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With just 5 minutes of prep and a few pantry staples, my grandmother’s one pan homemade Hamburger Helper is a quick and easy dinner recipe that kids and adults will love! Top it with cheddar cheese, and serve it alongside a salad, cornbread, or biscuits. The made from scratch pasta and ground beef skillet is always a weeknight winner!

Overhead shot of hands holding a skillet of homemade hamburger helper.

Homemade Hamburger Helper Beef Pasta

This homemade Hamburger Helper is one of those simple dinners that will be a regular lifesaver for your busy family. It only requires one pan (which equals fewer dishes to clean up), and the meal practically cooks itself after about 5 minutes of hands-on prep. There’s no need to boil the pasta before you add it to the ground beef and sauce. Everything cooks together in a single skillet for a flavorful, family-friendly meal in about 30 minutes!

Overhead shot of hands holding a bowl of homemade hamburger helper beef pasta.

What is Hamburger Helper?

The original Hamburger Helper is a packaged food product, made by the Betty Crocker brand, that consists of boxed dried pasta with seasonings in a powdered sauce packet. The idea is that you simply add ground beef to the boxed ingredients and dinner is on the table!

There are many, many varieties of the prepared dish — from pizza and nacho flavors to bacon cheeseburger, Italian shells, and beef Stroganoff. This homemade recipe most resembles the Chili Macaroni Hamburger Helper, thanks to the ground beef, elbow pasta, and rich tomato sauce that’s seasoned with plenty of zesty chili powder. It’s so much better than the boxed version!

Browning ground beef in a skillet.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of homemade hamburger helper. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground beef: or substitute with ground turkey, ground pork, or ground chicken.
  • Water and beef broth: the liquid base for the sauce. You also need the water to cook the pasta.
  • Elbow macaroni: there’s no need to boil the noodles before adding them to the pan. They cook right in the sauce, releasing starches that help to thicken the mixture.
  • Tomato paste: gives the sauce a thick, rich tomato flavor.
  • Minced dried onion, garlic powder, and chili powder: these add savory, zesty flavor to the sauce.
  • Brown sugar: balances the acidity of the tomatoes, giving the dish a more complex tomato flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce: adds salty, umami flavor.
Pouring beef broth into a skillet.

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

You only need a handful of pantry staples — plus hamburger meat — for this easy dinner recipe that cooks entirely in one skillet. You just can’t beat childhood favorites for cozy, comforting family dinners!

  1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet until no longer pink; drain off the fat.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender, the liquid reduces, and the sauce thickens.
  4. Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese over top, if desired, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
Overhead shot of hands serving homemade hamburger helper recipe from a big skillet.

What to Serve with Ground Beef Pasta

This one-pot meal pairs nicely with any of the following easy sides:

Side shot of a bowl of hamburger helper on a dinner table.

Storage

Leftover hamburger helper will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat the meal in a covered skillet over low heat just until warmed through, or microwave individual servings for about 1 minute. I do not recommend freezing this dish. The pasta will swell and change texture in the freezer, resulting in a mushy texture when reheated.

Close overhead shot of homemade hamburger helper in a white bowl with parsley garnish on top.

Recipe Variations

  • Swap out the ground beef and use ground turkey, ground pork, or ground chicken instead.
  • In a pinch, vegetable broth or chicken broth will be a fine substitute for the beef broth.
  • Don’t have dried minced onion? Substitute with about 2 teaspoons of onion powder. You can also use about ⅔ cup of minced fresh onion; however, you’ll need to cook the onion with the ground beef so that it softens.
  • Add a dash of paprika to the sauce, or season with herbs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, or basil.
  • For added texture, sprinkle cheese and a few buttered breadcrumbs over the top, and then place the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes. This will give it a crunchy, cheesy topping similar to mac and cheese.
Side shot of a bowl of homemade hamburger helper.

Tips for the Best Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

  • Brown the hamburger first. This gives the beef color, and seals in the flavor.
  • Drain the fat. This is another important tip, since it’s not only a healthier way of cooking, but it also prevents the finished dish from having a greasy texture.
  • Don’t omit the brown sugar. In order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. The right amount of sugar perfectly balances the acidity of the tomatoes. Start with about 2 teaspoons of sugar here, and add more to taste, if necessary.
  • The cheese garnish at the end is optional, but it sure adds great flavor! You can use shredded sharp cheddar cheese, Pepper Jack, Colby, Colby Jack, or any other good melting cheese. A sprinkling of Parmesan would also be nice.
Overhead shot of hands eating homemade hamburger helper recipe with a fork in a bowl.

More One Pot Meals to Try

Square image of homemade hamburger helper recipe

One Pan Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.94 from 16 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 291 kcal
Just 5 minutes of prep for a homemade Hamburger Helper that's healthier and tastier than the store-bought version!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup tomato paste (from a 6-ounce can)
  • 2 tablespoons minced dried onion
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: grated cheese; chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain off the fat.
  • Add remaining ingredients to the skillet, as well as about ½ teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper.
  • Stir to combine; bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until the noodles are tender and the sauce thickens.
  • Taste the pasta and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish with cheese and parsley, if desired.

Notes

  • Brown the hamburger first. This gives the beef color, and seals in the flavor.
  • Drain the fat. This is another important tip, since it’s not only a healthier way of cooking, but it also prevents the finished dish from having a greasy texture.
  • Don’t omit the brown sugar. In order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. The right amount of sugar perfectly balances the acidity of the tomatoes. Start with about 2 teaspoons of sugar here, and add more to taste, if necessary.
  • The cheese garnish at the end is optional, but it sure adds great flavor! You can use shredded sharp cheddar cheese, Pepper Jack, Colby, Colby Jack, or any other good melting cheese. A sprinkling of Parmesan would also be nice.
  • Swap out the ground beef and use ground turkey, ground pork, or ground chicken instead.
  • In a pinch, vegetable broth or chicken broth will be a fine substitute for the beef broth.
  • Don’t have dried minced onion? Substitute with about 2 teaspoons of onion powder. You can also use about ⅔ cup of minced fresh onion; however, you’ll need to cook the onion with the ground beef so that it softens.
  • Add a dash of paprika to the sauce, or season with herbs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, or basil.
  • For added texture, sprinkle cheese and a few buttered breadcrumbs over the top, and then place the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes. This will give it a crunchy, cheesy topping similar to mac and cheese.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 291kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 30gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 796mgPotassium: 857mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 650IUVitamin C: 7.5mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 4.3mg
Keyword: easy ground beef recipe, Hamburger Pasta, Homemade Hamburger Helper
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in December, 2016. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe! I added Worcestershire sauce to hamburger mixture and cooked noodles separately. Then stirred altogether with shredded cheese. Big hit! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Question: I feel like 1 cup of macaroni is not enough because I need a few more servings and don’t want to double the whole thing. Would I need to add more liquid? Thanks

    1. Hi! Yes, you would want to increase the liquid a bit, since the extra pasta will absorb more liquid. Just be aware that the final product will be different if you’re not also increasing the other ingredients along with the pasta.

  3. 5 stars
    I have this recipe bookmarked because my finicky husband loves this recipe. I add an additional teaspoon of chili powder- but very little tweaking needed. Super easy to make! Thanks for this!

  4. Second time making this! My family loves it, I always have the ingredients on hand. Thanks for sharing a great recipe

  5. I love this recipe. I make it quite often. So quick and easy and delicious. Thank you for all your great recipes.

    1. Hi, Kathleen! The recipe calculator automatically creates the approximate nutrition information for 1/4 of the recipe. I don’t know how much that equals if you were to measure it in cups, but I would just make the recipe, then divide it into four portions. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  6. 5 stars
    Next time I’ll add some taco seasoning. Just a little too bland but quick & easy Sprinkled a cheese blend on top. Great for make ahead