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.
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!
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.
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!
Healthier Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper
- 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.
*This post was originally published February 8, 2016