Homemade Hamburger Helper
This Homemade Hamburger Helper is easy to make and boasts big flavor! Elbow noodles are combined with lean ground beef, veggies, seasoning and tomato soup to make a surprisingly healthy Hamburger Helper recipe. We’ve made this dish countless times and everyone in my family raves about it!
This is so delicious! So simple yet so tasty the kids loved this so much I’m making it again tonight!— Bridget
We may have a pasta eating problem in our house, you guys.
I have been making a TON of pasta lately!! It’s usually just the easiest option and something everyone will eat. My kiddos are pretty picky eaters and they don’t love fussy food, but they will always scarf down plenty of Hamburger Helper. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the boxed hamburger helper mixes, even as a child. The flavor is just not that great, in my opinion. Enter Homemade Hamburger Helper for the win! Way better than the boxed version!
Not only is this homemade version of the childhood classic rich with tomato flavor and incredibly tasty, it’s packed with protein, satisfying and easily made gluten and dairy free. But best of all, it’s so EASY! I love that this meal is ready in just over 30 minutes and requires just 6 key ingredients.
As an added plus, it’s extremely customizable. Use your noodle of choice, sub in your favorite veggies, throw in fresh herbs, use whatever cheese you happen to have in the fridge – the options are endless. Enjoy!
There is nothing fancy in this recipe, but it tastes just like good ol’ comfort food! Here’s what you need:
- Elbow noodles. Really any kind of noodles work here. Sometimes I even use Banza chickpea noodles for an extra boost of protein and to make this dish gluten free.
- Bell pepper + onion. I like to add in a bit of sautéed bell pepper and diced onions for extra flavor, but you can leave these out if your kids won’t have it.
- Lean ground beef or turkey. My kids prefer ground beef, so that’s what I typically use, but any ground meat works.
- Spices. To give this dish wonderful flavor, we’re mixing in garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- Tomato soup. Use any favorite tomato soup. You could even use my homemade roasted tomato soup – you’ll need 3 cups.
- Shredded cheese. The recipe calls for light or regular cheddar cheese and I usually go with light, if I have it on hand. Feel free to use another variety of cheese or even dairy-free cheese.
How to make this recipe
Making this Hamburger Helper dish from scratch couldn’t be easier! Here’s a quick rundown of the process, but for full instructions, reference the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Boil pasta. Cook noodles in boiling, salted water according to package instructions. I recommend only cooking until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite) because you will also be baking this recipe in the oven.
- Sauté veggies. While noodles are cooking, sauté the bell pepper and onion until soft.
- Cook meat. Add the ground meat in with the veggies and cook until no longer pink. Add seasonings and stir to combine.
- Combine all ingredients and bake. Add cooked noodles to meat with soup, water and cheese; stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy. Once cooked and cooled slightly, taste and season as needed. Serve warm and dig in!
This kid-friendly pasta meal is delicious as-is, but feel free to change things up to customize it to your family’s preferences and what you have available.
- Pasta. My kids love classic elbow macaroni in this dish, so that’s what we usually go with. However, you can use any pasta variety you like. Rigatoni, rotini or penne pasta would all be great choices.
- Protein. Instead of using ground beef, use ground turkey, ground chicken or Italian sausage.
- Vegetables. Instead of, or in addition to the bell pepper and onion, add sautéed mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli or zucchini.
Tips for recipe success
Even though this macaroni and beef recipe is really quite simple, here are a few tips for best results.
- I recommend using freshly grated cheese for this recipe. The bagged pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anti-caking agents and just don’t melt as smoothly.
- Due to the size of ingredients that get added to the pan, I suggest using a large pot, Dutch Oven or VERY large skillet for this recipe.
- Leftover hamburger helper may become dry, as the pasta soaks up the liquid. When reheating, stir in a small amount of water to the mixture to loosen the pasta and make it nice and saucy again.
- As with any recipe, feel free to swap in your favorite seasonings. Paprika or chili powder are great additions. Add a little heat by mixing in a dash or two of cayenne pepper or hot sauce, sauté fresh garlic with the veggies or use a flavorful marinara sauce instead of tomato soup. So many options to make this taste just the way you want!
Frequently asked questions
This homemade version uses elbow noodles, bell pepper, onion, ground meat, seasonings, tomato soup and cheese.
For this recipe, you’ll only need to boil the noodles until al dente. Use package instructions for the exact time.
Homemade Hamburger Helper is great on it’s own, but you can also serve it with a variety of side dishes! We love it served with my favorite Italian salad and crusty garlic bread! You could also whip up a simple green salad. Just toss mixed greens with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add toppings to your salad such as red onion, cherry tomatoes, and croutons.
Storing and reheating
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for around 3 to 4 days. Reheat slowly over low heat on the stovetop. The pasta will have soaked up some of the moisture and may be a bit dry. You can add a small amount of water, milk or broth to help loosen up the ingredients and make it smooth and creamy again.
You could also reheat individual servings in the microwave. Cook for one minute, stir, then continue to microwave in 30 second intervals until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water, milk or beef broth to make it saucy again.
Freezing this recipe
Homemade hamburger helper freezes surprising well because the base is tomato soup and there is no milk added. I would recommend only cooking the pasta to al dente or it could become overly mushy when thawed.
To freeze: Let it cool completely, and then transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Write the date on the container and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to enjoy, allow the hamburger helper to thaw completely and reheat per instructions.
If you’re in need of some new dinner inspiration, you definitely need to give this recipe a try. It’s quick, easy, and it’s a real crowd pleaser! It doesn’t get much better than that!
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves this recipe as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
Homemade Hamburger Helper
- 8 ounces (1/2 box) elbow noodles, or another short pasta, use gluten free as needed
- 1 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cans Campbell's healthy request tomato soup or 1 box of organic tomato soup
- 1 cup regular or light shredded cheddar cheese
- Cook the noodles according to package directions in salted water. I recommend cooking noodles only until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite) because you will be baking this dish in the oven.
- While noodles are cooking, heat a large skillet with about 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to the skillet and cook until soft.
- Add the ground beef (or turkey) in with the bell pepper and onion and cook until no longer pink. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
- Add cooked elbow noodles to meat with soup, 1/2 can of water and cheese and stir well to combine.
- Transfer mixture to a 9×13-inch casserole dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and cover with foil. Bake at 350ºF. for 30 minutes.
- Once cooked, taste and add more salt as preferred. Enjoy hot!