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Homemade Hamburger Helper


When I got home from work Wednesday night I looked at Mr. Prevention and quickly to the dog as she jiggled and bounced  with excitement and we collapsed onto the couch. “How will we ever have a family?” I asked. “We can’t even handle our careers and a dog,” I continued.

“I know, right. ” Mr. Prevention agreed.

Fact is, life gets busy. Hopefully, it’s busy with lots of good things, like careers…and babies! #babyfever

One of the sweetest bloggers I know, Amy, who blogs at Amy’s Kitchen Creations, is expecting her first baby later this month (!). The very thoughtful Carrie of Carrie’s Sweet Life is hosting a virtual baby shower for Amy in preparation of her bundle of joy. Life for Amy is about to become exponentially more hectic…and full of joy 🙂


The theme of Amy’s virtual baby shower is simple meals for new moms…and really busy people! New moms, working moms, bachelors, the career-driven work force…we all have our reasons for wanting a killer dinner on the table…3 minutes ago. Delicious doesn’t have take up half your evening, fill your dishwasher with one single creation, or have to come from a box.

Yes, I’m referencing Hamburger Helper here, but there’s plenty of others. I grew up on the stuff (Ma, sorry to throw you under the bus on this one). My dad, to this day, thinks that Hamburger Helper is just about the best thing known to man, ESPECIALLY since you can purchase it at the dollar store. I mean, what’s better than that, right? Oh, dear. The crazy thing is, this hamburger helper is ready in practically the same amount of time as the boxed stuff.


This one-pot meal is ready in 20 minutes or less which includes the time to brown the meat and cook the pasta. How about it? Super moms do exist, and dinner doesn’t have to be processed and from a box to be quick. Made with lean ground beef, limited amounts of salt, fat-free milk, reduced fat cheese, and whole wheat pasta, this rendition offers up quite the nutritional profile, worthy of an approving head nod. Believe it!

Amy, I wish you and your family all of the best! If this meal traveled well, it would be showing up on your doorstep. I hope the recipe will come in handy, however! Congratulations!



Homemade Hamburger Helper ever so slightly adapted from Farmgirl Gourmet

1 lb 93% lean ground beef
cooking spray
2 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 cups (8.4 oz) dry whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups 2% cheddar cheese, shredded


Heat a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ground beef. With a wooden spoon, break up the meat, browning until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the pasta, milk, water, cornstarch, and spices; stir to combine. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to low and simmer. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Add the cheese and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5 servings (~1 1/4 cup each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 454 calories; 14.6 g. fat; 79 mg. cholesterol; 733 mg. sodium; 41 g. carbohydrate; 4.0 g. fiber; 40.2 g. protein

Result: Wow. I was shocked at how easy this meal was to make, in addition to how quickly it came together. This is good old comfort food that is guaranteed to please your kiddos and adults alike. A boxed meal can’t hold a candle to this. Homemade CAN be simple. Enjoy!


This weekend is incredibly overdue. Next week is going to be a doozie, so I am going to make the most of this weekend — a combination of R&R and great workouts!

Be well,


Share With Your Friends!


  1. Erica @ EricaDHouse.com
    January 11, 2013 / 6:44 am

    You are seriously psychic. All week I’ve been craving pasta, and just last night I was looking at my soy crumbles in the freezer trying to decide how I could use them in pasta. I grew up on Hamburger Helper and it’s probably been 6 years since I had it last, can’t wait to make this!

  2. The Candid RD
    January 11, 2013 / 7:36 am

    I guessed Mac And Cheese….that was way too obvious!! Can you believe I’ve never had Hamburger HElper? Or at least not that I can remember. I mean, it always looked good, but we just never had it (and that doesn’t mean we didn’t have processed foods in the house, like Kraft Mac’n Cheese!).
    This version looks divine.
    Enjoy your weekend Nicole!

    • Samantha Angela
      January 11, 2013 / 8:57 am

      I don’t think I’ve ever had hamburger helper either, to be honest.

  3. Kim
    January 11, 2013 / 7:40 am

    This looks way better than ANY Hamburger Helper I’ve ever had… EVER. I really just want some now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. thehealthyapron
    January 11, 2013 / 8:12 am

    awww congrats to Amy, how exciting! Your life always finds room for a little one (believe it or not!). This looks delish! I will have to add it to my weekly meal plan sometime!

  5. Carrie
    January 11, 2013 / 8:20 am

    I too grew up on Hamburger Helper and can’t even touch a box now a days, my husband requests it. I will be trying this instead.

  6. Melissa
    January 11, 2013 / 8:51 am

    We love homemade hamburger/chicken helper! It really is as easy as the boxed version, and so much better!

  7. Lizzie
    January 11, 2013 / 10:05 am

    I always found Hamburger Helper to be fairly revolting, but I was spoiled by my mother’s excellent home cooking as a child ๐Ÿ™‚ This, however, looks great!

  8. Rachel
    January 11, 2013 / 10:47 am

    Yum!! This looks great and something that I’m sure everyone would love!

  9. Biz
    January 11, 2013 / 11:30 am

    Believe it or not, I’ve never had Hamburger Helper in my life! My Mom used to make something similar to your dish, although it had tomatoes in it, and called it slumgulion – I am sure she was just trying to stretch out ground beef by adding noodles and sauce!

    Hooray for an R&R weekend!

  10. Dara @how_to_eat
    January 11, 2013 / 12:45 pm

    This totally reminds me of my childhood! I haven’t had hamburger helper in so long and can’t wait to eat it again using this version! I think I’m going to try using soy ground round instead of the beef. Will let you know how it turns out!

  11. Kristen @ swanky dietitian
    January 11, 2013 / 4:10 pm

    I say the same thing about having a baby..I can barely do it all now. I am so impressed that you blog daily. I have been slacking. It’s just so tough sometimes to find the balance. Great dish!

  12. Krystal R {Mrs. Regueiro's Plate}
    January 11, 2013 / 4:41 pm

    Ahhhhhhhhh the baby fever is crazy in 2013 right? What a fantastic addition to Amy’s shower and it’s like you read my mind, I’ve had hamburger helper on my mind lately and don’t know if I wanted to buy the box mix but I can easily now make a homemade version! YEAH BUDDY!!!

  13. cwaltz
    January 11, 2013 / 6:15 pm

    I think I’m totally going to get some ziploc bags and throw the pasta and spices into it with the directions to add the amounts o water and milk. We have 6 in our household so I’d be looking at 378 calories for a little over a cup serving. I could add a salad to that and make sure everyone gets their veggies.

    I haven’t had hamburger helper in ages. My family did like it but since most of it was high in sodium and low in fiber I just couldn’t justify it’s use once I had the opportunity to stay home. This version definitely looks to be much, much healthier.

  14. Kerstin
    January 12, 2013 / 10:49 am

    Comfort on a plate! I’m definitely more about easy meals now that Greta is here!

  15. Kim of Mo'Betta
    January 12, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    I asked my kids what they wanted on the dinner menu this past week, and they said Hamburger Helper! I’m so making this next time they ask for it!

  16. Caiti
    January 14, 2013 / 9:32 pm

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious!!! My husband couldn’t believe how much better if was for you and still tasted that good! I like it more than Hamburger Helper for sure! It was too spicy for my toddler so next time I may cut back on the cayenne and red pepper flakes. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Nicole, RD
      January 14, 2013 / 10:23 pm

      I’m glad it was a hit! Definitely cut the cayenne to reduce the heat…kids do have much more sensitive taste buds than adults, so that definitely makes sense. But I totally agree, it’s better than Hamburger Helper! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  18. Caitlin
    January 22, 2013 / 10:15 am

    This looks delicious! Did you drain the meat before adding all of the other ingredients?

    • Nicole, RD
      January 22, 2013 / 10:57 am

      I did not, but there wasn’t much there ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Julianne
    January 29, 2013 / 9:56 pm

    Made this tonight and it was outstanding!!!! So deliciously low-brow. It reminded me of my simple (and poor!) college days. All that was missing was a cheap beer in a solo cup. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is going into my regular rotation. Thank you!

    • Nicole, RD
      January 31, 2013 / 9:18 am

      Hahahaha, that is too funny! Yes, some Keystone Light in a red solo cup would’ve rounded out this meal perfectly! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh, college…!

  20. suzanne
    January 30, 2013 / 5:40 pm

    This was so good! Or as my husband would say “it’s a keeper”! Thanks

    • Nicole, RD
      January 31, 2013 / 9:16 am

      Are all husbands the same? ๐Ÿ™‚ Haha, thanks Suzanne!!

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  23. Mindy
    April 3, 2013 / 7:02 pm

    My husband loves the Hamburger Helper Chili Mac and I’ve been looking for a good homemade version that he would try for a little while now. I grew up on Hamburger Helper so I can tolerate it, but I don’t love it and will not let our toddler eat it. We’ll be trying this soon! He always adds diced tomatoes and chili beans (I’m sure lots of other kinds would work – like black beans or kidney beans)as well, so we’ll also add those to this recipe! I definitely like the extra fiber from the beans, and it’s a good way to help stretch the recipe to serve more people while still keeping everyone feeling satisfied!

  24. Hannah
    April 7, 2013 / 1:06 pm

    Uh oh, just added the cheese along w everything else. Hope still turns out ok.

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  26. Amanda
    May 8, 2013 / 7:55 am

    Oh my Gosh…. Nicole! I made this for dinner last night and I was just hoping for an easy one skillet meal after a busy day at work, but oh my goodness it was so so so much more! My mom would NEVER buy a box of that stuff when we were growing up so I have nothing to compare it to but there is just NO WAY it is as good as this recipe! My husband absolutely loved it and demanded it go in the weekly rotation. I just love your site! Thank you so much! This dinner was a WINNER!!!

    • Nicole, RD
      May 16, 2013 / 7:02 am

      Hi Amanda! I apologize for the delay in my response, but I just wanted to say thank you…I’m so glad this was such a hit in your house ๐Ÿ™‚ xo!

  27. Krystal
    August 18, 2013 / 4:13 pm

    Do you drain the fat from the hamburger before adding pasta or just add water, pasta, and spices to the liquid fat?

    • Nicole, RD
      August 19, 2013 / 10:55 am

      Krystal: There shouldn’t be much fat, but if there is, I would drain ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Kim - Liv Life
    November 20, 2013 / 4:56 pm

    I’m SO totally trying this!! Yes… life gets busier and busier. And the they become teens… and it gets busier again.
    When I met my husband I didn’t know how to cook and hamburger helper is what he served me. I haven’t bought the package stuff in years… but I’m betting he would love this!

  29. Ditte
    March 2, 2014 / 4:58 pm

    I thought this was really tasty HOWEVER (yes it is a big however) with that much chili powder and cayenne pepper my kids couldn’t eat it! And I didn’t even put in the full amount of chili powder. I thought it was a mistake that it said 1 full Tbsp of chili powder and only 3/4 tsp of paprika! Next time ill have to take out all the hot spices and then add a little to taste because my kids will usually eat foods with lots of onion, garlic and spices but this was just too much of a good thing;-( And if the kiddies won’t eat it then what’s the point?!

  30. Kari
    March 22, 2014 / 9:54 pm

    This turned out great – thanks! Brought me back to my childhood ๐Ÿ™‚ I tweaked the spices to make it more kid friendly based on the other comments and used 1 tsp. paprika, 3/4 tsp. chili powder, and just a pinch of cayenne.

  31. Adrienne
    May 7, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    This was soooo good and super easy! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Nicole, RD
      May 8, 2014 / 7:22 am

      Awesome! Thanks Adrienne! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  33. scarlett
    March 26, 2015 / 5:42 pm

    is this dish pretty spicy?

    • Nicole Morrissey
      March 27, 2015 / 11:52 am

      A little bit!

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