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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!

the easiest homemade hamburger helper you'll find! Made healthier with a combination of broth, milk, and added veggies (but you'd never know!)

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).

the easiest homemade hamburger helper you'll find! Made healthier with a combination of broth, milk, and added veggies (but you'd never know!)

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 😉

the easiest homemade hamburger helper you'll find! Made healthier with a combination of broth, milk, and added veggies (but you'd never know!)

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.

the easiest homemade hamburger helper you'll find! Made healthier with a combination of broth, milk, and added veggies (but you'd never know!)

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

5 from 11 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
  • 1/2 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

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

    • Andrea says

      I’d like to know this as well. I notice there isn’t serving sizes on the nutritional info. Love that you took the time to calculate it, I would need to know what is considered a serving based on your calculations.

  1. Sheri says

    I made this tonight using all gluten free ingredients (family has celiac) I used 2 cups of fresh spinach and we added medium white cheddar. I didn’t have tomatoe sauce so I brauned a can of tomatoes. It was a hit. everyone loved it. Thank you for such a quick yummy meal.

  2. Shihoko Ura says

    I have never heard of Hamburger helper before. So it was an interesting read to find out what it is and how to make it. Thank you for the tips too.

  3. Melanie says

    What do you mean by a “cube” of spinach? A full block of frozen spinach like the No Name brand from Superstore?

  4. Mary Beth says

    Fantastic!!! Even my picky-est eater gave it a thumbs up. Just had to leave the melted cheese off the top for her (loves cheese, just not on top … ugh!). This will be in our regular meal rotation for sure. I feel so much better giving them this when they ask for “Hamburger Helper”!

  5. Kelly Anderson says

    This is the second time I’ve made this recipe and my husband loves it even more. I did tomatoes instead of pasta sauce and I think he liked it better. This is a great meal. Thank you!

  6. Elena says

    This is absolutely beyond delicious. I even used lowfat milk and it was still incredible. I will be making this a regular dish; thank you so so much!!!

  7. Machel Long says

    Hi:
    This looks so good. My family are trying to cut out beef from our diet and how would you prepare this dish if you used ground turkey? Please advise

  8. Alicia S. says

    Hi! I plan on making this soon. I am wondering how much time you would recommend in the oven for rehearing with sharing or just making extra to freeze.

    • Ashley Fehr says

      I would probably let thaw in the refrigerator overnight if you could, and then do a quick bake at 400 (covered) for 10-15 just until hot. Since the noodles are cooked, you don’t want them getting to the point of being mushy! The stove top or microwave works just as well too.

  9. Krys says

    Made this tonight and it was amazing! I’m very picky about what boxed HH I like and after i splurged and bought farm fresh ground beef from a local farmer, I felt it deserved more than a box! I didnt have any beef broth onhand but i had an onion soup package. so i made the soup and used 1 1/2c of that instead. I replaced the macaroni with fusilli. I added just over a cup of fresh spinnach, but I think next time I may double that for a single recipee. At 12 minutes it was still like soup for me, so I continued simmering at medium for another 3-4 minutes and it was perfectly thick saucy coating over the beef and noodles! I am currently posting this to my facebook page with picture (which I rarely do) because it was so incredible tasting and super easy first time recipee even with a screaming teething 5 month old baby! Thank you so much for posting this, so glad I found it!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Hi Krys! It makes me so happy to hear you say that! This is one of our family’s favorite recipes and I’m so glad that you enjoyed it as well! I know what it’s like to try cooking with young kids around (I may have even posted this with a screaming teething 5 month old baby hanging off of me! Lol), so quick and easy is just how we like it these days 🙂 Thank you so much for coming back and letting me know!

  10. Eliza says

    I made this as written and it was a HUGE hit with my family of 6. Thanks for the healthy recipe. I haven’t purchased the box stuff in years and never will again. It was nice to have this recipe to make when my hubby wanted a hamburger casserole.

  11. Sharleen says

    Hi, I came across your blog post while looking for new homemade hamburger helper recipe’s, can’t wait to try out this one. I also have my own secret homemade helper recipe, feel free to try it out yourself – you can find it here https://asouthernmess.com/?p=93 I can’t wait to try out yours, it looks delicious!”
    Hugs~

  12. Bobbie says

    Perhaps I have the answer to why some people are getting “soup”!!!
    I kind of rushed through making this, there was a hungry man waiting! And I cooked the noodles first because 1. I just wasn’t thinking and 2. the recipe doesn’t specify UNCOOKED noodles in the ingredients. I noticed later, after I made my wonderful SOUP that the ingredients list for the doubled recipe does specify uncooked macaroni. Perhaps you could either change that on the first ingredients list or in the recipe note to cook until the pasta is done as per instructions on the box, as many will substitute different noodles anyway.

    Anyway, it was quite tasty, I used a can and a half of Hunt’s tomato sauce, and substituted chicken broth because that’s what I had. Now I will cook some more noodles in the broth that’s left over!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Hi Bobby, that’s a great point. I will update the recipe! I would not, however, recommend adding any kind of cooked noodles to the pasta, unless you really are wanting Hamburger Helper soup 🙂

  13. Michael says

    Thank you for the recipe; I was looking for a healthier alternative to regular box hamburger helper. I made it today and probably botched it a bit, but it still turned out ok. I used the whole big pack of frozen spinach because I didn’t have anything to use the leftover in and it goes bad quickly. I also need to adjust the amount and type of cheese I put in. I used a 8 oz. block of medium cheddar (that I shredded myself). What type of cheese do you normally use? I had no problem with excess liquid. I used ground deer meat (very lean), 10-12min elbows, and I squeezed the water out of the spinach. Also by “½ red pepper”, I assume you mean red bell pepper?

    • Ashley Fehr says

      I normally use regular cheddar (I mean full fat and not low fat) — I think it melts better and stays smoother. If you can tell me what you mean by “botched” then maybe I can help you figure out what went wrong 🙂

  14. Lorena says

    I made it last night, didn’t know what you meant by spinach cubes so I cut a frozen box in half and then cubed it so it would cook faster. I like a lot of spinach, so I might use the entire box next time. I used corkscrew white pasta which takes longer to cook than elbow, so the liquid was fine on medium and I didn’t drain the beef as there wasn’t anything to drain after it was cooked. I also used one can of roasted diced tomatoes instead of sauce. This was so good I will double it next time so I can have leftover to pack for lunch. If people have issues with too much liquid when cooking on medium heat uncovered (because your recipe didn’t say to cover it until after it’s cooked and you add the cheese) I think it’s because their pasta cooks faster. The package for my pasta said 11-12 minutes to cook, but I can see if you use pasta that cooks in 7-8 minutes you’d have liquid left. I’m also wondering if people cooked “covered” that wouldn’t evaporate the liquid as fast.

  15. Carol says

    It would be great to specify what type of tomato sauce you meant. I thought you where talking about plain tomato sauce in a can. Toward the end of the comments you said you liked Classico, which I would think of as a pasta sauce. I guess I will try this using pasta sauce. Thanks

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Sorry for the confusion Carol — I’ll make a note in the recipe! It will work just as well with plain tomato sauce, you might just find you want to increase the spices to your tastes.

  16. VanK says

    I have a very happy hubby right now, this was delicious! I didn’t have excess water but I drained the spinach really well before adding it to the pan. I may try it with half Italian sausage next time!
    Yum!

    • John K says

      Thank you! I just made this tonight and followed the recipe, and it was gud. No issues. I used (15% fat) ground beef if anyone wants to know

  17. Andrea says

    This worked perfectly for me. I can see this recipe making many a reappearance in this household… And it’s always a bonus when I know the person who made the recipe! I always check your blog first when searching childhood favourites. 🙂

  18. Jessica says

    I wonder if everyone is having issues with liquid because they aren’t draining the beef? I was going off memory and wasn’t reading the recipe so I drained and didn’t cook the onion and garlic until after I drained. Also added spinach last and added diced tomatoes. I swear it would kill me to follow a recipe to the t lol

    • Ashley says

      That could be Jessica! I always use lean beef so I never have any liquid left over after browning. Not draining frozen spinach adequately enough could also be a reason.

  19. Jamie says

    I’m so excited to try this tonight! One question – by 1 cube of frozen spinach, do you mean the whole block of frozen spinach that comes in a box (like Green Giant, ex)? That seems like an awful lot, so I figure I am missing something! 🙂

    • Ashley says

      Oh sorry Jaimie — I should have been more clear! I’ll try to remember to update it later. I buy frozen spinach in a bag of small cubes, so thawed and drained it probably works out to 1/3 cup?

  20. Melanie says

    I just made this tonight and it was delicious! Adults and picky kids loved it. I had no issues with too much liquid. However, I was out of tomato sauce so I used about a cup of tomato paste instead, added a little water, and just watched the liquid as it cooked. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Kimberly says

    Super good! I doubled also- and it’s just the hubs and me! :))) I used gluten free pasta- and I’m not sure if that is why, but I didn’t quite need so much liquid… ours turned out more like a thick cheeseburger soup. ALL good, though- we loved it! Thanks for the nostalgia- we eat way too clean and healthy to ever have the real HH, but both remember it from growing up… with Grass Fed beef and organic ingredients, this was the perfect throw back!

    • Ashley says

      I’m glad to hear you liked it! I might have to try with regular white pasta — I always use whole wheat so I’m wondering if the liquid would need to be adjusted for white pasta. I’ll have to test it out with different pastas!

  22. Tesha says

    I tried this tonight and if was soooo good. I didnt have beef broth so I used a bouillon cube. Also, i added too much liquid (totally forgot I wasnt boiling pasta LOL) so i added a teaspoon of corn starch. It looks and tastes like hamburger helper, but its so much healthier! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Ashley says

      I haven’t, but I think it would definitely work. I would just make sure your pasta is no more than al dente, or even a little less (I find freezing it and reheating makes it a little softer), and I would freeze it completely prepared. You could then reheat it in the oven.

  23. Kara says

    SO GOOD is all I kept hearding from my 4 kids… some who are very picky! Came out PERFECT.

    We didn’t have any beef on hand and there is a winter storm coming so we used 2 lb of left over taco meat… worked SO good!
    Now I know what to do with our leftover taco meat!

  24. MaryAnne says

    I’ve come up against that perpetual problem: language. In Australia, tomato sauce is what we call your ketchup. So now I’m confused. Do you mean passata? I honestly can’t see tomato sauce working as it’s too domineering for such a recipe. And the recipe calls for an awful lot of it. Passata makes more sense to me. Help! I’d love to try this recipe, but want to get it right.

    • Ashley says

      Hi MaryAnne! I’m not sure what your passata would be, but I would use whatever you put on a tomato-sauce based pizza. Pizza sauce, or even plain crushed tomatoes and add in some extra herbs. Hope that helps!

      • MaryAnne says

        It does. Thank you. Passata is an Italian light sauce made from sieved tomatoes. Here we buy it by the bottle. I’m slowly getting used to the culinary language differences (I now know that scones are biscuits and biscuits are crackers!) but am still baffled by some of the ingredients listed on many recipes. But people always answer my questions, which is generous.

    • Ashley says

      Sorry to hear that! I’ve never had that happen with this recipe. I would maybe try simmering at a lower temperature? What kind of milk did you use? I always use 1%.

    • Ashley says

      That is strange — I’ve never had any issues with it being too soupy! I do usually use high fiber pasta, though, so that might make a difference.

  25. Daisy Jetsfoeva says

    I prepared this tonight for dinner and it was a hit. Added some chill powder and other spices to zip it up a bit and had it with hot sauce. Really good stuff! Thanks for the recipe.

  26. Dyan says

    I made this for dinner last night… followed the recipe except instead of 2 lbs of ground meat i used 1 and it was AH-MAZING!
    kids didn’t complain of the spinach or anything! Thank you so much for sharing a great recipe. I also miss Hamburger helper but know now as an adult the sodium and preservatives that go into it are awful! This is way better!!!

  27. Daisy Jetsfoeva says

    When you say Tomato Sauce do you mean plain canned tomato sauce or tomato sauce for pasta? Just wondering cause I’m all jacked up over trying your recipe and I want to do it right. Thanks!

  28. Catherine says

    Great recipe! You could definitely play around with ingredients a little to suit family tastes or to change it up. Hubby and I were just discussing that Hamberger Helper is something we miss from our less healthy eating days. And, here’s your awesome recipe. Thanks!

    • Ashley says

      You could try crushed tomatoes with some added spices? You could try tomato soup — as long as it’s a similar consistency I think it’d work fine.

  29. Beth says

    Turned out great! Didn’t add the spinach but other then that really good. Sometimes online recipes are a hit or miss. This was a hit!

  30. Brenda says

    This is delicious!! I was afraid my grandson might notice the spinach so I sneaked in grated carrot instead – perfect – thanks!

  31. Cyndi - My Kitchen Craze says

    This looks soo yummy! Gonna have to try this once school starts up again! Loved hamburger helper when I was little, but then learned what was in those boxes! Can’t wait to give this a try! Thanks! 🙂

  32. Liz says

    Just made this tonight! Oh my goodness….SO good! The perfect Glamburger Helper recipe. We would get so stoked when our granola toting, no Little Debbie buying Mama would make Hamburger Helper because we never got “the good stuff”….this is way better than the boxed goodness I loved as a child though. A homerun in my book. Love that you doubled it….I have everything because of my teenage son…the neverending eater.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  33. Sherry says

    Looks good. Kind of what our family calls ‘Goulash” I posted about it last week. Mine doesn’t have spinach though. Sounds good! Thanks for sharing your adaptation.

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