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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.
Table of Contents
  1. Homemade Hamburger Helper Beef Pasta
  2. What is Hamburger Helper?
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper
  5. What to Serve with Ground Beef Pasta
  6. Storage
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe
  9. One Pan Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

For even more ground beef recipes, be sure to try these cast iron skillet burgers, a pot of creamy tomato soup with ground beef and noodles, this Jiffy cornbread taco bake, and a bacon cheeseburger casserole with rice, too!

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

4.95 from 19 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
  

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. Natalie | Natalie's Food & Health says:

    5 stars
    Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Hungry child who needs A HEALTHY dinner like right now is my everyday struggle. I have a picky eater what makes things even worse for me. That’s why I love recipe like this one. It’s super delicious, healthy, HOMEMADE and super delicious. Blair, this one pan wonder looks really amazing. Juicy, full of flavours and so tasty. Pinning and sharing 😉

    1. Blair says:

      Yep, this is a one pan wonder that the whole family will actually eat! Thanks so much for stopping by, Natalie!

    2. Dori says:

      5 stars
      I have made this several times and we love it. I want to make it for a pasta pot luck my son’s cross country team is having. Each dish is supposed to feed 8. Do you think I could just double this recipe? Or would it be best to make two separate batches?

      1. Blair says:

        Hi, Dori! I’m so glad that you love it! Yes — you can definitely just double the recipe — just make sure that you use a big enough skillet or Dutch oven to accommodate twice as much. No need to make separate batches. 🙂

        I hope the kids enjoy it!

  2. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    You had me at hamburger helper! This reminds me of when I was little, my parents would make the boxed version, and for some reason, I loved it! This homemade version looks even better than the packaged kind. What a quick and easy meal for busy weeknights. Love it!

    1. Blair says:

      So retro, right?! I imagine that’s why it was in my grandmother’s recipe box — because she was trying to make her own version of the stuff in the box! 🙂

  3. Chrissa - Physical Kitchness says:

    Mmmmmm I’m so pinning this!!! I grey up on hamburger helper, but the gross boxed kind. This version looks so good Blair! My hubby and toddlers would go bonkers over this!!

    1. Blair says:

      Yep, this is a meal that the men in your house will love, Chrissa — and you don’t have to feel badly about serving it! 🙂

  4. Gina Kleinworth says:

    This looks incredible I just forwarded to the hubs to change the dinner plans for tonight. I want this!!

    1. Blair says:

      Hooray! I know you’ll love it, Gina! Moms (and grandmoms) always have the best recipes! 🙂

  5. Kristy from Southern In Law says:

    This looks deeeelicious! We have a homemade hamburger helper recipe too as Jesse randomly craved it one day when he first moved here and I spent weeks trying to perfect it, haha!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s funny — it’s such a classic in this country, but the homemade version is definitely WAY better than a box!

  6. lindsay Cotter says:

    I bet you were exhausted. Glad you can be home now, but still busy mom! For sure. YOu always impress me. This dish would be perfect for those crazy nights where the brain doesn’t work. Feed that family with little effort. YEA!

    1. Blair says:

      Yep, juggling everything is hard no matter what the situation — it’s just different! Wouldn’t trade these guys for anything, but they definitely keep me busy…

  7. Kelly @ Kelly Lynn's Sweets and Treats says:

    Love the simplicity of this recipe! Another family dinner recipe winner Blair! Yum!! Xoxo

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Kelly! It’s definitely simple, and it’s definitely family-friendly! 🙂

  8. Angela says:

    Is it spicy with the chili powder?

    1. Brit says:

      no. My 5 year old calls everything with Spices, spicy, and she has never refused anything with chili powder.

    2. Walleska says:

      It isn’t spicy at all.

  9. Andrea Alexander says:

    This looks great1 I’ve seen a few similar recipes that use milk instead of broth or water. Just curious what the difference is and why you opted to not sure milk?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Andrea! I used water because I was just following an old family recipe and that’s how my grandmother made them. 🙂 I’ve never tried the recipe with milk, so I can’t say for sure how they would differ. I’m assuming it would probably work, but that the sauce would be creamier (which this is not). Let me know if you give it a try!

      1. Desiree says:

        I’m so going to make this for dinner tonight…. Can i put shredded cheese after it’s all done…… I’m so happy i ran into this recipe ????????????????

        1. Blair says:

          Absolutely! Shredded cheese on top is always a good idea. 🙂 Enjoy, Desiree!

  10. Martha says:

    Great spaghetti recipe, Unfortunately I was really looking forward to hamburger helper, so to make this with hamburger helper in mind was inconceivably disappointing.

    1. Becca says:

      I can see the spaghetti comparison. I think it sort of has an over powering tomato taste. I’m not getting the Hamburger Helper taste at all. :/

  11. Gao says:

    Super easy and delicious! It was gone same day. Will definitely make this again. Thank you!

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Thanks for letting me know, and I’m so glad that it was a hit! 🙂

  12. a says:

    4 stars
    can i double this recipe? also can i use tomatoe soup if i dont jave tomato paste?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi! You can definitely double the recipe — just make sure to use a big pan! 🙂

      I have never tried using tomato soup instead of the tomato paste; however, that substitution will definitely change the taste and texture of the dish. I don’t think that it will be “bad,” but it won’t taste the same as the original. The tomato paste has a much more concentrated tomato flavor, and it is also much thicker than the tomato soup would be. Again, not necessarily a terrible substitute, but I can’t guarantee the taste and texture of the finished product. 🙂

      1. Janet says:

        Just made this tonight and it was a big hit with everyone! I changed it a bit by starting with sautéed onions and garlic instead of powdered and used vegetarian ground round beef instead as we are vegetarian. I added chopped fresh tomato instead of tomato paste and vegetable stock instead of beef. This was a very yummy and filling meal.

        1. Blair says:

          Excellent! Thanks so much for sharing your changes, Janet. So glad that you enjoyed it! 🙂

  13. Lorraine says:

    5 stars
    This was simple and delicious! My teenagers devoured it. Will mist definitely make this again!

    1. Blair says:

      Excellent! Thanks for letting me know, Lorraine! 🙂

  14. Katelyn says:

    5 stars
    I just made this for my husband and we loved it! So much better than the boxes hamburger helper. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Blair says:

      Yay! So glad that you guys enjoyed it, Katelyn!

  15. Jill says:

    This was easy to make and delicious! My family loved it!

    1. Blair says:

      Perfect! Thanks, Jill! 🙂

  16. Angie says:

    I made this tonight & it was really good! I didn’t have any tomato paste so I used tomato sauce & added a bit less water. It may have changed the taste slightly, but it was still really good (and super easy!)

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Angie! I’m so glad that you liked it! Thanks for letting us know about that ingredient substitute too.????

  17. Kelly says:

    5 stars
    I just made this and it is amazing! I had all the ingredients in my house. Can’t believe how simple it was to make.

    1. Blair says:

      Yay! So glad that you liked it, Kelly! 🙂

  18. Tania says:

    This was so simple and good!
    My family enjoyed it.

    1. Blair says:

      Great! Thanks, Tania! 🙂

  19. Emilie says:

    To make this palatable and not just taste like canned tomato paste I had to add extra chili powder, paprika, ground mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, cinnamon and sumac. And now it’s delicious! I think you can definitely use this as a base and season it to your own personal tastes. Great with the parsley and cheddar cheese! My husband will love this!! Especially with some garlic bread.

    1. Blair says:

      Yes! Definitely use this as a base if you like more seasonings. Enjoy!

  20. JC says:

    It was just ok but when you compare it to hamburger helper well that right there tells you something. To each his own though. We all are different but my family decided it cant be kept in my “keeper” box.

  21. Jeane says:

    5 stars
    I was so happy that I came across this recipe. I forgot to write a review the first time that I made it. This is made with staples that are always in my house. I am making it for the second time tonight. I told my husband what we were going to have, and his response was, ” I love that meal! YAY!”
    Thank you for a awesome easy recipe, that is way better than the box! So easy too! 🙂

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Thank you, Jeane! I’m so glad that your husband even enjoys the meal, too! 🙂

  22. Jessica Thomas says:

    Is it weird that I want to add a bag of frozen mixed veggies in this?
    Should I add quarter to half a cup ofbroth to accommodate veggies?

    1. Blair says:

      Hey, Jessica! The frozen mixed vegetables would be a great addition. Try adding them first (without the extra broth) and see how the texture is. I bet it will be fine. If you would prefer it to be thinner with the vegetables, you can always add a little bit of broth at a time to reach your desired consistency. 🙂

  23. Betty Gibbs says:

    5 stars
    This is very good. My hubby really likes this dish. Since our kids are grown, next time will add a little more garlic and maybe a pinch of basil. Yummy stuff. ????????

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Betty!

  24. Angela says:

    5 stars
    This is perfect! I have made this many times now. I pretty much stay on recipe except I generally use all broth and I am always pretty liberal with the listed seasonings.. It is really fast, really simple, and really flavorful! At the end I sometimes add a pouch of Velveeta cheese sauce which totally ruins the homemade aspect but my kids absolutely love it. Seriously all 6 of them are beyond happy when I make it, it’s one of their all time favorite meals.

    1. Blair says:

      That’s awesome, Angela! Thank you!

  25. Rebecca Becker says:

    5 stars
    So good and so easy!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Rebecca!

  26. Jessica says:

    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!

  27. Veronica says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is seriously sooooo good!!!! To die for.
    Thank you very appreciated

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Veronica! I appreciate that you took the time to leave a note. So glad that you liked it!

  28. Smithkin says:

    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. Blair says:

      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.

  29. Frankie Young says:

    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!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s awesome, Frankie! Thank you for letting me know. I’m so glad that he approves! 🙂

  30. Melissa says:

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

  31. Patti says:

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

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Patti! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know. 🙂

  32. Kathleen says:

    I just found this recipe and am anxious to give it a try. Can anyone let me know about how much is 1 serving? Thank you!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      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!

  33. Sharon K says:

    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

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thanks, Sharon!

  34. Barbara says:

    5 stars
    Made this tonight….easy, tasty and a hit with the family! Another great recipe!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Yay! I’m so glad to hear that, Barbara. Thank you!

  35. cynthia says:

    5 stars
    Made it and was a hit in my house of picky eaters. Very delicious and simple to make. I used whole wheat egg noodles instead.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Cynthia!

  36. Toni R. Crismon says:

    5 stars
    We had this tonight. It was very much like a spaghetti sauce which was unexpected because of the ingredients that were used. I told my husband if we didn’t have jarred store bought spaghetti sauce, we can use this recipe leaving out the macaroni. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      That’s a great idea, Toni! We’re glad you enjoyed it.

  37. Beatrice W says:

    5 stars
    Made it tonight! Opted to add a yellow onion as recommended in the notes and it turned out wonderfully. Added a bit of flour, maybe a tablespoon, to thicken the sauce (I love a thick sauce). My very picky partner loved it 🙂 Lot of leftovers too!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We’re so glad it turned out well for you, Beatrice!