Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes
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!)

hamburger helper recipe in white slow cooker on grey background with metal spoon stuck in

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
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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

4.66 from 47 votes
This Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper is easily made entirely in the Crockpot, with ground beef and macaroni in a cheesy, tomato-y sauce with extra veggies! It's hearty comfort food made easy!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 6 servings
Calories 430cal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • ½ medium onion (diced)
  • cups low sodium beef broth (plus additional if needed)
  • cups milk (any kind)
  • cups tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 bell pepper (diced) I used red
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more, if you like it spicy!
  • 3 cups dry uncooked macaroni (350-380 grams)
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

Instructions

  • 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 broth, milk, pasta sauce, bell pepper, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and stir. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. (*The cook time here is really flexible — you want to cook the red pepper and get it hot enough to cook the pasta, so you can cook anywhere from 3 to 8 hours on low).
  • About 15 minutes before serving, turn the slow cooker to high and stir in macaroni. Check at 15 minutes, and add 5-10 extra minutes to the cook time as needed until the pasta is al dente. If the pasta is not cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, add ½-1 cup additional broth or milk as needed.
  • Stir in cheese (covering for 2-3 minutes if necessary to melt the cheese), taste and serve.

Notes

*Nutrition information is estimated and will vary depending on exact serving size, types and brands of products used.
 
Ingredients and Substitutions:
  • Ground beef: use lean ground beef or drain the fat before adding to the slow cooker. You can also swap this with any ground meat, even ground Italian sausage. 
  • Onion and pepper: these are the vegetables we use and they add lots of flavor. You can omit one or both, or stir in others like shredded carrot, zucchini, or finely chopped spinach.
  • Seasonings: feel free to adjust the seasonings to your tastes. If you like a bit of kick, add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or a bit of hot sauce.
  • Milk: any milk will do here! You can substitute with half and half or cream, but I find that the cooking liquid gets to be quite a big thicker and doesn’t cook the pasta as well, so I prefer to use milk for just a bit of creaminess. 
  • Tomato pasta sauce: and seasoned tomato sauce will work, i.e., a marinara or similar. Something with flavor!
  • Macaroni: this recipe will work with other types of pasta but be sure that the weight and cook time is the same.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 430cal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 1121mg | Potassium: 880mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1096IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 176mg | Iron: 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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Comments

  1. Carolyn Sammartine says

    Hi , this recipe looks so good.
    ( As do all your other slow cooker recipes that I looked at today 🙂)
    I have a 4 quart and a 6 quart slow cooker. Which size would you recommend for your slow cooker recipes?
    Thank you !

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Carolyn, if you’ll take a look at Step 1 in the instructions I say that you can add this to a 4-6 quart slow cooker. So either would do. Hope this helps!

  2. Haven says

    I made this and it’s delicious! I used rice pasta instead so that it’s gluten free and it still turned out amazing.

  3. Christine says

    I haven’t made this yet – I started assembling it today but didn’t really plan out the cook time well, so it needs to go in the fridge overnight (I made everything except the noodles).
    My question is – How long would you say I’d need to reheat the sauce after sitting in the fridge overnight before adding in the noodles, so that it’s hot enough to cook the noodles? I was thinking about an hour, but thought I’d ask to be sure. ☺

      • Christine says

        Hi Ashley ☺
        I made this again today, being much more organized about it, and it turned out great! It’s so easy too, that’s the best part.
        I wanted to ask you- when I reheat it after it sits in the fridge I assume it’s going to need some moisture. What would you recommend adding to accomplish that – more milk, beef broth, or tomato sauce?

  4. 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?

  5. 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 😋

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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?!

  9. 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..

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Rachael says

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

  13. 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?
    ?

4.66 from 47 votes (31 ratings without comment)

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