It’s an American classic laden with synthetic, processed ingredients but that doesn’t keep people from loving it. Turn dinner on its head with an easy one pan homemade hamburger helper that’s creamy, flavorful and so much better than the box.
I can’t lie: I think I’ve had Hamburger Helper like 5 times in my life. And none of them were with my family.
My mom wasn’t really down with that kind of dinner, but it surfaced a time or two at friends houses and I’d choke it down. I tried to make it habit to avoid it.
Meanwhile the rest of America was inhaling it like a runner sucks air and continues to this day. I get the appeal–it’s dinner in one pan, hardly any prep. And my version isn’t much harder, is loaded with ingredients you can actually pronounce, and is super creamy.
It’s actually a play on my favorite baked macaroni and cheese.
How to make the best homemade hamburger helper
- Use any beef of your choice. I personally find the leaner versions like 90/10 (ground sirloin) to be really dry. I like ground chuck which is 85/15 and more flavorful. You could also use ground turkey here if you prefer.
- Make sure your spices are fresh. If they’ve been sitting in your pantry for two years they’ve likely lost all of their flavor so pick up some fresh ones if needed.
- Use American cheese. As in, a good one sliced from your grocery deli. I like Land O Lake’s Yellow American. I never support buying Kraft Singles or Velveeta for anything. You’ll only need two or three slices of American cheese to make the whole dish really creamy and smooth.
How to make this ahead
You could easily make this ahead by doing all of the steps except adding the pasta. Cool to room temperature then transfer to a container for the fridge or cover the whole pan with plastic wrap right against the surface and refrigerate for up to two days.
To reheat, add the whole mix to a pan and add a bit of beef broth to thin. Maybe 1/2-1 cup. Let it warm some before you decide how much to add. Toss in your cooked pasta and stir and it’s ready to serve.
Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 1 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup American cheese not Kraft singles or Velveeta
- Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a 10-12 inch skillet with high sides, add the beef and onions and cook over medium high until no pink remains: about 7 minutes. Drain away as much grease as you can.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and to the beef in the pan add the butter and stir until it melts. Add the tomato paste, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Add the flour and stir until no pockets of raw flour remain; about one minute.
- Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer and stir until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon: about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the cheeses and stir to combine. Gently fold in the pasta until thoroughly coated. Serve warm.