This easy homemade Hamburger Helper recipe has ground beef, macaroni, and a flavorful cheesy cheddar sauce that kids and adults will love! Total comfort food that's ready in about 30 minutes.
When I was little, my mom made everything from scratch. I do remember a few things from visiting my friends' houses in the '90s, though. One was Kraft Dinner (the boxed mac and cheese), another was Kool-Aid, and the other was Hamburger Helper. I got lost in the Hamburger Helper internet vortex when I was reading about it the other day, and it brought back memories.
This beef Hamburger Helper is very simple to make, it's done in one pot (fewer dishes!), and it's a lot healthier than the packaged version. Of course, there's nothing wrong with eating packaged foods every now and then, but a LOT of people Google "homemade Hamburger Helper"... so I am here to help. 😉
I wanted to keep this super simple. I used ingredients that I always have in my pantry. Some versions call for milk, but I didn't have any, and I wanted to see if I could make it without. In my opinion, the two cups of cheddar are more than enough dairy, and the starch released by the pasta while it cooks makes the dish plenty "creamy".
How to make Hamburger Helper (summary)
Start by browning the beef & onion in a pot and draining any excess fat, then stir in the tomato paste, garlic powder, and chili powder. Add in the beef broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, add in the uncooked macaroni. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is soaked up, then stir in the grated cheddar and season to taste. (Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below)
Recipe notes & tips:
- I recommend grating your own cheddar for best results.
- I would use a pot vs. a skillet for this recipe.
- One pot recipes can vary depending on your particular stove and ingredients, so if you seem to be running out of liquid with a lot of time still left, feel free to add in a bit more (try 1/2 cup at a time).
- This recipe, like others with plenty of pasta, soaks up the liquid the longer you leave it. Leftovers will definitely be more dry (but still tasty) than when it's freshly made.
- As with any recipe, feel free to tweak seasonings to your taste. You can always up the chili powder, add some hot sauce, add more garlic etc. to make it perfect for your taste buds. I wanted to make this a good, crowd-pleasing base recipe that can be dressed up if need be.
What to serve with Hamburger Helper
It's definitely a meal in and of itself, but it would go great with a salad on the side. Or garlic bread... mmm.
You may also like...
- Instant Pot Hamburger Mac and Cheese
- Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe
- Easy Taco Casserole Recipe
- Macaroni Soup
- Ground Beef Gnocchi
- Easy Hamburger Soup
- Easy Cheesy Taco Pasta
Let me know if you give this DIY Hamburger Helper a go!
Questions? Made this recipe? As always, I love it when you leave me comments. 🙂
Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the beef and onions to a soup pot. Cook over medium-high heat until the beef has browned (about 7-10 minutes), breaking the meat up with your spoon as you go along. If there's a lot of excess fat, spoon most of it out.
- Stir in the tomato paste, garlic powder, and chili powder.
- Add in the beef broth and increase the heat to high. Once it starts boiling, add in the macaroni.
- Reduce the heat so it's not furiously boiling (a rapid simmer is good). I ended up cooking mine over medium heat. Let it cook uncovered until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 13-15 minutes). I stir it every couple of minutes.
- While it's cooking, grate the cheese (this saves prep time at the start of the recipe).
- Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt & pepper as needed. I let it sit for a couple minutes prior to serving (soaks up the sauce and flavors more), but you can serve it right away.
- Serves 4-6 depending on the portion size.
- As with any one pot meal, ingredients and stoves vary. If you're running out of liquid (like it's in danger of sticking and burning) when you still have a while to go before the pasta is done, feel free to add in more liquid, 1/2 cup at a time.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.