Homemade Hamburger Helper

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My Homemade Hamburger Helper is easy to make, requires no fancy ingredients, is ready in 30 minutes, and is a meal the whole family will love. Learn how to make hamburger helper at home for an easy weeknight dinner idea!

a plate piled high with hamburger helper and garnished with parsley

Homemade Hamburger Helper

If you’ve been wondering how to make hamburger helper, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know!

This is probably one of my kid’s favorite meals. I mean, they could eat my hamburger helper recipe for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner — along with pancakes, pizza, and pb&j. My kids are normal, right??

Full of tender ground beef, cheddar cheese, tomato sauce, and pasta, I’m happy to introduce my hamburger helper homemade edition! Not only do my kids love it, but it’s also a reader favorite and is one of the top recipes here on Countryside Cravings.

One reader, Michelle, says “I had my doubts as I was making this, but it was a big hit with my picky husband and toddler. This is going in the weekly rotation.”

Another reader, Rob says “Whole family loved this meal. It was so quick and easy to make and even my fussiest eater cleared his plate!”

Some other reader favorites are these Homemade Chewy Brownies, Crispy Oven Fried Chicken Thighs, and Irish Soda Bread.

Why You’ll Love This Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

  • Ready in 30 minutes
  • Homemade so you control what goes into it
  • Budget-friendly
  • Uses easy-to-find ingredients you probably already have on hand
  • Will take you back to your childhood!
  • Can add in additional veggies for extra nutrition
  • It’s a true one-pot meal which means easy clean up
ingredients needed to make homemade hamburger helper recipe

Key Ingredients to Make My Hamburger Helper Recipe

  • GROUND BEEF – You can also substitute with ground turkey if you’d like.
  • ONION – Sauté it up along with the beef and spices for maximum flavor.
  • SPICES – I swear by paprika, parsley, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper for this hamburger helper recipe!
  • MILK – Feel free to use broth if you don’t have milk on hand.
  • BEEF BROTH – You can also use chicken broth if you prefer.
  • ELBOW MACARONI – For the ultimate hamburger helper homemade recipe that will take you back to your childhood! You can also use a similar pasta shape instead.
  • TOMATO SAUCE – For added savory flavor.
  • CHEDDAR CHEESE – It’s always best to grate your own cheese. The pre-shredded kind is coated in anti-caking agents and doesn’t melt as well. I’m a Tillamook cheese fan, and it’s perfect for this dish!
making homemade hamburger helper recipe. Pictures of browned ground beef and adding in the pasta

How To Make Hamburger Helper

COOK THE GROUND BEEF: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the ground beef, onion, paprika, parsley, garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt, and pepper.

If using ground beef with higher fat content, add in the seasonings after draining the grease.

INCORPORATE THE OTHER INGREDIENTS: Stir in the milk, broth, macaroni, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.

how to make hamburger helper in a cast iron skillet with cheddar cheese

ALLOW IT TO COOK: Cook your homemade hamburger helper for 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

ADD THE CHEESE: Stir in cheddar cheese until melted.

top down view of hamburger helper homemade in a cast iron skillet

Substitutions and Variations for Making Hamburger Helper Homemade

  • Feel free to add in extra vegetables! Grated zucchini, grated carrot, peas, spinach, and tomatoes are all great options for this hamburger helper recipe.
  • Change up the flavor using different spices or add more. Also, if you don’t like some of the spices listed in the ingredients, feel free to leave them out.
  • Don’t like cheddar cheese? No problem — this recipe works great with Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, or any easy-to-melt cheese.
  • Readers have used other shapes of pasta without needing to change the liquids.
  • This recipe also works great with ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. One reader even used lentils for a unique plant-based hamburger helper homemade version.
holding a plate with homemade hamburger helper


Can I freeze homemade hamburger helper?

No, it is not recommended to freeze this dish as the pasta gets too mushy.

How to store leftover hamburger helper?

Store cooled hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How to reheat hamburger helper?

While this tastes best fresh, reheat on the stovetop and add a little broth. Reheat over low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. You can also reheat this in a microwave if preferred.

Do you need ground beef for hamburger helper?

A traditional homemade hamburger helper recipe will call for ground beef, but as you discovered above, that’s not the only option! You could also use ground turkey, ground chicken, or even a plant-based protein like lentils.

What to Serve With Homemade Hamburger Helper

My homemade hamburger helper recipe is a great stand alone dish, especially if you have added in extra vegetables. However, it is great with a simple side salad and these Buttermilk Biscuits too!

I have also served it with these Simple Roasted Green Beans which are one of my kid’s favorite vegetables.

And if you are looking for something sweet to add alongside this retro dish, this Creamy Key Lime Fruit Salad is perfect.

close up of homemade hamburger helper in a skillet

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A plate piled high with hamburger helper and garnished with parlsey.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Course: Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy hamburger helper, hamburger helper, healthier hamburger helper
This Homemade Hamburger Helper is just as easy as the store bought stuff but a whole lot healthier! An easy ground beef recipe that both adults and kids love!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 479kcal
Author: Malinda Linnebur
Print Recipe Save Recipe


  • 1 pound (500g) lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch to ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cups (355ml) milk
  • cups (355ml) beef broth
  • 2 cups (260g) elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 (8oz) (227g) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups (225g) shredded cheddar cheese


  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the ground beef, onion, paprika, parsley, garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt and pepper. If using a ground beef with a higher fat content add in the seasonings after draining the grease.
  • Stir in the milk, broth, macaroni and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Stir in cheddar cheese until melted.



  1. If using whole wheat elbow pasta you may need to add more liquid while cooking.  
  2. STORAGE: Store cooled hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  3. Nutrition Facts: Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.
What to serve with this Homemade Hamburger Helper:
  • Steamed vegetable of choice
  • Simple side salad
  • Fresh fruit of choice
  • Or buttered bread


Serving: 1.25cup (about) | Calories: 479kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 538mg | Potassium: 555mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 640IU | Vitamin C: 1.3mg | Calcium: 365mg | Iron: 2.9mg

477 thoughts on “Homemade Hamburger Helper”

  1. 5 stars
    I discovered this recipe about a month ago and I am so glad I did! My very picky husband and three sons love it! After trying this, my husband informed me that it was going into the rotation and he was serious! He requests it at least once a week! I make it just like written except I use shells instead of macaroni and I double the recipe (3 teen and preteen boys EAT)

  2. Mmm I don’t know if I’ve ever had the commercial hamburger helper but I certainly will never try it now. We loved it. I slightly increased all the ingredients because I had more ground beef on hand. I used a good tomato sauce, chicken broth and sweet Spanish paprika, because I had it. I cooked it longer because we like noodles on the softer side. The only thing I didn’t increase was the cheese, maybe used a little less than the recipe and used Trader Joe’s Mexican blend. It was so velvety. This is a keeper. Thank you for sharing.

  3. 3 stars
    One key ingredient so many of these homemade hamburger helpers miss is 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch. Add your broth or stock to your beef and give it a stir. Now, add your seasoning with the cornstarch. Stir. Now add the milk and pasta. Cook for 10-11 minutes to cook pasta. Now, add the cheese. Yes, a block of cheese has better flavor. It doesn’t melt any differently than bagged cheese. Some will argue that bagged cheese melts into these little dots or flecks. This has nothing to do with the kind of cheese. Go buy the best block of cheese, shred it and add it to boiling water. Didn’t get a sauce did ya? The cornstarch when heated, like adding it to the broth, burst their molecules releasing amylopectin and amylose. This is what creates that gooey appearance. When these cheese is added, the cornstarch molecules which have been absorbing water and physically keep the proteins from binding and forming strands, as well as the fats from separating. Otherwise this is a solid flavor profile for a home version of the classic boxed dinner.

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve made the a few times now following the recipe and love it! I use smoked paprika, marble cheese & tonight I added a half teaspoon of cummin we will see how it turns out this time 🙂

  5. I live in the UK and Hamburger Helper is not a product that is sold here but I was keen to try it. I scroll through lots of comfort food recipes looking for ideas and came across this one. Followed it to the letter. Wish I had someone to share it with cos there’s a good chance I’m going to eat the lot! I thought ‘why not just make spag bol?’, it’s basically the same…Oh but it is not! I love this. I made it in an amazing non-stick/ceramic casserole dish on the hob and it was all I could have wanted, more a beef sauce than tomato sauce like you get with spag bol (gravy in the UK is not the same as gravy in the US) and the meat was soft and juicy. The herbs were spot on. The only thing I added after serving was a bit more cracked black pepper. Delicious. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Megan!! I love hearing about other people’s experience with recipes that are outside of the US. Thanks again and so glad you enjoyed it!

  6. 5 stars
    Tastes great and use 12 real ingredients unlike boxed dinner meals. I always add vegetables to my dinner helpers and will do so with this recipe. Serve with a salad and a healthy, filling dinner is done! Thank you!

  7. 4 stars
    Awesome recipe, this recipe is definitely a keeper. I was worried the liquid would be thin but by the time it simmered it’s nice and thick. The way I like it.
    I added parmesan on top when serving, very good.

  8. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! I used ground turkey. I used a mix of sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, cream cheese and colby jack cheeses. I used tomato paste instead of tomato sauce so I increased the amount of homemade beef stock. My wife and her best friend can’t wait for me to make it again!

  9. 5 stars
    My family absolutely LOVED this meal!! I was looking for a “better than the box” hamburger helper and this is a winner for sure! I was pleasantly surprised! I did tweak a bit with what I had on hand, but the base recipe is a great guide

  10. 5 stars
    This is a great nostalgic Hamburger Helper meal! Takes me back to when we were kids! It’s so quick and easy to make and very yummy! Definitely gotta have the cheese!

  11. 5 stars
    We love this recipe so much this our 3rd time having it.. this time with bison tasted delicious the fresh shredded cheese is key and such a hearty meal also throws us back to the 90s!! Thank you so much!


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