it, and thank you.

  2. Brittany says

    Absolutely love this recipe and the ingredients! This is a go-to with our family! 🙂

    I do have a quick question about reheating after freezing. Do you typically reheat in a skillet or in the oven? If in the oven, how long do you reheat without the noodles getting soggy?

    Thank you!

  3. Amber says

    I made your homemade mac and cheese the other night and had plenty of leftovers so I added the other ingredients to create this. Our family LOVED it! We have never been disappointed by your recipes but this was quick and easy and is a new family favorite.

  4. Pauline says

    This looks so delish!! I would love to make this tonight – quick question – when the macaroni is added – it’s not cooked? It’s added uncooked-dry? Thank you!!

  5. Linnea says

    We’ve had this a million times and we can never have enough. We even went over and made it with friends and they ate it for one month afterwards they were so addicted to it! Just hoping the double recipe shows back up soon! Thank you!

  6. Julia says

    It’s been years since I bought a box of hamburger helper but this homemade version is really tasty and so easy to throw together!

  7. Jen says

    This has so much better flavor than the box could ever offer! Easy to make and everyone loved it. Thanks so much for allowing us to ditch the box.

  8. Cassie says

    My kids love it. I’ve never added spinach just bc I don’t remember to buy it. Very good and warms up well!

  9. Krysta Bea Jackson says

    I’m so confused, I’ve never heard of a recipe that calls for “cheese.” I tried watching the video for clarification but it also just says cheese! What kind is being used?

  10. Sandra Darnall says

    When done, this was good but for our tastes, a bit bland so I added a bit of Fank’ s hot sauce and Worchester sauce. Absolutely delicious. There are so many things to love about this recipe. I don’t use boxed meals so never have had Hamburger Helper. I had everything in my fridge or pantry. To get this delicious meal with real food ingredients and with so little effort is great! Thank you so much Ashley. I can’t wait to try your other recipes.

  11. Sara Welch says

    This has always been a childhood favorite recipe of mine! Served it for my kids and now it’s one of their favorites too! Hands down, delicious!

  12. wilhelmina says

    This makes a great family meal for a busy night! It’s easy and the whole crew is happy to see it on the table!

  13. Ashley says

    Everyone loves this recipe in my family. It’s so much better homemade too. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Natalie says

    Why would you ever want the boxed hamburger helper after trying this recipe?! It is so good! My family loves it!

  15. nana says

    Quick question. When you put 1 1/2 cup does it mean one and a half cups or just one half cup like a single cup. I’ve messed up many recipes with these kinds of measurements and usually just stick to my gut. Please help.

  16. Cass says

    Delicious recipe! Made it exactly as you listed but added EXTRA red pepper flakes and a 13oz box of whole wheat macaroni- glad it was too much! Thank you for taking the time to share!

  17. Patty says

    I’m confused why does it show such Hugh fat and cholesterol from something homemade?? How can we reduce all that to be healthier?? Or was that for the boxed version??

  18. Nicole Noubakht says

    Just made this recipe and loved it! I had unsweetened almond milk on hand so used that vs regular milk. I seasoned with salt and pepper. My only suggestion is that you sauté your onion/bell pepper a few minutes before adding ground beef and rest of the ingredients. My bell pepper was still a bit crunchy. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you

  19. Melanie says

    Made tonight without spinach and added 1/2 green pepper since that is what i had on hand – but otherwise made as directed and it was wonderful. The whole family said “make this again!” MUCH better than boxed Hamburger Helper. Thanks for the recipe!

  20. Taylor Posthumus says

    Just made this recipe tonight, my family loved it! I added 2 whole peppers ( 1 red, 1 green), 2 cups of fresh spinach and sodium reduced stock, and alot less cheese! Great way to get some extra veggies in and i LOVE one pot meals!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      You’re right! I would say 2 1/2 cups of macaroni or pasta of about the same size. Unfortunately I don’t know the weight at this time but will update the recipe once I can calculate it!

  21. Amanda says

    I love this recipe! It’s such a yummy way to use up all the random veggies in my fridge, while still making something that the kids will devour. Tonight I threw in two onions, one green pepper, one zucchini, one yellow squash, a bunch of broccoli, a carrot, and some Napa cabbage…and my kids cleaned their plates without batting an eye at all the veggies. Win!

    • Marti says

      I thought “WOW, that sounds good”. Then saw the amount of sodium in the original recipe and decided it just d idn’t fit with our trying to reduce sodium.

      • Ashley Fehr says

        Using all sodium reduced ingredients will reduce the sodium considerably — the nutrition information is calculated using my recipe card and not everything is always spot on, though it’s as accurate as possible without knowing exactly which brand people might use.

  22. Eric Moseman says

    If you ask me, this recipe is perfect as is.

    I made it tonight, and the wife and I gobbled it up. I used the fresh spinach, and a really small pinch of th pepper flakes, and we have enough leftovers for lunch this week.

    Thanks a bunch!

  23. Cindy says

    Wow this was crazy good. I altered the recipe to make it vegetarian by using meatless ground crumbles and using water seasoned with onion and garlic powder instead of beef stock. I also used half a box of whole wheat rotini and added hot sauce while I was eating. Next time I’ll add hot sauce into the pasta mixture! I will also add a whole red pepper next time instead of half. Thanks for the recipe!

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