Did you grow up eating Hamburger Helper? Today I have a recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper that—and I say this as someone who regards the foods of her childhood with nostalgic respect—will beat the pants off of the stuff in the box!

Homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

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Lean ground beef cooked with noodles in a rich and creamy sauce, this one-pan meal cooks entirely in a single skillet, even the pasta!

  • If you didn’t grow up with Hamburger Helper, it’s a boxed mix that contains dry noodles, a spice packet, and a powdered packet for the “sauce.”
  • Once you purchase the mix, the only other ingredients you need to make Hamburger Helper are milk, ground beef, and sometimes cheese. The end result is a little bit like beef stroganoff.

I have a deep affinity for creating healthy, from-scratch versions of the iconic foods of my Midwestern childhood (hello, ‘90s!).

You love them too, because these lightened-up comfort classics are among my most popular recipes.

Making this Hamburger Helper stroganoff, however, presented more of a challenge.

A spoon in a skillet of noodles and meat

5 Star Review

“This is the perfect recipe if you’re looking for simple and delicious. It’s a kid-approved, one pot meal that is just as good leftover as it is hot off the stove.”

— Libby —

I wanted to honor the spirit of the mix that held a place in our family pantry—the ultimate ease, creamy sauce, and family-friendly flavor—but use only real, healthy ingredients.

I also wanted to surprise Ben, who let’s just say does not share my nostalgia for Hamburger Helper mix. When I served him this dish, I called it “healthy cheeseburger pasta” instead. (Feel free to use that one at home.)

Ben LOVED it, and I did too!

  • Hamburger Casserole was Ben’s #1 recipe of 2020 (see our full list of favorite 2020 recipes here).
  • I even went on to create this similarly-flavored Hamburger Casserole, which is basically a homemade Hamburger Helper casserole.

This Hamburger Helper beef pasta tastes rich and creamy, and even has surprising notes of umami.

It’s almost—and we are talking about Hamburger Helper here so I do not say this lightly—gourmet.

This healthy ground beef recipe will please picky eaters and discerning palates alike (just like this Ground Beef and Potatoes recipe).

With only one pan to wash at the end, it will also please the kitchen clean up crew!

Healthy homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

How to Make Hamburger Helper from Scratch

This Hamburger Helper recipe keeps true to the spirit of the box in flavor and in prep. It is EASY.

  • The secret to keeping this recipe easy AND to making it creamy is to cook the noodles in the pan with the other ingredients (just like my Chili Mac and Cheese), instead of cooking them separately.
  • As the pasta starches release, they thicken the sauce to make it rich and creamy.

While boxed Hamburger Helper is made with milk, it’s not necessary here.

Instead, Greek yogurt, cheese, and the pasta’s starches create the wonderful gravy that has come to be associated with this dish.

To keep the recipe light, this healthy Hamburger Helper is made with vegetables and whole wheat noodles.

Once you know how to make Hamburger Helper stroganoff from scratch, you’ll never want the mix again!

Why Is It Called Hamburger Helper?

The concept of this classic family-friendly dish was created as a way to “help” utilize ground beef in an economical and delicious way. It has remained an incredibly useful tool to help stretch a family’s ground beef supply.

Hamburger Helper Recipe Ingredients

  • Lean Ground Beef. Lean, flavorful ground beef gives this dish that classic Hamburger Helper flavor. Plus, ground beef is packed with protein, vitamins, and iron.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta. Using whole wheat pasta adds nutritional value to the dish (hello, fiber!), and the noodles hold up well during cooking..

The Best Type of Pasta to Use for Hamburger Helper

A short, sturdy noodle is best for Hamburger Helper. I used elbow pasta, but you could also try making this as a homemade Hamburger Helper penne, rotini, or rigatoni.

While making Hamburger Helper with egg noodles is traditional for some families, I am hesitant to recommend that shape here (same with homemade Hamburger Helper with spaghetti noodles). Since they are more delicate, I worry they would fall apart.

  • Beef Broth. Using beef broth in this recipe is important for creating the rich, savory sauce flavors.
  • Carrots + Onion + Garlic. A combination of carrots, onions, and garlic helps pack in added nutritional value and creates a deep base of flavor.
  • Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Instead of homemade Hamburger Helper with cream cheese, Greek yogurt is my wholesome way of thickening the sauce and creating a creamy texture.
  • Cheddar Cheese. Forget homemade Hamburger Helper with Velveeta. Sharp cheddar cheese melts perfectly into the sauce, helping to make it thick, rich, and DELISH!

Substitution Tip

While cheddar is my preference for this recipe (it melts well and the lightly sharp flavor gives the sauce dimension), you can swap another melty cheese of your choice. Colby jack, Monetary Jack, or mozzarella will give you a mild flavor. For a spicy Hamburger Helper, try pepper jack.

  • Hot Sauce. A dash of hot sauce adds the perfect amount of dimension and interest. This recipe isn’t spicy, but if you’d like it to be, you can certainly add more.
  • Dijon Mustard. The thing that makes you stop and say, “Oooohh, that’s good!! What is that?” In other words, don’t skip it.
  • Smoked Paprika. A subtly smoky note.

The Directions

Sauteed vegetables in a Dutch oven
  1. Sauté the onion and carrot with oil, salt, and pepper. Stir in the garlic.
Hamburger helper ingredients in a pot
  1. Brown the beef. Add the hot sauce, Dijon, and paprika. Stir in the beef broth and water. Bring to a boil.
Hamburger helper simmering in a pot
  1. Add the pasta, stirring frequently.
Cheese on top of ingredients in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir in the yogurt and cheese. Top with chives or parsley for some color, and ENJOY!

Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Homemade Hamburger Helper

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm Hamburger Helper in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or gently in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Plan Tip

Chop the onion, carrots, and garlic up to 1 day in advance.

Noodles, veggies, and meat in a skillet

Frequently Asked Questions


Not only does Hamburger Helper from scratch taste better than the box, it is better for you! Since this homemade recipe uses simple ingredients, you can avoid excess sodium and other fillers.


Boxed Hamburger Helper is high in sodium. The mix alone contains 550 milligrams of sodium and it’s closer to 990 milligrams once prepared; the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sodium intake for adults is 1500 milligrams.

The mix also does not contain healthy additions like whole grains and vegetables, so it should be eaten in moderation or avoided. This homemade Hamburger Helper recipe, however, is a different story! It has fresh vegetables, whole grains, and lean mean, all of which offer nutritional benefits.


Certainly! You can experiment with swapping in gluten free noodles. Since gluten free noodles are more prone to falling apart, I recommend cooking them separately according to package directions. Do not add the water to the skillet (since the noodles are not cooking in the pan, you don’t need it), and stir in the noodles at the end.


While “hamburger” is in the name, ground beef is certainly not the only option for this recipe! You can make Hamburger Helper with ground turkey or chicken as well.

What to Serve with Hamburger Helper

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Dutch Oven. An investment piece that’s worth every penny.
  • Measuring Spoons. These are double-sided, which means fewer dishes to wash.
  • Spatula. This simple, heat-resistant spatula is one of my most-used items.

The Best Dutch Oven

A classic, long-lasting Dutch oven will become an essential tool in your kitchen. This one is both beautiful and incredibly high-quality!

Homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

The next time you are perusing the dry goods aisle and wondering which Hamburger Helper is the best, pull up this homemade Hamburger Helper recipe instead. It is truly the BEST hamburger helper!

You’ll be rewarded not only by its superior taste, but it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve prepared a healthy meal that leaves everyone at the table smiling—all in a single pan.

Do you love healthy comfort food that’s easy to make? Be sure to pick up a copy of my cookbook. There is a whole section of one-pan and 30-minute dinners that will please the whole family!

Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.82 from 69 votes
Homemade Hamburger Helper tastes way better than the mix and cooks in ONE pan! Easy, healthy recipe with vegetables, ground beef and noodles.

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 35 mins

Servings: 4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups water plus additional as needed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat elbow pasta
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives divided (optional)


  • Heat a Dutch oven or a large, deep 12-inch skillet with a sturdy bottom over medium-low heat. Add the oil onion, carrot, salt, and pepper. Let cook until the onion turns brown and soft, about 10 minutes (don't shortcut this step; it builds a lot of flavor).
  • Add the garlic and let cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. With the back of a large spoon or a sturdy spatula, break the meat into small pieces. Continue to brown, stirring periodically, until the meat is browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes.
  • Remove pan from the heat and carefully drain off any excess fat, leaving just a little bit in the pan to keep the meat moist (if you are using meat that is 93% lean, you likely will not need to drain it).
  • Return the pan to the medium-high heat. Stir in the hot sauce, Dijon, and smoked paprika. Add the beef broth. Scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan.
  • Add the water and stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Once the liquid is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions, stirring often and scraping a spoon along the bottom of the pan to keep it from sticking. If at any point the pasta becomes to dry, splash in a bit of water.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 1 minute. Add the Greek yogurt and cheddar. Stir until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are well combined.
  • Stir in half of the chives, then sprinkle the remaining chives on top. Enjoy hot.



  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm Hamburger Helper in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 


Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 709kcalCarbohydrates: 57gProtein: 47gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 119mgPotassium: 1047mgFiber: 3gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 8669IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 410mgIron: 5mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Flavor was good, but my liquid-to-noodle ratio must’ve been off. I doubled the meat, noodles, and liquid but it ended up really watery.

    Any ideas on how to tweak it to double the recipe? 1 pound of meat and 8 ounces of noodles won’t feed my horde.

    1. Hi Haley! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, but it sounds like you might need to just allow the liquid to simmer at a higher heat so it can cook off a little if it has to much liquid for you. Doubling this should be fairly easy. Hope this helps!

      1. Doubled the recipe ended up with way too much liquid as some others have said too. Might 2x the dry ingredients and 1.5x the liquid next time.

  2. SO delicious! I substituted ground turkey for ground beef, used Cybele’s Free to Eat Superbfood Shells (green lentil, cauliflower & parsnip) for the pasta, and used both sharp cheddar and pepperjack cheese. Otherwise followed recipe as written. This will be a ‘keeper’ at our house!5 stars

  3. This sounds amazing, but I have one question. Why is sodium never listed in the Nutrition section of the recipes? Everyone should watch their daily sodium intake. This information might be helpful to many. Thanks.

    1. Hi Chelle! I stopped including sodium info because it can vary so much depending upon what products you used, and I found a lot of conflicting info online, so ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it because sometimes it wasn’t even in the ballpark. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

  4. I added some fired roasted diced tomatoes, a small amount of crushed tomato and cumin! It’s a delicious recipe and a family + friend favorite!5 stars

    1. Hi Kelsey! I strongly recommend using the beef broth, as it adds richness and flavor to the recipe. If you decide not to use it, you definitely still need a liquid, so you could try swapping in water.

  5. Great recipe! We’re definitely adding this into our rotation. I used rotini pasta and ground chicken and was happy with those swaps. I also used frozen crinkle cut carrots to save time on the carrot chopping. Thanks, Erin!5 stars

  6. Excited to try this recipe! What would you recommend replacing the beef with if you wanted to make this vegetarian? Thanks!

    1. Hi Aly, maybe you could try a plant-based ground for this, or leave it out? I haven’t tried this myself, so if you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

  7. What can I substitute in place of the Greek yogurt to make this dairy free. I really like this recipe but my son can’t have dairy

    1. Hi Marissa, I would try a dairy free sour cream if you can’t find a dairy free Greek yogurt. Hope this helps!

  8. I just made this for today’s dinner. Picky toddler didn’t reject it and it’s a delicious, comforting meal.5 stars

  9. I made this recipe loosely just today. In place of the onion called for I used Mrs. Dash because I had no onion nor onion powder on hand and I also did not have mustard (I don’t care for mustard and don’t stock it) In place of beef broth I used beef bouillon cubes following the instructions on the packaging. I used 10% milk fat plain Greek Yogurt in place of The fat free Greek yogurt the original recipe calls for. I put 1/4 less water than the recipe called for and had too much liquid to every other ingredient in my stainless steel cookware. I recommend leaving out the 2 cups of water called for after the 14 ounces of beef broth. I only used 1 cup of cheddar and found that to be plenty enough cheese for my tastes. I’d like to add a photo of my finished product because it tasted spectacular and looked wonderful as well despite having a bit more liquid that I prefer. Erin did a phenomenal job by creating the recipe as she did and I want to honor her creativity not criticize what she did that I didn’t and wouldn’t. Good job Erin.5 stars

  10. I love most of Erins recipes but this was tasteless…i even added double the salt and pepper, added garlic powder too. Was not a cheesy looking as the picture. Mine was water as well, maybe didn’t let cook long enough before adding cheese but didn’t want the noodles mushy. Would not make again. Sorry2 stars

    1. I’m sorry this recipe wasn’t to your tastes, Valerie. I (and many other readers) have truly enjoyed it, so I wish you would’ve too!

  11. Too much liquid at the end, was more soupy than what our family prefers. Ended up adding a cornstarch/water mixture to help thicken it up3 stars

    1. Sorry to hear that you had trouble with the recipe, Poli. The amounts, flavorings and timing have worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would of been a hit for you too! I know it can be so disappointing to try a new recipe and it not turn out for you.

  12. I’m making this recipe tonight and excited to try it but I like to track everything I’m eating. I see you put the nutritional facts for 1 serving but what is 1 serving? Is it 1 cup? A certain amount in grams or ounces? Any information would be helpful with tracking

  13. I want to try this. It sounds delicious! Can I substitute cream cheese for the yogurt? (Wife won’t eat yogurt.) Also, if I were to make this in a crock pot, what accommodations would you suggest if any?

    1. H Allen! You could try that or even sour cream. Also I haven’t tried this in the crock pot but here is a guide that might help: https://www.wellplated.com/crock-pot-pasta/ Hope you enjoy it!

      1. Hi Erin, we tried it with Cream Cheese. It was great. Next time, I might only use half a block of the cream cheese though, as the dish was a bit thick, though very tasty. We enjoyed the recipe immensely and will add it to our menu rotation.5 stars

  14. This was so good! I made it GF by adding rice noodles and a little added water. I had to cook the noodles a little longer but they turned out amazing! This would also work nicely with adding shredded zucchini or spinach. What a great way to hide veggies!5 stars

  15. Just tried this as written tonight. My family enjoyed it, although it came out a little watery. The next time I will add less water and a little more cheese. Also may try adding more seasoning to the meat when browning. Thank you for sharing your recipes!4 stars

  16. This sounds fantastic. But, before I try it, I think that the value you posted for potassium of 1047 mg would kill us all. Perhaps you meant sodium?

    1. Hi Mike! The recipe card actually calculates that and I am not able to control what amounts it gives. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

  17. This has become a staple in our household. It’s a great way to be “chef-y” without requiring too much skill. It’s flavorful, filling, and makes great leftovers. I actually use all beef broth rather than water, and the results are satisfactory.

    For all those saying there is too much liquid at the end—cook the liquid off. This is why the recipe calls for al-dente before adding the cheese and yogurt: the yogurt and cheese have liquid that will be absorbed by the pasta and also need to be cooked off. Once I realized this, it’s come out perfect.5 stars

    1. Hi Patrick! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review! And thanks for the tip!

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