Ditch the box and make a Homemade Hamburger Helper in less than 30 minutes. Made with lean ground beef, a richly spiced tomato sauce, and tender noodles, this recipe for Hamburger Helper delivers comfort food with minimal effort and wholesome ingredients.
Why Homemade Is Better than Boxed
Boxed Hamburger Helper is an affordable meal helper that is extremely popular in many families' households. And 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? Not to mention that homemade hamburger helper is much lower in sodium, has no added MSG or food coloring, and is oftentimes cheaper to make from scratch.
It seems too good to be true--but it is NOT!
This recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper uses ground beef and basic, affordable ingredients to create a family-favorite one-pot meal in less than 30 minutes.
This is the perfect go-to recipe on those nights you need something on the table fast that the entire family will devour.
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.
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.
- In a large, deep skillet or saucepan add the ground meat and cook over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it browns.
- Once the meat is fully browned, remove the skillet from the heat and drain off any fat if needed. I find when using lean ground meat this step is rarely needed.
- Return the skillet to the heat and add tomato paste and spices. Let that toast over medium heat 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.
- Stir the broth and tomato sauce into the browned meat and turn the heat up to medium-high to bring the mixture up to a simmer.
- Once the mixture is bubbling, add the noodles and reduce the heat to medium-low.
- 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.
- And then dish up this easy Homemade Hamburger Helper and watch your family enjoy!
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.
More Easy Family-Favorite Dinner Recipes
- Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Easy Homemade Beef Stroganoff
- Tex-Mex Chicken and Sweet Potato 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.
who knew that making this recipe from scratch would be this easy!? thank you so much for sharing this delicious recipe! I love it
Absolutely! I love hearing you enjoyed the Hamburger Helper, Jess!
Another simple recipe is added to our regular menu item! This homemade hamburger helper is indeed highly recommended for picky eaters. Moms should try this!
My picky eaters LOVE this as well, Liz! I am glad to hear it will be a regular meal.
Mmmm!! This was absolutely delicious and so easy to make. Adding it to our list of favorites, thank you!
So happy to hear you enjoyed Jessica!
Suzanne C. Reiter
I followed the instructions and the sauce was too runny. I cooked it for a while longer, and it was still too runny! Not happy with the results. The flavor was okay.
Hi Suzanne. I hate hearing you didn't have great results with this recipe. Did you use uncooked noodles? The noodles should absorb the liquid as they cook. Also, remember to simmer uncovered, that will allow some of that liquid to evaporate.