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!
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.
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
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Sauté the Onion and Carrot. Stir in the garlic.
- Brown the Beef. Add the hot sauce, Dijon, and paprika. Stir in the beef broth and water. Bring to a boil.
- Cook the Pasta. Stir frequently.
- Stir in the Yogurt and Cheese. Top with chives or fresh parsley, and ENJOY!
- 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.
What to Serve With Hamburger Helper
- Salad. Arugula Salad or Green Goddess Salad would be tasty with this easy homemade Hamburger Helper recipe.
- Bread. Sop up that scrumptious sauce with Drop Biscuits or Cornbread Muffins.
- Vegetables. Serve this beef pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts, or Roasted Carrots.
- Fruit. While often overlooked at dinnertime, Fruit Salad is a delicious, fresh addition to any meal and extra kid-friendly.
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.
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
- 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 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.
- 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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.)
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.
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.
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.