This homemade version of Hamburger Helper is a quick and easy meal that the whole family will love! Made with just a few simple ingredients, it comes together in no time – and tastes way better than the boxed hamburger helper.
If you’re a cheese lover, you’ve come to the right place. Not only is this delectable family dinner favourite filled with ooey-gooey cheese, but you’ll also find many other cheese-based recipes on the blog. From Puff Pastry Baked Brie to Burnt Basque Cheesecake, I have you covered from cheesy appetizer to luscious dessert.
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Homemade Hamburger Helper
Hamburger helper is one of those go-to dinner dishes you can always rely on to turn out delicious and tasty. It may surprise you that this homemade hamburger helper recipe is just as easy to make as the store-bought version. The bonus is that it contains all of the flavour without any of the additives or preservatives.
All you need to make this easy meal is leaf ground beef, some elbow macaroni, diced tomatoes, evaporated milk, and loads of shredded cheddar cheese. The cheesy, creamy tomato sauce is accented with veggies such as onion, garlic, and a tasty seasoning blend of herbs and spices.
Be prepared… this is the kind of home cooked meal that your family request for dinner frequently and forever. It’s a timeless classic meal for kids and kids at heart.
What is Hamburger Helper?
Chances are you’ve heard of Hamburger Helper before but in case you haven’t, it is a convenience food that comes in a box. The dry package mix usually contains some form of carbohydrate (pasta or rice), along with seasonings and powdered sauce. However, the canned version typically also has ground beef or other meats included.
To make the dried version, the contents of the box are simmered together for 15-20 minutes in a pan with some water (or milk) and protein (browned beef, cooked chicken, tuna, etc.).
This convenience food product has remained a popular family dinner option since 1971. However, while it may be convenient and tasty, it can also contain additives, preservatives, and other not-so-healthy ingredients.
That’s why making your own homemade version of Hamburger Helper is a great way to enjoy the classic dish in a healthier way.
Ingredients for this Recipe
Great news! There are no surprise ‘hard to find’ ingredients or ‘green things’ for the kids to complain about in this recipe. This easy homemade hamburger helper recipe is a ‘win’ for everyone.
- extra lean ground beef
- olive oil
- elbow macaroni
- crushed tomatoes
- Worcestershire sauce
- tomato paste
- evaporated milk
- beef stock
- dried oregano
- dried thyme
- smoked paprika
- chili powder
- salt and pepper
- fresh parsley
For best results, use only extra lean ground beef in this one pot recipe. If you do intend to use regular or even lean ground beef, be sure to thoroughly drain the meat after browning it. Other ground meats, such as ground pork, chicken or turkey will also work in this recipe. Note that they still require browning.
It’s easy to switch out a teaspoon garlic powder for the minced garlic. However, adding fresh garlic over dried will create a better flavour in any dish.
Elbow macaroni is the classic pasta shape in any hamburger helper dinner. However, you can substitute other noodles or pasta shapes if they are a similar size and cooking time.
Evaporated milk is handy pantry staple to have on hand for many recipes. Be sure to buy evaporated milk, not the sweetened condensed milk. While both are shelf stable concentrated forms of milk, only evaporated milk will work in this recipe.
Since it has most of its water removed by high-heat cooking, it will not curdle when cooked over high heat. If you don’t have evaporated milk, you can substitute one cup of sour cream in its place.
You can use either store bought or homemade beef stock or beef broth in this recipe. Store bought stock may contain high amounts of sodium, so you may want to reduce the suggested amount of salt or buy a low sodium stock.
Hand Shredded vs Store-bought Cheese Blends
If you want the cheese to be all melty and gooey, forgo prepackaged grated cheese blends and grate the cheese yourself. For a Mexican-style cheese blend, shred a combination of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso, and Asadero cheeses. You can also add Colby cheese to the mixture. For an Italian-style blend, shred up some Asiago, Romano, Parmesan Reggiano, Provolone, and Mozzarella cheeses.
How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper
To begin, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the (extra lean) pound ground beef and cook it, using a spoon or spatula to break up the pieces. Next, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook the beef until it is no longer pink, and the veggies have softened.
Season the hamburger mixture with chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add the elbow macaroni to the beef mixture, then pour in the 4 cups of beef broth and evaporated milk. Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook for 8 minutes on medium low heat.
Lastly, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, then add the rest over top the pan ingredients. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes.
Remove pan from heat and serve with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
Delicious Ways to Customize Hamburger Helper
Homemade Hamburger Helper is incredibly versatile, so you can always switch up the flavors and ingredients to suit your tastes. Here are some delicious ways to customize a classic Hamburger Helper:
- Add vegetables – Onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots and other vegetables all work wonderfully in this dish. Try sautéing them in some oil first, to add even more flavor.
- Use other types of meat – Ground turkey, chicken or pork would all make delicious alternatives to the traditional ground beef.
- Add spices – From chili powder to cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes, there are a variety of spices that you can mix in to give your homemade Hamburger Helper an extra kick.
- Change up the carbs – Swap out the elbow macaroni for another type of pasta like shells, spirals or penne. You can also use rice or mashed potatoes in place of traditional pasta.
- Give it a cheesy goodness – Sprinkle some extra cheese on top for a cheesy, yummy finish.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to customizing your homemade Hamburger Helper, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment! You might just stumble upon a new family favorite.
Storing and Reheating the Leftovers
Once you’ve enjoyed your delicious homemade hamburger helper, it’s time to store the leftovers. To keep your food fresh and safe to eat, follow these simple guidelines:
Allow it to cool to room temperature then store the leftovers in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to one month.
Reheat leftovers thoroughly until they reach 165 F. Do not reheat more than once.
If you tried this Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe, please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 4 cups beef broth
- 12 oz. can evaporated milk
- 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups Mexican or Italian shredded cheese blend*
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley (for garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the lean ground beef and cook it, using a spoon or spatula to break up the pieces.
- Next, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook the beef until it is no longer pink and the veggies have softened.
- Season the hamburger mixture with chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well.
- Add the elbow macaroni to the beef mixture, then pour in the 4 cups of beef broth and evaporated milk. Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Bring to a simmer then cover with a lid and cook for 8 minutes on medium low heat.
- Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, then add the rest over top the pan ingredients. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and serve with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
* For a Mexi-style cheese blend, shred a combination of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso, and Asadero cheeses. You can also add Colby cheese to the mixture. To make an Italian-style blend, shred up some Asiago, Romano, Parmesan Reggiano, Provolone, and Mozzarella cheeses.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 600Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 1217mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 4gSugar: 14gProtein: 43g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.