Homemade Hamburger Helper

Prep 5 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 30 mins
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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.

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


  • 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


    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!


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:



Serving Size:


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


This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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151 Responses
  1. Chris

    Found this recipe today. Used a pound of venison/pork blend, subbed half and half because it’s what I had, elbow Mac instead of shells for the same reason, and only used an 8oz block of mild cheddar, shredded. Wound up taking almost 4 cups of beef broth as all the liquid was gone before the noodles were al dente… BUT I assure you we will be making this again! I’d say it was around 30min but I can’t say for certain as I prepped the meat earlier in the day. Noodles were 15ish min themselves.

  2. Tiffany

    So good! We came across this on Pinterest and we went for it! Of course a few more steps than the boxed version but so much more flavor! I added more broth and some water to make sure there was enough too cook the shells and so it wasn’t so thick!

  3. Gabbie

    Pasta needs to be boiled separately it cooked for 40 min and wouldn’t get soft I kept adding broth and it just kept evaporating and not soften the noodles

  4. Courtney

    This takes way longer than 30 minutes. It takes 15 minutes just to read ALL of the ingredients and collect them.

  5. Sonia

    I’ve made this for dinner a few times and it never disappoints. I do think that keeping an eye on how high the flame on the stove is, predicts how much broth or water you use. I keep mine on the lower end. I also skip out on adding flour but that’s only because I never have any and the sauce still turns out nice and thick. Thank you sooo much for this recipe!!

  6. Carla

    Anyone make this ahead and give to someone as a meal to reheat? I’ve made it and when we reheated it I had to add a little cream to thin it out.

  7. Kate

    This is yummy! I cooked the noodles separately and didn’t use beef broth and just combined everything at the end. Didn’t need to use flour. I think the spices are a really good combination for this and makes it taste really good. I will make it again, thank you for the recipe!

  8. Marci

    Very good! I was a little hesitant as I have never had hamburger helper and wasn’t sure what to expect. I did not have tomato sauce so just used a marina I had on hand. I did sprinkle a little parmesan on top. How can you go wrong with more cheese, lol. Would definitely make again, thank you for sharing.

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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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