Homemade Hamburger Helper

Prep 5 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 30 mins
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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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142 Responses
  1. sandi

    My husband grew up eating hamburger helper and wanted to have it for dinner, but I wanted to try a recipe that was similar and not from a box instead.
    First, this recipe makes a lot and is way too much food for 2 people.
    This is a good recipe as is, but I will modify it next time for my personal preferences.
    The seasoning was spot on and easy since I had all ingredients on hand.
    What I will tweak next time is I will partially cook the pasta first then add to the meat mixture. I did not love the texture of the shells even though I normally love pasta shells. The pasta texture was the only thing that I think needs a fix. Otherwise, the recipe was perfect.

    1. A woman holding a camera standing in front of some shelves.

      Hi Sandi! Thanks for the detailed review, and yes, for two this would be a lot of food. In the future, all my recipe yields are listed right above the recipe name in the recipe card. For this recipe, it’s should serve about 4 to 6 people depending on how hungry they are. ;-)

  2. Gillian

    I made this for dinner tonight & it came out soooo goood!!!! It tastes JUST like Hamburger Helper, but better!!! It’s savory, creamy & cheesy. I love that you can tweak this recipe to your liking & it will still come out great! I precooked the medium pasta shells separately, but cooked the pasta & ground beef together in the broth/tomato sauce mixture. I didn’t use shallots, garlic or Italian seasoning. IT WAS STILL A HIT!!! THANK YOU FOR THIS RECIPE!!!

  3. Belee

    Woot woot! My mom was the master of boxed hamburger helper when I was a kid . I needed comfort food today and made this from what I had on hand. I had to work out paste for sauce, venison for beef and a taco cheese blend but it was more fabulous than any boxed mix I’ve ever had. So glad to have this recipe as ground venison is a staple of our diet. It also made enough to feed 6!

  4. Rebekah

    This was DELICIOUS! I subbed heavy cream with plain whole fat Greek yogurt to decrease the cals/serving and it amazing! I’ve made both the original heavy cream version and can taste no difference. Thanks for this recipe, will be following your blog for more!

  5. Daeroll

    This recipe was very delicious. I thought I had a box of the “real” stuff and could not find it. This recipe seemed sane. And it came out bangin. I didn’t have heavy cream so used about 3/4 cup whole milk. I did add more broth. The kids loved it. I loved it more. I would try pork sausage in the future as another twist – saw that comment too, good idea. The sauce comes out something like a bolognese sauce. This is pure comfort food and easy!. I used orphan pastas. Medium shells and fettuccini. Cheers and thanks!

    1. A woman holding a camera standing in front of some shelves.

      4 to 6! (The recipe yields are always listed in the recipe card right above the recipe name.) I feed my family of 5 (2 adults, 3 young kids) with this recipe, but any more than that, I would make more! :-)

    1. Bobbie

      I don’t like spicy food, should I not use the smoked paprika? I’m not sure if that is spicy as I’ve never used it before.

  6. Jacky

    Made this tonight. Did not add the flour and I didn’t have the gummy pasta and didn’t have to add extra broth. Flour wasn’t needed. Kids loved it.

    1. Dana

      Me and my 16 year old son are OBSESSED with this recipe!!! My son always wanted me to make boxed hamburger helper and it’s not good, so I searched and found this recipe and I’m so thankful I did. It is FANTASTIC!!! I make it at least once a week.

  7. Lynn L

    My husband who loves hamburgers offer I love this recipe! I did not have beef broth but I substituted with chicken broth and added about 1/2 c of Colby jack cheese.
    This was AMAZING
    Adding to our recipe box. SO good!

  8. Sharon

    It has good flavor, but with any recipe that calls for cooking raw pasta in the sauce/liquid , I thought it was a little gummy in texture. Next time I will at least partially boil the pasta first then add it to the sauce to finish off. Thanks for the recipe.
    P.S. I also had to use about a cup more broth…

  9. Jill

    Great recipe! My family loved it. I did add an extra full cup of beef broth after I added cheese and cream. Even then, it’s quite rich, but delicious!

  10. Mia B.

    I almost never comment on these blogs, but I had to for this one!! We’re on the tail end of our groceries, so it was a use what we have night. This recipe turned out delicious! I had just enough cheese, & I used bow tie pasta in place of the shells because that’s what we had on hand. It took a little bit more liquid, but it came out absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much, & we will be using it again!! xx

    1. Fjord Hansell

      Way too much smoked paprika for a pasta dish! Hate your website BTW. Too much info before the recipe. Thank Budda you were smart enough to include the “jump to recipe”. “Novice Chef”? Yep!

        1. Jessie

          Wow, some people were really never taught “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all”. There is a such thing as kind constructive criticism and that was NOT it. I love this recipe personally and so does my husband and kiddos. Thank you Jessica!

        2. Meg

          I am still in shock about the previous comment – wow!
          Anyway, this recipe was absolutely perfect! Made it tonight and absolutely delicious from my families opinion! Thank you for sharing with all of us!

        3. Dana

          Good for you. Some people are just not brought up right ! Love this recipe. Did have to add extra broth/water it other then that super easy and tasty ! Crowd pleaser for my picky kids and us parents :)

        4. Jill

          I am try to absorb how much of a b*tch that first person was! I actually enjoy your website and your recipes! You responded beautifully btw lol Some people are just sour miserable souls!

      1. Crystal

        Wow. Get some website recipe etiquette. “BTW, hate your websites.” It took more negative energy for you to take time to type that vs. moving along to another site. Recipe TROLLOMETER…10!!!!

  11. CAA

    My family loved this recipe, they don’t like the boxed stuff and really love lots of flavor in their food. This recipe did not disappoint, I forgot to add the flour but it didn’t need any thickening. I also chopped up fresh spinach when and I added it when I added the heavy cream. It was delicious! This recipe has been added into our rotation

  12. Kristy

    Love this recipe as my family loves hamburger helper and I refuse to make it from the box. Lol. I’m using half and half instead of just heavy cream and to boil the pasta with beef broth I needed 3 more cups of liquid. 2 it was so thick it started to burn almost.

    Other than that it’s good! We added a bit more seasoning for our souther roots but it was awesome!

    1. Elizabeth

      Wow this was spot on to the original hamburger helper recipe but done better! My boyfriend is hard to please with homemade copy cat recipes but this one is done right! Definitely saving this and making again and again, thank you!!! I made this recipe with just 2 modifications, i used veggie broth instead of beef, and i used a plant based ground beef instead of real beef– This was just due to our personal preference (we are attempting to go vegan/vegetarian and its difficult to find recipes to substitute out ingredients for) but either way this was delicious. It was creamy and cheesy and overall a great recipe, thank you! :)

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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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