Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

5 from 4 votes

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Homemade Hamburger Helper is all of the simpleness and ease of the stuff in the box, without the box! This dish is a creamy, cheesy, pasta and hamburger recipe that’s super fast to make.

Cheesy pasta and beef in a skillet sitting on a wooden cutting board.
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Why is ground beef always in our freezers? Because it’s so versatile and so easy to use. I keep it on hand pretty much all of the time because we love it and it can be turned into so many things.

Have some ground beef in your freezer? Add this easy hamburger helper recipe to your list of simple ground beef recipes because it’s delicious, fast, and oh so easy. 

To round out this meal, add some sautéed green beans, a chef salad, and some seasonal fruit. 

Hamburger helper being served into three white bowls on a wooden cutting board.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It’s quick and easy to make in 30 minutes and in one pot. So clean-up is a breeze. 
  • Great way to get creative in the kitchen – change the pasta shape, use a different kind of cheese, or add some veggies!
  • The sauce is so rich and creamy that the whole family will love it

Recipe Ingredients

  • Ground beef
  • Cornstarch: This thickens the sauce. 
  • Seasonings: Smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and ground black pepper. 
  • Chicken stock or broth
  • Medium shell pasta
  • Heavy cream
  • Shredded cheddar cheese: This recipe used sharp cheddar but you could use a medium or mild if you prefer. 

See the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and quantities.

  • You could use another ground meat, such as ground pork or turkey. But note the flavor will be different. 
  • Change up the pasta shape. Farfalle (bowties), penne and elbow macaroni would all be great alternatives. 
  • Smoked paprika adds wonderful flavor to this dish but you could use regular paprika if you don’t have smoked paprika or can’t find it. 
  • Swap out a different cheese to change the flavor – you could use gouda, colby, or Monterey Jack.
  • Add some veggies like frozen peas or broccoli.

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

  • Step #1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • Step #2. Add the seasonings and cornstarch and cook for 30 seconds. 
  • Step #3. Add the broth or stock and the pasta and let the pasta cook with the meat and spices.
  • Step #4. When the pasta is al dente, stir in the cream and cheese, and simmer for a couple minutes until it thickens a bit. Serve hot. 
Hamburger helper in a white bowl with spoon.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use water instead of broth?

You could but the dish will not have the same depth of flavor. You could use beef broth instead if you have it.

Do I have to cook the pasta in the pan?

Yes. Cooking the pasta in the pan is the best because the starch that the pasta releases helps thicken the sauce. It also makes cleaning up easier because you only used one pan. 

Can I freeze homemade hamburger helper?

Yes. Put the leftovers in an airtight container. Freeze for up to three months. Let it thaw in the fridge before reheating.

An almost empty pan of the cooked hamburger helper recipe.

Expert Tips

  • The ground beef doesn’t need to be stirred constantly while browning. 
  • Let the ground beef sit in a hot pan and brown up on one side before stirring it to the next side. Browning your hamburger in a hot pan is an easy way to add more flavor.
  • Don’t skip the corn starch! It’s what gives the sauce a really nice texture. 
  • If your hamburger helper is tasting a bland add some more salt as well as the other seasonings to taste. 
  • Because you’re cooking the pasta in the pan, the cooking time may vary from what the package says. 
A close-up of finished hamburger helper dish in a large skillet on a wooden cutting board.

How to store and reheat leftovers

Store leftover hamburger helper in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat you can stick it in the microwave to heat OR you can reheat it on the stove top, over medium heat. Add a splash of water as needed to help adjust the thickness and texture of the dish while it’s heating.

More Quick and Easy Dinners to Consider

cheesy yellow pasta and beed in a skillet
5 from 4 votes

Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper is all of the simpleness and ease of the stuff in the box, without the box! This dish is a creamy, cheesy, pasta and hamburger recipe that’s super fast to make.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ½ cup chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups medium shell pasta, (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste
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  • In a large skillet or high sided saute pan add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink, breaking it into pieces with a spoon as it cooks.
  • When the beef is cooked through, add the cornstarch, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken stock and stir to combine.
  • Add the pasta and stir to combine. Bring the pan back up to a boil and reduce the heat so that it’s simmering steadily but not boiling hard.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the pasta is cooked al dente, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
  • When the pasta is cooked through remove the lid and stir in the heavy cream.
  • Add the cheese and stir to combine until the cheese melts. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
  • Remove from the pan and adjust the seasonings to taste.
  • Serve right away while still hot.


  • You can use canned evaporated milk in a pinch when if you don’t have heavy cream on hand.
  • Letting the ground beef brown on one side before stirring it will give your hamburger helper more flavor. 
  • A good quality broth adds a lot of nice flavor to this dish. Make your own or buy a quality chicken stock for this recipe.
  • Check on your pasta around around the 10-minute mark for doneness because you don’t want to let it get too soft.
  • If your pasta isn’t fully cooked, add a few tablespoons of water at a time, while you continue to cook it, until the correct consistency is reached.
  • Don’t be afraid to add some more salt to this recipe, especially if it’s tasting bland. The boxed version usually has a lot of sodium in it. 


Serving: 1 of 6 servings, Calories: 575kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 19g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 134mg, Sodium: 898mg, Potassium: 569mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1130IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 314mg, Iron: 3mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. Rebecca says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this a few times now and it’s sooooo easy and a hit with my kids. It’s great for using up pasta, different kinds of cheese, leftover vegetables. I’ve even chopped up leftover cooked hamburgers in place of fresh ground beef. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Michelle L says:

    5 stars
    We loved it! Even one of my pickier kids said it was good. I doubled the recipe and added too much liquid, so it was a bit soupier than yours but still delicious. We will be adding this to our regular recipe rotation!

  3. deb c says:

    I forgot to add….I didn’t have enough of any one noodle on hand….so it was a hodgepodge of styles….all, according to their packages, were a 9 minute cook…..perfectly done at 10 minutes. PS….barely any leftovers 🙂

  4. deb c says:

    5 stars
    It’s not bad he said…..and proceeded to have a 4th helping..hahahaha….oh how I miss Hamburger Helper now that we eat cleaner….its been years since I have indulged in it. I’m so excited to have this recipe in my life! I can hardly wait to taste the leftovers tomorrow….if there is any left! Served with a green salad and a wedge of warmed up sourdough bread…..and made bare bones style…..can’t go wrong with meat, cheese and noodles! Awesome dinner! Thanks for the yumminess!!!!!

    1. Melissa says:

      Yay! I just love getting your comments, they’re always so helpful and fun to read. THANK YOU!