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

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.

We’ve tackled beef stroganoff in detail: one-pan Chicken Stroganoff, Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff, and Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff are crowd faves.

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

A spoon in a skillet of noodles and meat

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!

This 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 please picky eaters and discerning palates alike.

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 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 you ordinarily need milk to make Hamburger Helper, 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 healthy, I made my homemade Hamburger Helper with vegetables and whole wheat noodles. Once you try this from-scratch version, you’ll never want the mix again!

The Ingredients

  • Lean Ground Beef. Lean, flavorful ground beef gives this dish that classic Hamburger Helper flavor. Plus, ground beef is packed with protein, Vitamin-B, and iron (read more health benefits here).
  • 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). While making Hamburger Helper with egg noodles is traditional for some families, I am more hesitant to recommend that shape here. 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. My wholesome way of thickening the sauce and creating a creamy texture.
  • Cheddar Cheese. Sharp cheddar cheese melts 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. Saute the onion and carrot with oil, salt, and pepper. Stir in the garlic.
    Hamburger helper ingredients in a pot
  2. Brown the beef, breaking it into small pieces.
  3. Add the hot sauce, Dijon, and paprika. Stir in the beef broth and water. Bring the liquid to a boil.
    Hamburger helper simmering in a pot
  4. Add the pasta, stirring frequently.
    Cheese on top of ingredients in a Dutch oven
  5. Stir in the yogurt and cheese.
    Homemade hamburger helper in a Dutch oven
  6. Top with chives or parsley for some color, and ENJOY!

How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze

  • 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.

What to Serve with Homemade Hamburger Helper

More Healthy Pasta Recipes

Noodles, veggies, and meat in a skillet

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 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.

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

4.93 from 14 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

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ 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
  • ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ 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 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.

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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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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34 Comments

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  1. Can’t wait to try this. Made something similar a few years ago, but this loos better.  Erin, my youngest son liked Hamburger Helper a lot, but his favorite was the Hashbrown variety.  I used to doctor it up, by using garlic oil, extra cheese and a big handful of chopped parsley.  Never seen a remake of this one, have you? 

  2. This sounds amazing!!  Some family members don’t eat beef.  How would this be with ground chicken or turkey?  And can I use chicken broth?  

  3. I just tried this. This tastes great !  I love that it cooks the pasta in the pan. I don’t enjoy cooking my food twice – once separately and again together.  I didn’t have Greek yogurt on hand, so used just plain yogurt, and I thought it tasted great!  I used Laura’s 97% lean beef, so no fat left to drain off.  This will now be part of my regular rotation. Thank you!5 stars

  4. This was delicious and way more flavorful than any hamburger helper I’ve ever made from the box. Will definitely make this again!5 stars

  5. I made this for dinner for us tonight, and even tho I didn’t have any yogurt, it still came out tasty. My husband was very happy with it, and he said I can make it again.
    Val5 stars

  6. I am truly in love with all of your recipes! I ran across this blog a few months ago and have made numerous recipes and receive rave reviews from our family of 8 every time! Thank you so much for these easy, delicious and healthy recipes! I just ordered the cookbook and am excited to try the recipes.

    The Homemade Hamburger Helper was delicious and everyone asked for seconds! :)5 stars

  7. This was SO satisfying and delicious. Will be in my rotation this fall/winter for sure! My husband loved it!5 stars

  8. I made this for dinner tonight and everyone, including my 11 month old daughter, gobbled it up! Served with some roasted broccoli and it was perfect. As a busy mom, I will definitely keep this in my arsenal for easy one pot dinners!5 stars

  9. When I saw this recipe I thought it looked really tasty but as I was cooking it I started to have my doubts. Seemed like so many carrots and then the paprika, Dijon and hot sauce felt like a weird combo. All my doubts were erased the second I took my first bite! It was delicious! I even had a second helping. I will definitely, absolutely be making this again. Likely the next time with ground chicken since that is my go to but honestly, other than that swap, I wouldn’t change a thing! Thanks for the great recipe!5 stars

    1. It was alright, but came out pretty bland, could really use some extra flavor but I can’t pin my finger on what exactly. Threw some seasoning salt in and called it good but I can’t quite figure out what it’s really missing.4 stars

  10. Such a delicious and fun throwback recipe! My husband and I used to eat Hamburger Helper when we were in our early 20s, in our first apartment and out on our own for the first time. We were so proud of ourselves for “cooking”! That was 20 years ago and thankfully my culinary skills improved and we moved through that phase pretty quickly. We haven’t had cheeseburger macaroni since that time. Thanks to your recipe we can relive those memories now and actually feel good about what we’re eating! 5 stars

  11. I made this last night and it was a huge hit with my incredibly picky husband and 16 year old daughter. I have tried other “homemade” hamburger helper recipes and none have ever even come close. So the fact that my husband had seconds, is a testament that it was truly delicious. I even added a little red bell pepper to the carrots and onions. I am thankful for your recipe and feel good making something that is unprocessed and I know exactly what’s in it. 😊😊5 stars

    1. Hi Hannah! I haven’t tried this swap myself, but I think it would work fine. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  12. This is SO good! Hamburger Helper is such a nostalgic thing, but I am not a big fan of buying pre-made mixes. I have a picky household and they loved this. Huge fan of the added vegetables, too! Would 100 percent recommend.5 stars