With more than 7 million page views and hundreds of FIVE STAR reviews, this easy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe is one of our go-to dinner recipes when we are in the throes school schedules and extracurricular activities and I haven't planned ahead. This Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet is made with ingredients we always have on hand in under 20 minutes. It's may not be fancy, but this one-pot meal is a family favorite that is always easy, satisfying, and a hit even with picky eaters!

So much better than much loved boxed version. I grated the cheese the night before and it was fairly quick to make. ~ Susan

A close up image of a pan of homemade hamburger helper from scratch.


Table of Contents
  1. What You'll Need
  2. How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper
  3. Tips for Success
  4. How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
  5. Recipe FAQ's
  6. What to Serve with Hamburger Helper
  7. More Easy Dinner Recipes
  8. More Favorites from House of Nash Eats
  9. Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

I didn't grow up eating Hamburger Helper. It's not something my mom ever made, so the first time I tried it was at college when a roommate made it for our apartment one night. That's when I discovered how much I love it!

Did anyone else trade nights to make dinner for roommates? I loved taking turns cooking for my roommates or enjoying what they cooked when it was their turn. It made life easier and it was fun to try their childhood favorites that they grew up with like the boxed hamburger helper that my roommate Sarah introduced me to.

I know the boxed stuff is probably less than impressive to anyone who grew up with it, but for me, I was embarrassingly delighted by the meaty, cheesy, carb-fest of pasta noodles in a savory, cheesy sauce with browned ground beef in it. It just tasted so good and comforting!

So I was super delighted when I learned you could easily make the cheeseburger pasta skillet recipe from scratch! This homemade version is one of our favorite go-to easy dinners and our whole family love it.

It's essentially the same ol' boxed version of the hamburger helper that you can pick up at the grocery store, but so much better homemade using real cheese and skipping unnecessary add-ins! And it is a TOTAL lifesaver on busy weeknights when I don't really want to cook or haven't planned ahead. I always have a pound or two of ground beef in the freezer, along with cheese in the fridge and pasta in the pantry.

Homemade hamburger helper also solves the other impediment to a homecooked meal (for me) which is the inevitable clean-up afterwards. Dishes are the worst.

But an easy one pot skillet meal means much less to clean, which means I'm more likely to cook, even when I might otherwise cave and say it's an eating out night. And really, since I can make this from start to finish in about 15 minutes, it's a lot faster than even fast food!

If you LOVE one-pot meals, you should also try this one pot bruschetta chicken pasta that is amazing and full of flavor.

We are always looking for more easy weeknight ideas that will satisfy our hungry family. Some of our other favorites are Tuna Noodle CasseroleChicken Spaghetti Casserole, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, and Ground Beef Stroganoff!

What You'll Need

  • Pasta: I love cavatappi noodles or elbow macaroni, but any small pasta will work like bowtie pasta or even egg noodles.
  • Lean ground beef: Or sub ground turkey, ground chicken, ground sausage, etc. to change up the flavor or make this a little healthier.
  • Milk: I think milk works great to add richness to this homemade hamburger helper recipe and it cuts back on the calories a bit over using heavy cream.
  • Hot water: If you want this dish extra savory, go ahead and heat up some beef broth or even chicken broth in place of the water. But I find that with all the spices and cheese, water works just fine.
  • Cheese: Medium cheddar cheese gives it that classic hamburger helper taste, but you could substitute other melty cheese like monterey or pepperjack for something different.
  • Cornstarch: This both thickens the sauce slightly and gives it a silky texture.
  • Paprika: Regular or smoked paprika work well in this recipe.
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder: We actually like onion powder over fresh onion in this recipe because it makes it more like the original box version, but you could chop and saute half a medium onion with the ground beef if you prefer.
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sugar: I am sometimes asked why there is sugar in this recipe. It's a small amount but it balances out the other flavors. that it is hardly noticeable, and you can leave it out if you want and the recipe will still taste good, but it balances all of the flavors.

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

Making homemade hamburger helper is super easy. You start by browning a pound of ground beef in a large skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. Just break up the meat so it cooks evenly and drain any extra fat that cooks off.

An image showing how to brown ground beef in a cast iron pan.

Next, sprinkle the cornstarch and spices over the browned meat and stir them in before adding the hot water or broth, milk, and pasta. Stirring the spices in first coats the meat before adding the liquid.

I prefer using cavatappi pasta, which is one of my favorite noodle cuts ever, but you could use macaroni noodles too. If you haven't tried cavatappi before, it's basically macaroni, except longer spirals instead of elbows and it's the same pasta that I use when I make my copycat costco mac & cheese.

Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook over medium heat until the pasta is tender but still al dente.

Once the pasta has absorbed most of the liquid and cooked to al dente perfection, sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese on top, then stir it in. There will still be liquid in the pan with the cooked pasta. This continues to be absorbed by the pasta and combines with the cheese to make a lovely, cheesy sauce.

I love Tillamook Farmstyle Cut medium cheddar cheese for this because it tastes amazing and melts beautifully, unlike most other prepackaged grated cheeses I have tried.

This isn't sponsored, I just really, really love this product and find it super convenient to have on hand, especially on nights when I'm short on time, trying to get a meal on the table, and not feeling like grating cheese with the cheese grater.

An image of Tillamook farmstyle cut cheddar cheese.

After just a couple of minutes the sauce will have thickened slightly. You might want to sprinkle it with fresh parsley for a pop of fresh color before serving.

An image of homemade hamburger helper in a cast iron skillet.

If you are looking to add some new easy weeknight dinner ideas to your meal rotation this school season, definitely consider adding this homemade hamburger helper to the mix.

Or try one of my other easy dinner recipes like sheet pan shrimp fajitas, one pan green bean, chicken & potatoes, or baked spaghetti casserole.

Tips for Success

  • This is one of our reader favorites and there are lots of suggestions in the comments about adding chopped bell peppers, green beans, or other veggies to the recipe if you want to try.
  • Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving to give the cheese sauce a chance to set up and thicken slightly.
  • Swap out the cavatappi noodles for shells, macaroni, or any other small pasta you like.
  • You can use ground turkey or ground chicken to lighten up this dish, as well as protein pasta or gluten-free pasta if you are looking to make a healthier version.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The leftovers heat up great the next day either in the microwave or on the stovetop, although you may need to add a splash of milk to thin out the sauce a bit since it tends to absorb into the pasta overnight.

Recipe FAQ's

How do you make hamburger helper from scratch?

It's not hard to recreate your favorite boxed meal help with some pasta and spices that you already have in the cupboard. I started with the ingredient list from an actual box of Hamburger Helper to get an idea of the spices they were using and then adjusted and tweaked to our liking until we ended up with something that we liked even better than the original!

How do I make hamburger helper creamier?

If you want to have an even thicker, creamier sauce, you could stir in sour cream at the end for some added tanginess, kind of like when you make beef stroganoff. Another option would be to increase the water or broth to 3 cups, and replace the 1 ½ cups of milk with ¾ cup of heavy cream stirred in at the end with the cheese. This will definitely add more richness and creaminess.

What to Serve with Hamburger Helper

This homemade hamburger helper recipe is hearty and filling, so it goes great with a nice spinach salad or crisp green salad with copycat Olive Garden dressing. We also like to serve hamburger helper with a green vegetable like green beans or roasted broccoli. Fruit salad with marshmallows or even an orange jello are also always a hit with the entire family.

An image of homemade hamburger helper on a white plate.

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Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.92 from 554 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people
One of our go-to dinner recipes when we are in the throes of busy school schedules and extracurricular activities and I haven't planned ahead is this Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet made with browned ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, and cavatappi or macaroni noodles. It's may not be fancy, but it's always easy, satisfying, and a hit with my family!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups hot water (or beef broth or chicken broth)
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups dry cavatappi pasta or macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Instructions
 

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, then add the ground beef and break it up, cooking and stirring until the meat is no longer pink. Drain any remaining fat in the pan.
  • Sprinkle the cornstarch, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, and pepper over the browned meat and stir well to evenly distribute the spices. Add the hot water, milk, and pasta, then bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat and simmer for 8-11 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese over the cooked pasta and stir until melted into the sauce. Remove from the heat, and let stand for a few minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired, then serve.

Video

Notes

  • Storage: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat with a splash of milk to loosen the sauce on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • Adding veggies: You might consider adding chopped bell peppers, green beans, or other veggies to make this more of a true one-pot meal.
  • Substitutions: Swap out the cavatappi noodles for shells, macaroni, or any other small pasta you like. You can use ground turkey or ground chicken to lighten up this dish, as well as protein pasta or gluten-free pasta if you are looking to make a healthier version.
Recipe adapted from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts.

Nutrition

Calories: 526kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 900mg | Potassium: 442mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1052IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 370mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

This post was originally published in August, 2018. The content was updated in November, 2022.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I'm the kind of cook who needs to follow a recipe every time. I followed this recipe exactly and it turned out fantastic! It was a hit with my picky eaters (7, 4, 2). Definitely saving this recipe and making it again and again! I grew up eating the boxed hamburger helper which my kids have never experienced, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane tonight and this recipe did not disappoint!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow! This was so good! I couldn’t believe how much it reminded me of my childhood, but better!!! I also was able to clean out my cabinets so I used penne rigate and velveeta. Because the noodles were a little bigger, I did have to add more liquid so that they weren’t crunchy, but that was no issue! I also added a couple teaspoons of beef better than bouillon. My whole family loved it and it was so easy! Thanks for a hit recipe! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Didn't make it as directed but you can add what you want. I added diced tomatoes, jar of nacho cheese dip and sour cream.

  4. This recipe is simply delicious! I used macaroni noodles and had to add more liquid but besides that it was a hit. Thank you.

  5. 5 stars
    This was so good, even my husband complimented it and said it was way better than the boxed stuff (I agree!)
    I have tried other homemade hamburger helper recipes with not much success, but this one did not disappoint!

  6. I have tried countless homemade hamburger helper recipes and have never loved any of them! But this-is incredible! The ingredient list was basic, the favour sublime! Try this, you will not be disappointed!!

  7. 5 stars
    I just made this for the first time. I wanted something simple, and I had all of these ingredients already. I substituted turkey meat and Barilla gluten free elbow macaroni, and used chicken stock instead of water. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly - holy smokes this was delicious! I didn’t expect much and my husband didn’t seem too excited but we both wolfed it down and had to stop ourselves from eating the other half (that’s for tonight! Can’t wait!) What a comforting and simple recipe - we LOVED it!

    1. 1 star
      This was horrible. I love hamburger helper and the tablespoon of paprika was overpowering. I also had to add almost 3 cups more liquid to get the macaroni edible. I don't want to have to throw away food but I think this is inedible. I don't recommend this recipe.

      1. Hmmm did you use just two cups of dry noodles? You will need to add more water if you decide to use the whole package of noodles instead of just two cups. We make this all the time and the noodles have cooked well with the amount of liquid listed. Maybe try it again?

  8. 3 stars
    Trying to make this recipe, but I've gotten about 15 pop ups for ads and subscriptions, making it insanely difficult to read the recipe.

  9. 5 stars
    Just made your recipe for homemade hamburger helper. Oh my goodness it is delicious and it turn out perfect. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  10. This was great! We were trying to find something for dinner and I just so happened to have a pound of ground beef and 2 cups of cavatappi noodles! This recipe was perfect 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    Gave this a try tonight. I had been craving hamburger helper but I know my kids aren't big fans of anything with powdered cheese. So I made this as written, only with a mix of grated cheddar and some velveeta I needed to use up. delicious! creamy and rich. my oldest son wanted to be sure I left some leftovers so he can eat more tomorrow. That is high praise!

  12. 5 stars
    I am a home cook and always looking to change things up. I have adult children and a husband. I never made hamburger helper for my kids. I make a lot of things from scratch. I had a thought of what ever happened to hamburger helper. Well it’s alive and on the shelves. Couldn’t bring my self to buy it. Mostly embarrassed to take a short cut meal. Needless to say I am overly happy with this. So good and my family loves it. Easy tasty and quick. Ty.

    1. It's a pretty nostalgic dish for some of us 😉 This homemade version is so much better and really so easy! Glad you like it.

  13. 5 stars
    This was very good - made 3 small changes - instead of beef, we used ground turkey 85/15, then added 1/4 cup of chopped yellow onion to the meat mixture and then I had an open jar of spaghetti sauce in the fridge so I added about a 1/4 cup of that (along with everything else you mention). It was overall very good! 2 year old approved and I LOVE one pan meals!

  14. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I'd like to add veggies next time, do you think that kale or spinach would work well with it?

  15. 5 stars
    This recipe is delicious and comes together so easily! Actually a quick recipe to put together and get on the table!! 10 stars!

  16. 5 stars
    Was looking for something easy to make for dinner tonight using what I had, came across this recipe. DELICIOUS!! I used one pound of pasta so of course I had to increase the water/milk. I just used what little milk I had left and then used the rest water but added an extra "cube" of beef seasoning. I didn't use the sugar & cheese. Honestly doesn't need it.

  17. 5 stars
    LOVE THIS - and my kids do too!! We use the heavy cream suggestion to make it creamier and it never disappoints! ❤️💙

  18. 5 stars
    Followed the recipe almost exactly, and if I hadn't been the one to make it, you would have a hard time convincing me this wasn't the REAL deal out the box kind. But somehow a lil better lol. Made a double batch, with bison instead of beef (which the taste is so similar it's hardly a swap,) and didn't add a second teaspoon of sugar. Was perfect. My picky 5 year who has autism even ate some, so BIG win for mom. Thank you so much for this recipe! Will be keeping.