Enjoy the classic flavors you love with this easy homemade Hamburger Helper. It’s full of ground beef and macaroni all simmered in a creamy cheddar sauce. A quick meal for weeknight dinners, this is one both the kids and adults will adore!
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Easy Dinner Recipe
You’ve probably heard of Hamburger Helper, right? It starts with a box of noodles and a packet of powdered sauce. You add your own ground beef and some milk and before you know it, you’ve got an easy dinner.
I am all for convenience and there’s no doubt that boxes of Hamburger Helper can taste good, but I promise you that once you try making homemade Hamburger Helper, you will wonder what took you so long!
Ready in under 30 minutes, this is one of those meals you can have in your back pocket for a quick dinner. I’m always on the lookout for these kinds of recipes! For more inspiration, check out these other 30-minute meals.
Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe
This version of the cheeseburger Hamburger Helper is creamy and cheesy and similar to the original. It’s made in just one pot because one-pot meals are a way of life in my kitchen, especially on busy weeknights!
I use lean ground beef and elbow macaroni as the base and the sauce is a combination of beef broth, heavy cream, and cheddar cheese. It’s rich and smooth and tastes amazing!
My family is always happy when this recipe is on the weekly menu! If you’re looking for other ideas that use ground beef and macaroni, you might like my goulash recipe.
Scroll down for the full printable recipe below.
- Ground beef: I use lean ground beef which isn’t too fatty. The cheese and heavy cream make this dish rich enough already!
- Onion: I use chopped yellow onion for its milder taste. If you’re out of onions, you can substitute them for a tablespoon of dried onion powder.
- Sauces: Just a couple of tablespoons of ketchup and a teaspoon of mustard adds flavor to the dish. If you like it hot, you can also add a splash or two of your favorite hot sauce at the end.
- Seasonings: I keep it pretty simple by adding seasoning salt (Lawry’s or similar), garlic powder, Kosher salt, and ground black pepper.
- Dry elbow noodles: I like the elbow (or macaroni) noodles in this dish because they fill up with all of the cheesy sauce making each bite burst with delicious flavor.
- Beef broth: Use your own homemade broth or look for a low sodium version in your local grocery store. That way you can control the amount of salt in your dish.
- Heavy cream: You don’t need a lot of cream, just 3 – 5 tablespoons will do to help make the sauce silky smooth.
- Shredded cheddar cheese: I like the flavor of cheddar cheese in this recipe, but you can substitute it for your favorite kind. Just make sure it’s a cheese that melts nicely.
How to Make Hamburger Helper
Follow the four steps below to make the creamiest homemade hamburger helper cheeseburger macaroni!
- Brown beef. Cook the ground beef and chopped onions in a large pot over medium heat. As the beef cooks, use a spoon to break up the larger pieces so that everything is browned evenly. If there’s extra grease in the pan, drain it before moving on to the next step.
- Add seasoning and noodles. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, and seasonings and cook for 1 minute. Follow up with the dry noodles and broth. The noodles will cook as the liquid simmers.
- Simmer. Let the mixture come to a light simmer and then put the lid on the pot. Everything will bubble away for 10 – 12 minutes until the noodles are tender. Halfway through the cooking time, give it a good stir to make sure the noodles aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Serve. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and shredded cheese until it’s completely melted. Season to taste, garnish with some chopped fresh parsley, and serve while it’s fresh and hot!
- Use freshly grated cheese. The packs of pre-grated cheese are convenient, but anytime I’m adding cheese to a sauce, I prefer to grate my own. Pre-grated cheese is often coated in starch so it doesn’t clump together in the bags and this starch can sometimes affect its ability to melt perfectly.
- Use a pot. It’s easier to use a pot to make this dish rather than a large skillet. A skillet will be too full which will make it difficult to stir everything together.
- Add more liquid. If it looks like your cheeseburger hamburger helper is dry as it simmers, add a bit more broth to the pot.
- Thicken sauce. If the sauce looks a bit too watery after it simmers, remove the lid, and let it simmer for a couple of minutes longer to let the sauce reduce. Adding the cream and cheese will also help to thicken up the sauce.
The homemade version of the classic cheeseburger macaroni is amazing just as it is, but you can definitely make some tweaks to suit your tastes:
- Add extra veggies. Add when cooking the onions. Sometimes I’ll add in chopped bell peppers, celery, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini or mushrooms.
- Replace heavy cream. You can substitute sour cream or softened cream cheese for the heavy cream.
- Different pasta. This recipe will work with any pasta shape. I like to use any kind that can hold some of the sauce like elbow, penne, rotini, or shells. You can also switch regular pasta for whole wheat.
- Different meat. You can use ground chicken (along with chicken broth), bacon, ground turkey, or ground sausage if you prefer.
- Different cheese. Any cheese will work as long it will melt into the sauce. How about mozzarella? Or Monterey Jack? Pepper jack is a great option if you like a bit of heat.
- Other spices. Paprika or red pepper flakes can add a bit of a kick!
What to Serve with Homemade Hamburger Helper
This recipe is really a one-pot meal on its own, but if you’d like to round out your meal, you can try serving some of these quick options on the side:
Storing and Reheating
This homemade hamburger helper recipe is best eaten when it’s hot and fresh. As it sits, the macaroni will start to absorb more of the sauce so it won’t be quite as creamy.
- Fridge instructions: Put the leftover cheeseburger pasta into an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat it, put it into a microwave-safe dish and add a little bit of broth to revive the creaminess of the sauce. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. You can also reheat it in a pot on the stovetop.
- Freezer instructions: Freeze any leftovers in an 8×8-inch metal tin wrapped with foil. When ready to eat, place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and cook at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until hot. You can also top with extra cheese before baking.
As I mentioned, this dish always tastes the best when it’s served fresh right off the stove!
If you’d like to get ahead in your meal prep for the week, you could brown the beef and the onions and store them in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to make the meal later in the week.
While boxes of Hamburger Helper are tasty and quick to make in a pinch, the homemade recipe lets you control the seasoning and customize it to your personal tastes. Plus, it doesn’t take much longer than the boxed version!
This is really down to personal preference. I recommend using a noodle shape that can absorb and hold the cheesy sauce. Elbow macaroni and shells are great options! Egg noodles would also be a good choice, although they don’t hold the sauce in the same way.
Absolutely! You can make this recipe vegetarian by leaving out the meat and replacing the beef broth with vegetable broth. Add in some extra veggies or try your favorite vegetarian crumble.
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Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 Tablespoon ketchup
- 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard , plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt , such as Lawry’s
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt , to taste
- Ground black pepper , to taste
- 1 1/2 cups dry elbow noodles
- 3 1/2 cups beef broth
- 3-5 Tablespoons heavy cream , at room temperature
- 1 1/2-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- In a large pot, cook the beef and onion over medium heat. Break apart the beef with a spoon and cook until browned. Drain any grease, if needed.
- Stir in the ketchup, mustard, seasoned salt, garlic powder, Kosher salt, and pepper. Cook 1 minute. Stir in the dry noodles and broth.
- Bring to a light simmer and cover with a lid. Cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Stir halfway through cooking to prevent noodles from sticking.
- Remove from heat and pour off any extra liquid, if needed. Stir in 3 Tablespoons heavy cream and the cheese. Stir until melted. Add more heavy cream, if desired. Season to taste. Add hot sauce, if desired, to kick up the heat. For a creamier sauce add in extra heavy cream. Serve while hot!
- Feel free to add in any extra veggies you might like. Just add when cooking the onions. Sometimes I’ll add in chopped celery, bell peppers, or mushrooms.
- You can substitute sour cream or softened cream cheese for the heavy cream, if desired.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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