This Homemade Hamburger Helper is a homemade version of everyone’s favorite boxed dinner! Macaroni is cooked directly in a creamy cheese sauce with flavorful ground beef for quick and easy one-pot meal!
I never thought I’d say this, but I LOVE hamburger helper . . . well, I love THIS homemade hamburger helper. Not only is it packed with flavor, it’s loved by literally everyone (even picky eaters), and it’s all made in one pot which means less dishes!
Win, win, win!
What is hamburger helper?
Hamburger Helper is a classic boxed meal made up of dried pasta and a powdered sauce packet. Hamburger Helper is designed to be cooked along with ground beef in one dish for an easy, no mess dinner…hence the name Hamburger Helper!
Today, we’re making a homemade version of this classic easy dinner! Bonus: since it’s homemade, it’s definitely healthier, but it’s still SO EASY!
This simple ingredient list makes a super delicious and easy dinner!
- Ground Beef – the “Hamburger” in Hamburger Helper! Use an extra lean variety, if possible, so there’s less grease to drain.
- Yellow Onion and Green Pepper – add nutrients, flavor, and texture.
- Garlic Powder, Paprika, Salt, and Pepper – a simple, earthy, sweet, and flavorful seasoning blend.
- Ketchup – adds a slight tomato-y flavor and just a hint of sweetness.
- Dijon Mustard – adds a bit of tang to balance out the creaminess of the dish.
- Beef Broth and Milk – used to cook the noodles and are the bases for our sauce. The beef broth adds flavor and the milk adds creaminess.
- Sour Cream – provides even more creaminess and a slight tangy flavor.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese – freshly grated for perfectly melted cheese. The cheese adds creaminess and a sharp flavor to our sauce.
- Macaroni Noodles – no need to cook them first. They’ll cook directly in the sauce!
How to make
This homemade Hamburger Helper recipe takes 15 minutes to prep and is made in one pot! Yep. You read that right. Easy to make and easy to clean up!
- Heat a large stockpot over medium heat then add in beef, onion, green pepper, and spices. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, then drain the grease.
- Mix in ketchup, mustard, broth, milk, uncooked macaroni noodles, cheddar, and sour cream then simmer until the pasta is al dente, stirring constantly.
- Let sit to thicken then serve and enjoy!
What meat to use
The classic Hamburger Helper meat is ground beef so that’s what we’re using in this recipe! Use any fat content you’d like (90/10, 80/20 etc). I prefer a leaner meat, because there’s less grease to drain, but if you’re working on a budget, use a fattier beef! Whatever you use, don’t forget to drain the grease after you cook it or you’ll end up with greasy pasta.
What pasta to use
Macaroni noodles are the standard Hamburger Helper noodle, so that’s what we’re using in this recipe.
If you don’t have macaroni noodles around, pretty much any short cut pasta shape should work. Try medium pasta shells, penne, rotini, gemelli, etc. Keep in mind, if you change the noodles, the cook time may also change.
Do you need to cook the pasta first?
No, do NOT cook the pasta first! The pasta cooks directly in the beef broth/milk mixture so there’s no need to cook the macaroni noodles beforehand.
If you cooked the pasta beforehand, the pasta would become mushy and the sauce wouldn’t thicken (the dry pasta noodles soak up the broth/milk mixture).
- Drain the grease. After you cook your beef, be sure to drain the grease so the sauce isn’t too oily.
- Grate your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in an anti-caking agent that can result in a gritty texture when it’s melted.
- Stir constantly once the pasta is in. This prevents the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
What to serve with homemade hamburger helper
Hamburger Helper is a pretty complete meal with pasta, veggies, and protein but if you want to bulk up your meal a little more here are some ideas!
How to store
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then microwave or heat on the stove until warmed through.
Homemade Hamburger Helper
Equipment for this recipe
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 green pepper diced
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste (I did 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 3 cups beef broth
- 3 cups milk I used skim
- 1 (16 oz) box uncooked macaroni
- 1 (8 oz) container sour cream room temperature
- 1 (8 oz) block sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- Heat a large stockpot over medium heat.
- Once hot, add in beef, onion, green pepper, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Cook, breaking up the meat as you go, until the beef is no longer pink.
- Drain grease.
- Replace the pot back onto the heat, then stir in ketchup, dijon, broth, milk, and macaroni.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- Once simmering, simmer for about 7 minutes or until macaroni noodles are al dente. Stir constantly. You’ll likely need to adjust your heat lower to keep it at a low simmer.
- Turn off the heat and stir in sour cream and cheese.
- Let sit to thicken for 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary.
- Serve and enjoy!
*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.