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 like browned ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, and cavatappi or macaroni noodles. 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!

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!

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. 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.

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.

More Easy Dinner Recipes

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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Homemade Hamburger Helper

4.88 from 188 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!

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. I have tried several recipes that claimed to be homemade Hamburger Helper. This will be the last one I make. I love all aspects of it. I followed it to a tee. The pasta had perfect texture, the cheese wasn’t stringy or separated in the sauce, the sauce was perfect consistency, the spices were great for everyone in my family, and I used fresh beef from my favorite cattleman. Thank you! We agreed at our family table that this is OUR hamburger helper recipe from now on! 

  2. Family favorite!! I love knowing exactly what’s in it and it’s just as quick as the “box”!!

  3. This was sooo yummy! I loved hamburger helper as a kid as well so I was wanting a homemade version to use with my KETO friendly low carb noodle... turned out amazing. Thanks! 

  4. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you so much. I already had my ground beef and pasta cooked. Since pasta was cooked I didn't add all of the water. It came together so quickly and was a big hit with my people.

  5. Definitely not the best I've had, way too much seasoning and too little meat. My recipe is 2lbs ground beef, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, sprinkle of salt, and a can of mushroom soup. When it's done, add ketchup and it's creamy and perfectly seasoned.

    1. Elly,

      What you did is one of my biggest pet peeves. Why would you hijack her post to add your recipe? It's rude. Plus your recipe is not remotely similar to hers - mushroom soup and ketchup?

  6. Thank you for the recipe. It was way to make and cake out delicious. No more box mix for me!!

  7. The other night my husband mentioned Hamburger Helper, so I turned to Pinterest and found your recipe. Delicious! I also like that it’s a versatile dish that could be seasoned in different ways! It’s a keeper and I will have fun making it again! Thank you! Pure comfort food!

  8. Thank you so much!!!!! The other day my hubby almost bought hamburger helper but he did not want to have to take a lactose pill. Cheddar cheese is lactose free and I can make this for him tonight. he will be so happy.

    I will have to make some for myself too but will gluten-free pasta or maybe with rice

  9. Wow I’m a teen and I made this. Love it 10/10! Thanks for sharing your recipe. The family loved it!!

  10. Can you maby put the recipes more tward the begining I tryed looking for one but didnt find one so I just read what you said and kindof just guesed the measurements till i thought it was good I hope it turns out well.😓

    1. Sorry about that! At the top of every post is a "Jump to Recipe" button that will take you straight to the recipe card with all of the measurements and ingredients.

  11. So so happy I found this recipe!!  My husband LOVES Hamburger helper, but I do not like buying processed foods.  It was a winner for the entire family!  Both of my my young boys are picky eaters, and they even went back for seconds.  This is a delicious, quick meal!  Thank you!

  12. Excellent and very satisfying! After reading the comments before cooking (thank you all), my only adjustments were 1 cup water, 1 cup beef stock (instead of 2 cups water), and less salt IN the recipe so that I could sprinkle some crunchy salt ON the finished dish (my addiction). You can dress this up w/peas, carrots, chopped tomatoes, kale, spinach ... or leave this base as is. I love it as is.

    This is comfort food at its best: Perfect flavor balance and really does taste like the boxed wonder. Very good re-heated the next day. Going to make more and freeze small portions! THANK YOU, AMY!

    (non-smoker, gourmet cook, fan of smoked paprika, eating way too much pasta during lock-down)

  13. Would love to have made this recipe but there was an ad covering the recipe's ingredients list and no "X" anywhere visible to make it go away off the screen.

  14. Hi! I would have loved to use your recipe and website, but the advertising you've permitted on here literally prevents the recipe from being read! Ads complete covered all the text of your recipe.

    1. Hi Amber! I'm so sorry about that! I was having a problem with my ad network, but the issue is resolved and it won't happen again!

  15. Nice flavour, but -
    I used bow tie pasta, and it was not cooked enough. Also found it to be very salty.

  16. Hi Everyone!! Thank you for yet another recipe to add to my collection!! It was uncanny how it tasted like the box but so much better!! I wanted to share some changes I had to make just in case it would benefit anyone here. I am gluten and dairy (cow's milk) sensitive due to medical reasons. (1) I exchanged the cow's milk for oat milk, use the stated amount; (2) I used one of my favorite gluten free pasta (macaroni for my fellow Italians out there) brands; just like with regular pasta of any kind, I partially cook the pasta before adding it to the main dish to finish cooking; (3) I used beef stock (or broth) instead of water; use the stated amount, it will boil down over a higher heat stirring often; (4) corn-starch is naturally gluten-free, just be sure to check the box to make sure it is has no added ingredients and is manufactured in a gluten-free facility; I don't often take the chance with cornstarch so I simply exchange for gluten free flour, arrowroot or tapioca flour; (5) I used 1 cup sharp sheep's milk cheese and 1 cup of a cheddar/monterey jack/asiago cheese mix; I was able to eat a nice bowl for dinner. Next time I will again use the cheddar cheese mix but add in my favorite dairy free cheese as an experiment. It's not east avoiding dairy and it really sucks most of the time so I am always trying to adjust recipes I find and test them out!! Happy cooking friends!!!!

  17. This recipe is delicious. It's a staple in our house now and saved us during the quarantine. We actually dubbed it COVID casserole because it was our go-to dish. The cavatappi noodles are the best because they have all the ridges that absorb the sauce. We added pepper and onion to it for a little pizazz.

  18. I haven't had Hamburger Helper in 30 years or so. I saw this and had to try it. I have to say I thought it was amazing! Thank you so much!

  19. This was soooo much better than the box version! I added diced green chilis to give it a Mexican flair. My family loved it!

  20. I made this recipe tonight. I have a 4 year-old, so I added spinach at the end of cooking (I have to trick him so he'll eat certain veggies). This is deeeelish!!! And it's so much healthier than the boxed product. Thank you!

  21. Heeey! I have the ingredients to double this recipe so we can have some lunch leftovers and such. Is there anything you would change to double it (amounts, cooking times, etc.)?

    1. Nope! Everything should be an easy, straight-forward doubling of all the ingredients. Cooking time will stay the same though!

  22. Thank you for the recipe. I had leftover pasta that I wanted to use for this recipe. I kind of made it backwards, I added the cornstarch and seasonings with a small amount of hot water let that simmer. I added the cheese to the meat and added milk as needed to make it creamy. I added the cooked pasta and more milk as needed. It tasted very good and I served it with rolls. I just want to post Incase anybody wanted to use cooked pasta.

  23. I made this with a chopped onion and added a tablespoon of sour cream at the end and mmmmm! It was pretty close to the real thing! I didn’t think the noodles would cook in the little bit of liquid but it was perfect. Even better with a tiny bit of ketchup on top for added flavor. 

  24. After trying to find something different to use hamburger for I came across this recipe I made this for dinner one night and it was delicious! I also added some Velveeta cheese and substituted beef broth for the water. This had great flavor and will make this often. My husband loved it. So easy and tasty. Thanks for sharing!
    Melodie 

  25. I made this for my son, I myself never cared for hamburger helper, I was a little reluctant to add the pasta to the the other ingredients raw for fear it would taste like hamburger helper however I am a stickler to sticking to a new recipe {generally} in order to find out if it is good, and I must admit I am very glad I did, we both liked it!. I will be making it from time to time when I'm in a pinch now, Thank you!... 🙂

  26. This recipe is so yummy! I have made it mutiple times and it always comes out well. I use whole grain macaroni to get some fibre in there for my son.

  27. Made this tonight at the request of my boxes Hamburger Helper lover of a husband and it was fantastic!! I was never a HH fan growing up but I fell hard for this homemade version. And even my toddler, who won’t eat food that’s mixed together, loved it. Thanks, Amy!!

  28. My sister (who cannot cook lol) walked in to my kitchen this evening just as this finished cooking (I CAN cook lol). I am going to quote her "OMG this is amazing! What is this?!?!" Great job on the recipe! 👍😁

  29. I have made this so many times since finding it just a short time ago. Here is what I have discovered. If using elbow noodles you can be generous in the measuring. If you need double the recipe you are beet off making 2 batches then doubling the original recipe. It just does not taste the same if doubled. This is now a family favorite. I have even forgotten to put the sugar in a few times and no one noticed.

  30. You must be from Oregon to.lol I never see tillamook in a recipe unless from same state lol I'm about to make this I'm from Oregon too if that's where ur from I hope thanks

  31. This was delicious!!! I used homemade bone broth, and it came out sooooo good that I'll make it again and again. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

  32. This is absolutely amazing. I added one cup of tomato sauce and decreased the water by one cup. I also added some powdered parmesan cheese to it. Just saucy, cheesy, heaven in my opinion. So much better than the box stuff at the store! This makes enough for my husband and I to have for both dinner and lunch the next day. Doesn't dry out even the slightest!

  33. I have made this with and without the sugar, definitely better with the sugar!
    Tonight I added some bacon to the mix.
    Hopefully its good.

      1. Made this tonight. I didn't have enough shredded cheddar so I added a little provolone and some pepper jack! Turned out so yummy!!

  34. Excellent recipe!  I did add a little chili powder, cayenne and cumin, only because I wanted to duplicate HH Chili Cheeseburger Macaroni.  It turned out great!! I will keep this in our comfort food rotation!! Thank you! 

  35. Loved it! It's like tasting memories from my childhood!
    But does anyone have a way to make it less salty aside from not adding the salt in?
    I'd be very grateful!