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This one-pan Homemade Hamburger Helper features lean ground beef cooked with macaroni noodles in a rich and creamy sauce with cheese. It’s scrumptious, simple, and cooks entirely in a single skillet, even the pasta!

Homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

Why You’ll Love This Cheeseburger Pasta Recipe

  • It’s SO Much Better Than the Box. If you didn’t grow up with the original Hamburger Helper, it’s a boxed mix that contains dry noodles, a spice packet, and a powdered packet for the “sauce.” For this homemade Hamburger Helper stroganoff, however, I wanted to honor the original but use only real, healthy ingredients (I did the same for this Ground Beef Stroganoff). It tastes rich and creamy, and it even has surprising notes of umami.
  • It’s Perfect for the Entire Family. Comforting, cheesy, and hearty, this healthy ground beef recipe will please picky eaters and discerning palates alike (just like Hamburger Casserole, Hamburger Soup, and Ground Beef and Potatoes recipes).
  • It Cooks in ONE Pan. The secret to keeping this recipe easy AND achieving maximum creaminess 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 Hamburger Helper sauce, making it ultra rich and creamy.
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 —

How to Make The Best Homemade Hamburger Helper

The 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.

tip!

For more great ground beef recipes, check out Ground Beef Dinner Ideas.

  • 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 macaroni pasta, but you could also try making this as a homemade Hamburger Helper penne, rotini, or rigatoni.

  • Beef Broth. Using beef broth in this recipe is important for creating the rich, savory sauce flavors.
  • Carrots + Onion + Garlic. While some recipes call for onion powder and garlic powder, I found that a combination of fresh onion and garlic with carrots helps pack in added nutritional value and creates a deep base of flavor.
  • Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Instead of homemade Hamburger Helper with cream cheese or sour cream, Greek yogurt is my wholesome way of thickening the sauce and creating a creamy texture.
  • Cheddar Cheese. Forget homemade Hamburger Helper with Velveeta or heavy cream. 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. It adds a subtly smoky note.

The Directions

Sauteed vegetables in a Dutch oven
  1. Sauté the Onion and Carrot. 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. Cook the Pasta. Stir frequently.
Cheese on top of ingredients in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir in the Yogurt and Cheese. Top with chives or fresh parsley, and ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • 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. Yes, you can freeze homemade Hamburger Helper! 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. Refrigerate in an airtight container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

Noodles, veggies, and meat in a skillet

What to Serve With Hamburger Helper

  • 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.
Healthy homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Build Big Flavor. Browning the vegetables helps build major flavor for this Hamburger Helper recipe, so don’t skip it! It only takes a few minutes and it’s well worth the extra step.
  • Don’t Use Egg Noodles. 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.
  • Grate Your Own Cheese. If possible, I highly recommend grating your own cheddar cheese for this recipe. Pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt as smoothly or taste as rich.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.78 from 176 votes
Homemade Hamburger Helper tastes better than the mix and cooks in ONE pan! Easy recipe with ground beef, cheese, creamy sauce, and noodles.

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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)

Instructions
 

  • 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 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 too 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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. 

Nutrition

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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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Make Hamburger Helper from Scratch?

Not only does Hamburger Helper from scratch taste better than the box, but it is also better for you! Since this homemade version uses simple ingredients, you can avoid excess sodium and other fillers. (The same goes for my homemade stroganoff recipes. See Chicken Stroganoff, Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff, and Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff.)

Is Hamburger Helper Healthy to Eat?

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.

What Can I Substitute for Ground Beef in Hamburger Helper?

While “hamburger” is in the name, you can use other meat in Hamburger Helper besides ground beef! You can use ground turkey or ground chicken instead if you prefer.

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.

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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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Recipe Rating




206 Comments

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  1. This was delicious!! And so easy to make. I used 2lb ground beef and threw in a little more spices to make up for it. Eyeballed the yogurt but prob did 3/4 cup. Thank you!5 stars

  2. Very tasty! I added extra veggies I had on hand and I couldn’t taste it in the recipe! I also didn’t have Greek yogurt so I added some sour cream in my own bowl and it was tasty. I had a hard time keeping the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan, but overall I enjoyed it. This pregnant momma is very happy!5 stars

  3. I doubled the recipe and added cream cheese. Also, I didn’t have elbow macaroni on hand so I used 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, including the dried cheese packets. Yummy!5 stars

  4. Easy to follow recipe! Had this cooked up in less than an hour with preptime. I used a block of Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, shredded myself – I also added a container of Kaukauna Sharp Cheddar spread. Used 1 5.3oz container of Fage 5% plain yogurt. Cavateppeli noodles and 2 cups beef broth with water added as needed. Everyone loved it.5 stars

  5. Made this this afternoon, very tasty. I didn’t have Dijon or paprika, so used yellow mustard and Sriracha and it turned out well. Much better than store-bought hamburger helper and not much more effort.5 stars

  6. I probably make this once a week for my family. It’s quick and mess free and the kids love it so does the hubby. We skip the hot sauce but it’s still delicious5 stars

    1. Hi Susan! I haven’t tried it myself but you probably could. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

  7. The flavors of this dish were spot on. It’s being added to the rotation of dinners. Instead of whole wheat pasta, I used Cheddy Mac Goodles (healthy-ish box Mac and cheese). I boiled the noodles in a separate box and then mixed it in with the cheese packets and unsweetened almond milk in the meat mixture. This dish was packed with protein and delicious! The hot sauce takes it up a notch🔥5 stars

  8. I cut the sodium down further to suit our dietary needs and used less salt and it’s still delicious and packed with flavor!5 stars

  9. this dish was very delicous.I used my homemade beef broth and it was rich and creamy..I will be making this again5 stars

  10. Made this for dinner last night and it was so yummy! I’ve tried other homemade hamburger helper recipes and I tend to find them a bit bland. Not this one! So flavourful…the hot sauce gives the dish great flavour without being overly spicy. I realize it probably depends on the type or brand of hot sauce you are using…I used Valentina’s Mexican Hot Sauce. My son and my husband both gobbled it up and went back for seconds. It was also very quick…great weeknight meal!5 stars

  11. We have tried and use several of the recipes from here and like them. This was not one of them unfortunately. Disappointed- none of us liked it and opted to grab a quick takeout after all the prep that went into this.1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear you had problems with the recipe, Nikki! It has worked well for myself (and others) and I wished it would have been a hit for you too. I know it can be so disappointing to try a new recipe and it does not turn out for you.

  12. I made a double recipe of this, trusting Erin’s reputation in my house. We spent all week gobbling it up. Rich flavor and a variety of flavors make it the perfect dinner. I froze some as well.5 stars

  13. Despite my deviations from the recipe, e.g. light sour cream for yogurt, regular pasta, etc. I got a very tasty result! I used the spec’d amount of liquid but ended up with a -lot- more sauce than the pics, which I was happy with actually, I like sauce. I overcooked the noodles, so watch that al dente. I used 90 lean beef and didn’t drain, there was a little fat that didn’t fully emulsify but the sauce didn’t break or curdle, so a very sturdy, cook-friendly recipe. I like an herbal note wherever possible so I tried a little dried oregano which was nice enough, I think thyme, basil, or even tarragon or herbes de Provence might have been better. Were I to make it again I’d go maybe a 1/4 cup less water since you can add but not subtract it, maybe have a little cornstarch slurry standing by if needed to integrate the sauce, and a little more dente on the al dente. But yah, yummy, thanks!4 stars

  14. This was really really good. Amazing actually. I dont buy Dijon so I used horseradish and I realized i was out of onion at prep time so I had to omit and used some onion powder and extra garlic it was still amazing. Will try again with onion as well5 stars

  15. This was good! I substituted sweet paprika for smoked, since my 2-year old can detect the faintest hint of capsaicin and will scream her head off about it being too spicy. Also went with a squeeze of ketchup in place of the hot sauce for the same reason. I meant to mix in a dash or two of worcestershire at the end but completely forgot….maybe next time!5 stars

  16. I made this tonight and it was delicious. I was looking for a quick and easy recipe to use with the ingredients I had at home. I did not have all the ingredients the recipe called for but it still turned out good with the substitutions. Looking forward to making this again with all the ingredients it asks for. Thank you for a simple and tasty recipe.5 stars

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