How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper


As an avid cook, this is almost embarrassing, but my kids love Hamburger Helper. I don’t love Hamburger Helper. It tastes like cardboard and the ingredients list on the side of the box is enough to make you run away screaming. Who knows what that stuff is. A lot of preservatives, for one thing. There’s just nothing fresh about it. And it’s not as if you’re going through a drive-through window and picking up dinner. You still have to cook it. What makes Hamburger Helper so popular is how quick you can get it on the table and the standardization of the directions in every variety along with the cutting open of packets and throwing it in the pot. It requires little thinking, which is often what you need at the end of a long day when you’re tired and everyone is hungry.

But! I (and you) can still give the kids what they want and put a quick home-cooked meal on the table at the same time. Make your own helper! You can even make it in advance so it’s all pre-measured and ready to toss in the pot on busy nights. Just like store-bought helper, your homemade helper comes with standardized directions and “packets” to throw in the pot. Very little thinking required–but in this case, it’s much more fresh and you can feel a whole lot better about feeding it to your family.

Using actual packages of Hamburger Helper and cookbook comparisons for the types of varieties offered along with my own cooking common sense and experience, I’ve broken down some of the most popular Hamburger Helper varieties. I’m showcasing Chili Cheese here–see below for the demystification of a number of other popular flavors.

Hamburger Helper Basics: When creating your own helpers, keep in mind that most packages of Hamburger Helper include about 1 1/2 cups of pasta plus a packet of sauce seasonings, sometimes dried tomatoes, and sometimes a packet of dried cheese, depending on the variety. If there’s anything more disgusting than dried cheese, I don’t know what it is. Some varieties use rice or dried sliced potatoes instead of pasta. Whatever you’re using for the starch base in the dish–1 1/2 cups is a good rule of thumb when making homemade helpers (except for rice, which I think works better using only 1 cup). After browning and draining the ground beef (one pound), in the same skillet you add water and milk (usually about 3 cups total), seasonings, and simmer (usually about 12-20 minutes). Add cheese near the end for some varieties.

What you need to have onhand to create homemade helpers: Ground beef, various herbs and seasonings and other basic pantry items (such as sugar, salt, and corn starch), pasta, rice, potatoes, canned tomatoes, and cheese. (You can buy large bags of pre-shredded cheeses to shortcut this step, or buy blocks of cheese and pre-shred it yourself.) Some varieties also call for Fritos or nacho chips, and most call for milk because it makes a creamier sauce. (Out of fresh milk sometimes? Keep dry milk in your pantry.) I always keep a large box of dry milk in my pantry so that I’m never out of milk.
You can also freeze milk, but you can keep far more milk onhand if you make dry milk a basic pantry item. It works just fine for baking and cooking, and is even pretty good for drinking. (For drinking, dry milk tastes better if you reconstitute it then refrigerate it overnight before using. For baking and cooking, it doesn’t matter. Just reconstitute what you need and use immediately.)

The chili cheese variety (a “pasta and cheesy sauce mix”) includes elbow macaroni, chili powder, paprika, salt, garlic, corn starch, sugar, and dried cheese along with other fun stuff like preservatives and FOUR types of food colorings.

In homemade helper, you cut out the dried cheese, preservatives, and food colorings combined with the seasonings in the store-bought sauce packet. That’s the store-bought Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper packet dumped out in the white bowl in this picture:
To the store-bought helper, you add a pound of ground beef, water, and milk. It goes on the dinner table in 30 minutes.

Here’s your Homemade Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper–pre-measured pasta and your own sauce packet.
You add a pound of ground beef, water, milk, and (real!) cheese. It hits the dinner table in 30 minutes, just like the store-bought version, only better.

I’m replicating store-bought Hamburger Helper in homemade form so I’m including the sugar and salt here. (Why do you think kids like this stuff?!) You can use the sugar and salt as measured here (or in reduced measures) in your own helpers, or leave it out entirely, as per your own preferences.

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How to make Homemade Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper:

1 pound ground beef
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain.
Add hot water….
….and your homemade sauce packet (corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and paprika).
Bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.
In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time.
When the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, turn off heat and uncover. Let mixture stand, uncovered, about five minutes. It will continue to thicken as it stands.
You can make your Homemade Hamburger Helper in advance by pre-measuring the pasta. Place in a sandwich-size baggie. Snack-size baggies are perfect for the sauce mix. The measured pasta can be used in a number of Hamburger Helper varieties. Just label the sauce mix so you’ll know what you’re picking up then grab whichever bag of pasta you need. For the cheese, you can pre-measure your shredded cheese, or just measure it as you need it.

Here’s how to put together several popular varieties and your standardized directions. Have a big family (or just big eaters)? Double or triple the recipe and use a big pot! Note: These are not amazingly inventive gourmet meals. But they are homemade lifesavers for busy days.

Step One: Brown and drain one pound of ground beef.
Step Two: Add 3 cups of liquid (water and/or milk) along with your 1 1/2 cups of pasta, sliced potatoes*, or rice (use only 1 cup of rice), the sauce packet, and sometimes tomatoes. Simmer covered. The simmer time will be approximately 12-20 minutes for most varieties. If cheese is used, stir it in during the last few minutes of cook time and put the cover back on the pot.
Step Three: Turn off heat and uncover. (Some varieties have cheese tossed on as a topping at the end instead of or in addition to being mixed in.) Let stand to thicken at least 5 minutes before serving.

*When using potatoes, slice the potatoes very thinly, like very thin potato chips. (If you find that difficult or annoying, you could finely dice the potatoes instead.) Add cook time if necessary, till the potatoes are tender. Some varieties use shredded potatoes. To save time on busy nights, you can slice, dice, or shred potatoes in advance in pre-measured quantities and freeze. Then all you have to do is take out your bag of potatoes and drop them in the skillet. (To freeze potatoes–slice, dice, or shred then blanch for about two minutes in boiling water. Drain and cool then freeze. You can also dehydrate sliced or shredded potatoes for homemade helpers.) Note: There’s a good suggestion in the comments about keeping store-bought frozen potatoes onhand as a shortcut for homemade helpers!

A number of varieties require tomatoes. (Store-bought Hamburger Helper uses dried tomatoes.) Use canned stewed or diced tomatoes for homemade helper, reducing the hot water by 1/4 cup because you’re also adding some liquid along with the tomatoes. (I use my own home-canned tomatoes.)

Feeling frisky? Use add-ins anytime you feel like taking an extra few seconds. A cup of pinto or red beans works great in chili mac, for example. Chopped peppers also work well in many varieties, as do all sorts of other vegetables. As a rule of thumb, use one cup for your add-in (if using multiple add-ins, combine them to add up to one cup). You can use more than a cup, of course, though keep in mind that you may overwhelm the dish if you use too much. When using add-ins like mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc, either saute them first separately or put them in as you brown the ground beef to saute them. Like heat? Add some ground cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to any variety for a spicier version.

In the case of stroganoff, an add-in of 1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms is suggested. You can make stroganoff without mushrooms, but it’s just not the same. Store-bought Hamburger Helper uses dried mushrooms in their stroganoffs. If you can get your hands on some dried mushrooms, add a teaspoon (to the sauce packet) in place of the sliced, fresh mushrooms. But really. Use the fresh. It’ll only take a few minutes to prepare them, not adding much to your effort. You can even buy pre-sliced mushrooms if you prefer.

Once you get the hang of the basic principles, you can make any kind of helper you want! As you try any of these for the first time, choose an evening when you have time and add the sauce ingredients (except for the corn starch) sparingly. Taste test while you’re cooking to adjust the seasonings to your own preferences. These measurements are suggestions to get you started. Once you know how you like it, make up your own sauce packets for future use.

Chili Mac: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar or jack cheese, shredded, near the end.

Lasagna: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups either lasagna broken into small pieces or small egg noodles, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded, near the end, then sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese during the 5-minute standing period.

Cheesy Beef Taco: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup rice, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar plus 1 cup of Fritos during the 5-minute standing period.

Beef Stroganoff: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk (if you have sour cream, replace 1/2 cup of the milk with sour cream), and 1 1/2 cups small egg noodles, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with an add-in of 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.

Potato Stroganoff: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk (if you have sour cream, replace 1/2 cup of the milk with sour cream), and 1 1/2 cups very thinly sliced or diced potatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with an add-in of 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.

Salisbury: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups small egg noodles, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Cheesy Italian Shells: Using 1 pound ground beef, 3/4 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups small pasta shells, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar, shredded, near the end.

Cheesy Jambalaya: Using 1 pound ground beef, 3/4 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 cup rice, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end.

(Added 01/15/10) I’ve had several requests for Cheeseburger Macaroni. The way I figure out how to do these is by studying the side of the box then experimenting on my own. Paprika is the “secret” ingredient to get the flavor right with this one, and heavier on the milk than water for a creamy texture.

Cheeseburger Macaroni: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end. (You can toss a 1/2 cup cheddar on top at the end, too, if you want. We’re going for cheesy here!)

Homemade Lasagna Hamburger Helper.
(One of our favorites around here.)

Notice how similar the recipes are? Hamburger Helper is like a template. (This is how Betty Crocker churns out a zillion varieties.) You plug in more or less milk to control the creaminess, a certain type of pasta (or rice or potatoes), sometimes tomatoes, certain herbs/seasonings, and more or less (or no) cheese. You can make a homemade helper for any variety of Hamburger Helper that appeals to you–invent your own! Put labelled sauce packets for your family’s favorite “helpers” away in your pantry for busy days (add a little 3×5 card with directions for the water, milk, cheese, etc, per variety) and you’ll never go hungry again. (Cue the Gone with the Wind music.) When you’re tired, everybody’s hungry, and you need dinner that won’t make you think hard, grab your sauce packet and your bag of pasta (or rice or potatoes) with your little cheater 3×5 card and you’re set.

Real dinner. Real easy. Really in 30 minutes!

*Keep homemade cornbread mix and homemade biscuit mix onhand and have fresh bread fast, too.

See this post at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Anne says:

    This looks super for busy work days followed by evening activities like dog training. Thanks Suzanne! I always crave green salad when I eat something like hotdish.

  2. Julie Harward says:


  3. Blessings says:

    My husband still loves hamburger helper, makes me cringe, but reading your recipe versions makes me say OK, what flavor will
    I cook from scratch.
    Thanks for the recipes!

  4. Kathy says:

    :snoopy: I love, I mean l-o-v-e, you! I have thought about this many times, but never undertook the task. (I have no idea how you found time). We like Hamburger Helper too, especially potato stroganoff, but once I read the ingredients, I’ve never bought it again. This will be such a help. I can think of three people to send it to without even batting an eye. What a gift! Thank you lovely farm woman!

  5. Leah says:

    I love the idea of homemade Hamburger Helper! I want to make some seasoning and macaroni pkts ahead and give some to my daughter,she’s got a 1 1/2 y.o. and is expecting….this would help her so much. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lacey says:

    My love of cooking real food and my love of hamburger helper have always been in conflict, until now. Thank you. I hope someday I’m an experienced enough cook to just figure these things out like you do. I can’t wait to try these. Homemade Hamburger Potato Stroganoff, here I come!

  7. Daria says:

    Thanks again for yet another great resource! It would be very easy to turn these recipes into something not only quick and easy, but low-fat and high-fiber, too; use lean ground beef or ground turkey, reduced-fat cheese, use whole wheat (or Smart Taste) pasta, add extra veggies, etc….

    Also – for those not interested in blanching and freezing shredded potatoes, there are frozen shredded potatoes with no added chemical surprises in your grocer’s freezer. Sure they’ll cost way more than regular potatoes, but if time is money they might be worth it to you…

  8. debbie says:

    Brilliant! My only substitution would be a can of tomato soup instead of diced tomatoes. My kids don’t like the “feel” of diced tomatoes. Don’t ask me (shrugging shoulders). Even with canned soup it still has to be healthier than whats in those packets, doesn’t it?

  9. debbie says:

    Leah, what a great idea for a “baby’s coming” gift, a basket full of Suzanne’s home made, pre-made, mixes!

  10. JoLinda says:

    Uggh. Hamburger Helper has got to be one of the nastiest things ever created. I can’t believe how my kids will choose to eat that over homemade goodness. I just refuse to buy anymore.

  11. Snapper says:

    Oh, my 9 y/o is going to kiss your feet for today’s post. I am too, since I am too old to digest the box stuff. πŸ˜‰

  12. Kathleen in Michigan says:

    I hated Hamburger Helper when it first came out and I have not bought it since, but I am thinking that my husband would probably like it.

    I might give your version a try.

  13. JOJO says:

    :snowman: :woof: :snowman:
    We salute you, anyone that has ever read what is inside those boxes of the “helper” products, YUK. I would eat our dog’s food.
    These recipes are wonderful, and who doesent like to have recipes for comfort food that can be put together in a short amount of time
    how about how about we call these recipes– “Suzanne’s Saucy snd Savory Skillet Suppers”!!. —I like it!
    It is 2 degrees here this morning and going to be very cold today, I think one of these will be nice for supper tonight. Thank you.


  14. Elaine says:

    You rock! I am with you on the cardboard taste. Can’t stand it myself but I know 2 little boys and one big boy who are going to be so surprised when they get hamburger helper again. Our little secret though. Thanks Suzanne.

  15. CindyP says:

    Yay, yay, yay!!! SO just LOVES hamburger helper! And I cringe every time it’s put on the table. I’ve always made my version of homemade hamburger helper, but it’s always the same, stroganoff, and it makes WAY more than we need by the time I get done adding this and that.

    Thank you, Suzanne!

  16. Mia says:

    What GREAT ideas and now I’m starved… but the best idea is to keep the dry milk on hand. As a kid, that’s all we ever had to drink and i hated the stuff so it wouldn’t occur to me to buy it, but for use in things like this – PERFECT! I’m putting it on my grocery list right now…. really… I live alone and have enough food in this house to feed four people for a year in case of the end of the world which is probably comin’ any minute now … and yet I have no dry milk. How did this HAPPEN?> heheheheheheh πŸ™‚

  17. Johanna says:

    Aren’t you clever?! As a vegetarian, I don’t even look at that stuff in the grocery (though it can be made with veggie hamburger crumbles). But I have fond memories of Hamburger Helper nights as a child! Your version sounds quite tasty and a good deal healthier.

  18. Patricia Herman says:

    Suzanne you are a genius. I will be printing this out and putting it in my recipe files. Besides it being healthier its cheaper too!!

    Happy Sunday to you!!!!

  19. Wendy says:

    I make this too and the kids love it – and I get to feed them good real food instead of all the nasty stuff that’s in the regular Hamburger Helper.

    Thanks for breaking down the recipes for all the flavors! They’ll really come in handy!

  20. B. Ruth says:

    I love real Beef Stroganoff…but to make the original with the high end cuts, wine, etc. is time consuming, but delious..etc..
    So I always made very quickly for the kids hamburger stroganoff…very easy from scratch…
    also…made SOS for my husband when he would get lonely for the foods from Air Force days….you soldiers will remember that…LOL
    We never did like the taste of the hamburger helper stroganoff…but will try your version…thanks..
    I saute mushrooms,(buy extra when on sale), measure and freeze to grab for recipes and they thaw with a stir in the dish…

  21. Julie says:

    Have been reading your site for over a year. I want to take a moment to say Thank You! I love your frugal mindset and money saving ideas. My husband and I are trying to have a baby and when we succeed I plan to quit my job. We bothteach so already live on a minimal budget. When we go to one salary it is going to be HARD but the tricks I am learning from you arealready helping us to shave dollars off our grocery bill each month and every little bit helps. I am setting aside all that savings and am looking forward to the day I can say I am a stay at home mom! Thanks for helping!

  22. B. Ruth says:

    I add unsalted beef bouillion granules to my hamburger stroganoff…just to beef up the flavor somewhat…I guess you could add it to the mix? What do you think?

  23. Carol Langille says:

    Now this post is a true gift! And Daria is thinking what I was thinking….make it all even healthier and diabetic friendly by using the whole wheat pasta, lean beef or turkey and low fat cheese. I can’t wait to try one of these…tonight! And the whole wheat, low fat, lean meat way.
    Seriously, Suzanne…I know you are terribly busy with all you do for us here everyday but you should consider writing a cookbook. You have tremendous recipes (I’ve tried many of them!) and with your talent for writing and photography joined with your culinary talents, I can see an extremely marketable book. I would buy it in a heartbeat for a good deal of money and I bet a lot of these women who read this blog would also.
    Right now, my next project is a baby shower for my daughter…she has a 12 yr old, a 2 yr old and is expecting our new little girl in late February or early March. Any thoughts on that? I’ve never done a shower before.
    Have a beautiful day and thank you again for the homemade helpers.

  24. Tovah says:

    Wow, you are amazing. I too stopped using hamburger helper because I didn’t know what all that random stuff was in the ingredients. This looks much better! Yay!

  25. Diane says:

    I also love this. I make my own hamburger helper with beef broth, canned veggies and pasta and cheese. But I love this idea of the homemade seasoning packets. I also buy box’s of hamburger helper when I can get it for .50cents a box. Its a quick easy meal. But not very healthy. I like your homemade kind. And you can get more servings out of a box of pasta this way. Or from a bag of potaotes for that matter. There for healthy and cheep!!! Love love this. THanks for going though the trouble of figuring out the seasonings for this. lol.

  26. CindyP says:

    Had a thought of using the dried milk. Do you think it would it work ok to just add the amount of dried milk to the pack needed for that recipe? 2 c of milk would be 2/3 c dried milk….just put that right in the baggie, then just use all hot water?

  27. Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:

    Suzanne, great idea about the dried milk. I am not a milk drinker, but when you need it, you need it. I’ve wasted more milk in my lifetime… well I digress. Yes, you can freeze skim milk, but not whole milk. Fat doesn’t freeze at the same rate as water and the milk fat separates if you freeze the fully leaded stuff.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’m adding dried milk to my grocery list today!


  28. katherine says:

    This is probably just the recipe for the library cookbook in the makings…I’ll be sure and credit you too!

  29. Patty says:

    You are my hero!!!!!..I love you !!!!

  30. Lisa Twombly says:

    My goodness you are so clever! I am printing this out right now. My kids will love this. Thanks so much.

  31. Chic says:

    I haven’t eaten Hamburger Helper in probably 20 years or more and for the same reason you don’t like them Suzanne. After reading your recipes today I’m going to try a few and if Hubby likes them I’m going to make a few packages to keep in the pantry for those ‘rushed’ days. Great idea Suzanne…thanks!! :hungry2:

  32. aint for city gals says:

    Thank you for this…I too love Hamberger Helper but won’t make it because of the ingrediants…this sounds much better….going to make it tonight..

  33. Valerie says:

    I have thought of this so many times. I rotate shifts, and coming home at 6pm and needing to get supper on the table fast isn’t something I look forward to. Many times I’ll stop to pick up burgers or pizza, but I truly prefer home-cooked food. This is a wonderful idea. I honestly don’t know where you found the time, with the holidays and all, to do the detective work involved in deconstructing these meals. Thank you so very much.

  34. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    :woof: You are totally awesome! Thank you so much for these recipes!

  35. Lisa says:

    Thank you! Just last night my husband was asking for HH Lasagna! I haven’t bought this forever for the reasons you mentioned. Guess what I’m pulling together for tonight. One of the things I did to get my kids to eat the canned tomatoes so that we could have the flavor in our soup – casserole was to put them in the blender. Thanks again for doing this for us !!!

  36. Sarah says:

    I think this is so AWESOME!! My Hubby and I enjoy Hamburger Helper on occasion because it is so easy but we hate all the extra stuff put in it. Blick! I am printing this out and putting in my recipe binder for sure. Thank you so much for putting this together. πŸ™‚

  37. Connie Trippett says:

    Love the Hamburger Helper ideas. I keep dried milk on hand and use it for cooking all the time. The kids call it my cooking milk. lol. The kids don’t like to drink it but when it is needed for cooking, it leaves us way more regular milk for the kids to drink.

  38. Tabitha says:

    This is PERFECT for dinner tonight! I am really trying to drastically cut down our eating out/grocery budget this month and am trying to find things I already have in my pantry/fridge to cook without going to the store. Just the thought of that store bought Hamburger Helper makes me gag – I haven’t eaten it in years! Nasty stuff. This homemade version sounds soooo much more appealing.

    I think we’ll have the lasagna version tonight, lol. Thanks, Suzanne!

  39. Euni Moore says:

    What a great idea. I will make up packets to keep in our travel trailer especially when on the road and we stop for a quick bite to eat. This is healthier than fast food or making sandwiches. When do you find time to sleep? We truly appreciate all the time you spend among the myriad of chores on the farm creating these wonderful helpers for us. Long may you blog!


  40. Liz in Wis says:


  41. NorthCountryGirl says:

    What a neat idea! As much as I hate the idea of making meals from a box, it sure does come in handy when I’m either in a hurry or brain-dead in the meals- idea department. My guys like RIce-A-Roni which I snazz up with lots of veggie extras. Could you work on your version of this? It doesn’t use milk in the sauce so it is a bit different. IF you could whip that up in your “laboratory” I would be very happy!

  42. Carol says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas.


  43. auntbear says:

    A homemade quickie…the best kind. :hungry:

  44. wheezay says:

    Thank you soo much, these look yummny and easy. You ae awesome! :snoopy:

  45. Billy says:

    Great idea. I’m going to try the powedered-milk-in-the-packet first. Don’t limit to just HH flavors: add crumbled bacon, grilled peppers, brocolli, chili cheese fritos, anything else handy. Happy New Year Suz.

  46. mary kellogg says:

    Gosh, I’ve been making this for years and never had a name for it.

    I just brown a pound of hamburger with a chopped onion and atablespoon of chopped garlic, drain, add 1 1/2 cup macaroni, 1 cup half and half, 1 cup milk, 1 can tomato soup, 1 can mushroom soup, simmer until done. Incororate velvetta or cheddar cheese until melted.

    I like to bake mine for a bit to get the crispy edges.

  47. Sandi Sullivan says:

    Suzanne… :sheep:

    This is SUCH a help to my family and me…you have no idea!!! I have 4 boys ages 14, 12, 9 and 6 and ALL in various activities in the evenings(football, baseball, practices, etc…!)…sometimes just finding SOMETHING to eat in a hurry is nearly impossible…this is going to help immensly (sp?)!!! :snoopy:

    Again…thank YOU for sharing your tips, hints and homemaking talents!!!

    Sandi :ladybug:
    Blue Springs, MO

  48. Patricia Herman says:

    How long does powdered milk last?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Patricia, I don’t know how long powdered milk lasts, but I can tell you that at times in the past when I wasn’t baking as much, I’ve let a box sit around for a year and it was still good. I buy huge boxes of it now and it doesn’t sit around long!

  49. Casie says:

    Thanks so much for posting these DIY Hamburger Helpers!! We have 40+ pounds of ground venison and 100+ pounds of ground beef in the freezer… I have been worrying about how to use it all and not get completely bored! This will be a great addition to my recipes!

  50. kerri says:

    I’ve thought about doing this so many times and just haven’t taken the time. Now you’ve presented it so beautifully here I’ll give it a try. Thanks so much, Suzanne, for your ingenuity.
    I make a recipe very similar to Mary K’s (just above) and add about 4 torn up slices of American Cheese (the single slice type cheese). I know it’s not as good as “real” cheese, but if you’re in a hurry it works great and tastes good. :moo:
    It’s so snowy, windy and frigid here in upstate NY today that church was cancelled! Now that doesn’t happen very often. It’s a good day to stay inside and do “warm” things (like cooking) πŸ™‚

  51. Ruth - north CA says:

    Wow. Seriously, wow. I haven’t touched Hamburger Helper in near 20 years when I convinced DH that the ingredients were unidentifiable (WAY too salty!), hence nasty!

    Am sure thinking this will be a welcome addition to the pantry for the tired college kid and her BF when they come in from a long school day … they always seem to have classes right across lunch hour or need something to eat after night classes. Sometimes what I’ve fixed isn’t appealing enough for the comfort food need and HH is much the comfort food in one quick fix!

  52. Jo says:

    You are such an inspiration, Suzanne!! :snoopy:

    Now you’ve got me inspired to do this and have it in my pantry for those busy nights.

    This is one reason why I love you. :heart: (and no, I don’t mean that in a weird way πŸ˜† )

  53. Jamie says:

    I love hamburger helper!! my fav is cheeseburger macaroni. I think I could make it leaving out the chili powder in the chili mac recipe. Will definitely try it out! Although I use ground turkey instead of ground beef in everything.

  54. Jenny S. says:

    You’re incredible! There just are no words…

  55. merng says:

    Thank you for another excellent idea! These are typical ingredients in my house and I’m always looking for new ideas. Seems we get in a rut…I’m just not creative enough to dream up my own ideas, but love trying everyone elses.

  56. Lynette says:

    WOW, Hamburger Helper…..I LIVED on that stuff when I first moved out from my parent’s house. Then when I had kids and started reading labels, I knew I couldn’t feed my kids that stuff – I don’t even know what 1/2 that stuff is!

    Thank you so much for providing a homemade recipe for HH. I get to jog down memory lane, but in a grown up healthy way. I put it on the menu for this week. :eating:

  57. princessvanessa says:

    Something that I saw on television—buy 15% or 20% fat hamburger. Crumble and cook as you usually do. Drain as much grease as you can and then dump the pan full of drained, cooked hamburger into a colander. Rinse under HOT tap water for 2 or 3 minutes, shaking and “tossing” it in the colander so all the hamburger gets a good rinse.

    Doing this rinses away a lot of grease and will reduce the fat content from 15% to about 7% and 20% to about 10%.

    15% and 20% hamburger is about $1 less per pound than the leaner 7% or 10% hamburger.

    Diabetic education class also said that you can half the salt content on “solid” canned vegetables (i.e.-corn, peas, beans) by emptying can into colander and rinsing for 3 minutes.


  58. Dawn says:

    It would never occur to me to make home made hamburger helper! How inventive! We have goulash occassionally–1 lb. hamburger, elbow macaroni, tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes or whatever and season it. It goes over pretty well.

  59. MMT says:

    This is great! Haven’t had HH for years either. Tried to convince myself it was a homecooked meal, but knew it was no good. Checked the pantry already and will be making some tonight. Something I like to do is make precooked ground beef, divide it up into 1 or 1 1/2 lb. packages and freeze. Great to put together a pizza or spaghetti, etc. and will make these recipes even quicker. I buy the big package of ground beef and brown up a few pounds with onions for recipes and press out hamburgers in ziplock sandwich bags to put in the freezer. Good to throw in when we go horsecamping. These recipes would be easy to make over the fire as well. Thanks Suzanne for the great ideas.

  60. Christine says:

    My son loves hamburger helper. I’ve been meaning to do this same thing for a long time. Thanks!

  61. Lola-Dawn says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Hamburger Helper is one of my favourite in-a-hurry-but-starving meals. I KNOW I’m going to get a headache from it … obviously reacting to some of the preservatives … but it just tastes so darned good when time is short and I’m hungry! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, Suzanne! I’m going to make up a batch of these this week so I can enjoy without the headache.

    By the way, another huge THANK YOU for your Condensed Cream Soup Mix! This has become a well-used staple in my kitchen.

    Looking forward to what comes out of your lab … er … kitchen next!

  62. Beth Brown says:

    Yum! We’ll definitely be giving this a try!

    Beth aka oneoldgoat

  63. Jessica says:

    Awesome post, thank you. We like HH stroganoff, but it’s a bit bland tasting anymore. I don’t like too many of the HHs because they are not that tasty. We had one that was with potatoes and cheese, and oh my it was the nastiest thing I ever tried to eat. The kids wouldn’t eat it and we had to throw it away, what a waste!

    I’m going to make Grandmother bread this week for the first time, I am excited! I have made bread before, but it was in my aunt’s bread maker that she never used.

  64. Robin Medici says:

    Since my kids have grown up I’ve stopped trying to imitate these box dinners (which they loved as kids but have grown up with real taste buds – thank Gad!) I did the same thing with Rice A Roni – saute rice and broken pasta in lots of butter, when the pasta is browned I added homemade chicken broth, a cube of bouillon, some garlic & onion powder, simmer – Rice a Roni! Much better than box and still a family favorite!

  65. lisa b says:

    wow ! this looks great. I cant wait to try to make some

  66. Memoria says:

    Thank you!!!! I ashamedly love Hamburger Helper, but I haven’t had any of it since I started cooking and baking. I will be bookmarking this post and using the recipe ideas over and over again. Thank you again!

  67. wvhomecanner says:

    Hmmmm with some home canned hamburger crumbles …. darn near instant meal!


  68. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    muy, muym I LOVE you.
    I have a kid that would live on HH if I would buy it!

    I have a recipe for different flavored Rice-a-Roni type mixes. Let me know if you’re interested.

  69. Kacey says:

    Yes, once I learned about make your own hamburger helper, I never bought a box again. So simple. I also buy ground beef in bulk and brown it and put it in the freezer in about 1 lb amounts, give or take. Then it really is instant dinner. The kids loved it.

  70. Andi says:

    Yay! I am so excited to try this! I’m with you. What the heck is that in hamburger helper?

  71. kelly says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much for this post!!!!!! My daughter and I have been on a make everything from scratch instead of making instant anything. I can not tell you thank you enough!!! You are the best!! :dancingmonster: :woof: I can’t wait to try them all. I have even found a recipe for miracle whip salad dressing and for homemade corn dogs instead of the frozen store bought kind.

  72. Michelle p says:

    Yours look so much better! I have eaten hamburger helper before and to me they all taste like the same flavor of cardboard no less! Gross! I do make what we call a Perkins Special which is our take on hamburger helper. Think i will try your versions! Sounds good. Oh, and I never buy fresh milk only powdered. We just don’t use much and waste to much otherwise.

  73. Jessica says:

    Love the blog. Just wanted to add a quick tip about the box of dry milk that I have been doing with my family for awhile now. I keep a box of dry milk always and I mix up and use the dry milk in all my recipies that call for milk. I leave the gallon of ‘real’ milk for cereal and drinking. It cuts down on how much we spend on buying ‘real’ milk and there really is no difference in taste in cooking with dry milk or ‘real’ milk. I’m all about saving money so I thought I’d pass this tip along to you and your readers. Keep blogging and I’ll keep reading.

  74. Laurie in Wisconsin says:

    I second many of the posters above, please write a cookbook! I would buy it and get a bunch for gifts to other people. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas with us!

  75. Katy says:

    Suzanne, I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!!!! This will be so wonderful! My husband likes Hamburger Helper, but he has high blood pressure and I refuse to give him that much salt. This is just what I needed! PLEASE write a cookbook! I will buy several copies. In fact, I’ll make my list right now of people I want to buy them for.

    Really, truly, I don’t know what I’d do without you.

  76. Julieanna says:

    You have absolutely nooooooooo idea how much my Hubby loves Hamburger Helper and how much I hate it. I made it under duress for him a couple of times a year…. but now,…. he can have it all the time. :hungry: I just took some burger out of the freezer for tacos… but now I’m going to try the HH. THANK YOU, THANK YOU. :snoopy: Suzanne, I don’t think you will ever know how much you are appreciated. This is the best site I have ever stumbled across. Love ya!! :wave:

  77. tabbimama says:

    I love you Suzanne. This post made my day. My family loves HH too, but it is so unhealthy. I love this idea. I am also loving the dry milk idea and the rice a roni recipes. Suzanne, I would love for you to write a cookbook also but not if it would take you away from this website too much or make you all high-faluting. I am content to copy and paste your recipes into my recipe file. Thanks

  78. UlrikeDG says:

    My husband has been requesting Hamburger Helper for a couple of weeks now (I’m trying not to take it personally), and I can’t bring myself to buy it. I think he just wants something easy to make for the kids on nights when I’m not home. The funny thing is, I don’t think the kids will actually *eat* HH. Maybe I’ll try this and see if it satisfies his craving.

  79. Kathie says:

    My partner might have celiac, so we are trying to keep a gluton free home. The boxed mixes include lots of additives she cannot have. I can use quinoa or veggie elbows in many of these, and I am sure it will be just as good.


  80. mittened paw says:

    Thank you for easy to prepare and make ahead recipes. Like a lot of women, I work long hours outside the home and I appreciate any help I can get! Keep up the good work and stay warm – its freezing here in TN, I can only imagine how cold it must be in Roane County.

  81. Dessa says:

    :shimmy: Suzanne!! You are awesome!!! My family loves HH, too but I refuse to buy the prepackaged crap. They will be so happy… :dancingmonster:

  82. Laney says:

    Suzanne! You are such a resource for recipes, laughs and comfort.
    My husband was laid off mid-December and I have been on a tear to figure out how we can eat easily and inexpensively as possible while we figure out what is next for us. I am NOT a cook by any means and I need easy and tasty meals to make that are affordable. I came to your blog tonight and VIOLA! You have given me a valuable resource. Thank you so much. I will be gathering supplies to stock my pantry for the above recipes. I will substitute ground turkey (as I don’t care to eat beef) but I feel that I have found recipes that I will use for years to come (not just during this tough time). :hug:

  83. DJ says:

    Oh my gosh! I detest hamburger helper, but my grown kids live on that stuff. urg. I’m sending this to them so they can make something that doesn’t taste like cardboard. thank you!
    (found your site on “stumble”..happy happy joy joy!)

  84. Julie Johnson says:

    I buy my hamburger in bulk. When I come home from the grocery store, I cook up a bunch of it & freeze it into 2 cup portions, which would be about the equivalent of a pound of hamburger. With my frozen hamburger, these meals would be ready in probably 15 minutes! Gotta love those fast meals when the kids are starving!

  85. Michelle says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I HATE buying the boxed stuff and had thought about this idea but you perfected it for us all. Yet another reason that I LOVE your blog!

  86. Tammy says:

    Had it for dinner last night and my kids proclaimed it better than the boxed HH – which is high praise indeed. THANK YOU for the great post and all the others you post and all the work that goes into them. You rock! :woof:

  87. Stargirl Heuser says:

    Oh my goodness. Suzanne, my boyfriend and I had this for dinner tonight. It was so delicious; I couldn’t get over how yummy it was! I am NEVER using store bought boxed dinners again! I’m going to try and cook more things from scratch! There are so many preservatives in food these days, it’s crazy!

    I have been a reader of your blog for sometime, but since I’ve started cooking, my interested in your website has gone up exponentially! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!!!!

  88. Patty says:

    I made the chili mac for dinner last night…SO much better than the box junk, in fact my people screamed MORE double it next time…..but now we need chicken recipies…HINT, HINT

  89. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this. I’m not sure how to replicate the cheeseburger hamburger helper — it must have seasoning in it, but I have no idea what. Any ideas?

  90. Theresa says:

    I love doing my own “hamburger helper” but this page is GREAT! What a wonderful reference for all the different kinds!

  91. Faye says:

    Have you tried this with whole wheat pasta or any of the high-fiber whole grain noodles? I’m guessing I’d just have to increase the cooking time, but maybe also the liquid? Or maybe, it’s like white vs. brown rice — you just can’t easily swap them out and expect them to behave the same …

  92. Faye says:

    Have you tried the lasagna version with no-boil lasagna noodles?

  93. Jacqueline says:

    Thank you so much! I am Celiac, so I cannot eat the HH brand. This will help me so much to make the basic recipe and use my rice pastas.

  94. midwestmom says:

    Thanks for adding Cheeseburger Mac, that’s our favorite. Also we love Cheesy Hashbrowns. Can’t wait to try this!

  95. Nicky Hurt says:

    I just discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and I have been devouring it. I have always wanted to live a “country live” (minus the harvesting yeast, and making lard parts, I’ve decided). But I made this cheesy mac recipe the other night and it is FABULOUS! I will never buy box HH again! My kids can’t wait to try other flavors, too! THANK YOU!

  96. Arsh says:

    Thank you for this. I have copied down all of your remakes and tried several of them. My mate and I love the taste of these recipes and they are so much better for us than the boxed variety!

    Thank you so much! :woof: :purpleflower: :purpleflower:

  97. Ouida Gabriel says:

    Visiting from Amy Humble Musings. I just had to say “YOU ROCK!”

    I love this!

    Ouida Gabriel

  98. Beth says:

    YAY!!!! This is EXACTLY what I was looking for!! Thank you!!

    Do you have one for the “4 Cheese Manicotti” one?

  99. sheila says:

    You have changed my life!!! I’m not a HH or processed food fan, but these one skillet wonders have made my life SOOOOOO much simpler. I’ve discovered this post about a week ago and have been making it at least once a day since then. Right now, we’re in the middle of wheat harvest. Of course, the crew refuses to eat sandwiches. So now I’m able to make a hot meal, using ONE pan, from scratch in no time flat. THANK YOU!

  100. Bill Malamute says:

    I haven’t looked thru all of the comments, so my apologies if I’m repeating someone. Other things to do to mix it some, substitute other meats for hamburger. Ground sausage, ground pork, hot links, diced chicken breast, diced boneless skinless chicken thighs, can of tunafish (they don’t call it tuna helper for nothing), frozen shrimp, artificial crab meat, etc. Even combine meats, think of how that Jambalaya recipe would work with frozen shrimp and slices of italian sausage in lieu of a lb of ground beef.

  101. Beth says:

    Thank you so much. My family loves hamburger helper, too… in fact it is one of the few meals everyone seems to like and the only way my picky 18-mo-old will eat pasta. But I don’t like it at all!. I have made your chili mac, cheesy chili mac, and cheeseburger mac and all have been a big success– plus they are cheaper, make more than the boxed mix, and I don’t feel like I’m eating fake food. You saved me. Now I’m trying whole wheat pasta and adding some vegetable puree in, ha ha!

  102. Lisa says:

    Love your post! I am wondering if you can figure out the spices / cheeses for Cheddar Cheese Melt flavor? I have decoded the following possible “real” ingredients from the box:

    Ricotta cheese, dried
    Cheddar cheese, dried
    Onion Powder
    Garlic Powder
    Blue cheese, dried
    Soy Sauce
    Beef stock

  103. Michael says:

    Wow!!! Thank you so much for this. I’ve been living in England for the last 1.5yrs and had such a craving for Cheeseburger Mac. It’s not available in Europe in any form. So after a very disappointing trip to the store we decided to search online. We absolutely loved it!

  104. Louise Cook says:

    :fairy: I love your website and I’m sending the url to all my family so they can check it out to. they’ll love it.

  105. Andrea says:

    I can’t wait to try these! I grew up on hamburger helper but quit eating it years ago because of the ingredients. My son just started eating table food so this discovery is perfect timing!

  106. Isabelle says:

    I am so excited to try these homemade helper recipes! I am making box helper tonight, again. The kids love it, I hate it-for the same reasons that you listed. For some reason the kids don’t always love my culinary creations. I can’t wait to try these homemade helpers, better for the kids and I may even be able to look foward to dinner again. Thanks!

  107. Renee P says:

    I tried the Lasagna tonight, it was great. My 15 month old loved it! Thanks so much for writing these. Renee P

  108. Anne says:

    :snoopy: thank you so much for this post. I was wondering if you have any ideas for the tuna helper. I don’t eat meat so I always make tuna helper for myself.
    Thanks again!

  109. Barbara Bechtel says:

    This is a great post. I have a man who loves him some hamburger helper and I’m less than thrilled about cooking it for him. I stumbled about your site in order to find the proper ratio for pasta to liquid for cooking everything in one pan. I don’t do the dried seasonings usually, so I cook the meat and veg in the pan and add flour and let cook for a minute or two, then add half of the liquid slowly required stirring constantly to prevent lumps, then add the pasta and the remaining liquid for a stroganoff type variety. Add the peas and sour cream at the end as a stir in….much better and tastier than the boxed stuff. I also sub in fake meat crumbles and use a veg or chicken broth for added flavor for the liquid to make a cheaper and lower fat variety. add the fake meat after the sauteeing of onion and garlic though….

  110. Stacy says:

    I have been gluten free for two years and really miss Hamburger Helper. It was my go to weekend lunch meal and sonce my husband didn’t eat it, I alwats had enough for leftovers. I made the stroganoff a few weeks ago with some of my GF noodles, and it was good, but I felt like it was missing something. This time I added a teaspoon of beef boullion granules and wow! That made it taste almost exactly like the boxed stuff, except that it was better! Thank you so much! I never thought I could have one of my favorite comfort foods again!

  111. Southern~Gal says:

    Lovn this site…. My husband and kids love hambugar helper but won’t buy it any longer… these recipes are great… Wondering if these recipes can be doubled to make larger amount? one batch is just not enough to go around. Thanks for the recipes..

  112. Southern~Gal says:

    GREAT!!! Thanks so much… My counter is full of all ingredients now and I’m having fun making these up for future use for some good eatn’…. You are such a blessing!!!

  113. Holly says:

    Awesome. I’ve been searching around for HH substitutes, but I kept finding sites that suggested “chopping an onion” and adding seasonings. Duh – I know how to make “chop meat & noodles” (what my boyfriend calls ground beef, onion, and egg noodles mixed together). I needed to find EXACTLY what you’ve come up with here! My boyfriend and I are both hypoglycemic, so when we both get home from work and we’re hungry, we need to eat NOW.

    I also love to cook, and I cook/bake everything from scratch, so when I read the first line of this post I knew I found the right person! Thanks for figuring out the formulas for all the mixes. No more paying $3 for a cup of pasta and salty “seasonings”!! I found this page through Google, so I haven’t looked around at the rest of this site yet, I will definitely be checking out the rest of your blog!

  114. Shelley says:

    I was curious if you had a recipe for Hamburger Helper’s Cheesy Enchilada. One of our favorites. πŸ™‚

  115. Shelley says:

    P.S. I’m not a creative cook. I can’t “taste” what’s in a recipe. I appreciate these recipes that “explain” these dishes we love –from scratch!!!

  116. Dee Tut says:

    I just found your site. I was looking for a Hamburger Helper Beef Pasta Recipe. I didn’t see one could you recommend something similar?


  117. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Dee, try working with the beef stroganoff recipe in the post. To make it more of a beef pasta type, reduce the milk (use more water instead) and try elbow macaroni. You’ll have to experiment with the seasonings a bit. All of the HH box mixes are amazingly similar–it’s just a little more or less with the milk vs water, slightly different seasonings, and different types of pasta.

    Shelley, I haven’t tried to make the cheesy enchilada, but I’d start with the cheesy beef taco recipe I have in the post to adapt for that. (I guarantee they are very similar!)

  118. Billie says:

    :sheepjump: This is fantastic, thank you!

  119. Lisa Vukmirovich says:

    It was great-so much better than the “original”. THANK YOU!

  120. Whitney says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I got married a short time ago and we just moved into our first apartment so I need all the cooking help I can get. You’ve really helped me out πŸ™‚

  121. maryperk says:

    These are really great recipes. Anything homemade is tastier than storebought. Thanks for having these posted. I was just curious if you had done anything similar for the Tuna Helpers? Thanks for posting these.

  122. Laura says:

    My husband will only eat hamburger helper or fast food. I have tried to cook it for him. But the sodium just blows me away! I swear I feel it in my body! bluk! Tonight I am trying your version! I have high hopes! Thanks for your personal research!

  123. AB says:

    A friend just cooked HH for my kids and they saw the box and said, “what’s that?” I cringed when my 6 year-old son asked if we could buy some. I did buy a few boxes for “emergency” situations, but this looks much better. I’m thinking it would be best to make a large container of the mixed spices and then just have to measure out ~3T each time!

  124. Peggy says:

    It is amazing where a google search will bring you. This post is wonderful. It is not my kids but my hysband who has not been able to give up the hamburger helper – I think i may win him over with these recipes.


  125. Dale says:

    HH became one of my good friends when I went through an extended illness and couldn’t cook like I used to. But, now that I’m doing better, I can cook homemade meals again. The problem is…we actually like HH. Your recipes look and smell like the boxed version. I’ve been skipping the sugar and salt though. I’m wondering if that’s the reason why it’s coming out kind of bland. Any ideas on how to punch it up a bit and make it more flavourful? Do I need to add the sugar and salt?

  126. Shelly says:

    This was the first return when I googled ‘homemade hamburger helper’. Great article and recipes! Can’t wait to give them a try!

  127. Bonnie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your hard work with us! We tried the lasagna HH tonight and really liked it. Next time we’d like to try it with some tomato sauce tho to make it more like real lasagna. Would you suggest replacing the diced tomatoes 1:1 for sauce or replacing some of the water with sauce? I don’t want it to be too watery!

    I’m pregnant and trying to make ahead as much as I can so that the first couple weeks/months with the new baby will be easier. So I’m looking forward to making some of each type!

    PS – Do you think using canned potatoes would work instead of using fresh or dehydrated? Thanks!!!

  128. Bonnie says:

    Suzanne, thanks! Any thoughts on the tomato sauce?

  129. Bonnie says:

    Awesome! That was my thought too. You’re a doll…thanks again!!! :happyflower:

  130. nikki says:

    my husband likes to “doctor up” hamburger helper with his own special ingredients. I started gaining a lot of weight cuz we were eating it so much. I told him i cant eat this anymore, so he’s like don’t they sell healthy HH? I came across this months after i lost the weight. i wished i had seen it sooner. gonna give it a try.

  131. Keith says:

    Thank you so much for posting this information. I love hamburger helper. And as a busy grad student, it’s usually all I have time to make. However, I’ve been trying to eat healthier, and all that processed crap certainly wasn’t helping. By cutting out the salt and sugar and using skim milk, light cheese and lean ground beef, I’ve managed to cook something delicious as well as healthy and natural. And thanks for the cayenne pepper idea. Half a tablespoon gives it a nice kick.

  132. Jenny says:

    I grew up on HH, so it’s a huge comfort food for me. However, I’ve really cut a lot of processed food from my diet, so I haven’t eaten it in years.

    This afternoon I made your cheeseburger mac version with lean grass-fed local beef, whole wheat elbows, and reduced the salt and sugar by 1/2. It was really good, and had all the nostalgia I was looking for πŸ™‚


  133. Joy says:

    Wow. I found this site when I googled hamburger helper recipes, looking for alternatives to the boxed kind as my son has Celiac Disease and cannot eat the regular pasta in those packages. We just ate the first chili cheese recipe, and I can’t wait to try some of the others. A quick and easy meal with leftovers for my son’s school lunch the next day. Thank you so much!

  134. Sara Bram says:

    Thank you! This is such a great idea!

  135. Teirza says:

    AMAZING!!!!! Thank the lord i found this i am 24 and i live with my boyfriend and brother and boy do they love to eat bad their favorite is hamburger helper!!!… now i can “trick” them into eating good, this is too good to be true!!! Thanks a million πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  136. jonna says:

    My 15 month old loves you!! I am all about eating homemade food, but with a baby I can’t cook big meals all the time so this was a great idea

  137. Mrs. R. says:

    I love these recipes. Thanks very much for them. I pre packaged them all for the freezer, they all freeze well (even the cheese). We got hooked on boxed HH when I had a lengthy illness. We found out we like it but I want to do a healthier, homemade (cheaper) version now that I’m able.

    I have a question though. I find these recipes to be a bit bland. Do you have any ideas on how to kick up the flavour a bit? I’ve tried more of the spices and adding things like Worcestershire sauce where appropriate. My other thoughts, that I’ve not tried are dijon mustard or even dry mustard powder. I had been skipping the salt and sugar. Maybe I shouldn’t do that? Any ideas?

  138. Lynda says:

    :snoopy: Kudos! We like to eat real food around here, but tonight my family threw me a curve ball. My husband said he was in the mood for some comfort food, something cheesy and noodle filled. He suggested I start with a bechamel sauce (I was looking for something easier, and more mapped out tonight). My son said he wanted to try hamburger helper. I wasn’t about to serve up a plate full of “ingredients”, lol. So I searched the web, and like mana from heaven there you were! Thank you! They loved it. I should have made a double batch because it is all gone. BTW: I’m out of cornstarch, but I substituted 2T of all purpose flower and it came out just fine. Looking forward to trying the other varieties. And to reading your site, you are obviously brilliant :sun:

  139. Tabitha K Payne says:

    Wow, this sounds excitingly delicious! Can’t wait to try it on my picky eater this evening.
    Thanks a bunch!

  140. CMHValex says:

    Out of curiosity, if you do use dry milk, can you add it to the sauce packet, and then use extra water (as much as it would take to reconstitute what you need)? Or does it make a difference? I’ve never used dry milk before, but if you can just add the powder to the packet, it would cut out a step when it comes time for cooking. Would this work, or am I better off leaving the step in and reconstituting the milk when I need to add it? Thanks in advance!

  141. CMHValex says:

    Thanks so much! I’m new to your blog, but it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve mentioned this post to three other people, and they all wanted a copy. Another random question: you wouldn’t happen to have something similar to this for Macaroni and Cheese would you? I confess I buy store boxes because it’s ready in the microwave in about ten minutes with minimal mess. I’m not a great cook (but I can make hamburger helper, which means I can make these!), so the idea of baking macaroni and cheese is kind of intimidating.

  142. CMHValex says:

    Thanks! That’s definitely one I’ll have to keep in mind!

  143. Lizzy says:

    For the veggies/those who can’t afford ground beef regularly: Use dried lentils! They cook at about the same rate as ground beef. Just simmer in water with a spoonful of bouillon thrown in and just boil down instead of draining.

  144. kelly says:

    Wow! I just made your Chili Mac HH and it was sooooo easy & delicious. I don’t usually buy HH but every once in awhile I get a craving for the Chili Mac. I can’t believe how fast & simple it was – it hardly took much longer than the packaged version and we can’t believe how great it tastes! I will bookmark your site & try other recipes! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

  145. Lisa says:

    Wonder if you could figure out what is in the chicken helpers too if you get the time

  146. Carrie says:

    My 6 year old son has several dietary limitations for a chronic medical condition. Thank you so much for these recipes. He loves this type of food but was not able to have it because of the preservatives and dyes. These recipes are a real gift!

  147. torontomommy says:

    This is fantastic!

    We’re in the process of selling our home and moving, and, with a toddler to care for, there just isn’t a lot of time left over for cooking. I needed something quick that wasn’t full of additives, and I found your fabulous idea!

    I see that there is another vegetarian here, who suggested lentils. I will have to try that! I usually add either black beans or kidney beans to recipes that call for ground beef, and navy or canellini beans in the place or ground chicken.

    I am vegetarian, but my husband is not, and my toddler will eat, but does not love, meat. So there is something here for all of us. πŸ™‚

  148. Leslie says:

    I’m so glad I found this!! I’m really weird about food colorings and additives, so I never buy HH, but I kind of miss it. So I tried this tonight (the cheeseburger macaroni) and it was sooo good!

    I used whole wheat pasta and ground turkey (no beef for me) and it turned out great. The water was absorbed pretty fast and it got thick before the noodles were fully cooked, so I added a little extra liquid, yummm!

  149. Eve says:

    :fairy: Yum!! What a fun recipe…and SOOOO helpful! Great job breaking it all down; making it easy, and exciting! I was so curious at every step of the way “Is this really going to taste right”? This is my first time on your site so it has nothing to do with you, only my own inability to take a seasoning mix and translate it into separate parts that work. Kudos! I followed your basic recipe using Ground Turkey Breast…worked perfectly!

  150. Kristine says:

    This is excellent and just what I was looking for. I also cook everything at home, have never bought hamburger helper for my kids for the same reasons you listed, and I’ve been going nuts cooking and getting dinner on the table late sometimes. This fills a delicious gap for my kids. Thanks so much. They’ll love it.

  151. Stormy says:

    Bless you! Bless you! Bless you!

    My husband, who’s diabetic, loves Hamburger Helper. I’d rather eat the box it came in! The cardboard would both taste better and be more nutritious.

    You have made homemade helper easy for me, though I am (gasp) going to use the powdered cheese that came with the macaroni… at least this time.

    He will be /so/ happy! He gets his helper and I get to know that I’ve put a meal in front of him that’s not full of salt and sugar!

  152. Carrie says:

    Awesome! We are trying out Cheeseburger Macaroni tonight. My son loves Hamburger Helper and so did I until my reaction to MSG started to get a lot worse. I’ve found a couple of other sites elsewhere for homemade HH but they just didn’t do it for me – this sounds perfect – we’re going to add in some bacon and onions.

  153. Renna says:

    I just tried the Salisbury steak hamburger helper recipe. It tasted just like regular hamburger helper, which I’m not so crazy about, but my son is, so I was happy to make it knowing exactly what went into it. Thanks for sharing the recipies!

  154. Heather says:

    This is an amazing recipe. I have been looking for something like this. My family also loves hamburger helper (I also don’t) Thanks for sharing.
    I am having a link party featuring mixes you can make yourself. I would love it if you would link up this recipe. Thanks again for a great recipe.

  155. Janet says:

    What a great idea, thank you!!!! And it will work with my ground beef formula so my family gets more fiber/less meat/still tastes good:

    2 lb. ground beef
    2 cups cooked cracked wheat

    Mix well; this makes 6 cups, or a substitute for 3 lbs. ground beef.
    Every 2 cups of this mix is like using 1 lb. of ground beef. We freeze it in 2 cup increments.

  156. Mary M says:

    Since it is just my husband & I the boxed stuf made too much for us and I was having to divide it. I can make this is quantities that will work for us. Since I found this through google I will be checking out some of the other stuff.

  157. Lacey says:

    Thank You! My husband and I switched to eating whole, and mostly local, foods about two months ago. We rarely bring home heavily processed food anymore, but last night I began craving Potato Stroganoff something fierce. I am going to cook up your recipe tomorrow! You just saved me from buying a box of food I would have regretted later ^_^.

  158. wncmomto3 says:

    I just tried the Cheeseburger Mac today. Thank you so much! I, too worry about all the preservatives that go into the boxed stuff. I found this to be very similar to the flavor of the boxed mix. My family would not have known the difference had I not told them. Thanks again!!!!

  159. TwinsMum92 says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I HATE buying the unhealthy box stuff.
    Question regarding the Potato Stroganoff – when do you add the sour cream? When you add the milk/water or at the end like most traditional stroganoff recipes?
    Can’t wait to try some of your versions! πŸ™‚

  160. linamark says:

    Love this but I am looking for a simple beef noodle version. Any suggestions? How would I change the packet? Thank you so much for doing this. Hamburger Helper is one of my guilty pleasures!!

  161. krobbin3 says:

    OH WOW, Thank you! I cannot wait to try these out! Last night, I put some of these “kits” together with the spice mix, pasta and can of diced tomatoes , each in their own cute little brown paper bag. My husband LOVES the idea of looking in the cabinet and being able to pick out a meal. He also feels very loved (probably because I drew hearts on the bags!)

    I would be extremely interested in any updates on this blog like new flavors that have been created/discovered. Cheesy Enchilada is also my favorite and that is because of the mysterious white(BUT DELICIOUS) topping. What is it? Also, if you have any other ideas for “meal kits” that I can make outside of the HH realm, I would be very appreciative!

    Found you on google and I can tell that you rock! -Katie

  162. hswartz says:

    I must say that I come to this post at least once a week for the recipes. I love them. I have already encouraged friends and a few coworkers to use them too. πŸ™‚ Its cheaper than buying Hamburger Helper from a box and it tastes so much better (not to mention I get to skip my husband complaints of too much salt).

  163. cpitt2 says:

    I would love some of the tuna helpers too. I keep coming back and hoping… We’ve tried several of the hamburger versions and love them.

  164. ali_cole86 says:

    Recently my hubby to started a new job. Unfortunately this new job came with a $400 paycut for the first 90 days, so money has been tight. At this time we can only afford hamburger for meat. I needed some dinners to mix up the menu. You can eat so many spaghettis dishes, and tacos, and hamburgers. My family loves Hamburger helper and right now it is not on sale and I really have never like the fact that I really did not know what was in it. Quite scary. I came across this recipe and gave it a shot. I WILL NEVER BY THE BOX JUNK AGAIN!!!! It was just as easy and I keep all these ingredients in the house at all times. I don’t even like hamburger helper myself and I went and got seconds. I doubled the recipe and I have enough left over for 2 lunches. One for me and one for the hubby. I cannot wait to try the others and see what happens. Thanks for helping with the grocery budget. I figured out the cost. And it is about half price than what I would pay at the store for this. :snoopy:

  165. ourhouse says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I posted this on my blog’s Facebook page to direct my friends to this post; I hope you don’t mind. A lot of my friends don’t like to buy the box because of the ingredients so I find this might help them and me of course! Thank you again!

  166. amwolf says:

    These are great! My family has enjoyed several of the versions here. I was wondering if anyone has tried to do the same thing with chicken helper? I would love to know how to make that as well since chicken is often still cheaper for me to purchase than beef and it would add some more variety to our meals.

  167. mom22hsboys says:

    My son (12y)is making the chili cheeseburger for dinner tonight. It smells great.

  168. mom22hsboys says:

    It was great. Made a double portion and cut the milk down by a cup and it was perfect. Thank you for a new dish for our dinners.

  169. Cat says:

    Tried the posted recipe – but honestly didn’t realize it said CHILI so I thought it was really quite powerful. Very tasty, though. I think for our family (and my teenagers like spicy)I would still cut the chili powder back to half. I actually will make this again – it was quite good (and very fast!!) Think I will try some of the other recipes you posted for the variations of this recipe. Good job!

  170. sithchick says:

    We have this on the stove right now and it smells delicious! I just wanted to second what Julia Johnson said about buying ground beef in bulk, cooking it up when you get home from the store, and freezing it in 1 lb portions. I like to cook it up with some garlic and onions, sometimes other veggies too. It really makes this sort of thing go by in a flash!

  171. mmiano says:

    This is great! These recipes seem like the most accurate to the Betty Crocker versions out there. My boyfriend has been asking me to try to make the “beef pasta” hamburger helper. Do you have a recipe for that one?

  172. Angeladif says:

    Bless your heart for taking the time and effort to give us this info on hamburger helper from scratch! This evening I made Potato Beef Stroganoff from scratch, using your tips. It was great! And so much better than the box mix. You are right; those box mixes have freeze dried ingredients that aren’t too appetizing. I so appreciate you, and your willingness to share your knowledge!

  173. 3leggedman says:

    I was really excited to try this, but it was missing something! I still don’t know what else I may add to this recipe, but it needs something to pick up the bland taste!

  174. [email protected] says:

    After three years and almost 200 comments you wouldn’t think there would be much else to say but I couldn’t resist throwing in my two cents (in fact, I registered just so I could). I’ve been vegan for seven years but was raised on junk food like Hamburger Helper which is why probably my pregnancy cravings led me on a search for a version that I could veganize. I made this for dinner tonight using veggie crumbles, whole wheat elbows, rice milk, and Daiya vegan cheese and let me tell you, it was amazing! I had two helpings, the kids gobbled it up, and my omnivore husband said it was the best pasta I’ve ever made πŸ™‚ That’s really saying something consider how much we like our pasta around here. I cannot wait to try out the alternate versions. Thanks so much for this great recipe!

  175. scrotumdestroyer says:

    I feel like I just hit the jack pot! I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, so I can no longer eat starchy foods and can only have a certain amount of carbs in a day. With these recipes (sans corn starch) and add whole wheat pasta, I can still eat my favorite thing in the world: Hamburger helper! And now that I know how bad boxed hamburger helper is for you, i’ll never eat it again! :dancingmonster:

  176. Daemo says:

    I suggest using on 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in these instead of a whole tablespoon. The whole tablespoon makes it too thick and it feels much heavier. :hungry:

  177. liaglynn says:

    I’m curious as if there is a way that I can pin this to pintrest so I can add it to my collection of recipes to make this week? Thanks

  178. hsmom1108 says:

    First let me say thank you!! I love all the recipes and the great ideas in the comments are awesome too. I have never used powdered milk so I think I may try that. With 2 little ones who drink all the milk in site it will be helpful to not have to worry about having milk on hand! Now for the questions!! I was wondering if you had a recipe for cheesy tuna melt or cheesy ranch burger? These are two we do like and I am honestly not a great cook (still learning!). We like to use tuna in dishes but unless its a hamburger helper one I really never seem to have luck =( It never tastes quite right.

  179. Amaris says:

    I just wanted to say that this page has been an absolute life saver. Seriously. I hated getting Hamburger Helping (so much salt and preserhow is it stored? i need to know these things, it makes me crazy).
    My dad and brother especially like the cheesy taco, and I have to admit that I didn’t even tell them I used this recipe instead of buying the box when I first made it (and I omit the sugar), they didn’t even realize the difference until I told them. I do want to note that I use a taco mix recipe (, it’s very authentic tasting (similar to the McCormack taco seasoning packet), although I think it uses quite a bit of salt so I halve that and use two to three tablespoons of the mix depending on if I’m using hamburger or ground turkey (90/10 fat content). Or to taste.

    To hsmom1108, I saw your post and thought I might be a little help, though not with the cheesy tuna melt as I’ve never made that before.
    For a homemade ranch dressing dry mix these two sites have good recipes;
    The difference being the first one is more simple, minced onion, salt, garlic powder, dried parsley. The second adds dried dill and chives and powdered buttermilk, I think that rings a bit more authentic flavor wise, but if you don’t have those ingredients at hand or are short the first works well.
    Hope that helps you.

  180. FaerieWhings says:

    I love this particular page. I found this a few years ago and have shared it with many friends of mine. I use the first recipe, genrally, but add carrots. The sweet carrots paired with the chili powder…yum!

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