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
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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

4.46 from 22 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. Suzannah m says

    This has become a staple in our home! My picky toddler loves it and doesn’t care that it has green and red stuff in it! I’ve found that the noodles need much longer than 15 minutes- in my crock pot on low it’s more like 45-60. But now that I know that I just plan for it 😃

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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 😋

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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?!

  10. 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..

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