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Hamburger Helper

5 from 1 vote

posted: 02/25/24

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

Hamburger Helper is an easy stovetop dinner that the whole family will love. This homemade spin on the classic takes comfort food to a new level.

Many of you already know that my mom and her love of feeding us is the primary inspiration behind the name, Simple Joy. She really had this beautiful way of using food as a way of bringing us all around the table and sharing her love and care with us. It’s something that inspires me daily as I create recipes to share with all of you.

All of that said, my mom absolutely took short-cuts. She was a busy mom with three kids and I totally get it. Boxed meals didn’t happen often, but they sure did happen. I wonder a bit now, if she would have been excited if someone had given her my delicious homemade hamburger helper recipe.

I think she would have adored the fact that it comes together with ingredients she could easily keep on hand. She would have reveled in the fact that she could easily make it vegetarian by swapping out the ground beef for tofu. And she would have been elated that it all comes together in just 25 minutes.

I hope this recipe brings you and your family all the same delight that I know it would have brought her.

Reader Review

This Hamburger Helper recipe is VERY good. Thank you.

Overhead view of a skillet of Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper Ingredients

One of the best parts of making cheeseburger hamburger helper homemade is that the ingredients are super simple. Many of them are pantry staples, making this an easy and comforting meal to make during the week. Here is a little bit about the main ingredients. Be sure to see the recipe card for the full list and measurements.

  • Ground beef: A higher fat content (like 80/20) works best because we use the grease from cooking the beef to cook the vegetables and create a roux. You could also sub ground turkey for a lighter option, but know you may have to add some olive oil since there won’t be as much grease as ground beef.
  • Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the classic pasta of choice, but any small pasta such as shells or bowtie pasta would work.
  • Tomato paste: This thick ingredient is just tomatoes that have been cooked and pureed, with no added sweetener or seasonings. It adds to the cheeseburger flavor of the dish that is part of the classic hamburger helper.
  • Beef stock: Builds up the sauce while also adding savory flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Adds a savory flavor to elevate the sauce.
  • Shredded cheese: Makes the sauce extra creamy and smooth. See my tip below about grating it yourself from a block.
Bowl of Hamburger Helper

How to Make Hamburger Helper

This homemade hamburger helper recipe is so easy and delicious. With control over the seasonings and exactly what goes in it, here is a brief overview of how it comes together. For the full recipe including all measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the post or click the jump to the recipe button above.

  1. Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of water to a raging boil and cook your pasta according to its package directions. See a few simple tips below.
  2. Cook the beef. Break up the beef in a hot skillet. Just when it is starting to brown, add in the onion, garlic cloves, and seasonings. Cook the mixture until the onion is soft.
  3. Make the sauce. Add in the tomato paste and then whisk in the flour. Slowly add the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the milk and let the dish simmer. Be sure to scrape up what is at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Put it all together. Stir in the cheese so it melts into the dish. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Then stir in the cooked pasta and enjoy!

Cooking Pasta For Hamburger Helper

The first step in this recipe is cooking your pasta. While this step is simple and may seem like something you can do without much thought, there are a few tips for making sure your pasta comes out perfect every time.

  • Use plenty of water. Pasta expands while it cooks, so you need more than just enough to cover it in the pot. A pound of pasta needs four to six quarts of water.
  • Salt your water. Add one teaspoon of kosher salt to your water before you add the dry noodles to add flavor to the pasta.
  • Make sure the water is really boiling. You want to see large, constant bubbles in your pot before you add the noodles.
  • Set a timer. As soon as you dump your noodles into the boiling water, set a timer according to the package directions so your pasta isn’t overcooked.
Overhead view of bowls of Hamburger Helper with forks beside

Making a Roux

To make this the best homemade hamburger helper for your family, we make a creamy sauce by creating a roux. We use the grease from the ground beef as the fat source that combines with flour. By slowly adding the beef stock to this mixture, we achieve a thick and smooth sauce that pulls the whole recipe together.

Be sure to fully whisk the flour into the pan so that you don’t get any taste of it. When you add the beef stock, start slow by adding just a few tablespoons at a time, allowing it to be mixed in before adding more. The more you add, the faster you can add it.

Shredding Cheese

For any recipe that calls for shredded cheese, I highly recommend buying a block of cheese and grating it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is covered with preservatives that keep it from clumping together in the bag, but this also affects the taste of the cheese and prevents it from melting well. Trust me and take the time to shred it yourself, it melts and is so creamy in this homemade hamburger helper recipe!


Can I make this with ground turkey or ground chicken?

Yes! You will need to start with 2 tablespoons of olive oil before you add the ground turkey or chicken to both keep the meat from sticking.

Can you make hamburger helper without meat?

Yes! In step 2 when we would brown the meat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the onion and garlic, and proceed with the recipe as written.

Can I add more vegetables?

Of course! When you add in the onion you could throw in some finely shredded carrot. This would be a great way to add more nutrients to the dish.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Store any leftover hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat only the portion you plan to eat in a small skillet over low heat or in the microwave. You may need to add a splash of beef stock to thin it out if it looks dry, as it will absorb the sauce as it sits.

Hamburger Helper in a skillet with drinks beside

Other Easy Stovetop Dinner Recipes

If you make this homemade hamburger helper recipe or any of my other recipes, please leave a comment and let me know. I love hearing from you!

Skillet of Hamburger Helper with a spoon
5 from 1 vote

Hamburger Helper

Serves: 6 servings
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Hamburger Helper is an easy stovetop dinner that the whole family will love. This homemade spin on the classic takes comfort food to a new level.


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked to package instructions using the low end of the cooking time range (453.59 grams)
  • 1 pound ground beef 80/20 fat content (453.59 grams)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt if you only have table salt, start with half the amount called for
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup milk (236.59 grams)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded (226 grams)


  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions. See my tips above for perfectly cooked pasta.
    1 pound elbow macaroni
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef breaking it up. Once the beef has just begun to brown, add in the onion and garlic cloves. Season with paprika, salt, and black pepper. Cook the mixture until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. (No need to drain off the grease from the beef.)
    1 pound ground beef, 1 medium yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Add in the tomato paste and then whisk in the flour.
    2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 tablespoons flour
  • Slowly whisk in the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. I like to add just a little bit at a time to make sure it is absorbed into the dish before adding more. The more you add, the more quickly you can add the rest. This whole process shouldn't take more than a minute or two. Stir in the milk and let the dish simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, being sure to scrape up what is at the bottom of the pan.
    1 cup milk, 1 cup beef stock
  • Add the cheddar cheese, allowing it to melt into the dish. Taste the dish and add more salt and pepper as needed.
    2 cups cheddar cheese
  • Stir in the cooked pasta, serve and enjoy.
Serving: 1.8cups Calories: 670kcal (34%) Carbohydrates: 65g (22%) Protein: 35g (70%) Fat: 29g (45%) Saturated Fat: 13g (81%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 93mg (31%) Sodium: 1059mg (46%) Potassium: 659mg (19%) Fiber: 3g (13%) Sugar: 6g (7%) Vitamin A: 597IU (12%) Vitamin C: 5mg (6%) Calcium: 365mg (37%) Iron: 3mg (17%)
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Skillet of Hamburger Helper with a spoon

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Hamburger Helper

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

Reader Interactions


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  1. Sally Thompson says

    5 stars
    This Hamburger Helper recipe is VERY good. Thank you.

    • Lisa Longley says

      I’m so glad you liked it!

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5 Secrets to Stress Free Dinners



5 Secrets to Stress Free Dinners