Homemade Hamburger Helper

Prep 5 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 30 mins

This easy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe is the flavor packed, cheesy meal of your dreams! Pasta and ground beef are sautéed and covered in a creamy tomato & cheese sauce for a satisfying version of this classic dinner idea.

Close-Up View of Homemade Hamburger Helper

Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper happens to hold a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first things I learned to make when I moved out on my own at 19. It was something we could afford and I loved finding ways to doctor it up and add more flavor to the boxed version.

These days, we make Homemade Hamburger Helper and my kiddos call it Cheeseburger Pasta! It’s so creamy, packed with flavor and filled with cheese pasta and bites of ground beef. We sometimes even add extra cheese on top and melt it under the broiler for a few minutes!

This homemade hamburger helper is one of our kids favorite weeknight dinners. It doesn’t hurt that that this recipe is budget friendly and so simple and easy to make.

A pot of homemade hamburger helper with a wooden spoon.

Why make it homemade?

Boxed Hamburger helper is convenient on busy weeknights, but this homemade version is just as easy to make and filled with more flavor and freshness. By making it from scratch, you will also have more control over the seasonings and can skip all the extra preservatives.

Oh! And the from scratch way includes real cream and real cheese. You know that’s worth it alone! If you really want that classic hamburger helper taste with the artificial cheese, you can always add a little velveeta with the shredded cheddar cheese! I promise your secret is safe with me.

If you want to serve a comforting and delicious dinner, you might as well go all in with the real deal! My family can’t get enough of this homemade hamburger helper and I know you are going to love it too!

A bowl of ground beef next to shredded cheese, pasta shells and spices.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Ground Beef: Feel free to substitute lean ground beef for another ground meat like chicken or turkey to change it up!
  • Chopped Onion: I use a sweet yellow onion to balance out the savory flavors in this dish.
  • Minced Garlic
  • All Purpose Flour
  • Beef Broth: You can also use another broth of choice.
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Pasta Shells: This recipe works with elbow pasta as well.
  • Heavy Cream
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper: At the end, season to your liking with salt and pepper.

What Kind of Pasta to Use

Shells or elbow pasta work best for this recipe. If you don’t have either or those, any small noodle will do. You could even make this hamburger helper with penne if you really wanted to. I like to use the shells because they’re good at absorbing the creamy tomato sauce.

Beef broth being added to a skillet with garlic.

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

Cook Beef: In a large sauté pan with a lid, brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Remove cooked ground beef from the pan and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons of grease in the pan.

Sauté Onion & Garlic: Cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds.  

Add Flour & Broth: Add the flour and stir to cook for about 1 minute. Slowly stir in the beef broth and bring the mixture to a boil.

Pasta shells in tomato based sauce in a skillet with ground beef next to it in a bowl.

Cook Pasta: Add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and pasta, stirring to combine. Cover with the lid and sauté for 15 minutes or until pasta is cooked, stirring occasionally.

Add Cream & Cheese: Add in the cream and cheese and stir until all the cheese is melted. Add the ground beef back in and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Pouring Cream into Pasta
For best results

Tips for the Best Hamburger Helper

  • Adjust Amount of Broth Used: This dish should be rich and creamy. If you need more liquid for your pasta, add a little water or beef broth. This is helpful if you’re using a larger noodle like penne.
  • Use Freshly Shredded Cheddar: There are a lot of high quality shredded cheeses out there, but for the best flavor I always recommend shredding it fresh yourself.
  • Season to Taste: You can add your favorite seasonings to this recipe or tweak the ones listed if you’d like! If it feels like it’s missing something, make sure it’s got enough salt. Sometimes you just need a pinch more salt to make a dish like this shine!
  • Garnish: Throw some parsley, pickles (it is cheeseburger pasta after all!) or roasted red pepper flakes on your pasta as a garnish.
Cheeseburger pasta on a fork over a skillet filled with pasta.

What to serve with it?

This cheesy homemade hamburger helper is really a one pot dish! You don’t have to serve anything on the side if you don’t want to, it’s filling enough on it’s own!

However, if you are like me, I like to have a little something green with every meal. So we often serve this recipe with a side salad or some steamed or roasted broccoli!

A Pan Filled With Homemade Hamburger Helper

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Store your leftover beef pasta in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you want to freeze it, store it in an aluminum pan tightly covered with plastic wrap. It’ll stay fresh in the freezer for about 3 months! 

You can reheat your hamburger helper on the stove or in the microwave. Add a splash or two of broth to bring back its creaminess. If you froze your leftovers, thaw them in the fridge before reheating.

Can I make this recipe ahead?

I would not recommend trying to make this homemade hamburger helper recipe ahead. This recipe is best served fresh right off the stove. When it sits and is allowed to cool, the pasta will soak up the extra liquid and it won’t be as wonderful as it is fresh. The leftovers are still good, just not AS good as they are fresh off the stove.

However, if you want to meal prep before a busy week, you can always sauté the ground beef and onion/garlic before hand. Store them in ziplock bags in the fridge and have them ready to go later in the week for an even quicker dinner!

Homemade hamburger helper in a bowl with a napkin and a skillet with a spoon in the background.

I am excited for you to try this extra cheesy and flavorful Homemade Hamburger Helper and to hear your reviews! It’s a favorite easy weeknight dinner of ours and I am happy to finally be sharing it with all of you.

Looking for more quick and easy dinner ideas? Check out these other reader favorites:

Yield: 4-6

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Close-Up View of Homemade Hamburger Helper

Make the cheesy pasta dish of your cravings with this easy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe! Pasta and ground beef are sautéed and covered in a creamy tomato & cheese sauce.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups pasta shells (can also use elbow pasta)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

    1. In a large sauté pan with a lid, brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Remove cooked ground beef from pan and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons of grease in the pan.
    2. Cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds.
    3. Add the flour and stir to cook for about 1 minute, slowly stir in the beef broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
    4. Pour in the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, seasoned salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder and pasta, stirring to combine. Cover with lid and sauté for 12 to 15 minutes or until pasta is cooked, stirring occasionally.
    5. Add in the cream and cheese and stir until all the cheese melted. Add back in ground beef, cook for 2 to 3 minutes more to re-heat ground beef and serve immediately!

Notes

This dish is rich. If you need more liquid for your pasta you can add a little water or beef broth. You could substitute another type of pasta but try to use a similar size for the liquid ratio to work out.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 590Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 870mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 42g

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Comments

60 Responses
    1. Jessica

      Hi Lyle, everything should be cooked over medium-high heat. That is why the temp never changes, it is the same the entire recipe. If it’s too hot on your stove, back it down to medium. But medium-high should be perfect!

    2. Zeus

      So i tried this in my le creuset dutch oven and i think the flour part got messed up. It burned the dutch oven and it just didnt turn out good. It tasted really bad like burned fuel or something. Then i trashed it and now the dutch oven is stuck with burned marks. I had the heat at medium high as you said and i did put in the beef broth. What did i do wrong?

      1. Jessica

        It sounds like you may not have been stirring enough to let the flour/beef burn to the bottom of the pot. However, if you were stirring it often, try bringing the heat on your stove down to medium!

  1. Lisa

    AMAZING!!! I have been craving hamburger helper but wanted to make from scratch. This turned out better then the box stuff. The whole family loved it!!
    I followed this recipe pretty much to a T. You need to consistently check the past and stir to keep from sticking. Since this requires lifting the lid, i added a few more minutes till pasta was al dente.
    This recipe has been saved and will be added to meal rotations. Thank you

  2. Cathy

    I’ve made this several times. I just dash in the seasonings to taste. I use better than bouillon veggie base with water. I drain the beef and cook it along with everything else. I use about 2 tablespoons cream cheese because I rarely have heavy cream. I use whatever shredded cheese in the fridge that needs used up. I always adds some worchestershire sauce too. For pasta, I’ve used shells, Macaroni and rotini. It’s always good and I love the nostalgia of hamburger helper which I probably haven’t had in over 20 years lol! As for garlic one clove is at least 4 or 5 for us. My boyfriend loves it! Yum!

  3. Robin

    This was good. I added more seasoning based on how my family likes things. Next time I am going to boil noodles for a few mins before I put them in my pan because I had to add a little water a couple times to get the noodles done. Overall a good recipe and definitely better than the box.

    1. Ellen

      Agreed. This was very good. Instead of adding extra broth for the noodles (I used medium-sized shells), I will chop up and add a fresh tomato about halfway through. But overall a great recipe and very enjoyable. We ate well tonight 🙂

  4. Kristy

    I have made this several times and my husband and son always request it when I ask for suggestions for dinner. I don’t take the hamburger out of the pan, and I cook mine on lower heat bc it can and will stick sometimes. This time, I used the bag of cheese from a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, mixed that in and also added taco shredded cheese. Anytime you add more cheese and heavy cream to a dish, it makes it taste extra good, just not for calorie counters lol My family loves this dish and I love that it’s so easy to prepare. Its a very good recipe for working mother’s to fix for the family during the week. Thx for sharing!

  5. Iva

    Really delicious but cannot Eat too much because it’s so calorie heavy! Full disclosure, have never had anything like hamburger helper in my 34 years of life, but this was YUM! Really comes out perfect if you follow the recipe.

  6. Sherry

    Thank you for the recipe! I used to enjoy hamburger helper as a kid. The consistency of this recipe is perfect, and this it is was great place to start. I made a few modifications. I used Banza chickpea pasta shells, added broccoli, a cup of water and subbed Beyond Beef for the ground beef. Personally, the seasoning was missing something; so, I also added my own taco seasoning. I will most likely leave out the Italian seasoning, use better than beef bouillon, and use a little less tomato sauce next time.

  7. Liana

    I’m a certified chef and sometimes I just want quick and easy comfort food. Living in AZ gas for cooking is so hard to come by in a house. So I deal with my arch nemesis in the kitchen, electric. The pasta kept sticking badly do to what I suspect it’s the electric because when I lived in IL I had had and never had this problem. I had to keep scraping the bottom of the lot with a metal spatula/ turner. The flavor is definitely there though. Next time I will cook the pasta halfway to 3/4 done in the broth alone then add tomato sauce and funday cooking. I think that will help immensely with the sticking issue.

  8. Dion

    Total waste of time and money mine burnt made multiple other dishes and there just isn’t enough liquid to keep your shells from burning.

    1. Jessica

      Hi Dion! Did you happen to use more pasta than the 2 cups required? Or maybe a different style than elbow noodles?

    2. Kelly

      I made the mistake of leaving the temp on high or boil the first time I made it. Once you put the pasta in turn to low and cover and you should be good. This really is a family favorite at my house once I figured out what I did wrong.

  9. Makya

    Oh my goodness! Please know that this is the best hamburger helper that I have ever had in my life!!!!!

    I veganized it using impossible meat, “Better than Bouillon” seasoned vegetable base, Silk dairy-free heavy whipping cream, and SoDelicious cheddar shreds. I added a little bit of chili powder but it is amazing with or without!!!!! My boyfriend and I love it. Thank you so much!!!

      1. JGO

        Good recipe I forgot to remove the ground beef in one of the steps. Still taste great regardless. I may need some seasoning adjustments but nonetheless. Nice flavors. I let the pot cool a bit just so the sauce could settle to a thicker consistency. Thank you.

  10. Lily Berger

    This was absolutely delicious!!!!! I have tried other homemade hamburger helpers I did not like and this one is absolutely amazing. Definitely keeping this recipe for when I crave it. So so so good

  11. Sheri

    Made a few changes based on what I had. Macaroni instead of shells, Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef/water instead of beef broth & 1/2 & 1/2 instead of heavy cream. This made a huge amount. I made this for my husband (I’m vegetarian). Based on his comment it was “blah”. I don’t know what that translates to other than I have a huge amount that I have to tweak. I will take single portion sizes & keep tweaking until he likes it. So unfortunately I will not be making this again. Thankfully it should freeze well until I can use it up.

    1. Sheri

      UPDATE – For a single portion amount, I sautéed onion, added homemade taco seasoning & some salsa, added the portion of hamburger helper & served with diced onions, shredded cheddar & sour cream. Husband liked this much better. I will do this with the remaining amount which I froze until he can finish up.

  12. Haley

    I made this vegan with better than bouillon no beef base, boca crumbles, ripple half & half, and Violife cheddar. And I think it came out really good. I had a problem with the pasta sticking when it was cooking but it still came out great.

  13. Jennifer Tophoj

    This meal was fantastic! I did a few things different as I’m a trial and error cooker as well and loved it! I used bow tie pasta, kept the meat in, used 3 cups beef broth, 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1 cup milk. It’s a wonderful, healthy recipe than the box brand!!!

  14. Krystal

    I kept the beef in the pot and used fusilli noodles because it’s what I had on hand.

    I added 3 cups of water to the pot since I kept the beef in and the fusilli is a little thicker. I cooked it around 20 min when the noodles were tender and everything was absorbed.

    I kept everything else the same though and this came out absolutely delicious.

    1. Cassie

      Okay soooo I turn my nose up on Hamburger helper and haven’t had it since I was little….I needed to make a quick dinner so I searched Pinterest and this popped up. I said what the hell let’s give it go….and it’s so good! I must admit! You won’t see me with a box of hamburger helper in my cart or in my pantry but I will keep these ingredients on hand just in case I need a secret Hamburger Helper fix! Two thumbs up!

  15. Erin

    This was so soo good! I’ve made it twice now ! The whole family loves it & it was super easy to make. & this is waaaaaaaaay better than hamburger helper. If you haven’t had hamburger helper since you were a kid, don’t even bother, it’s not worth the convenience. This recipe though

  16. Dani

    This was so delicious! I haven’t had Hamburger Helper since I was a kid so I have no point of comparison. I just know it was tasty. I used mezzi rigatoni. My teenager had two helpings.

  17. Bethany

    So tasty and easy! Love cheeseburger macaroni, so glad to have found this recipe to have a healthier version of a favorite!

  18. Dylan

    I grew up in the Midwest and Hamburger Helper was in the regular rotation, making it one of my deep comfort foods as an adult. Made this the other day and it totally hit all the notes, without the processed tang that comes with the boxed one I enjoyed as a child. So delicious and a wonderful treat, thank you!

  19. Glenda

    Thank you for this fabulous recipe! I made it tonight and we loved it! My husband said this one’s a keeper!!! I even messed it up, (I didn’t read the recipe completely and didn’t remove the meat before sautéing the onions). It still turned out and we loved it. Thanks again!

  20. Kailey

    This was good! I tweaked a few things based on what I had on hand (ground turkey instead of ground beef, tomato soup mix and a little more broth instead of tomato sauce) and it was good! You definitely need to season it to your family’s tastes but we had plenty for our family of three and there were leftovers for the next day.

  21. Dadster

    So, for a dish on a website called the novice chef, it would be nice to have quantities of the ingredients listed somewhere. Maybe they are visible on a non-mobile device, but I couldn’t find them anywhere while viewing on my phone!

    1. Jessica

      Hi Dadster, the recipe is right at the bottom of the post. In the post, I discuss the ingredients and method with photos, but at the bottom of the post you will find the full recipe shown in the recipe card, as well as a print the recipe button. You can also always click the “Jump to the recipe” button at the top of every post to see just the recipe…in case you do not care about the extra tips/tricks discussed in the post. Hope this helps!

  22. KikiT

    This was absolutely fantastic and my family devoured it. Only feedback is that I doubled the recipe and it was barely enough for my family of 5. Granted I have big teenagers but I can’t think of any family that could all share the original recipe. But thank you for an amazing recipe!

  23. Megan

    OMG!!!!! So freaking good! I grew up on cheeseburger macaroni hamburger helper and this is just like it but so much better!

  24. Lennie Gail

    This was sooo good!
    I’ve been on the hunt for a while for a cleaner version of hamburger helper and this is the best recipe I’ve tried. So flavorful and super simple!
    I wasn’t sure if she meant 2 cups weighted or 2 cups measured of either the noodles or the cheese, so I went measured. I used 1, 8oz, block of cheese. I will likely use 3 cups of beef broth next time. I wound up adding an extra cup of water as my noodles were quite thirsty.
    Man oh man I was so so pleased with this!

  25. Matice

    I’ve made this recipe 4 times now and it’s delicious. I don’t use paprika at all, but it’s still very tasty.

  26. Taylor Heidel

    I LOVE this recipe! This is the only “hamburger helper” recipe I’ve found that has you make a quick roux using the beef grease! Ends up making a super thick and super cheesy dish that has none of the watery problems other one-pan pasta recipes have. The heavy cream is also to die for. I totally love it, and so does my family! This one goes on my list for ones I’m going to be making regularly for weeknight dinners!

  27. K S

    I needed something quick to make for my family after work before class started. Not only was this quick but it was delicious and easy to follow :). Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  28. Amanda

    Hi, I would like to try this recipe but I was curious as to what size pasta Shells to use? Small or Medium sized?Thanks in advance for any help.

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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