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Overhead shot of hands holding a skillet of homemade hamburger helper.
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4.94 from 15 votes

One Pan Homemade Hamburger Helper

Just 5 minutes of prep for a homemade Hamburger Helper that's healthier and tastier than the store-bought version!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword easy ground beef recipe, Hamburger Pasta, Homemade Hamburger Helper
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 291kcal
Author Blair Lonergan


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.


Serving: 1/4 of the recipe | Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 796mg | Potassium: 857mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 650IU | Vitamin C: 7.5mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 4.3mg