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Homemade Hamburger Helper

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If you’re looking for tried and true comfort food and an easy dinner idea, look no further than Homemade Hamburger Helper! This easy-peasy dish is perfect for a weeknight when you don’t feel like stressing. Plus, this entree is totally picky-eater approved.

Cheesy noodles and ground beef are garnished with fresh parsley.

The good ole boxed meals

You know how when you walk into your pantry and your eyes glaze over because you’re overloaded with all the boxed meal choices you have stashed in there?

They’re 100% the best helping hand in the kitchen for those hectic nights and they totally save your ass!

However, my homemade hamburger helper recipe takes the boxed meal to another level. In fact, you can have the same delicious meal with more flavor and an ingredient list that you can actually read!

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Cheesy sauce, cooked ground beef, and loads of delicious seasonings – this is THE ultimate comfort dinner.

Like I said, if you’ve ever made plain old boxed Hamburger Helper, you already know what the deal is… It’s kind of the best easy dinner around.

With that being said, this homemade recipe will absolutely make that box look like a piece of junk!

This cheesy, beefy dinner is easy to make and exponentially more flavorful and creamy than the boxed version. It’s just the most perfect meal to curl up with when you need something that really hits the spot!

Homemade Hamburger Helper comes together in just over half an hour and will really change your easy dinner game. Plus, if you have little kids, be warned.

Once you make this cheesy dinner, it’s all they’ll be asking for for days (and weeks) to come.

It’s such an easy dinner idea. I sometimes can’t choose between this or my Sloppy Joe Mac ‘n Cheese!

A wooden spoon is scooping up a serving of noodles.

What to grab for this easy dinner idea to come together:

Ingredients

  • Ground beef – Ground turkey, chicken, or a plant-based option also work.
  • Salt – Use seasoning salt for the best flavor.
  • Pepper – Just a pinch.
  • Broth – Beef broth gives the best flavor, but chicken broth also works.
  • Heavy cream – For that creamy consistency, of course!
  • Tomato sauce – Any brand will do the trick.
  • Worcestershire sauce – It provides the most mouthwatering tang.
  • Beef bouillon – To add more depth to that beefy flavor.
  • Dijon mustard – This cannot be substituted with plain mustard!
  • Seasonings – Onion powder, garlic powder, italian seasoning, and paprika is what you’ll need.
  • Noodles – Elbow macaroni keeps things classic!
  • Cheese – Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese.
A serving of hamburger helper is being lifted from the pot.

Ingredient substitutions:

  • You’re likely wondering how to lighten up this dish a little and whether or not you can use a different ground meat. The answer to that is yes! You can definitely use ground turkey or ground chicken in this. It won’t be as rich in flavor but will do the trick to lightening this dish up a tad. Additionally, choosing extra lean ground beef (if you still want that rich beefy flavor) would do the trick as well. I found that Trader Joe’s sells one that is 96/4 which is phenomenal.
  • If you want to use another type of pasta shape, feel free. Keep in mind that if you choose a larger pasta shape than elbows, you might have to cook it at a longer time and the liquid ratio may need to be tweaked

Other questions you may be thinking about:

I prefer to use fresh onions and garlic – how much and when would I add these?

That is a great idea.  I was trying to keep this recipe simple so that is why I used onion powder and garlic powder.  But of course, the real thing will work well.  Dice up one onion and add it to the Dutch oven at the same time as you add the ground beef.  Once the meat is cooked, add 4 cloves of garlic and cook for one minute before adding the sauce ingredients.

I would like to add vegetables to this dish – what do you recommend?  

Some to try would be:  carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms.  Just make sure to dice these up and add them with the beef at the beginning so they can fully cook.  Or feel free to stir in roasted vegetables like broccoli, or cauliflower at the end of cooking.

Can this be made into a vegetarian dish? 

Yes!  Just use vegetable broth instead of beef broth, leave out the beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and ground beef.  And load it up with vegetables!

How do I make this in the Instant Pot?

You would make it the same exact way as instructed but your cook time will only be for 5 minutes on high pressure.

What about the slow cooker?

Since this is a pasta recipe and the pasta can easily get overcooked with a slow cooker, I would suggest keeping this to stovetop or Instant Pot.

Tips for a successful meal:

  • Highly suggest using freshly grated cheese as opposed to the ones pre-shredded in a bag. They add extra stuff to those pre-shredded cheese bags to prevent the cheese from sticking and it sometimes has issues melting correctly and sometimes gives your sauce a grainy texture. I love shredding my own because it creates a velvety smooth sauce and it melts like a dream!
  • Don’t overcook your pasta! Nothing is more disappointing than biting into a forkful of pasta and having it be overdone and mushy. Follow the package instructions and cook until al dente.
  • I love using a large Dutch oven for big hearty one-pot pasta meals like this. It gives you enough space to stir all the goodness around!
A white bowl is filled with homemade hamburger helper.

Keep your weeknights delicious with these easy dinner recipe ideas:

Pizza Stuffed Chicken

Sheet Pan Beef and Cheese Quesadillas

One Pot Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Four Cheese Beefy Pasta Shells

Homemade Hamburger Helper

A tried and true comfort food recipe out of the box! Yes, you don't need to grab that boxed meal when you can make a hearty, cheesy, and flavorful one such as this!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Julie Chiou
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound 85/15 ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon seasoning salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated, divided
  • Optional garnish is more shredded cheddar and fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Place the ground beef, seasoning salt, and pepper in a large dutch oven. Scramble fry the meat until there is no pink remaining. Try to make sure there are no lumps. When the meat is fully cooked, drain the excess fat off but leave the meat in the dutch oven.
  • Add the broth, cream, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, beef bouillon powder, dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, italian seasoning, and paprika to the dutch oven and stir together. Allow this to come to a boil.
  • Add the pasta, stir, and simmer uncovered until al dente (about 10 minutes). Do not overcook the pasta.
  • Stir in 2 cups of cheese and allow this to melt.
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top for serving.

Recipe Notes

If you have leftovers, allow them to cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container. This will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
It may be reheated in the microwave or on the stove until heated through. If it is not saucy enough, you may add more broth, cream, or milk.
If you want to store leftovers longer they should be frozen and will last for up to 3 months.

YOUR NOTES

NUTRITION FACTS

Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 770 kcal | Carbohydrates: 61 g | Protein: 41 g | Fat: 39 g | Saturated Fat: 21 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 138 mg | Sodium: 1752 mg | Potassium: 732 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 4 g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy pasta recipe, easy weeknight dinners, one pot pasta
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