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 easy 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!

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, My Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese, and Best Ground Beef Stroganoff!

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

Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet

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 loved hamburger helper!

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 taste the staple recipes they grew up with like the boxed hamburger helper that my roommate Sarah introduced me to.

I know hamburger helper 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!

An image of a plate of homemade hamburger helper next to a large skillet used to prepare it.

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 kids love it.

It's essentially the same ol' boxed version of the hamburger helper that you grew up with, but so much better homemade! And it is a TOTAL lifesaver on busy nights 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, so that solves the first question of whether I have all the ingredients I need to get dinner on the table.

And homemade hamburger helper actually 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.

An image of cheesy pasta noodles and ground beef with spices in a pan.

Ingredients in this homemade hamburger helper recipe

  • Pasta: I love cavatappi noodles, but really almost any small pasta would work. Elbow macaroni is another great choice.
  • Ground beef: Or sub ground turkey, ground chicken, ground sausage, etc. to change up the flavor or make this a little healthier.
  • Milk
  • Hot water: If you want this dish extra savory, go ahead and heat up some beef 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
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sugar: I get asked a lot why there is sugar in this recipe. It's such a small amount 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 do you make hamburger helper from scratch?

Making homemade hamburger helper is super easy. You start by browning ground beef in a large skillet 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 milk, hot water, and pasta. Stirring the spices in first coats the meat before adding the liquid.

An image of spices sprinkled over browned ground beef.

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 to cook until the pasta is tender but still al dente.

An image of hamburger helper cooking on the stovetop.

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. You can see in the first image below that there is still 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.

An image showing how to make one pot homemade hamburger helper on the stovetop.
An image of shredded cheese being added to cooked pasta and ground beef in a cast iron skillet.

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

After just a couple of minutes the sauce will have thickened slightly and dinner is ready to be served with a nice salad or maybe some green beans and fresh fruit. The leftovers heat up great the next day as well.

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.

An image of homemade hamburger helper on a white plate.

Looking for more easy weeknight dinner recipes? Try these family favorites!

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet

4.90 from 173 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
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!


  • 1 pound 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
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups dry cavatappi pasta or macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese


  • 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.



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!

Recipe adapted from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts.

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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. I cannot wait to try this tonight - will leave a review. HH changed their formula and it is so grainy and gross. I do not know what they did to it but it's awful. Thanks for this recipe, it looks really good!

    1. I am glad to know that I wasn't the only one who noticed that they changed their formula! HH was always a guilty pleasure, but now it tastes terrible!

  2. This was so yummy.  I used ground turkey and of course used more cheese.   😊

    Thank you so much for the recipe.  Please keep them coming.

    Stay well.

  3. OMGOODNESS, this was so flipping good. My family and I loved it. And it was extremely easy to make. Thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to making several more of your recipes. 🙂

  4. 4 stars
    Pretty good! Definitely too much paprika. Next time I would do like half the amount. But otherwise tasty and easy! I also added fresh minced garlic and 1/3 of an onion and sautéed for a couple minutes before adding the liquid and noodles. 

  5. 4 stars
    Really nice, and super easy for a weeknight dinner. I added frozen peas when there was 2 minutes left on the pasta!

    I would personally add more cheese and about twice as much onion and garlic powder, it's pretty bland as written. BUT if you have picky eaters, it's great because the flavours aren't too intense.

  6. Delicious! I'm vegan so I swapped out the beef for 2 bricks of tofu. (I crumbled the tofu —mixed with 8 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp oil, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast— and baked on a cookie sheet for about 18 minutes at 375F.) Because of this substitution, I then found I had to add about twice as much milk as the recipe originally asked for due to the tofu soaking up a lot of the liquid, and then I used cheddar vegan cheese shreds.

    Turned out absolutely amazing!

    Though I might not go with as much pepper and paprika next time, I will definitely be making it again.
    (Eating a bowl as I type this right now. Yummy!)

  7. 5 stars
    I make this on nights that feel like a comfort food night. This recipe is awesome!
    The guys in my family are always ready for this dish! So glad I found this recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Just made it for my family, I added some summer squash and mushrooms and used a smoked paprika. It turned out amazing!

  9. 5 stars
    I made this tonight because my new foster son requested “cheeseburger hamburger helper “ & I don’t ever buy stuff like that so I went online and found it on your website. Talk about good! Dinner was a super success with the children both eating two helpings and for them, that’s a first! (Both are very picky eaters). My husband and I liked it too! Hot biscuits and honey and we had a great meal. Thanks😋

  10. 5 stars
    Omg I want to cry this is so divine and tastes just like the original Hamburger Helper! 🤤 Thank you so much for sharing!!

    1. I haven't experienced too much issue of the milk curdling since it usually just absorbs into the pasta. By the time you stir in the cheese it should come back together into a nice sauce.

  11. Good afternoon...I am looking to make this for dinner tonight and would like to cook the noodles separate....To do this would I just not add the milk and water? Whenever I make a dish like this it always taste way to startchy

    1. I'm not sure what you mean, but I have never had an issue with this recipe resulting in noodles that seemed too starchy as long as they don't get overcooked.

  12. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! My whole family loves it!! I will never buy the box stuff again especially since they changed their recipes. This is just as easy to make and tastes so much better and it has to be healthier because you know exactly whats in it. The first time I followed recipe exactly but found the paprika to be a little overpowering so now I just leave it out. Delicious!

  13. 5 stars
    I wasn't even looking for this recipe; it popped up as a suggestion for something completely unrelated. But it looked good, simple, and I had all the ingredients on hand. I took the suggestions of other reviewers, and I only made two adjustments - I cut the amount of paprika in half, and I subbed 1 of the cups of water for beef broth. I used a freshly grated blocked of Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar cheese, and followed the instructions exactly. It. Was. So. Good. So aromatic and flavorful, and way better than anything from a box. I am hit or miss in the kitchen, and this was a definite hit. Thank you for sharing this recipe!!

  14. I’ve never in 60 years followed a recipe step for step till now, and had to make first comment EVER ‘cuz, as written, it was just what we wanted, I always add stuff to suit what I think I wanted and caint follow simple & absolutely luved the flavors, just had to tell u

  15. 4 stars
    This is one of the fastest HH recipes I've tried and the easiest to clean up. I'm with everyone else saying it's a little bland. I added a few healthy dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a smidge of ketchup, a can of diced tomatoes, and a small red onion.

    It turned out great and was genuinely amazed at how quickly it all went, especially since I used the time while the meat and onion was browning to grate my cheese.

  16. Didn't feel like making dinner tonight and had burger thawed out. Came across this recipe and decided to try it and I must say it was a hit! So much better than the box stuff. I used sharp cheddar cheese and used about 3 cups as my hubby is a cheese fiend. I'll be adding this into my rotation.

  17. 5 stars
    This was so nostalgic and absolutely delicious! I subbed flour for the cornstarch since I didn’t have any on hand and it was great!

  18. 3 stars
    Followed recipe (something I do not usually do :-)). Full disclosure - I do not ever buy HH or other processed meals. Decent quick meal other than way too salty for us - would recommend cutting salt in half.

  19. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!! My boyfriend literally had 3 servings within 20 minutes, he couldn’t get enough and neither could I!! So yummy, you have to try it!!

  20. 4 stars
    My daughter has celiac disease so I used gluten free pasta in this. I will definitely make it again. Next time I will not use as much paprika, maybe a tsp. I'll also add some diced onion to the ground beef.