Saturday, May 29, 2021

Homemade Hamburger Helper

A few years ago I put up a post called "Recipes for the boxed stuff" in which I invited readers to submit homemade versions of boxed (or canned) common food items, such as macaroni and cheese, bread stuffing, chili, muffins, etc.


It was a lively discussion and lots of people contributed some great ideas in the comments.

The reason I bring this up is this week I found a terrific recipe for homemade Hamburger Helper. Another one for the recipe list!

Frustratingly I didn't copy down the source – that's something I'm usually fanatic about – so I apologize for not giving credit to whomever pulled this recipe together, because it's terrific.

In the true frugal fashion of Hamburger Helper, I was able to pull everything together from ingredients we already had on hand.

Here's the recipe:

Homemade Hamburger Helper


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into ½-inch dice
  • 3 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef I used 93% lean
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups water plus additional as needed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat elbow pasta
  • ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped chives divided (optional)


  1. Heat a Dutch oven or a large, deep 12-inch skillet with a sturdy bottom over medium-low heat. Add the oil onion, carrot, salt, and pepper. Let cook until the onion turns brown and soft, about 10 minutes (don't shortcut this step; it builds a lot of flavor).
  2. Add the garlic and let cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. With the back of a large spoon or a sturdy spatula, break the meat into small pieces. Continue to brown, stirring periodically, until the meat is browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from the heat and carefully drain off any excess fat, leaving just a little bit in the pan to keep the meat moist (if you are using meat that is 93% lean, you likely will not need to drain it).
  5. Return the pan to the medium-high heat. Stir in the hot sauce, Dijon, and smoked paprika. Add the beef broth. Scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan.
  6. Stir in half of the chives, then sprinkle the remaining chives on top. Enjoy hot.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 1 minute. Add the Greek yogurt and cheddar. Stir until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are well combined.
  8. Once the liquid is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions, stirring often and scraping a spoon along the bottom of the pan to keep it from sticking. If at any point the pasta becomes to dry, splash in a bit of water.

I started with onions. You can never have too many onions, in my humble opinion.

Next: garlic, canned carrots, and beef broth.

Throw it in the pot and let it start cooking down.

Ground beef:

This was frozen, so I put a lid on the pot and let the heat gradually defrost the meat amidst the veggies.

Spicier stuff: paprika, hot sauce, Dijon mustard. Next time I make this, I'll add a bit more hot sauce than the recipe called for.

Grated cheese, plain yogurt.

I used radiatore pasta because that's what I had on hand.

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the pasta to cook within the juices of the other ingredients.

The result was ooh-la-la delicious. Definitely better than the boxed stuff!


  1. I don't know where I heard or read this a long time ago, but it is still funny...."at the price of hamburger these days, it shouldn't need any help". I will try this recipe, though, it sounds delicious.

  2. shouldn't the yogurt and cheddar get added after the pasta is cooked? I'm thinking it's gonna curdle while being boiled.