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, 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.

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.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta. Using whole wheat pasta adds nutritional value to the dish (hello, fiber!), and the noodles hold up well during cooking. I used elbow pasta here, but you could also try making this as a homemade Hamburger Helper penne, rotini, or rigatoni (think short, sturdy noodle).

Recipe Tip!

While making Hamburger Helper with egg noodles is traditional for some families, I am more 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 (if you try a different shape, I’d love to hear how it goes).

  • 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!
  • 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!

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. 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

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 in a skillet

Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.92 from 37 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. This was delicious- my favorite ‘homemade hamburger helper’ recipe that I’ve tried. Added in some zucchini with the carrots and onion to up the veggies (and because they had to get used)! The whole family loved it- including my 18 month old. Will be adding to the dinner rotation.5 stars

  2. Nostalgia in a bowl!! I haven’t had boxed hamburger helper in over 10 years… but this tasted exactly how I remember it. Couldn’t even tell the difference with any of the more nutritious swaps.

    I used chickpea pasta shells instead of whole wheat macaroni and it still came out great, I just needed to boil the pasta a bit longer (usually the case with chickpea pasta) and therefore had to add some more water too.

    The only hot sauce I had was sriracha, and it still came out great!

    Thanks for the easy recipe!5 stars

  3. I loved this recipe!

    I used chickpea pasta shells instead of whole wheat macaroni, just had to boil a bit longer and use more water but that’s usually the case with chickpea pasta.

    The only hot sauce I had on hand was sriracha, and it still tasted great!

    Even though I haven’t had the classic boxed hamburger helper in over 10 years… it tasted exactly how I remembered. Felt super nostalgic, but more nutritious!5 stars

  4. My daughter loves hamburger helper and I’m glad I found a healthier alternative to this dish, so thank you for sharing this recipe! There were a lot of adjustments I needed to make when I made this. 8 ounces of elbow macaroni pasta (I used the smaller pasta) was just not enough so I added 4 more ounces. Next time, I’ll probably use 2 cups of pasta. There was too much excess liquid so I had to remove some and added more cheese in order to thicken the sauce. 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika made it a little overpowering in the overall flavor, so I would probably cut that down by 1 teaspoon or less. I did like that there was Dijon mustard and hot sauce included in the recipe to add some dimension to the flavor.

  5. I made this tonight and while i reduced the smoked paprika by less than one teaspoon it was still way too smoky(maybe my smoked paprika is smokier than yours!). Kids didn’t eat it. But i would def redo it with 1 tbsp tomato paste while the meat cooks and use 1/4 tsp paprika, plus add a 1/4 tsp of italian herbs, and keep the rest (cheese, yogurt, broth etc)

  6. I made this last night along with the Spinach Strawberry Salad and my husband & I loved both! We don’t eat beef so I just used ground turkey and chicken broth and it was wonderful! So many wonderful recipes!!5 stars

  7. My husband was SO satisfied. I omitted the carrots and subbed American for half of the cheddar due to on-hand ingredients. This is going into weekly rotation! Shout out to Banza- the chickpea elbow noodles were perfect with this dish!5 stars

  8. Had to return to leave a rave review. I have 5 kids and our house has vegetarians too. Made side by side meat and meatless versions and both were devoured. Made the recipe as written just subbed in meat alternatives for the vegetarians. Delicious.5 stars

  9. Very good! Had to come her for recipe; had been reproduced on GetPocket :
    and at a quick glance I KNEW they had the steps all messed up and backwards. Would have been a mess.5 stars

      1. Good but.. 2 cups of water? My stroganoff ended up a soup at 2 cups. Next time I’ll forgo the water altogether unless the pasta is just too dry.3 stars

        1. Hi Blaine, this definitely should not of ended up like soup. I’m sorry to hear the recipe didn’t come out for you. It’s hard to know what may have gone wrong without being there in the kitchen with you, but I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not have it come out, so I truly wish you would have loved this.

  10. Great recipe. I’m not much, honestly, into low fat or super-healthy, just what tastes good. Had some hamburger and whole wheat rotini, and stumbled onto this recipe. Real easy, and the combination of smoked paprika, hot sauce and dijon mustard is pretty genius. The use of jogurt (of which I was skeptical) to enrich the sauce worked well. I did the original and then a variation using Italian sausage instead of hamburger ( browned the meat first then cooked the vegetables in a little of the rendered fat), substituted a can of diced tomatoes for one of the carrots, added some ground fennel and worcestershire sauce to the seasonings – a little heavier than the original, but real good, too. The original is a good base recipe to add to my repertoire of things to do with pasta. Will check out the web site again.5 stars

    1. So glad you enjoyed the recipe and the variation as well! Thank you so much for your kind review Wally!

  11. This recipe was delicious, even my picky toddler enjoyed it! I made some modifications to use up ingredients I had on hand. I substituted lean ground Turkey for the beef and used beef bone broth in place of all the liquids. We will definitely make this meal again! 🙂5 stars

  12. Everyone loved it and gave it a five.
    So much better than the packet that my husband cooked for me once but my French tastebuds couldn’t quite figure it out – taste better and you know exactly what is in it.
    I bought your book a few months back there are so many great tasting recipes my whole family enjoys and I am now exploring your website Merci beaucoup!5 stars

    1. Hi Laurence! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for your support with the cookbook!

  13. Like the recipe and will be giving this a try (but with ground turkey). The one thing I suggest differently is to brown the meat first (especially using beef), then saute the onions, garlic, ect. in the meat fat (adding flavor).4 stars

  14. Loved this! It’s been added to our regular dinner rotation. I used chickpea pasta to lighten it up. I’ve also made it with ground turkey when I didn’t have ground beef on hand. Works well both ways. Thank you for another wonderful recipe, Erin!5 stars

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