One pot and under 30 minutes? Yes! This homemade Hamburger Helper recipe is a fast dinner option that’s satisfying, comforting, and so darn delicious.

hamburger helper in various bowls and pan.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

It’s easier than I realized to recreate Hamburger Helper at home, or to just try a homemade version of this popular option if you’ve not had it before. This skillet meal is great for those nights when you want fewer pots to wash in an easy weeknight dinner—and also want a crowd-pleaser.

This pasta recipe for kids has it all: protein, comfort, cheesiness, and an easy method. You can add veggies if you want, you can swap in vegetarian ingredients to make this without meat, and you can make it ahead to serve it up at a later time.

(You may also like my Cheeseburger Pasta, which is also made in one-pot, and my Ground Beef Pasta, Chicken Cooked in Tomato Sauce, and this easy Pasta Salad with Chicken.)

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Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at the ingredients you need to make this recipe so you know what to have on hand or pick up from the store.

Ingredients for hamburger helper.
  • Olive oil: I like to sauté ground beef in a little olive oil (or you can use butter) to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
  • Ground beef: You can use any type of ground beef you prefer. The only difference will be a potential need to drain the pan if you use a ground beef with a higher percentage of fat.
  • Onion: I like to grate a small onion into the mixture to add flavor without having tiny pieces of onion in the mixture, which can be off putting to some kids.
  • Tomato paste: This concentrated paste adds rich tomato flavor and helps the result taste like the classic Hamburger Helper recipe.
  • Garlic powder and chili powder: A combination of these spices adds flavor (without heat) to the pasta and beef mixutre.
  • Elbow macaroni: I love using this classic pasta shape in this dish so it looks like it always has and because this type of pasta cooks through really quickly.
  • Beef broth: You can use regular or reduced-sodium beef broth to complement the flavor of the beef. This is what the pasta cooks in, so it adds a lot of flavor. Feel free to use chicken stock if that’s what you have.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese: Shredded cheddar cheese is stirred into the pan towards the end of the process and helps the mixture be cheesy and delicious. You can use white or yellow cheddar, sharp or mild, according to what your family prefers.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Below is an overview of how to make this recipe so you know what to expect from the process. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full information, including amounts of ingredients and the timing.

how to make hamburger helper in grid of images.
  1. Set a large pot over medium heat. Cook the beef and onions.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender.
  3. Once the liquid is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat.
  4. Stir in the cheese to melt. Serve.

How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, sprinkle with water and cover with a plate or wax paper and warm for 30-60 seconds, stirring halfway through.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this with a simple side of fruit or try my Cinnamon ApplesFruit Cup, or Easy Roasted Broccoli.

hamburger helper in pan with spoon.

Best Tips for Success

  • Use lean ground beef if desired, or drain off any excess fat once the meat is done cooking.
  • Add 8 ounces tomato sauce at the end of cooking for a more robust tomato flavor.
  • Top with minced fresh parsley if desired.
  • Use a favorite gluten-free pasta: the one from Barilla works particularly well in this recipe.
  • Omit the beef to make this vegetarian and sub fully cooked brown lentils or a plant-based meat substitute.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below to share.

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Hamburger helper in pan and bowls.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

This one-pot homemade Hamburger Helper is nutritious, delicious, and so easy to make. It's a 30-minute way to make quick work of dinner!
5 from 94 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 508kcal
Servings 6


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion (peeled and grated)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pasta, such as elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart beef broth (reduced sodium if desired)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
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  • Set a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil to warm. Then, add the beef and onions and cook until the beef has browned, about 8-10 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Drain any excess fat from the pot.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt.
  • Add the beef broth and turn the heat to high. When it boils, reduce to medium so the liquid simmers with steady but calm bubbles. (So just not vigorously.)
  • Add the pasta to the pot and stir gently.
  • Cook until the pasta is just tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, or for about 14-16 minutes. It's OK if there's some liquid remaining, as it will be absorbed as the pasta sits.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese to melt.



  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, sprinkle with water and cover with a plate or wax paper and warm for 30-60 seconds, stirring halfway through.
  • Use lean ground beef if desired, or drain off any excess fat once the meat is done cooking.
  • Add 1 cup finely diced mushrooms to the pan with the onion and beef to easily add a veggie.
  • Add 8 ounces tomato sauce at the end of cooking for a more robust tomato flavor.
  • Top with minced fresh parsley if desired.


Calories: 508kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0.5g, Cholesterol: 87mg, Sodium: 1147mg, Potassium: 578mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 549IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 303mg, Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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5 from 94 votes (43 ratings without comment)

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How many stars would you give this recipe?


  1. 5 stars
    I make a variation of this a few times per month. It’s so tasty, so easy and everyone loves it! I kind of combine your ground beef pasta recipe with the hamburger helper. I’ve used ground beef, venison, chicken, turkey and bison. This time, diced onions celery, carrots and shitake mushrooms with the ground beef. Added a shredded zucchini towards the end of meat/veg cooking. No beef broth so used low sodium veg broth and added 2 tsps of beef bouillon for flavor and subbed havarti for the cheddar. So delicious! My 15 month old ate a huge plate and the 6 year old as well. The husband had two large bowls. Big win! Thanks as always Amy!

    1. Yes, but I would reduce the volume of broth down to just a splash since that is there to ensure the pasta cooks.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m an Australian so had never tried hamburger helper before and cannot believe how tasty this recipe is! It’s been on high rotation since I tried it

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious! Tastes just like I remember hamburger helping tasting as a kid. Super easy and everyone loved it!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this for my family for the first time tonight – it is immediately going in our regular dinner rotation! Absolutely delicious and so simple.

  5. 5 stars
    This is a really good & easy recipe. My husband doesn’t like tomato-y sauces so next time I will skip the tomato paste & add sour cream and worchestershire at the end for a stroganoff. I personally didn’t think it was tomato-y at all, but then I love heavy marinara type sauces.

  6. 5 stars
    This is pretty much exactly the goulash recipe I grew up with if you added Worcestershire sauce. This will be even better though because it doesn’t have the diced tomatoes which my kids hate! I am going to try this tonight for sure!

    Also, what a great idea grating the onions is! Seems so simple but I never thought to do it!

  7. 5 stars
    Amazingly delicious recipe considering how simple it is! My 12 month old loved it and so did I. I used 1/2 lb of ground beef instead of the full pound and it was actually plenty of meat.

  8. 5 stars
    This is so good! Added diced carrots to the beef and onion, then made it exactly as written. 16 mo could not get enough and kept asking for more… and more… and more.

  9. 5 stars
    This is delicious!!! So easy to make. Barely any dirty dishes. Now added to my meal rotation. 🙂

  10. 5 stars
    This is the 2nd time I’ve made this, it was great both times! I skipped the 1/2 tsp salt and shouldn’t have, it needs the little bit of extra salt. Very easy and made two dinners for 4 people (2 adults and 2 preschoolers).

  11. 5 stars
    I made this tonight for my 12 month old who typically does not like meat right now. She LOVED it and ate two bowls! I also added about 2 cups of finely chopped cooked cauliflower at the end which was completely unnoticeable in the final dish.

  12. 5 stars
    My 4 year old said “Yummy!”

    We used to make the store bought version all the time, but stopped because of all the additives they put in and the fake cheese sauce. This version is awesome, was enjoyed by all and easy to make. Thank you so much!

  13. 5 stars
    I used chicken broth (what I had on hand) and did add the tomato sauce and it was delicious. I love when I have most ingredients in my pantry and it truly only takes like 30 minutes to get dinner made. My kids wouldn’t eat it, but that’s nothing new for “mixed up” foods.

  14. 5 stars
    I loved this! My husband and I both devoured this dinner. I used sharp tillamook cheddar but I think next time I would do mild and maybe add carrots or mushroom for a veg. A truly great meal!

  15. 5 stars
    This was great! I made adjustments, similar to others, where I reduced the cheese by about half and also added some frozen veggies at the end (a carrot/pea blend). Turned out really delicious. I did end up using all the liquid the recipe calls for. I used Banza pasta elbows, if that makes any difference to the liquid needs. Definitely a keeper of a recipe.

  16. 5 stars
    This recipe is a home run! So easy, and insanely flavorful and delicious. Thank you so much for this, I know it’s going to be a new regular in our rotation.

  17. 5 stars
    Truly like Hamburger Helper, but better! This was easy to make and absolutely delicious. The flavours are spot on. The only note I’d make is to consider the cooking time of your pasta and adjust the liquid accordingly; I used elbow macaroni and the directions said 4 minutes to al dente, so I used about 2/3 of the broth suggested, and my pasta was cooked in about 6 minutes with no broth leftover. I also held back about 1 cup of the cheese, just due to personal preference. Will most definitely be making this again!

  18. 5 stars
    Made this tonight! My kids wouldn’t eat it but my husband and I loved it. We added peas!! *chefs kiss*. Thanks for the easy recipe. I will keep trying it with the kids and hopefully they enjoy it someday soon! 🙂

  19. 5 stars
    Really easy to make and tasty! I followed the recipe almost exactly and tossed in a cup of peas at the end which was great. If I make it again I’ll omit the cheese as it was too rich for me but nonetheless so tasty! My toddler helped me and said it was so delicious!

  20. 5 stars
    This recipe has become a staple in our house! The last few times I haven’t had mushrooms so I’ve added a cup of mixed frozen veggies and it’s delicious!

  21. 5 stars
    I didn’t have beef broth on hand or tomato paste so I used chicken broth like she suggested and just added some spaghetti sauce at the end. The entire family loved it and I loved how easy it was. I will definitely be making it soon served with crescent rolls 😋

  22. 5 stars
    This was so good! I’ve tried similar recipes and they were flops. Approved by husband and kiddo and there was no kitchen mess.

  23. 5 stars
    This is so simple yet so good! My entire family likes it, including the fickle toddler baby 🙂
    I made it with Jovial gluten free pasta and used the entire block of Cabot cheddar. I did end up adding an extra tablespoon of tomato paste at the end as suggested. Somehow overlooked the addition of mushroom so I’ll have to add that in next time for an easy veggie win. Thanks for this recipe! 😋

  24. Way too much liquid!! 1 qt = 4 cups! After you’re done with your 15 minutes it’s still enough liquid left to call it a soup! For anyone making this recommend max 3 cups of broth probably somewhere between 2 and 3 is right.

    1. It’s interesting that you had that experience since I’ve tested this a lot and it works well, and I haven’t heard that from anyone else. But I’d love to know if you made any changes to the recipe and if it thickened up after you thought it might not. Thanks!

  25. 5 stars
    My almost 2 year old son and my husband both loved it!!

    I think it’s actually easier than Hamburger helper from the box, and definitely tastier. I added mushrooms as recommended in the notes.

  26. 5 stars
    Delicious for the whole family. Used ground venison instead of beef. Great recipe for those looking to clear out some space in the deep freezer before this year’s harvest.

  27. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight and it was so yummy! Even my picky 2.5 year old ate it because it was noodles. I love that it has mushrooms in it. Both my toddler and my husband think they don’t like mushrooms but neither noticed them :). Will definitely be making this again.

  28. 5 stars
    Can I use a different pasta than elbow macaroni. Can I use scooby doo noodles (curly ones)? Would I just add more liquid?

    1. Sure. I would use the same amount and at the end of the cooking time, if they are still a little firm, add a little more liquid.

    1. It does make an ample amount due to the volume of the other ingredients, but if you want to double the pasta, double everything but the meat and use a large pot. Enjoy!

  29. 5 stars
    This tasted like my childhood! AND I used your other tip and puréed onion, mushrooms, garlic, and a little bit of carrot ahead of time and froze a bunch of hamburger helper starters for when we don’t have the fresh veggies at home! It made this so easy and I felt like there was some great nutrition in it with a very nostalgic taste!

  30. 5 stars
    Wow! This tasted so good!!! I wasn’t expecting it to taste so fantastic with such simple ingredients. I didn’t have tomato paste at home but it still worked! I also added carrots and used vegan cheddar instead of real cheddar. Delicious, thank you so much!

  31. 5 stars
    My 21 month old ate more of this dish than any other I’ve prepared recently! We’ll be keeping this in the regular rotation, especially during the winter months. He couldn’t get enough. My husband and I loved it too, and for those who partake, it pairs beautifully with a bottle of red 🙂

    I added mushrooms to the ground beef and I think it added a nice depth of flavor while also adding some extra veg. Win win!

  32. 5 stars
    This was delish for the entire family!! It fed our family of 3 for 4 meals! It was so easy to make! Saving for future ❤️❤️❤️

  33. 5 stars
    Wow! This homemade hamburger helper was quick to make and delicious. My 2 year old ate more of this than he has any other pasta recipe we’ve tried. I also thought it was tasty and very nostalgic. Thanks for this great weeknight dinner idea!

  34. 5 stars
    Delicious recipe! I tasted it before I added 1/2 cup of heavy cream and it was delicious but I was craving some extra creamyness and I added it. It turned out really good! I also added shredded carrots to cook with the meat.

  35. 5 stars
    We don’t have Hamburger Helper in Australia but nonetheless I made this for my 5yo boys – with additional grated zucchini and carrot – and it was flavoursome and tasty. Easy for me to make as well. Can highly recommend

  36. 5 stars
    Delicious- my picky toddler and (not at all picky) husband devoured it!
    We’re going through a kitchen remodel so I only have my instant pot, which I used on med and high Sauté modes. Worked perfectly!

  37. 5 stars
    I’ve made a couple of “homemade hamburger helper” recipes and this was both the easiest and tasted the most like the box! I realized we didn’t have elbow macaroni at the point I was supposed to put it in the pot, so I subbed with two cups of penne. Worked great! A true 30-minute meal. One small thing – I don’t think the recipe instructions mention when to put in the pasta, unless I missed it (though I assumed you added it with the broth which worked out great).

  38. 5 stars
    Just made this and it is SO GOOD! we used taco seasoning instead of chili seasoning since that is what we had at home. Yes this is going to be staple at our house

    1. Sure, just know that the pasta may soften a bit. After thawing, I’d sprinkle with water and cover with wax paper to warm through in the microwave.

    1. My favorite trick to add veggies to any ground beef recipe is to mix in finely chopped mushrooms (or pulse in food processor). Looks like beef and you can’t taste the difference!