How to Make Homemade “Hamburger Helper“

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Back in the days of my youth, Hamburger Helper was used to stretch one pound of hamburger into a full meal. The product is still on the shelves, but it’s increased in price along with everything else and, quite frankly, always tasted like cardboard to me. The pasta and vegetables were dehydrated, the spices were more chemical formula than spice, and the chemical additives were legion. Why pay for that when we can make a similar, healthier, and better-tasting dish ourselves? 

Can we make homemade “Hamburger Helper”?

The basic Hamburger Helper package contains pasta, dehydrated vegetables, and spices. Do we not have these things in our kitchen? I’m betting we do! Of course, pasta can be a bit more difficult to find but is easily made. You’ll need a pasta machine, but really, pasta is made from eggs and flour. (Can’t eat eggs? Here’s how to make pasta without them.) Yes, also a bit of a challenge to find these days thanks to a war and massive bird culls but not impossible. Here’s a great recipe for making pasta with step-by-step instructions.

So now you have your pasta. What variety of “Hamburger Helper” do you have a taste for? Cheesy macaroni? Beef stroganoff? Cheesy enchilada? Set your course by your taste buds! 

The most basic method is this:

Brown your meat, add your spices in, add your pasta or pasta substitute, and cook in liquid. That last is especially important if your pasta is dehydrated. If working with fresh stuff, then there’s no need to rehydrate. Plan your sauce accordingly. So how about some recipes?

The Novice Chef has some great ideas! The basic ingredients are:

  • ground beef
  • onion
  • garlic
  • all-purpose flour
  • beef broth
  • tomato sauce
  • Italian seasoning
  • seasoned salt
  • smoked paprika
  • garlic powder
  • pasta shells
  • heavy cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper

You can substitute milk and stroganoff spices if you’re a stroganoff fan, including some mushrooms if you’d like. Back To My Southern Roots has a great recipe.

Ingredients

  • Ground beef
  • Cornstarch
  • Milk
  • Beef broth
  • Egg noodles
  • Sour cream
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

1. Brown the meat in a large skillet. Drain the grease and return the meat to the pan.

2. Next, add the cornstarch, salt, pepper, milk, and beef broth to the skillet and mix well.

3. Add the noodles and stir until they are mostly covered with liquid.

4. Cover with the lid and bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

5. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the noodles are done. Stir occasionally while cooking.

6. When the noodles are done cooking, remove the lid and add the sour cream and mix well. Cook about five more minutes (because you added cold sour cream) and serve.

Chemical Free Recipes has one for the Enchilada lover. It’s a bit more involved, so I’ll just give the link.

And fear not, diabetics! There are recipes for you too.

In fact, one of the better reasons for making your own is to avoid the salt in the boxed versions. This recipe from The Low Carb Life is keto-friendly as well. It substitutes cauliflower for pasta and uses sugar-free ketchup. Other recipes substitute Greek yogurt for the heavy cream and use whole-wheat noodles. 

Hey, Keto Mama has a recipe for the keto crowd as well. This recipe substitutes cabbage for pasta. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

Beef and Cabbage

  • 1 lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage

Cheese Sauce

  • 2 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Crumbled bacon to top, optional

Instructions

1. In a large skillet or dutch oven, over medium heat, brown the ground beef until no pink remains, about 15 minutes. Drain the excess grease and return the skillet of ground beef to the heat.

2. Add the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and your preferred amount of salt and pepper to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and water.

3. Place the shredded cabbage into the skillet and fold it into the seasoned ground beef. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover. Allow the cabbage to cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender and translucent, stirring occasionally.

4. While the cabbage is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat for about 45 seconds.

5. Whisk in the cream cheese and heavy whipping cream until smooth, about 1 minute. The sauce will start to form bubbles. Continue whisking and reduce heat to low. Quickly stir in the shredded cheese and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6. Turn off the heat and continue stirring until all the cheese is melted and the mixture is completely smooth for about 1 minute. It will be about the thickness of melted Velveeta or queso.

7. Once the cabbage is tender, pour the cheese sauce into the skillet and fold it into the ground beef mixture. Remove from heat and top with crumbled bacon, if desired.

So there you have it! Homemade “Hamburger Helper”!

Some recipes for making your own “Hamburger Helper”, along with some ideas for ingredient substitutions. Do you make your own? What are your favorite combinations? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Amy Allen

Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010. For access to exclusive content, please follow her Patreon page, The Accidental Mycologist.

 

How to Make Homemade “Hamburger Helper“

6 thoughts on “How to Make Homemade “Hamburger Helper“”

  1. While I never consumed “helper” of any kind, hamburger helper is very close to goulash. Elbow macaroni can be used. In a pinch (of pennies), the pasta part of an inexpensive box mac-n-cheese will do.
    The best part of scratch cooking is the ability to tailor it to your needs. Adding sauteed zucchini (good use for that zuke that got way too large, rest can be used of course), summer squash, or other home grown veggies will be far superior to dehydrated “bits” from a box.
    All the “helpers” were marketed as quick and easy – in reality, it really doesn’t take that much more time to cook your own from scratch. Heck, pasta can be cooked ahead of time as can the meat. IMHO, the key is simmering.

  2. Great article, great recipes. My only negative comment is the photo of the woman’s long hair hanging over the pot – really should be secured at the back of her head for sanitary and health reasons.

  3. Bill in Houston

    It is pretty easy to keep the basics on hand, so no need for Hamburger Helper. Way too much sodium, and the “spices” always taste stale.

    Some elbow macaroni, ground beef, vegetable soup mix (like Liptons), and some chopped veggies. Add some parmesan cheese at the end.

    But that’s me. I’m not a big “cheesy casserole type” unless it is a lasagna.

    I’ve tried Hamburger Helper once. Late 1980s. Saw it in the store and it looked appealing. It was actually the “lasagna” variety. What an incredible disappointment. I wasted a pound of beef on that. Still ate it (waste not, want not), but I griped the whole time. Another lesson learned from that is “never shop hungry… you buy junk you don’t really want or need!”

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