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This easy homemade Hamburger Helper recipe has ground beef, macaroni, and a flavorful cheesy cheddar sauce! It’s total comfort food that’s inexpensive and ready in about 30 minutes.

Try my Simple Ground Beef Casserole or Simple Chili Mac next.

a bowl of homemade hamburger helper

Why you’ll love it

When I was little, my mom made everything from scratch. I do fondly remember a few boxed meals from visiting friends’ houses in the ’90s, though. One was Hamburger Helper, and that brings up all the nostalgia. Naturally, I had to recreate an even better Hamburger Helper from scratch! I like mine because you have total control over the seasonings and know exactly what goes into it.

This ground beef recipe is super simple to make with affordable pantry ingredients, doesn’t take much longer than the packaged kind, and it’s cooked all in one pot for fewer dishes. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating packaged foods every now and then, but a LOT of people crave homemade Hamburger Helper, so I am here to bring you the best version.

What you’ll need

  • Ground beef – I like to use extra lean ground beef, at least 90%
  • Onion – our kitchen prefers Vidalia (sweet) onions
  • Tomato paste – it’s an easy, economical way to get concentrated tomato flavor
  • Garlic powder and chili powder – our simple seasoning blend to infuse savory flavor, and they’re ingredients I always keep in my pantry
  • Elbow macaroni – the classic pasta shape for this
  • Beef broth – for a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce
  • Sharp cheddar cheese – my version of Hamburger Helper has no milk to make it that much easier, and the cheddar makes the dish creamy enough all on its own!
ingredients for homemade hamburger helper on a counter

Pro tip

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. 

How to make Hamburger Helper

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

sauteing ground beef and making sauce for hamburger helper

Start by browning the beef and onion in a large 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, stir in the uncooked macaroni.

adding cheddar to homemade hamburger helper and simmering

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is soaked up. Grate the cheddar while it’s simmering away. Stir in the cheese, and season to taste with salt & pepper.

Tools for this recipe

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Substitutions and variations

  • Feel free to tweak seasonings to your tastes. You can always increase the chili powder, add some hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes, more garlic, and so on to make it perfect for your taste buds!
  • Some readers like to sneak in a bit of spinach. Just add it in near the end of the cooking time until it wilts. Finely chopped bell peppers would work great as well.
  • If you want to jazz it up, change up the cheese variety. Monterey Jack, smoked cheddar, etc. make some fun variations.
  • You can use ground turkey or ground chicken instead if that’s more your thing.
  • If you want to use another pasta shape (e.g. shells), you may need to adjust liquid measurements and/or cooking time (this has only been tested with macaroni).

What to serve with Hamburger Helper

Leftovers and storage

  • Leftovers of this Hamburger Helper will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container, but keep in mind that the pasta will continue to absorb the broth over time. It’ll still be tasty, though.
  • Reheat in a small saucepan over a low heat for best results, giving it the occasional stir, and warm it through. Add in a splash of beef broth to thin it if desired.
  • I don’t recommend freezing leftovers. Cooked pasta doesn’t have the same texture once thawed.
a pot of homemade hamburger helper with a wooden spoon

Let me know if you give this cheesy Hamburger Helper recipe a go! Questions? Made it? As always, I love it when you leave me comments.

a bowl of homemade hamburger helper
4.91 from 362 votes

Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

This easy homemade Hamburger Helper recipe has ground beef, macaroni, and a flavorful cheesy cheddar sauce! It's total comfort food that's inexpensive and ready in about 30 minutes.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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. 

Nutrition

Calories: 501kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 44g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 130mg, Sodium: 1106mg, Potassium: 624mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 640IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 437mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

Leave a star rating and comment below!

This recipe was originally published on January 17, 2020. It’s been updated with new photos and better instructions but is the same great recipe!


Hi! Iā€™m Natasha.

Salt & Lavender is a recipe blog with a focus on delicious comfort food using everyday ingredients. Beat the weekday grind with hundreds of easy-to-follow and hassle-free recipes!

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4.91 from 362 votes (68 ratings without comment)

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817 Comments

  1. Georgeanne Katsuleas says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely awesome just as written!!

    1. Natasha says:

      Aww so glad you enjoyed it! šŸ™‚

  2. Linda says:

    I tried this tonight, my grandson and I loved it.
    Very easy too!

    1. Natasha says:

      Wonderful!! Thanks for letting me know, Linda! šŸ™‚

  3. Shannon says:

    3 stars
    My mother cooked homemade meals only, growing up, which I do, as well, for my children, so I’m unfamiliar with the taste of the original Hamburger Helper. I made this recipe last night, because it was easy and I had everything on hand, and it looked like something my kids would enjoy. My husband did eat HH growing up, and said that the flavor is pretty much a direct hit, based on memory, so it seems the recipe is a success at replicating the original. It wasn’t my favorite dish, nor did my husbands, but my kids LOVED it, and they ate the leftovers for lunch today, which was a great help (it reheated well, too). I added 50% more noodles (and broth, tomato paste, and spices to support the extra noodles), and I think it could take at least double the noodles to go with the pound of beef. I like the idea of switching up the cheese and adding more vegetables, as other commenters have noted. I look forward to trying more of your recipes, and thank you for being creative and sharing your recipes with the world!

    1. Natasha says:

      Glad the kids liked it! Yeah, I am not sure if you read the blog post or not, but my mom also made everything from scratch so I can definitely relate! Let me know if you do end up trying some of my other recipes. šŸ™‚

  4. Peggy Adcox says:

    I have made the hamburger helper meal so many times—Just now I made one it was terrible– no flavor at all. Total waste of mine and my husband’s time.

    Will definitely never buy another one of yours. Will try another vendor that knows how to make good stuff!!!

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi… I am so confused right now. Are you leaving your comment on the right website? You realize that I don’t sell products, right? This is a recipe (with many good reviews) that you make yourself…

      1. Jimi says:

        They must be on the wrong site or don’t know how to measure ingredients. They didnt even have to buy your recipe.. We just made this and it was delicious. Thanks

        1. Natasha says:

          Thank you! Iā€™m so glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Gergely says:

    5 stars
    Just great, made today, with much more pasta (500 gr) and different cheese (smoked one found only, a bit less fat than cheddar). Turned out GREAT! Just wonder about the nem … helper? Why is that? Thanks for sharing. Gergely

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi!! I’m so glad it worked out for you. I’m not sure about the name haha. I think it was invented in the ’80s and it was a way to “help” hamburger taste better maybe? I guess it’s catchy and stuck since it’s still around.

  6. Tammy says:

    5 stars
    We loved it!!

    1. Natasha says:

      So glad to hear it! Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Anna says:

    Hi! I have not tried this recipe yet. Today I made the garlic creamy chicken. It was wonderful!!
    Can I use some other kind of cheese instead of the cheddar for the homemade hamburger helper? I am not a fan of it. Thank you

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Anna! I’m so glad you enjoyed the chicken recipe! šŸ™‚ You can definitely sub another kind of cheese. I’d just pick something you can grate easily and will melt easily. Or, if you want something similar but without cheese, I just posted this recipe: https://www.saltandlavender.com/easy-creamy-beef-and-shells/

  8. Emily Downey says:

    5 stars
    Loved this! Made it tonight. My twin 12 year old boys and 15 year old daughter all liked it. Only subs I made were using no onion and using chicken broth, based on what I had on hand. Will definitely make again! Thanks!

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome! So glad it worked out! XO

  9. JVH says:

    5 stars
    So satisfying! Incredibly easy…no need to alter the ingredients or measurements. Everything is calculated perfectly. Better than the box version.

    1. Natasha says:

      I am so happy you liked it, thanks for the nice comment! XO

  10. C Smith says:

    This recipe is amazing as is. I am an ER RN and will be busy for the next few weeks. This recipe is amazing as is, today I doubled all the ingredients except the hamburger and added a pound of mushrooms simply because I am trying to bulk up my freezer meals for work while being responsible with my food stores at home. It worked really well. Thank you for your recipes!!!

    1. Natasha says:

      I am so glad to hear that! Thank you for all you do! XO