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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

Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!

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 359 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! I’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 359 votes (68 ratings without comment)

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807 Comments

  1. Caitlin says:

    5 stars
    I have made this so many times and it’s amazing! My sister is a vegetarian so I make it using Impossible ground ‘meat’ and she has also given it 5 stars.
    It is so easy but tastes like it has taken you all day. There isn’t a thing I change about the recipe either. I highly recommend you try this if you are looking for a homemade hamburger helper recipe.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m thrilled it’s a family favorite!! 😀 Thanks for your review, Caitlin!

  2. Charlotte Hadley says:

    How would I change this recipes if I want more noodles in it?

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Charlotte! You’d have to experiment by adding some more liquids if you don’t want to straight double the whole recipe.

  3. Karen says:

    Can this be frozen for meal prep? Looking for recipes for a new mother to have on hand for quick and easy meals.

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi! See “leftovers & storage”.

  4. Abri says:

    I’m in the middle of making this… it’s supposed to be one cup of elbow noodles… I did a whole bag 😂😂 reading is truly fundamental. I sure hope it turns out right. If not, completely my fault. LoL

    1. Natasha says:

      Hahaha oh no!!! You’ll definitely have to add some more liquid lol.

  5. Mistie Thibert says:

    5 stars
    I just made this tonight. It was simple, quick and most importantly, delicious! Thank you for this one. I’ll be making it a lot more.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m so happy to hear that, Mistie!! 😀 Thanks for your review!

  6. Heather says:

    5 stars
    Super fast and easy! It was a hit! I used ground venison and it was perfect. I have also used ground turkey and that turned our great too.

    1. Natasha says:

      That’s great to hear, Heather!

  7. annika says:

    5 stars
    My family loves this so much that a few months ago we had it two weeks in a row. My children wouldn’t eat anything else. Absolutely refused. Nothing. Nada. No take out, no Trix or Apple Jacks. No breakfast for dinner or sub bar. They said no to tacos, pizza, and everything in between. We honest to goodness had it every single dinner for TWO. WEEKS. IN. A. ROW. The good news about that is I now have the recipe memorized and can whip it up without reading the instructions and forgetting what they said by the time I turned around. So that’s nice 🙂 From the four of us: 100/10!

    1. Natasha says:

      Haha wow I am thrilled they liked it so much, Annika!! 😀 Thanks for letting me know!!

  8. Sherry MUSCHLITZ says:

    I just tried this recipe last night. It was really good. I never ate hamburger helper, so I don’t know how this compares, but it was really good. I did add more tomato paste and it seemed to work for me.Thanks again for all the good recipes.

    1. Natasha says:

      You are very welcome, Sherry!

  9. Jen says:

    I never had hamburger helper when I was growing up, but I stumbled across this recipe and I have made it quite a few times! It’s always a hit. And I love how I can customize your base recipe for different diets, I’ve done a vegan version as well as a gluten-free version. For my own family, I stick to your recipe but I like to cook some riced vegetables and add them in at the end, with the cheese.

    1. Natasha says:

      I love that!! Thank you, Jen!

    2. BB says:

      5 stars
      Husband had a craving for his favorite dinner from his childhood: Hamburger Helper! I happened to have all of the ingredients in the pantry and whipped this up – so easy! He loved it – better than he remembered! I may try to sneak in some veggies the next time… 🥦

      1. Natasha says:

        That’s awesome!

  10. Lisa says:

    5 stars
    Best I’ve ever had! This is a fantastic recipe,way better than the boxed stuff. I substituted the macaroni for chunks of zucchini and it was amazing!

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you so much!

      1. Sarah says:

        5 stars
        Wow! Easy recipe and just as easy as the box with twice as much flavor. Yum!

        1. Natasha says:

          So happy you liked it!