You will permanently say goodbye to boxed Hamburger Helper after trying this easy recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper! Not only does it taste better than the storebought version, it is nearly as easy to make!
Made with lean ground beef, a richly spiced tomato sauce, and tender noodles, this recipe for Hamburger Helper is one of our favorite easy 30-minute dinner recipes.
Boxed Hamburger Helper is an affordable meal helper that is extremely popular in many families' households. I get it. Hamburger Helper is a simple meal that comes together in one pan using minimal ingredients and is loved by picky eaters.
But what if I told you that is it JUST as easy to make a homemade version of hamburger helper that is better for you AND better tasting?
It seems too good to be true, but thanks to this easy recipe it is not!
Why You Will Love Homemade Hamburger Helper
- One Pot Recipe. Just like the boxed version, Homemade Hamburger Helper comes together in one pot in less than 30 minutes.
- Quality Control. Unlike boxed Hamburger Helper, this homemade version is much lower in sodium and has no added MSG, preservatives, or food coloring.
- Cheap Dinner Recipe. Homemade Hamburger Helper uses basic, pantry staples and often costs less than purchasing the boxed version. Grab ground meat on sale, and you have an affordable family-favorite dinner recipe.
- Picky Eater Approved. This easy recipe is approved by the pickiest of eaters. It is made without raw onions, peppers, or chunks of tomatoes, which picky eaters often turn their noses up at!
Notes Ingredients Needed
The number one reason I opt to make homemade hamburger helper rather than relying on the boxed mix is that I get to control the quality of ingredients. But that does not mean those ingredients are expensive or hard to find. This recipe for hamburger helper uses simple pantry staples and ground meat.
- Ground Meat: I recommend using lean ground meat, such as ground sirloin, ground turkey, or ground chicken.
- Beef Broth: It is best to use low-sodium broth to control the level of sodium in the recipe.
- Tomato Paste: The tomato paste will give the dish a rich tomato taste and make the dish taste as if it has simmered for hours, versus minutes.
- Elbow Macaroni: You want to use a small noodle that has surface edges to grab hold of the sauce. While elbow noodles are traditional, corkscrew or rotini noodles will work as well. Either whole wheat or regular noodles work.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce will help to enhance the flavors of this simple dish.
- Seasonings: To keep this recipe kid-friendly, I season the pasta with garlic powder and onion powder, rather than using minced garlic and chopped onions.
How To Make Homemade Hamburger Helper
You may be surprised to find that the step-by-step process for making hamburger helper from scratch is nearly identical to using a boxed mix. The only difference is that you have to measure the ingredients yourself. This extra bit of effort is well worth the results.
Step One: Brown Meat. Saute the meat in a large, deep skillet or saucepan until it is well cooked through, being sure to break the meat into small pieces as it browns. If needed, drain off any grease before proceeding with the recipe. I find when using lean ground meat, that is rarely needed.
Step Two: Toast Spices. A secret to developing flavor fast is to toast your spices, and in this case, your tomato paste, for a minute or two. This will help to develop the flavor of the spices and tomato paste, making your final dish taste so much richer, and like it took much longer than 30 minutes to make!
Step Three: Cook Noodles. Add the noodles, broth, and tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally until the noodles are al dente. If you notice the liquid is evaporating before the noodles are fully cooked, you can add in a bit more broth or water as needed.
- Turn off the heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce.
Leftover cooled Homemade Hamburger Helper should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
If needed, allow the hamburger helper to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Then reheat in a heat-safe dish, adding a bit of water to help add moisture back into the noodles, in 1-minute intervals until heated through.
- Gluten-Free Hamburger Helper: It is best to use Barilla Gluten-Free Noodles to keep as they are the only brand I have consistently had success with. Other gluten-free noodles brands give off too much starch as they cook in the sauce. You will also want to check to be sure your beef stock/broth and Worcestershire Sauce are gluten-free.
- Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper: If you would like a cheesy version of Hamburger Helper, stir 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese after simmering. The residual heat should be enough to melt the cheese.
- Instant Pot Hamburger Helper: If you would like to prepare this recipe using an electric pressure cooker, follow my recipe for Instant Pot Hamburger Helper.
- Taco-Flavored Hamburger Helper: Add a Tex-Mex Spin to your hamburger helper with this easy recipe for One Pot Taco Pasta.
More Easy Family-Favorite Dinner Recipes
- Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Easy Homemade Beef Stroganoff
- Tex-Mex Chicken Skillet
- Taco Salad
- Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf
- Tater Tot Casserole
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
If you enjoyed this simple, wholesome recipe for Hamburger Helper, please leave a comment and review below.
Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground meat (beef, chicken, or turkey)
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium beef broth
- 2 cups dried macaroni noodles
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Heat a large nonstick deep skillet or dutch oven pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil has heated, add in the ground meat and brown, while breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Once the meat is browned, drain off any fat and return the pan to heat.
- Add tomato paste and seasonings. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes to develop flavor. Add in tomato sauce and beef broth, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once the mixture is boiling, stir the noodles into the mixture and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until noodles cooked through and sauce is absorbed. If needed, add in a bit of additional water or broth if you see the liquid is evaporating before the noodles are fully cooked.
- Once the noodles are tender, turn off the heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce. Serve immediately.
This recipe was originally published in 2017 but was updated in 2021 with new step-by-step pictures.