Homemade Hamburger Helper: Easy One Pot Meals!

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Honestly, I’d never tasted hamburger helper until I was a busy Mama and was desperate to get dinner on the table fast! I switched to the best homemade hamburger helper recipe one fine day when I realized that I had all of the basic ingredients on hand and that it was just as quick to make this boxed meal myself! I soon realized it was SO easy to customize for hamburger helper potato stroganoff, homemade hamburger helper beef pasta, or a cheeseburger macaroni. Oh, and we can make it gluten-free and we think it tastes even better than the boxed meal. Sorry, Betty Crocker!

white plate with egg noodles and hamburger helper beef stroganoff


I had no idea how to cook from scratch early in my marriage but now I love it! If you’ve been around THTG for more than a minute, you know that it’s an obsession of mine to figure out the easiest cooking hacks. I love sharing easy recipes with all of you (as well as the best family travel secrets, cozy home hacks, and family friendly entertainment).

Early on I realized how simple the ingredients list was for most of these boxed meals and it’s just as fast to throw together homemade hamburger helper of some variation myself. It’s a wholesome meal that the family enjoys AND the other thing I love is that it’s a one pot meal – which means easy clean up and less dishes to wash!


What is hamburger helper?

Created in the 1930s as a super convenient boxed meal, it originally was a skillet dish. Boxed pasta and packets of powdered sauce and seasonings were added to cooked hamburger meat. Whether using a boxed meal or my homemade version, it’s a way to stretch that hamburger meat out with other cheap ingredients to feed a whole family. Nowadays, there are chicken helper and tuna helpers that have the same concept with alternative meat choices.

What does it require to make homemade hamburger helper from scratch?

Depending on which version, you just need meat, pasta (or rice or potatoes), cheese, a little water, and seasonings.  That’s all that it’s in the boxed mix – along with some additives that may or may not be good for you! For instance, if you want cheeseburger macaroni, use the elbow noodles, ground meat, and lots of cheddar. If you want beef stroganoff, use egg noodles with your meat and cheese, etc.

What are the different types of Hamburger Helper?

Really, the sky is the limit on your choice of meal. My advice is to use what you have on hand, but here are some popular ones: Bacon Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Cheese Lover’s Lasagna, Cheesy Enchilada, and Cheesy Beef & Hash browns.


Again, you can change out every aspect of this recipe as you wish. For instance, you can lighten the meat taste by using ground turkey instead of ground beef. If you need this recipe to be gluten free, simply make a switch to gluten free pasta. If you would like to create a dairy free dish, all you have to do is use an unsweetened almond or coconut milk of your choice.


All the exact measurements are on the printable recipe card below, but here are the ingredients for the original hamburger helper recipe at a glance. ->>>

  • ground meat
  • water
  • milk
  • pasta
  • seasonings
  • cheese


The ingredients and instructions for a printable recipe card on how to make homemade hamburger helper are below but here’s the basic idea:

Just like the boxed version, you do precook the ground meat, but you won’t have to precook the pasta, rice, or potatoes.  You’ll cook and drain 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey, add the water and all the other ingredients, and cook for ten minutes before stirring and cooking for a few more.

Easy Peasy!


You probably know this, but in case you don’t, be sure to drain the extra oil that accumulates while cooking your ground meat. Also, don’t skip the step of bringing all of the ingredients to a boil, stirring well, covering, and then letting simmer for the allotted time. All of those steps are important and don’t let it overcook!


Y’all. This little kitchen set is a couple of brilliant lifesavers. Not only can you chop up ground meat and use the scraper to get every drop, there’s also a little strainer that clips onto the chopper for a hands free way to easily drain the grease.

Yes, please!

Meat Chopper with Silicone Clip-On Strainer


Here are some of the other most popular easy recipes you may also enjoy:

Pork Chops Recipe – Low Carb + Cheap + Easy + Only 3 Ingredients

How To Cook Green Beans – Done in 12 Minutes & Perfectly Every Single Time

Crockpot Italian Meatballs – Low Carb & 3 Ingredients


Here’s the printable homemade hamburger helper recipe:

Homemade Hamburger Helper (The How-to Guru)
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 C hot water
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 1/2 C pasta, rice, or small sliced potatoes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 to 1/2 cups cheese
  • extra water if needed
  1. Cook and drain 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey.
  2. Add l cup hot water, 2 cups of milk, 1 1/2 cups pasta, rice, or very small sliced potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon sugar.
  3. Stir the mixture well and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir and add liquid if needed.
  5. Add lid and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, add cheese, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  7. Enjoy!

I’d love to know – what’s your favorite homemade hamburger helper meal?

white plate of homemade hamburger helper on wood table

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



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  10. Equal Wright
    August 31, 2016 / 10:27 am

    It’s 2016… yet all time saving tips on cooking etc… are for “busy wives?” Well I guess I’ll have to find another blog for busy spouses who cook, and want to save time in 2016.

    • Shan
      August 31, 2016 / 10:59 am

      Yes, it’s 2016 and this is an online haven to encourage and motivate women whether working or stay-at-home that are in the trenches of marriage, cooking, and everything else in the day-to-day. Sometimes they have help in the kitchen, but the point is that I love to provide hope and hacks specifically for women who are busy wives. There are blogs for everything these days so if that isn’t what you need….. Thanks for visiting though.


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  12. Mimi
    April 18, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    Wow this recipe sounds delicious, need to try it

  13. Elease
    May 1, 2019 / 8:17 pm

    Hamburger Helper– what a great childhood memory that I can’t wait to pass onto my kids.

    • Shan
      May 1, 2019 / 8:46 pm

      Same here! I’m excited about how much healthier this one is compared to what I was used to!


  14. Leigh Suznovich
    May 1, 2019 / 11:16 pm

    Oh this looks like such a fantastic version of one of my childhood favorites!!

    • Shan
      May 2, 2019 / 8:18 am

      Thanks, Leigh. I am loving it!


  15. Christine
    May 2, 2019 / 6:32 am

    This looks delicious! I love hamburger helper growing up and would love to try it home made.

    • Shan
      May 2, 2019 / 8:18 am

      Same here. It could be just me, but it tastes so much better homemade.


  16. joy abou zeid
    May 2, 2019 / 9:51 am

    This looks really good!! I’ve never tried Hamburger helper home-made, I am definitely going to try to make it!!

    • Shan
      May 2, 2019 / 9:58 am

      Yay! Let me know what you think!


  17. Christa
    May 2, 2019 / 5:26 pm

    Easy, one pot meals are my favorite for weeknight dinners. And something all the kids love makes life so much easier. Lol.

    • Shan
      May 2, 2019 / 10:57 pm

      Love the one pot meals for easy clean up! Family pleasers are great too!


  18. Lindsey
    October 10, 2019 / 12:32 am

    I made this last night and only used 1 teaspoon of salt. I think 1 Tablespoon of salt would make this inedible. Did you really mean Tablespoon?

    Also, I used four potatoes, which was definitely more than 1/2 to 1 cup. I think that measurement would need to be adjusted, whether you are using pasta, rice, or potato.

    It turned out great! It was just like Hamburger Helper, but way better! This will go into our dinner rotation.

    • Shan
      October 10, 2019 / 8:05 am

      You are right, Lindsey! I meant TEASPOON and have made that clear in the recipe. Also, it’s supposed to be 1 1/2 cups potatoes are rice. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I’m so THRILLED that you loved it!


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