How to Make Hamburger Helper Better

pan of cooked Hamburger HelperThose who prefer quick and convenient food will know about Hamburger Helper. This humble dish is loaded with pasta drenched in a cheesy and creamy sauce.

You can easily make a Hamburger Helper from scratch. However, using a box makes things much easier. But it comes with a price. Most people complain that the boxed Hamburger Helper is quite bland or the flavors are not up to the mark. But no problem! You can always improve the flavors if you know a few tricks.

So, if you are wondering how to make Hamburger Helper better? We have a few simple ideas for you to try!


What is a Hamburger Helper?

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In simple words, a hamburger helper is a pasta dish made from ground beef, pasta, and a creamy, thick, cheesy sauce. The dish is built upon the flavors of a hamburger but is more creamy. Hamburger Helper is a simple, one-pot dish that is very quick and convenient to make.

Although you can make it from scratch at home, the true popularity of this dish lies in the pre-made quick meal boxes that surfaced quite some time ago. It was first introduced in 1971, and after that, different companies and brands launched their versions of Hamburger Helper. Things always get easy and quick when you get everything in a box.


How to make Hamburger Helper taste better

Hamburger Helper relies on the flavors of the meat and a few seasonings. But most people go for the pre-made version, which is far easier than the traditional one. However, the flavors might not be to your liking, and there is always room for improvement. So, you can add more ingredients or change a few to make Hamburger Helper taste even better. Here are a few simple ideas for you to try:

  • Meat: since hamburger is made using ground beef, it is a good bet that Hamburger Helper uses the same meat. However, you can always try different ingredients. For instance, you can use chicken or turkey meat to add a different flavor to this dish. Moreover, you can also use ground pork or combine pork and beef. You can even use seafood like tuna or shrimp. The choice is yours!
  • Vegetables: a few vegetables in your Hamburger Helper will only add more color, flavor, and healthy nutrients to it. So, you can try chopped carrots, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, corn, mushrooms, etc.
  • Broth: beef broth is what adds so much richness and flavor to this dish. However, you can also add chicken broth or vegetable broth if you feel like giving a light note to this dish.
  • Cheese: cheddar cheese seems like the best choice for this dish. However, you can use mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, or Monterey Jack as well. You can also combine two kinds of cheese and use them in this dish for extra richness and cheesiness.
  • Spices and herbs: spices and herbs are the best way to improve the flavors of any dish. Add cumin, cayenne, paprika, or Italian herbs to the hamburger helper to make it taste better.


How to make Hamburger Helper from scratch

Making a hamburger helper is as easy as making any other one-pot pasta dish. It takes no more than 30 minutes to cook it to perfection. All you have to do is work on three main ingredients, i.e., ground meat, pasta, and sauce.

All you have to do is cook the meat first and set it aside. Next, you have to set the base for the sauce by sauteeing onions and garlic. Sautee all-purpose flour and pour broth to create a thick consistency sauce. Add tomatoes and pasta. Let the pasta cook in this broth until it is done. Now top it up with cream, cheese, and cooked meat. Let everything combine and serve. Voila! Isn’t it easy?


Hamburger Helper – the recipe

  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Total time: 35 minutes
  • Servings: 4


  • 2 cups pasta
  • 1 lb. Lean beef mince
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1/ 4 tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste


  1. In a pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Once it heats up, add ground beef and cook using a wooden spoon for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it turns brown and all the liquid evaporates. Once done, take it out of the pan onto a plate.
  2. In the same pan, add olive oil and chopped onions. Cook for about 3 minutes until they are tender.
  3. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and add all-purpose flour. Sautee for a minute. Now, slowly pour beef broth while constantly stirring until everything is unified.
  5. Place the pan back on the heat and add tomato sauce.
  6. Add paprika, thyme, rosemary, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Mix well.
  7. Add uncooked pasta and mix well. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook at medium to low flame for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through.
  8. Add half-and-half shredded cheese and top with cooked ground beef. Mix well and let it simmer for a minute or two.
  9. Serve immediately.


How to Make Hamburger Helper Stroganoff

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  • 1 lb lean ground beef (substitute: ground turkey or chicken)
  • 1 package of Hamburger Helper Stroganoff
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Optional: Fresh veggies such as mushrooms or bell peppers

Preparation Steps:

  1. In a large skillet, heat a dash of olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and minced garlic, cooking until tender.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add your choice of protein to the skillet. Break it apart with a spoon, cooking until it’s no longer pink. If you’re using lean ground beef or ground turkey, drain any excess fat.
  3. Sprinkle the contents of the Hamburger Helper Stroganoff seasoning packet over the cooked meat. Stir in the pasta, milk, and hot water until well combined.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. If you’ve decided on additional veggies, add them according to their cooking times to ensure they are appropriately tender.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked and the sauce has thickened, remove the skillet from heat. Let it stand to cool and thicken for a couple of minutes before serving.

Quick Facts:

  • Prep Time: Under 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: About 20 minutes
  • Total Time: Approximately 30 minutes

To make this dish with a twist, consider using a variety of pasta such as elbow macaroni, shells, or gluten-free variants. For a richer flavor, mix in some sharp cheddar cheese before serving. If you’re seeking alternatives to pasta, rice or potatoes can serve as the base for a homemade Hamburger Helper experience.


How to Make Hamburger Helper Lasagna

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  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 package Hamburger Helper Lasagna
  • 3 cups hot water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)


  1. Brown 1 lb lean ground beef in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, breaking up and stirring; drain.
  2. Stir in hot water, milk, sauce mix, and pasta from the Hamburger Helper box into the beef.
  3. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender.
  5. Remove from heat and uncover. If desired, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and cover to let the cheese melt.
  6. Let it stand for 5 minutes; the sauce will thicken as it stands.


What to Do with Leftover Hamburger Helper

  • Try creating a casserole by combining the leftover Hamburger Helper with vegetables and cheese, baking it until it becomes warm and bubbly.
  • You can also use the remaining Hamburger Helper as a tasty filling for pocket bread or tortilla sandwiches.
  • Mix the leftovers with broth and vegetables to create a hearty soup.
  • Turn your leftover Hamburger Helper into a dip, mix in some cream cheese, and pair it with crackers or chips.
  • For a tasty breakfast option, try heating up the leftovers in a skillet alongside scrambled eggs and cheese.


Storing Leftovers

When storing Hamburger Helper leftovers, it’s critical to cool them to room temperature before placing them in storage. Here’s how to store them safely:

  • Cool Down: Allow your Hamburger Helper to reach room temperature within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Airtight Container: Transfer the leftovers to an airtight container to prevent contaminants and moisture from getting in.
  • Refrigerate: Place the container in the refrigerator and consume leftovers within 3-5 days for optimal freshness.
  • Labeling: To keep track, label the container with the date you stored it.


Best Reheating Tips

When reheating Hamburger Helper, distribute heat evenly and restore its creamy consistency:

  • Microwave: For quick reheating, use a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or wrap to maintain moisture.
    • Heat on high for 1-2 minutes, stir, and repeat if necessary.
    • Spices: If flavors seem muted, consider adding a pinch of kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, or paprika.
    • Moisture: If the mixture is dry, stir in a tablespoon of broth or heavy cream to revive creaminess.
  • Stovetop: This method offers more control and can help you avoid over-drying.
    • Use a saucepan over medium heat.
    • Add a splash of broth or heavy cream to help loosen the mixture.
    • Stir frequently to prevent sticking and ensure even heating.
    • Add a dash of spices, such as chili powder or garlic powder, for an extra flavor boost if needed.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long is Hamburger Helper good for past expiration date?

Your Hamburger Helper’s expiration date is a quality indicator, but it may be safe to consume shortly after this date if it has been stored properly. However, for optimal flavor and food safety, it’s recommended to use it before the expiration date.

Can I bake Hamburger Helper in the oven?

Yes, you can bake some types of Hamburger Helper in the oven. The process involves transferring the stovetop-cooked mixture to a baking dish and potentially topping it with cheese or breadcrumbs, then baking it according to a recipe until it’s bubbly and golden.

Does Hamburger Helper calories include meat?

The calorie count on the Hamburger Helper box typically does not include the meat, as it can vary depending on the type and amount of meat you choose to add. You’ll need to account for the meat separately when calculating total calories.

How can you thicken up Hamburger Helper?

To thicken Hamburger Helper, you can let it simmer uncovered to reduce the sauce, add a bit more pasta or a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch, or use less liquid than the package instructions suggest.

What goes well with Hamburger Helper?

Hamburger Helper pairs well with a variety of sides, such as a green salad, steamed vegetables, garlic bread, or a simple fruit salad to balance out the meal and add nutrition.


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.