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Healthier Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper Recipe

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins
Servings 6 servings

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A healthier, homemade version of Hamburger Helper made completely in the slow cooker — yes, even the pasta! (And no, it’s not mushy and overcooked!) Packed with sneaky veggies.

hamburger helper recipe in white slow cooker on grey background with metal spoon stuck in
Table of Contents
  1. How to cook pasta in a slow cooker:
  2. How this Hamburger Helper recipe is made healthier:
  3. Healthier Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper Recipe

Something I always find interesting is the recipes that are popular on The Recipe Rebel a certain day, week or month, because my goal is to give you more of what you want.

Lately, my Healthier Homemade Hamburger Helper has been going a little crazy as people have gotten back to routine and are eating something other than chocolate and cookies. I (surprise!) have also been craving something other than chocolate and cookies.

With 3 young kids still in 3 very different stages of life (grade school, preschool and baby), I find myself running around like a mad woman come dinner time more often than I’d like to admit.

We use our slow cooker all the time. Probably at least 3 times per week!

slow cooker hamburger helper on grey plate close up with shredded cheese on top

I know you’ve been seeing a lot of Instant Pot recipes popping up here lately, but believe me — I’ve still got big love for my slow cooker (and a good slow cooker pasta recipe!) and I won’t be donating it to the thrift store anytime soon 😉

How to cook pasta in a slow cooker:

Learning to properly cook pasta in a slow cooker so that it wasn’t some gross overcooked mush was seriously life changing for me.

It takes a little reworking because you need to have just the perfect amount of liquid at the end of the cook time to cook the pasta for the last 10-15 minutes (the exact cook time will depend on the size and shape of the pasta you use), but my original Hamburger Helper recipe translated perfectly into a slow cooker recipe, and it is the perfect solution to the dinner time rush!

No stirring,  no keeping an eye on things — just let the sauce cook away for a good part of the day and add the pasta in the last 15 minutes and you’re good to go.

hamburger helper with slow cooker in the background and blue striped towel

How this Hamburger Helper recipe is made healthier:

  • I use lean ground beef, but you could also use ground turkey or chicken or whichever you prefer.
  • I snuck in a ton of veggies, but no one ever really knows because they all cook down into the sauce (shred them or chop them up fine, and I promise this will please even the pickiest eaters!)
  • I use broth and low fat milk to make the sauce — instead of heavier milk or cream.
  • I pretty much always use a whole grain or ancient grains pasta for maximum fiber and protein, but you can use almost any pasta and it will work just fine (they all will require varying cook times though, so it’s something you’ll have to keep an eye on).

This is the perfect hearty meal to get you through the rest of the chilly days, but it’s also perfect for the warmer days when you just don’t want to turn your oven on!

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Healthier Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper

4.75 from 8 votes
A healthier, homemade version of Hamburger Helper made completely in the slow cooker — yes, even the pasta! (And no, it’s not mushy and overcooked!) Packed with sneaky veggies.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 6 servings
Calories 486cal


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced (I used red)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes or more, if you like it spicy!
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup beef broth low sodium
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned tomato or pasta sauce
  • 3 cups dry uncooked macaroni (340g)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese


  • In a medium skillet, cook ground beef and onion until beef is browned and onion is translucent. Add to a 4-6 quart slow cooker.
  • Add in bell pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, spinach, milk, beef broth and tomato sauce and stir. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
  • 10-15 minutes before serving, stir in pasta. Cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes, until desired tenderness is reached. Stir in cheese (covering for 2-3 minutes if necessary to melt the cheese) and serve.


*Nutrition information is estimated and will vary depending on exact serving size, types and brands of products used.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 486cal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 1119mg | Potassium: 829mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1660IU | Vitamin C: 31.9mg | Calcium: 272mg | Iron: 5.5mg
Keywords crock pot pasta, crockpot pasta, ground beef pasta, hamburger helper, slow cooekr pasta

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*This post was originally published February 8, 2016

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. Mikaela Faust says

    Is there a way to prep some of this the night before so it’s easy to just throw on the crockpot in the morning and leave it to cook without having to do much prep in the AM? Can I cook the meat the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight? What about the noodles, will they get soggy?

  2. Amanda says

    Made this tonight and it turned out great! I will say I would compare this more to a goulash than hamburger helper but I love both 😋

  3. Jen says

    This recipe is DELICIOUS! I am making it again as we speak. We use farfalle instead of macaroni, and it’s divine. The only thing I would caution people about is that prep time takes a LOT longer than 10 minutes. There is so much to open, wash, chop, and combine – plus cooking the meat. Honestly, from start to finish prep time, I would say it takes about 30 minutes. I try to go fast – maybe I’m just a slowpoke!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Thanks for your feedback Jen! You’re right that there is quite a bit of prep. I try to get my meat cooked while I chop my veggies, and I find that it takes me about 10 minutes to do both, but if you are doing each separately then it can take longer.

  4. Donovan says

    This was SOOOOOOO good! I’m a vegetarian so I substituted plant-based crumbles for the hamburger and it was delicious! I could hardly believe how well the pasta cooked in the crockpot and how much of the liquid soaked up to leave such a creamy, tasty sauce. I’m always leery of Internet recipes, but this one is truly a winner. Thank you!

  5. Jessica Strader says

    I am making this right now and it smells delicious! Thank you so much for this recipe! I would like to make sure that mine thickens up because I prefer a thicker broth! Any tips for that?!

  6. Olivia says

    My fiancé doesn’t like veggies, so I have omitted them. Does the sauce thicken up later in the process? It is kind of soupy at the moment..

  7. Jon says

    My daughter made this for 12 of us at the beach. It was delicious. Everyone enjoyed it. Even the ones grousing about it. We returned from a day of surf fishing to a house that smelled wonderful. Fifteen minutes later (pasta cooking) we all sat down to a hearty meal. I’m pretty sure everyone had second helpings.

  8. Laura says

    I absolutely LOVE this dish. My picky 7 year old gobbles it down. Tastes great with Newmans Own Sockarooni sauce. I actually add a little more sauce so the leftovers taste just as good. I’ve also tried it with ground turkey and it’s still a hit. Thank you for sharing this!

  9. Rachael says

    Awesome recipe! Loved the little veggies snuck in there, no one could really notice enough to be picky. It was great!!

  10. Alyssa Paradise says

    Excited to try this! It looks amazing. But I did have one question. Is that 1 and 1/2 cups of milk or just 1/2 cup of milk?

  11. Michelle says

    I haven’t had hamburger helper in years, but I was intrigued by this recipe. This was absolutely delicious! Easy to add in extra veggies, too – I added a few extra handfuls of spinach, as well as some diced carrots. Will be adding this to our regular rotation.

  12. Sativa says

    Is there any way that you could convert this for an instant pot I tried making it on the slow cooker function of my instant pot and it didn’t translate well but I love this recipe

  13. Ann says

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I am planning to. I have a question: does the dry macaroni really completely cook in 10-15 minutes in the slow cooker? I don’t have to cook it first?

  14. Sharon says

    If you doubled the recipe (meat), do you think the pasta would still work out okay? Thinking of making for a crowd, and don’t have multiple slow cookers to use.

  15. jack says

    Why would you cook this for 8 hours in a crockpot when you can easily fix this in 15 minutes on a stove and not run the risk of overcooking the pasta?

    • Ashley Fehr says

      You don’t run the risk of overcooking the pasta if you just keep an eye on it, and I would say that fixing this on the stove is going to take you at least 30 minutes, maybe more depending how many veggies you are chopping. I also have a stove top version, and we like them both.

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Hi Peggy! Unfortunately I don’t know the serving size in grams or volume, but if you need, I would weigh the entire recipe, divide by 6 and then individually portion according to weight. I hope that helps!

  16. danielle says

    I am in love with this. Especially excited that it can be made in the slow cooker. This is one of those amazing comfort food recipes that you love to have in the cooler weather. So much deliciousness!

  17. Danielle says

    I am obsessed with those slow cooker liners! I use them every single time we make something in the slow cooker. I’m also a huge hamburger helper lover, so this healthy version sounds sooo good!

  18. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Ashley! I am loving all the crock pot recipes! Not only are they easy but they are so comforting! And added veggies are always a good thing! We are carnivores but also love vegetables in abundance! 🙂

  19. Erin @ Miss Scrambled Egg says

    This looks insanely easy and flavorful. I’m always trying to find new things to make for dinner. Although I don’t eat ground beef, I can totally substitute in some turkey meat. I think this would be a hit in my house. Thanks for sharing, Ashley. 🙂

  20. marcie says

    I love those slow cooker liners — washing a slow cooker can be quite the pain sometimes! I grew up on Hamburger Helper and I love that you lightened this up and you can let the slow cooker do most of the work for you!

  21. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says

    Those slow cooker liners are the best! It saves me so much time in the kitchen! This hamburger helper is just what I need after devouring one too many snacks over the weekend! Love that you can toss everything in and let the slow cooker do its magic!

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