I’m fairly certain if you grew up in North America you’ve probably had Hamburger Helper. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain. Hamburger is ground meat that is inexpensive and quick to cook. Hamburger Helper is a boxed package of spices and dry pasta that you mix into cooked hamburger meat to make a meal. But what do you do if you want a bowl of creamy pasta and hamburger goodness without all the gluten and chemicals? You make our homemade Hamburger Helper recipe, of course!

homemade hamburger helper in a white bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This homemade Hamburger Helper recipe:

  • is quick and easy to make
  • doesn’t require fancy equipment or hard-to-find ingredients
  • is totally adaptable to any dietary restrictions or allergies

Why Make it Homemade?

If you’re gluten and dairy free – or you want to avoid a laundry list of unpronounceable pseudo-foods – homemade Hamburger Helper is just the thing for you! As delicious as it may be, store-bought Hamburger Helper is not a good option for those of us with food allergies. And making it yourself is a great opportunity to customize the taste based on your personal preferences.

Homemade Hamburger Helper Ingredients

  • Ground beef: you could use ground turkey, chicken, or veggie instead.
  • Spiral rice pasta: holds onto the sauce better than any other shape.
  • Paprika: sweet with a hint of spice.
  • Oregano: traditional Italian spice often used in pizza and pasta dishes.
  • Fresh parsley: one of the best herbs to be paired with pasta.
  • Salt: brings out the other flavors in the recipe.
  • Black pepper: has a smokey spice flavor.
  • Dijon mustard: it may seem weird, but this ‘secret ingredient’ adds a wonderful spicy tang.
  • Garlic: a pungent and spicy vegetable.
  • Beef broth: used to give the dish a deeper flavor.
  • Dairy-free milk: almond, soy, rice, coconut; whatever your heart desires!
  • Non-dairy cheese substitute: I like to use shredded Daiya cheddar cheese.


  • You can use chickpea, wheat (if you’re not allergic), quinoa, or corn pasta instead of rice.
  • Vary your spices! Try chili flakes, onion powder, basil, garlic powder, cayenne, or thyme along with or instead of the spices already listed in this recipe. However, I recommend making the recipe as is before varying your spices.
  • Try using your favorite shape of pasta: shells, elbows, spirals, etc.
  • Instead of lean ground beef try Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground veggie ‘meat.’
  • Add vegetables like peppers, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, etc.
homemade Hamburger Helper in a large skillet.

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper

  1. On medium-high heat, brown your ground beef in a large skillet until no longer pink. Drain off the fat and add the meat back into the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, boil the pasta according to the package directions. Strain and set aside (don’t worry about it getting cold, we’re gonna heat it up again).
  3. Add the spices, Dijon mustard, and garlic to the cooked meat in the skillet. Stir.
  4. Pour the broth and milk into the skillet. Stir to thoroughly combine with meat and spices.
  5. Add the pasta to the skillet and stir to coat.
  6. Simmer until heated through. Serve hot with a fresh parsley garnish!

What to Serve With Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper would go great with sides like:

Tips for Success

  • Customize the recipe! Add the spices, meat, and vegetables you like.
  • Let the dish sit for a few minutes after it’s done cooking so the cheese sauce can thicken up.
  • If you use ground chicken, switch to chicken broth, and if you use ground veggie ‘meat’ switch to vegetable broth.
homemade Hamburger Helper in a white bowl with an ornate spoon in it.


What is the difference between store-bought Hamburger Helper and homemade Hamburger Helper?

Store-bought Hamburger Helper contains large amounts of sodium, coloring agents, and preservatives. And while these things aren’t harmful when eaten infrequently, it’s better to reduce consumption of them when you can. Besides being better for you, this homemade Hamburger Helper recipe opens up the opportunity for you to personalize your dish based on your taste preferences!

Is Hamburger Helper healthy to eat?

Well, I wouldn’t consider it healthy or unhealthy. The boxed version contains a LOT of sodium and unnecessary preservatives. So, if you want to avoid those things, making homemade Hamburger Helper is a better choice! 

Can I use another type of meat?

Ground beef would be the ‘classic’ way to make Hamburger Helper, but if you want to use ground chicken or turkey instead, go right ahead! You could also use a veggie ground if you are vegetarian or vegan.

How to Make Ahead and Freeze for Later

Make the homemade Hamburger Helper as you normally would (i.e., follow the recipe’s instructions). Freezing: place the cooled homemade Hamburger Helper in a glass baking dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and then tinfoil and place in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheating: remove the dish from the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours. Remove the plastic wrap from the dish and then put the tinfoil back on. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and bake for 10-30 minutes more.

And if you want to keep your homemade Hamburger Helper leftovers in the refrigerator, store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

hamburger helper from scratch in a white bowl.

Dietary Considerations

This recipe is easy to customize for your unique dietary needs! See below:

  • Dairy-free: use dairy-free cheese and milk.
  • Gluten-free: use gluten-free pasta and make sure your broth is gluten-free.
  • Mustard-free: omit the Dijon mustard.
  • Vegetarian: use a veggie ground instead of beef and vegetable broth instead of beef broth.
  • Vegan: use vegan cheese and milk as well as veggie ground and veggie broth.
Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

Yield: 6 -8 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

A bowl full of creamy gluten-free hamburger helper goodness - without gluten or dairy!


  • O.5 kg / 1 lb ground beef
  • 454 g / 16 oz spiral rice pasta
  • 1 tsp each paprika, oregano, parsley, salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup milk; almond, soy, rice
  • 1/2 cup cheddar flavored Daiya or another non-dairy grated cheese substitute


  1. On medium heat, brown ground beef in a large skillet until no longer pink. Drain off fat.
  2. Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Strain and set aside.
  3. Add spices, mustard and garlic to cooked meat in skillet. Stir.
  4. Carefully pour broth and milk into skillet. Stir to thoroughly combine with meat and spices.
  5. Add pasta and stir to coat.
  6. Cook until heated through.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 445mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 27g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily via Nutrifox.

Did you make this recipe?

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So have you ever had Hamburger Helper? Did you like it? 

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  1. I am from the US and I know of HH but I personally don’t like it, but as a working Mom, I know it is fast and can be hearty. What kind of pasta did you use?

    1. Sorry, add it in after the broth and milk. 🙂 Thanks for pointing out that I missed that!

  2. Can you believe that I have never made Hamburger Helper? 🙂 Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. Lol. The boxed kind was a staple when I was a teenager and my mom went back to work. Now with food allergies in our house we make it from scratch just as easily!

  3. We sure have enjoyed featuring your post on the Top Ten at Full Plate Thursday. Thanks so much for sharing it with us and have a great week!
    Miz Helen

  4. The best thing about HH was that it was a one pot meal. I’m wondering if you added more broth/milk if you could just cook the pasta in with the meat? I have a version of my own (we call it Easy Mac) but I wanted something creamier so looking for options.