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Hamburger Helper: Quick, Delicious, & Budget-Friendly

Made with just one pot and affordable ingredients, Hamburger Helper is a delicious and satisfying comfort meal. This recipe is very easy to make and doesn’t take time. If you need a crowd-pleasing meal, this is a good option for you!

A delicious pasta dish with ground beef and melted cheddar cheese.

Making hamburger helper from scratch 

Hamburger Helper is one of my favorite comfort one-pot meals. With a couple of ingredients and about 30 minutes, you can have this ready to enjoy with your family. Another one-pot that gives me this fuzzy, comforting feeling like this meal is my ground beef pasta recipe. They are almost peas in a pod. 

To make this delicious hamburger helper recipe from scratch, you will need pasta, ground beef, beef broth (or any broth of your choice), cheese, tomatoes, herbs, spices, and seasonings. You can also add veggies and swap out ingredients if you want a vegan version of this meal. 

Making this recipe is almost like throwing your ingredients in a pot—in a blink; it’s ready! It’s so easy to recreate; it’s comforting, filling, and satisfying.

What You’d Love About This Recipe

  • One Pot: This meal is convenient to cook and you don’t have to wash a truckload of pots and utensils after making your meal.
  • Hearty and Filling Meal: Ground beef, pasta, and a flavorful sauce combine to create a substantial dish that is perfect for the whole family. 
  • Easy to Make: This hamburger helper recipe requires minimal effort and cooking skills. Just brown ground meat, add the pasta, seasoning, and water, and simmer until everything is cooked through.
  • Affordable: Hamburger Helper is an affordable meal option. It provides a budget-friendly way to feed a family or enjoy a comforting meal without breaking the bank.
  • True Comfort Meal: Hamburger Helper is a classic comfort food that brings a sense of nostalgia and warmth. It offers a comforting and familiar taste that you will love and enjoy.

Ingredients for making Hamburger Helper from Scratch

  • Ground beef (or your favorite protein): This is the savory base of our dish, but feel free to get creative with ground turkey, chicken, or even sausage!
  • Cornstarch: This secret ingredient acts as a thickening agent, ensuring a silky smooth and satisfying sauce.
  • Paprika: Paprika adds a vibrant touch and a touch of smokiness (use smoked paprika for an extra kick!).
  • Garlic powder (or fresh minced garlic): Garlic is a flavor powerhouse, adding depth and savory goodness.
  • Onion powder: Onion powder complements the garlic and adds another layer of savory magic.
  • Salt and black pepper: These seasoning essentials work together to create a balanced flavor profile.
  • broth: The hot liquid helps cook the pasta and forms the base of our cheesy sauce. For extra richness, swap it with beef or chicken broth!
  • Milk: Milk adds creaminess and helps create a smooth and delightful sauce texture.
  • Pasta: macaroni – perfect for catching all that delicious cheesy goodness, but any small pasta like elbows, rotini, or penne would work beautifully.
  • Grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite melting cheese): This is where the cheesy magic happens! Feel free to experiment with cheddar jack, mozzarella, or a blend for a different flavor twist.

How to make Hamburger Helper 

  • In a large pot or skillet, cook ground beef until browned. Drain excess fat.
  • Add onions and garlic to the pot with the beef. Cook until onions are translucent.
  • Add macaroni, diced tomatoes (with juice), beef broth, water, spices, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese until melted.
  • Top with optional toppings like green onions or parsley.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!
A comforting dish of hamburger helper  pasta, richly flavored with spices, ground beef, and cheddar cheese.

What goes with hamburger helper

  • Green beans: Pair with green beans for a delicious and healthy side to your meal
  • Simple side salad: Serve Hamburger Helper with a side of fresh green salad or a simple side salad dressed with your favorite dressing.
  • Garlic bread: For some added flavor and texture, prepare some garlic bread or garlic knots to serve alongside the Hamburger Helper for some added flavor and texture.
  • Roasted or Grilled vegetables: Fire up the grill and make some delicious vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms to serve alongside the Hamburger Helper.
  • Corn on the cob: Whether you decide to boil or grill your corn on the cob, both methods serve as a side dish to complement the flavors of the meal. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a hamburger helper? 

A hamburger helper is a delicious and satisfying meal made from pasta, ground meat and sauce. It’s a convenient dish to make if you are looking for a hearty meal without much hassle.

Which pasta do I use to make Hamburger Helper?

To make hamburger helper, you can use various types of pasta, such as macaroni, penne, or rotini. I used elbow macaroni for this recipe because it’s great for absorbing the sauce. 

How long does it take to make a hamburger helper?

The time it takes to make a hamburger helper can vary, but generally, you will need about 20-35 minutes from start to finish. This includes browning the ground meat, cooking the pasta, and simmering it all together with the sauce. It’s really a quick dinner option. 

What to do with left over hamburger helper?

You can store any left over in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. It can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a little water or broth if needed to prevent it from drying out. 

Alternatively, you can repurpose the leftovers by adding them to a casserole, using them as a filling for stuffed peppers, or incorporating them into a soup or chili recipe. The options are endless!

Storage & Reheating Tips 

How long is Hamburger Helper good in the fridge?

Hamburger Helper is good in the fridge for about 3-4 days. Make sure to store your meal in an airtight container so that you can enjoy it later. 

How to reheat Hamburger Helper 

There are about 3 ways you can reheat hamburger helper and they include: 

  • On Stovetop: Add a splash of water to the Hamburger Helper and heat it over low heat in a pan. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and ensure even heating. Continue cooking until it gets to the desired temperature.
  • Microwave: Put your meal in a microwave-safe dish and add a small amount of water or broth if you prefer to prevent drying out. Cover the dish, leaving a small vent for steam to escape. Heat in the microwave in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until the dish is heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Transfer the Hamburger Helper to an oven-safe dish and cover it with foil to prevent drying out. Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the dish is heated through.

Substitutes and Variations

If you lean towards the vegan side or you just want a vegan variation of this hamburger helper meal, you can try these:

  • Swap out your ground beef with cooked brown lentils or a plant-based meat substitute like tofu. You can also add broccoli, cauliflower, or any other veggie to give your meal some substance and bulk. 
  • Instead of beef broth, use vegetable broth. 
  • Substitute shredded cheese with other vegan or plant-based cheese options, such as alternatives made from nuts, soy, and coconut. 

For variety;

  • Add in diced bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, carrots, peas, and spinach to increase the nutritional value of your meal.
  • Switch up your pasta options. You can substitute elbow macaroni with egg noodles, penne, or rotini.
  • You can switch up the tomato-based sauce with one with a creamy base using ingredients like coconut milk, almond milk, and many more. 
  • Add in other herbs and spices like cumin to give it your own unique twist. 

More Quick One-Pot Dinners to try:

A delicious pasta dish with ground beef and melted cheddar cheese.

Making Hamburger Helper From Scratch

Made with just one pot and affordable ingredients, Hamburger Helper is a delicious and satisfying comfort meal. This recipe is very easy to make and doesn’t take time. If you need a crowd pleasing meal, this is a top tier option for you!
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 444.8kcal


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • teaspoons garlic powder
  • teaspoons onion powder
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups beef broth or chicken broth
  • cups milk
  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese


  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking it up as it cooks until it’s no longer pink. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
  • Add the cornstarch, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir well to ensure the spices are evenly distributed.
  • Add the hot water, milk, and pasta to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Once boiling, cover the skillet with a lid and reduce the heat. Allow it to simmer for about 8-11 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese over the cooked pasta. Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it stand for a few minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
  • Optional: Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving. Enjoy your meal!


Calories: 444.8kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.5g | Protein: 32.8g | Fat: 19.4g | Saturated Fat: 10.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 91.9mg | Sodium: 1202.3mg | Potassium: 546.2mg | Fiber: 1.7g | Sugar: 4.8g | Vitamin A: 1051.8IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 366.6mg | Iron: 2.8mg

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