When the box just ain’t working: homemade Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper. Who’d have ever thought we’d have a craving for Hamburger Helper?

But it struck without warning on a Thursday night: one hungry pair of newlyweds with a package of ground beef, some dried pasta and a dream.

After pawing through our messy pantry for a good five minutes yielded nothing akin to the salty, savory, weirdo Hamburger Helper mixes of my youth, we turned to our trusty friend: the Internet. A quick search for a homemade version led Spencer here, and what a glorious find it was.

This recipe is fairly quick, very easy and customizable. Because we’re apparently into spicy food now, we couldn’t resist adding fire-roasted tomatoes and green chiles. The fun thing about this recipe? You can move the flavor profile into anything that suits you, though I have to say this version tasted similar to — but better than, perhaps — the original.

Whether you’re simply lacking the box or prefer to cook from scratch, any lover of Hamburger Helper will heartily dig into this dinner. And if you don’t have ground beef on hand? Use ground turkey or ground chicken . . . anything you have, really. You’ll make it work — and everyone will love you for it.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper
(with a kick)

Adapted from farmgirl gourmet


1 lb ground beef (I used a 90/10 mixture)
Cooking spray
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (optional)
2 green chiles, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, or 4-6 slices American cheese


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the ground beef. Brown until cooked through and no longer pink. Discard any fat. Add the pasta, tomatoes, milk, water and spices and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Add the cheese and stir to combine. Serves 4-6.