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A fabulous DIY hack – a copycat of “hamburger helper” and a VERY popular weeknight dinner. Simple. Homemade. Delicious!
For those of you NOT in the US, there’s a boxed/convenience food here called “hamburger helper”. Hamburger refers to ground beef, or mince (as we call it in NZ).
The basic premise is, you brown the beef, and add the packet of stuff and some water/milk and then you have … dinner. It’s a pasta dish made all in one pot!
Seems easy enough. The husband loves this stuff and grew up eating it (his favorite is the Cheeseburger Pasta). If you know me at all, you’ll know I prefer to cook from scratch where possible.
I decided it can’t REALLY be that hard to create a homemade version, and what do you know? It’s not! Using good quality ingredients, you can take a convenience food and kick it up to fabulous! I really enjoy this.
Sure, there are no vegetables in it, so I had to get over that (and you could easily add them), but it is really tasty. AND you get WAY more food that will feed a family of 4 than you do with just the box. #winning.
Homemade Hamburger Helper is made from things you likely already have in the pantry/fridge, this easy homemade skillet dinner comes together REALLY fast.
I make it ahead – in that I make up little baggies of the spices and seasonings, with the pasta and instructions on the front so the husband can make this when he “needs” this comfort food. We never fail to bring this with us camping – there’s nothing like a day of being out in the woods, coming back to camp to eat, and having this ready in about 20 minutes.
The husband? Loves it. Thinks it is “better than the box”. High praise indeed.
The full list of ingredients and quantities is found in the printable recipe card below.
- GROUND BEEF – I use a 93/7 blend, meaning there is some fat, but not a lot. Be sure to drain the fat after browning the ground beef.
- MILK – any kind you like is fine, I use 2% and whole milk without any discernible difference.
- WATER – speed things up and use hot water, vs cold.
- PASTA – choose your own favorite! We do macaroni (then I can call it Cheeseburger Macaroni!), shells, rotini, farfalle – all are fabulous.
- Cornstarch, Seasoned Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Parsley, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Smoked Paprika
- CHEESE – I use cheddar cheese, but any kind of shredded cheese YOU like will work just fine.
- PROCESSED AMERICAN CHEESE – this makes for a super cheesy, super creamy result.
How to make this recipe
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The full list of ingredients, quantities and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.
- PREPARE: Mix together the Cornstarch, Seasoned Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Parsley, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Smoked Paprika.
- BROWN THE MEAT – in a large skillet or dutch oven, brown the meat until no pink remains, and drain any fat (Pic 2)
- ADD THE PASTA, LIQUIDS AND SEASONINGS – stir until well combined (Pic 3)
- BRING TO A BOIL, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. (Pic 4 & 5)
- ADD THE CHEESE – don’t be shy! If you are using processed cheese as well, cut it into cubes and mix well until everything melts together. (Pic 6)
- DEVOUR – grab a fork, ya’ll.
Instead of ground beef – do half ground turkey/half beef or all turkey. If you do use just turkey, taste test the seasonings, as it needs a litttttle more to combat the blandness of turkey.
Use beef broth in place of water – for a super beefed up flavor (see what I did there?)
Sub some of the liquid for a little tomato sauce and the seasonings (keep the cornstarch) for italian seasoning instead – for a skillet lasagna kind of vibe.
Use any kind of short/small pasta – fettuccine and spaghetti don’t work terribly well in this.
Get fancy! Garnish with fresh parsley or green onions.
More easy weeknight dinners:
- Mediterranean Chicken Skillet – you won’t believe how easy and fast it is to cook. Perfect for weeknights, with flavors everyone will enjoy – you’ll be fighting over the leftover sauce!
- Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole – this one will bring you right back to childhood. Budget-friendly and easy to double for a crowd!
- Easy Chicken Pot Pie (made in a skillet) – Creamy, tasty and comforting, the addition of biscuits to the top makes this a popular dinner with the whole family!
- Skillet Mac & Cheese – Comfort food at its finest, this skillet mac & cheese is so easy!
- Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy- is fried patties made from ground beef, smothered in a delicious onion gravy, and served with mashed potatoes.
- ALL WEEKNIGHT MEALS
Homemade “Hamburger Helper” (Cheeseburger Pasta)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 2 cups macaroni or any pasta shape you have lying about
- 1 Tbs cornstarch
- 2 tsp prepared chili powder
- 1 ½ tsp seasoned salt
- ½ tsp cracked pepper
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup processed cheese such as velveeta
- Combine cornstarch and all seasonings in a small bowl, and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Brown beef until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any fat.
- Add the pasta, milk, water, cornstarch and spices and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer.
- Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.
- Add the shredded chese and processed cheese and mix thoroughly.
Tips & Notes:
- Instead of ground beef – do half ground turkey/half beef or all turkey. If you do use just turkey, taste test the seasonings, as it needs a litttttle more to combat the blandness of turkey.
- Use beef broth in place of water – for a super beefed up flavor (see what I did there?)
- Sub some of the liquid for a little tomato sauce and the seasonings (keep the cornstarch) for italian seasoning instead – for a skillet lasagna kind of vibe.
- Use any kind of short/small pasta – fettuccine and spaghetti don’t work terribly well in this.
Recipes written and produced on Kylee Cooks are for informational purposes only. Kylee is not a certified nutritionist. Nutritional data provided on Kylee Cooks has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration.
Update: This was originally posted in February of 2014, and has been updated with new photos and step by step instructions!