Homemade Hamburger Helper

Hubby has been bugging me to make Hamburger Helper for years. He has fond memories as a child stemming from a box of dry pasta and powdered cheese with a waving oven mitt on the front of the box.

close up of spoonful of hamburger helper with text overlay for facebook


 

I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the box and low and behold, it actually takes the same amount of time to make it from scratch. Powdered cheese? Please!

Homemade Hamburger Helper Skillet is a  great ground beef recipe with plenty of cheddar cheese, seasonings and tomatoes all ready in 20-minutes! Perfect for busy weeknights.

Pasta boils in the same cast iron skillet with beef broth, infusing an immense amount of flavor into the pasta itself. The residual liquid is what creates the decadent cheese sauce that clings to crumbled ground beef and swirly pasta.

bowl of hamburger helper

I didn’t have much to compare my Hamburger Helper Skillet to, as I never had the box mix, but I have to admit, it was pretty good! I paired it with a nice green salad with Creamy Italian Dressing and sprinkled a quality Maldon sea salt over top.

The fanciest Hamburger Helper you’ve eaten!

I used sharp cheddar cheese and elbow macaroni noodles, but feel free to create your own copycat Hamburger Helper and use any type of pasta you’d like and change up the cheese.

You can even use a cheese blend, cleaning out all the odds and ends in your cheese drawer.

spoon dipping into skillet of cheeseburger mac

Hamburger Helper Ingredients

All of these simple ingredients can easily be found at your local grocery store. It’s such a quick and easy recipe to get on the dinner table.

  • Butter – I always opt to use unsalted butter when cooking. That way I can control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe.
  • Ground beef – I like to use a lean ground beef just to make this homemade hamburger helper recipe a little healthier. I suppose you could use any ground meat you’d like. Ground turkey or ground chicken would also work well.
  • Salt and pepper – A mix of coarse sea salt and ground black pepper is what I prefer to use. If you use salted butter, go ahead and omit the salt altogether.
  • Seasonings – Besides the salt and pepper, all we need to season this meal is garlic powder and onion powder. Simple seasonings that you already have in your spice cabinet.
  • Beef broth – I prefer to use low sodium because it keeps the salt content down. But you can also use chicken broth or vegetable broth if needed and in a pinch.
  • Elbow macaroni – Elbow macaroni pasta is the traditional shape for eating hamburger helper. But check the section below for other options.
  • Whole milk – Whole milk helps to keep this cheese sauce thick. But if you find the sauce is too thick, just add a splash of water. And if it’s too thin, just add some corn starch. You can also use heavy cream.
  • Cheddar cheese – One of the best things about this family favorite is that is uses real cheese to flavor the sauce rather than the cheesy sauce packet from the boxed version. The pre shredded cheese has an additive that prevents smooth melting, so shred your own whenever possible.
  • Petite diced tomatoes – If you have picky eaters, you can leave out the tomatoes if you’d like. I just like the flavor and dimension they bring to this homemade version. You could also use tomato paste to prevent there from being chunks.
overhead shot of cheesy hamburger macaroni skillet

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

  1. In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, breaking ground beef as it cooks. Brown on all sides.
  2. Drain any excess fat. Stir in the uncooked elbow macaroni and beef broth. Spread evenly in the pan, simmering on low. Stir twice to ensure all of the pasta has had a chance to soak up the broth. Simmer until pasta is al dente.
  3. Fold in the milk and cheese until incorporated and cheesy. Fold in drained tomatoes.

Variations

Put your own twist on one of your childhood favorites. I like this recipe the way it is written, but there are plenty of ways to make it your own.

  • Make it spicy – Sprinkle in some red pepper flakes to take the heat up a notch for this comfort food.
  • Meat – You can substitute the ground beef for ground chicken or turkey instead.
  • Pasta – Although elbow pasta is the traditional pasta shape for this dish, you can use any pasta you have on hand. Preferably a hollow pasta to soak up that creamy cheese sauce.
  • Greens – Top this dish with some fresh parsley to add some color. You can also serve with a fresh green salad to add some veggies to this one-pot meal.
spoon full of hamburger helper

Storage and Freezing

Storage: You can store leftover hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay good for up to three to four days.

Freezing: I do not recommend freezing this recipe. Cooked pasta doesn’t thaw at the same texture as before.

collage of hamburger helper for pinterest

Even More One-Dish Meals

This Franks and Beans recipe, aka Beanie Weenies, is made with real beef hot dogs and less sugar than the canned version. Perfect as a quick and easy lunch or a classic camping food! #franksandbeans #homemadebeanieweenies www.savoryexperiments.com

Franks and Beans

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wooden spoon digging into casserole

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

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spoonful of hamburger helper with text overlay for pinterest
close up of wooden spoon full of hamburger helper skillet

Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

5 from 16 votes
Homemade Hamburger Helper Skillet is a  great ground beef recipe with cheddar cheese, seasonings and tomatoes all ready in 20-minutes! 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, breaking ground beef as it cooks. Brown on all sides, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  • Drain any excess fat, if there is just a little, don't worry about it. Stir in the uncooked elbow macaroni and beef broth. Spread evenly in the pan, simmering on low. Stir twice to ensure all of the pasta has had a chance to soak up the broth. Simmer for 7-9 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
  • Fold in the milk and cheese until incorporated and cheesy. Fold in drained tomatoes.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Nutrition

Calories: 903 kcal, Carbohydrates: 66 g, Protein: 50 g, Fat: 47 g, Saturated Fat: 21 g, Cholesterol: 155 mg, Sodium: 1532 mg, Potassium: 1013 mg, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g, Vitamin A: 665 IU, Vitamin C: 7.3 mg, Calcium: 402 mg, Iron: 5.6 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 903
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ground beef recipe, hamburger helper skillet, one-dish meals
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!

 

Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    What a delicious, satisfying, comfort food recipe! Next time around I’ll be doubling the recipe. This is a great meal for lunch or dinner! We paired ours with a crisp green salad.