My easy homemade Hamburger Helper recipe with cheesy pasta and tomato sauce is so delicious you’ll never go back to the box.
I’m not embarrassed to admit it. In our first days of being married, mac and cheese and Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper™ were favorites of my husband and mine. Maybe it’s because my mom rarely made dinner from the box that gave that dang Hamburger Helper version a secret appeal. Or maybe it was just because it was easy comfort food: pasta, hamburger, and cheese sauce. Who doesn’t love that combo?
We always doctored up the boxed version with sliced onion and mushrooms, but when I started reading labels and struggled to pronounce half the ingredients list, the boxed version went by the wayside. But the craving didn’t. That’s why I set out to make my own version of Hamburger Helper (with cheese, of course). My homemade version is still super easy and full of comfort food flavor, but it’s made with real ingredients and it makes such a difference. It’s great on its own but you could serve it up with a simple salad or some veggies if you wanted.
What’s in The BEST Homemade Hamburger Helper
While it looks like a longer list of ingredients, this recipe comes together really quickly. It takes pretty much the same amount of time as using the packet version. But it’s SO. MUCH. BETTER!
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Olive oil
- Lean ground beef
- Yellow onion (you could use onion powder if you don’t have any fresh onion, but definitely use fresh if you can)
- Chicken or beef broth
- Tomato paste
- Garlic powder
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Rotini (you could also use elbow macaroni)
- Cheddar cheese
Tip: If you wanted to health-ify this a notch, feel free to add some vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Also, a dash of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper would bring a nice punch of heat if you wanna add spice.
How to Make The BEST Homemade Hamburger Helper
This recipe comes together quickly and easily. Here’s how to make it:
Brown your beef. Then add in the onions and cook until softened.
Build that umami base. Add broth, water, ketchup, tomato paste, and garlic powder. and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Cook your noodles. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
Make the cheesy sauce. In a separate saucepan, make the cheese sauce using the milk, butter, flour, and shredded cheddar.
Mix it all together. Pour the cheese sauce into the hamburger mixture and stir to combine.
Can I Use Another Ground Meat?
It’s your kitchen, do what you want! Ground beef, ground turkey, or ground pork would all work in this homemade Hamburger Helper recipe.
Can I Use Another Type of Pasta?
You can use any short, sturdy pasta you have on hand. I don’t recommend using longer, thinner pasta like spaghetti since they don’t hold up well to the hearty sauce.
How Do You Make Good Hamburger Helper?
Use good quality cheese. Choose one that’s at least medium in flavor versus mild or a simple American, giving this dish its real cheese flavor.
Add some veg. Adding sliced cremini mushrooms and even some chopped red bell pepper, carrots, frozen peas, corn, or cauliflower to the sautéing process would be great additions.
Noodle around. We typically use rotini noodles, but elbows, penne, shells, ziti, rigatoni, or another short-tubed pasta would work well. Just be sure to choose a noodle where the cheese sauce and burger can hide in each bite.
More Easy Mac and Cheese Recipes You’ll Love
- The Best Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese
- Skillet Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Chicken Divan Mac and Cheese
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The BEST Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground 85 percent lean ground beef
- ½ medium onion , chopped
- 2 cups chicken or beef broth
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ cups dry rotini noodles
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups medium cheddar cheese , shredded
- fresh parsley , for serving
- Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and add ground beef. Break into chunks with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
- Add onion and cook for another 5 minutes or until beef is cooked through and onion is softened.
- Add broth, water, ketchup, tomato paste, garlic powder, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add macaroni and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until macaroni is al dente and liquid has reduced.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in another pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes or until flour is cooked through. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Cook until sauce begins to thicken, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
- Add cheese sauce to hamburger and noodle mixture and stir to combine. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
More Quick and Comforting Recipes to Try
- One-Pot Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
- 30-Minute Garlic and Herb Rub Pork Tenderloin
- Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce
- One-Pot Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe
- Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni
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