Homemade Hamburger Helper: Quick One Pot Meal + Healthier

This post may contain compensated links. Refer to my disclaimer for more info.

Honestly, I’d never tasted hamburger helper until I was a busy Mama that was desperate to get dinner on the table quickly. I switched to homemade hamburger helper (I bought Betty Crocker brand during my coupon-clipping phase) after I realized that I typically had all of the basic ingredients on hand and that it was just as quick to make this boxed meal myself! I soon realized that it was just as cheap and it’s SO easy to customize to hamburger helper with potatoes, homemade hamburger helper stroganoff, to add rice, or even to create a gluten free hamburger helper version. No need to thank me, just enjoy!

white plate of homemade hamburger helper on wood table




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 that make recipes easy as possible to get on that table. I remember the days of being so overwhelmed in the kitchen that 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 where you added boxed pasta and packets of powdered sauce and seasonings 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 are mimicking, you just need ground 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 to 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 to 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?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Signup NOW for

free access to  library of
Calm Cozy Home Printables



Published on HuffPost and Okefenokee Living Magazine and other publications, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist and lover of all things ‘calm & cozy home.’

She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about southern family destinations and creating cozy homes they can’t wait to go home to.

Her hope is that overwhelmed women feel like family travel and cozy home gurus in their own right.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



  1. 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.


  2. April 18, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    Wow this recipe sounds delicious, need to try it

  3. 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!


  4. 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!


  5. 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.


  6. 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!


  7. 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!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The How-to Guru is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed
to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.