This easy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe is a comforting, one-pot wonder that delivers big on flavor with a creamy, cheesy sauce enveloping tender pasta and perfectly seasoned ground beef.
Today we're making a classic comfort food, hamburger helper, but recreated and amplified that grownups and kids alike will love!
Our one pot Hamburger Helper recipe is steeped in nostalgia but given a refined edge, all while retaining the warmth of a home-cooked meal. Simple, satisfying, and positively scrumptious, this cheesy hamburger helper recipe will quickly become a staple in your culinary repertoire!
Unlike store-bought mixes, this DIY version boasts real, wholesome ingredients, and a harmonious blend of spices like paprika, oregano, and parsley that elevate it to new culinary heights. This homemade version has the classic hamburger helper taste, but better!
The burst of colors from the tri-color peppers and the melt-in-your-mouth mild cheddar cheese make this not just a feast for the palate, but for the eyes too. It's an absolute delight to both make and eat, and a guaranteed family favorite.
This recipe is an ideal dish for a cozy family dinner on a chilly winter night, a friendly potluck, or an easy-to-make comfort food when you're craving something hearty and satisfying.
This DIY hamburger helper brings all the flavors of a cheeseburger into a delightful pasta dish that is easy to make, crowd-pleasing, and perfect for any day of the week.
What You'll Love About This Recipe
- Easy to Make: With straightforward steps and familiar ingredients, this is a great recipe for beginners and experienced cooks alike.
- Customizable: Feel free to mix up the ingredients based on your preference or dietary needs.
- Comforting: This dish is the epitome of comfort food - rich, creamy, and utterly satisfying.
- Family-Friendly: Loved by adults and kids alike, it's a hit for the whole family.
Ground Beef: The protein star of our dish, ground beef is savory and filling. Choose a higher fat percentage for more flavor.
Onion & Tri-Color Peppers: These veggies add a bit of crunch and a lot of flavor. The tri-color peppers make the dish visually appealing as well.
Beef Broth and Whole Milk: These provide the liquid base for our sauce, making it rich and velvety.
Pasta: The pasta absorbs all the delicious flavors in this dish. Opt for a pasta shape that holds onto the sauce well, like elbow macaroni or shells.
Tomato Sauce: It gives a tangy sweetness that balances the richness of other ingredients.
Spices: Garlic, Paprika, Oregano, and Parsley come together to create a vibrant flavor profile that seasons the ground beef and the pasta sauce.
Mild Cheddar Cheese: The cheese brings a creamy, gooey texture and a lovely sharpness to round off our homemade hamburger helper.
You will need a Large Pan with Lid for this recipe. The lid is essential as it helps the pasta cook evenly by trapping steam.
Additionally, a Knife & Cutting Board for your prep work, and Measuring Cups and Spoons to ensure accuracy in your ingredient quantities.
If you don’t have a pan with a lid, you can also use a large pot with a lid.
To get your homemade hamburger helper started grab all of your ingredients.
Start by browning the ground meat in your pan over medium heat, adding the chopped onion, peppers and seasonings minus the minced garlic, once the meat has started to lose its pink color.
Stir often to ensure even browning and prevent burning.
Once your meat is browned and your onions are translucent, stir in the minced garlic.
Let this cook for another minute or so - just enough to bring out the fragrance of the garlic but not long enough to let it burn.
Next, you'll add your salt, pepper, paprika, and parsley to the pan. Stir everything together to distribute the spices evenly throughout your meat mixture.
Now it's time for the liquids! Pour in your beef broth, tomato sauce, and milk. After these are combined, add in your pasta.
Increase the heat to bring your pan to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
Cover your pan with the lid, and let it cook for about 12-15 minutes.
You'll want to stir occasionally to prevent your pasta from sticking to the pan.
Once your pasta is cooked, remove the pan from heat and stir in your shredded cheddar cheese.
Replace the lid and let the residual heat melt the cheese into a delectable, gooey goodness.
Browning the Meat: Make sure you brown your meat properly. This not only cooks it through but also gives it a wonderful depth of flavor. Don't rush this step - let the meat get really brown on the bottom before you start breaking it up and stirring.
Cook the Pasta in Sauce: Cooking your pasta directly in the sauce allows the pasta to absorb all the delicious flavors in the pan. This is a game changer and contributes to a richer, tastier final dish.
Cheese: For the best, creamiest results, always grate your cheese from a block instead of using pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents which prevent it from melting as smoothly.
Spice Level: This dish is mildly spiced. For a spicier twist, add some red pepper flakes or a dash of cayenne to your spice mixture. Always start with a little - you can add more later, but you can't take it out!
Stir Frequently: Especially once you've added your pasta, you'll want to stir frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of your pan and to ensure that it cooks evenly.
- Ground turkey or chicken can be used instead of beef for a leaner option.
- Vegetable broth can be used in place of beef broth for a vegetarian version, and the beef can be substituted with plant-based meat alternatives.
- For a dairy-free version, use almond milk and a dairy-free cheese substitute.
- Cheesy Chicken Helper: Substitute the ground beef with shredded rotisserie chicken and use chicken broth in place of beef broth. Add some parmesan along with cheddar for extra cheesiness.
- Veggie-Packed Helper: Add in additional vegetables such as corn, peas, or spinach to amp up the nutrition factor.
This Homemade Hamburger Helper is a hearty, flavorful, one-pot dish that's sure to be a hit with your whole family!
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced tri-color peppers
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 cups whole milk
- 16 ounces pasta (3 cups)
- 2 cans (8 ounces each) of tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups mild cheddar cheese
- In a large skillet, brown the ground meat and chopped onion.
- Once browned, add minced garlic.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, paprika, and parsley over the meat mixture.
- Stir well to combine, then add beef broth, tomato sauce, milk, and pasta.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.
- Once the pasta is cooked and the skillet is removed from heat, add the cheese and stir until melted.
- Cover the skillet again to allow the cheese to fully melt.
- Serve and enjoy!
For the creamiest texture, use freshly grated cheese instead of pre-shredded cheese. It melts better.
Your Homemade Hamburger Helper is fantastic for leftovers and can be safely stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Refrigerator: Cool the pasta slightly before transferring it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When you're ready to eat, reheat a portion in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of milk or broth to loosen it up if necessary.
Freezer: This dish is freezer-friendly for longer storage! To freeze, allow the pasta to cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or heavy-duty freezer bag.
Make sure to leave a bit of room for expansion in the container or bag. The hamburger helper can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat: defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then warm in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of liquid if needed.
Absolutely! You can use gluten-free pasta, but be aware that it often requires a shorter cooking time than regular pasta. Keep an eye on it to avoid it getting mushy.
Certainly! While this recipe calls for mild cheddar, you can experiment with different kinds of cheese. Sharp cheddar, Colby-Jack, or even a bit of cream cheese or Velveeta could work nicely.
Yes, you can. This recipe is very versatile. You can add in additional vegetables such as corn, peas, diced carrots, or spinach to increase the nutritional value. I personally love adding shredded zucchini to pack more veggies into it.
Elbow macaroni, shells, or rotini work well because they hold onto the sauce nicely. However, you can experiment with whatever type of pasta you have on hand. Just be sure to adjust cooking times accordingly, as different pasta shapes and sizes may take different amounts of time to cook.