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Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe + VIDEO

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.

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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!

overhead image of black skillet with hamburger helper

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?

And plus, with the amount of recipes out there for one pot meals and slow cooker magic, you no longer have to settle for the box.

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).

close up image of hamburger helper in black skillet

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 😉

wooden spoon scooping hamburger helper from skillet

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:

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Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

5 from 17 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 469kcal

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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: 469kcal | 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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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. Natalie says

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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??

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. Wanda Algate says

    Very good, I have made it many times but never with spinach, just because I didn’t have any on hand.

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