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Beef/ Hearty Dinners/ Pasta

Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

September 18, 2023 by Chris Collins

Here I’ll share with you my take on the iconic Hamburger Helper!

I feel this recipe has been a long time coming. I’ve seen the classic Hamburger Helper flying around the internet for many years, so I simply had to give my 10 pence (or ‘cents’ should I say). And yes, I have tried the original! Follow me..

close up shot of hamburger helper in large pot with wooden spoon digging in

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Let’s just clear a few cobwebs, especially for my fellow Brits reading this.

What is Hamburger Helper?

It’s essentially a boxed mac & cheese to which you add ground beef (aka minced beef). Kind of like cheeseburger pasta if you will. For us, I’d say it’s the equivalent of the red box mac & cheese you can buy at corner shops and supermarkets.

What goes into Hamburger Helper?

As I mentioned, I have indeed tried it. I went as far as to order it online because I needed the try the real-deal before I made my own version! A commitment to the cause I’d like to think. Anywho, in the box you get dried macaroni and powdered cheese, to which you add butter, water and milk. And yes, I was taken back by how bright orange the powdered cheese was 🤣

I’m not going to lie, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it again (much to everyone’s surprise I’m sure 😅). BUT, I saw potential. Because realistically how is cheesy beef pasta not a bit of me?!

As such, we’re going to spruce it up and make our own homemade version inspired by the original. The results are DELICIOUS.

Process shots: fry bacon (photo 1), fry onion and garlic (photo 2), add beef (photo 3), fry (photo 4).

4 step by step photos showing how to make hamburger helper

Making Hamburger Helper

I love adding bacon, not only for bonus flavour, but also because you can render down the fat and use it to fry the onion, garlic and beef. From there, I like to pack in more flavour with some yellow mustard, hot sauce and tomato puree.

Hamburger Helper Sauce

We’re actually going to cook the pasta in the pot with everything else. This not only reduces washing up, but it also means the pasta soaks in all the flavour. PLUS the starch helps bind and thicken the sauce. The base of the sauce is 50:50 milk and beef stock. I find this gives you a good amount of creaminess that goes will with the cheese, but the beef stock also offers some depth of flavour.

Hamburger Helper Seasoning

You don’t need to go crazy with the seasoning, as all of the other ingredients already add heaps of flavour. Having said that, I like to add some paprika and oregano, alongside the obvious salt and pepper. I like to then end with loads of chives which finishes of the dish so nicely!

What kind of cheese should I use?

I go for mainly cheddar, but I can’t resist add some American/processed cheese. I find this gives a nod to the original, but not so much it’s the dominating flavour.

Process shots: add hot sauce, yellow mustard and tomato puree (photo 1), stir (photo 2), simmer macaroni in milk and stock with seasoning then stir in cheese (photo 3), stir in bacon and chives (photo 4).

4 step by step photos showing how to make hamburger helper

Serving Hamburger Helper

When it all comes together it’s so tasty you’ll forget you’re eating something inspired by the boxed stuff! It’s super hearty and full of flavour – you’re gonna love it.

For another similar recipe check out my One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese!

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this One Pot Hamburger Helper shall we?!

hamburger helper served in a large white bowl with fresh chives

How to make Hamburger Helper (Full Recipe & Video)

hamburger helper served in a large white bowl with fresh chives

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Here I'll share with you my take on the iconic Hamburger Helper!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 4
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Calories per serving: 885kcal
Cost per serving: £3 / $4


  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Large Pot & Wooden Spoon
  • 2x Jugs (for milk/stock)
  • Cheese Grater

Ingredients (check list):

  • 6 slices of Streaky Bacon
  • 1 large White Onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
  • 500g / 1lb Minced/Ground Beef (5%)
  • 3 tbsp Tomato Puree/Paste
  • 2 tbsp Hot Sauce (see notes)
  • 2 tsp Yellow Mustard
  • 250g / 9oz dried Macaroni
  • 480ml / 2 cups Beef Stock, or as needed
  • 480ml / 2 cups Whole Milk, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp EACH: Dried Oregano, Salt, Black Pepper
  • 150g / 1 1/2 cups Cheddar, grated
  • 4 slices of American/Processed Cheese, roughly torn (see notes)
  • 1/2 bunch / 3 tbsp Fresh Chives, plus more to serve if desired


  • Add the bacon to a large, deep pot over low-medium heat and fry until crisp with the fat rendered. Remove from the pot and place to one side, leaving the excess fat behind. Dice just before needed.
  • Increase heat slightly to medium and add the onion to the leftover fat. Gently fry until soft and golden, then add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add in the beef and cook until browned, breaking up with your wooden spoon as you go.
  • Stir in the tomato puree, hot sauce and mustard and continue frying for another minute or so, then add the macaroni. Pour in the stock and milk, then stir in the paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Gently simmer and stir occasionally until the sauce thickens and the pasta is al dente.
  • Turn the heat to the lowest it goes then stir in the cheese until it melts. Stir in the chives and bacon, then check for seasoning and adjust if needed. If at any point the sauce dries up before the pasta cooks, just add in more stock a splash at a time.

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Bacon - I don't believe this is traditionally added to hamburger helper, but I love what it brings to the dish. Plus, you can use the excess fat to fry the onion, so you keep all that lovely flavour! Make sure it's streaky bacon as it's more fatty.
b) Cheese - I use mostly cheddar, but I unashamedly love adding the 'plastic' cheese in this. I think it's needed for some authenticity (and I actually like the flavour and gooey texture it offers). Having said that, whilst I haven't tried it myself, you could just sub more cheddar.
c) Hot Sauce - 2 tbsp adds a good kick, but nothing crazy. I have gone up to 4 tbsp before, so if you love spice you can do that. If you're wary just start with less and work your way up. I recommend adding in with the beef, not straight into the liquid as it can sometimes curdle the milk (not a big issue as it typically binds back together). I recommend Cholula or Frank's.
d) Leftovers - This is best made fresh but certainly don't waste leftovers. Just allow to completely cool then tightly store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave until piping hot again. The pasta will bloat as it rests but it's still absolutely fine. You can also freeze it and thaw in the fridge before reheating.
e) Inspiration - I have tried a couple of different flavours of the original Hamburger Helper, which I ordered online for testing purposes. I couldn't upload my version without trying the real-deal! I'd say this recipe is 'inspired' by Hamburger helper, just a bit more 'jazzed up'. A lot of components of this recipe were adapted from the New York Times version.
f) Calories - Whole recipe divided by 4.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Homemade Hamburger Helper
Amount Per Serving
Calories 885 Calories from Fat 404
% Daily Value*
Fat 44.89g69%
Saturated Fat 15.666g78%
Trans Fat 1.109g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.808g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.277g
Cholesterol 149mg50%
Sodium 1368mg57%
Potassium 1240mg35%
Carbohydrates 62.75g21%
Fiber 3.8g15%
Sugar 12.73g14%
Protein 57.59g115%
Vitamin A 1411IU28%
Vitamin C 11.7mg14%
Calcium 585mg59%
Iron 4.93mg27%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'





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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    September 19, 2023 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Chris.. Lorna here again…
    I’ve just checked my Waitrose app re mustard’s, and they list French’s American!!! I didn’t realise they had it… So, fingers crossed my local Waitrose stocks it….

  • Reply
    Lorna Campbell
    September 19, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Chris, another tasty looking recipe from you…
    Just a quick question… I don’t have the American style “Yellow” mustard. ( I have Dijon or Course grain) I know the yellow one is sweeter as I used “French’s yellow” when I lived in Canada.. for hot dogs/ burgers etc.. So… what yellow is available here..( I’m living back in Scotland)
    In the meantime, could I use Dijon with a little honey or Maple Syrup mixed in with it for the sweetness effect, or would that not work?
    Thanks for all the great recipes you post..I’m patiently waiting for your book to be delivered..Roll on October ..
    Take care..Lorna…

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      September 19, 2023 at 2:43 pm

      Hey Lorna! Firstly, so happy to hear you’re excited for October – as am I!! Regarding the mustard, I am also in Scotland and you can get the French’s classic yellow mustard from most supermarkets. I get it from Sainsburys and Morrisons. Having said that you could probably get away with using Dijon and just add a dash of sugar at the end if you feel it needs it. The flavour is more of a background flavour is actually quite mild, so you might get away with it 🙂 C.