In this post I will show you how to make Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni that is just as easy as the popular boxed stuff you get from the grocery store. Best part is that homemade is a bit better for you. Our version is made with real ingredients that you can actually pronounce. And plenty of cheddar cheese!
Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with eating the Hamburger Helper version, I am just saying that it is just as easy to make your own. Plus, you can put your own twist on it with some of the suggestions below in the Substitutions & Additions section of this post.
Why you’ll love this homemade cheeseburger macaroni recipe
- The homemade version of this dish only requires simple ingredients you may already have in your pantry.
- It’s an easy dinner recipe that comes together in under 30 minutes making it perfect for busy weeknights.
- It has a creamy and cheesy sauce that is made with real cheese!
- Pasta dishes are a family favorite even picky eaters love.
- I feel like our homemade version has more macaroni than a box of Hamburger Helper.
Table of contents
See recipe card for exact amounts.
Ground Beef – we use 93/7 lean ground beef, if you use fattier ground beef you will need to drain it.
Macaroni – we found the larger macaroni noodles, the small ones will work.
Milk – I use whole milk, 2% will work.
Cheese – freshly grated off the block melts best but pre-shredded cheese works great too.
Ketchup – the boxed version has tomato sauce, we just use ketchup because we only need a little bit and I don’t want to buy a whole can of tomato sauce or tomato paste for one tablespoon.
Corn Starch – this thickens the cheese sauce.
Spices – paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt & black pepper.
How to make this easy homemade hamburger helper recipe
- In a large skillet (one that has a lid) cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned.
- While the meat cooks mix the corn starch and spices together in a small bowl. See note below.
- When the ground beef is brown add the water, ketchup, and spice mixture stirring to combine.
- Add the milk and pasta, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick.
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, or to your liking, add the shredded cheese and stir until melted.
- Let stand about 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken.
- I have a new-ish ceramic cook top stove and browning the ground beef takes about 5 minutes on medium heat for me. If your stove isn’t as hot as mine you may need to cook it on medium-high heat. A simmer on my stove happens on low heat, you may need to adjust yours somewhere between low and medium to achieve a constant simmer.
- You can add the corn starch and spices right into the pan but I like to mix them in a small bowl first. This helps to get any lumps out of the cornstarch. Plus, I can measure them out while the meat browns and just dump them all in at once.
- If you don’t have a skillet with a lid then you can use a Dutch oven or other similar type of pot with a lid. You can also just cook it in a skillet without a lid but it will take longer for the pasta to cook and the liquid to be absorbed. I used to make Hamburger Helper dinners without a lid when I was first married. I tried using a sheet pan and aluminum foil and found that it was easier to just go without a lid and cook it longer.
- To explain why you see a little pre-shredded cheese and mostly freshly grated cheese in the last photo in the collage of nine above; I usually use cheddar cheese to make this pasta dish, but the day I was making this to photograph for this blog I had to use a bit of pre-shredded Colby Jack mixture because when I opened the fresh block I had just bought it had mold on it. Then I noticed the date, and it had expired like 2 months prior. I have got to remember to check those dates when grocery shopping!
Substitutions & Additions
Ground chicken or ground turkey can be used.
We wanted this dish to be as inexpensive as possible so we use water, you can use beef broth instead for richer flavor.
Diced fresh onion or minced garlic can be used instead of the powder variety. Maybe half an onion and a teaspoon or two of garlic.
Give it a little kick by adding a little hot sauce to individual servings, or to the pan when cooking.
If the whole family likes it spicy then add a little cayenne pepper.
You can add about a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard for extra flavor.
Diced fresh tomatoes can be added to the finished dish for fresh flavor.
Add a little sour cream or ricotta cheese for an extra creamy sauce. I would suggest in the neighborhood of a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of either one or the other.
Storage & Reheating
Store leftover cheeseburger macaroni in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. We warm ours in the microwave by covering it with the plastic cover we have, or a paper towel, for about a minute and a half, taking it out to stir it about half way. It heats up great and tastes just as good the next day as it does the day we make it.
I hope you like this dish as much as we do. We usually serve it with a simple salad for an easy weeknight dinner. If it is just the 2 of us we can eat this for leftovers another couple of nights or take some for lunch. When the kids are here it is a one night dinner. And, if there are leftovers they will be in the kitchen eating them for a late night snack as soon as they get a little bit hungry. When the kids are home I never make a pasta dish and count on having leftovers the next day.
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Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe⇣
Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups macaroni
- 2 cups cheese
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- In a large skillet (one that has a lid) cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned. If you don't use lean ground beef you will need to drain the fat off.1 pound ground beef
- While the meat cooks mix the corn starch and spices together in a small bowl.1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- When the ground beef is brown add the water, ketchup, and spice mixture stirring to combine.2 cups water, 1 tablespoon ketchup
- Add the milk and pasta, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick.1 1/2 cups milk, 2 cups macaroni
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, or to your liking, add the shredded cheese and stir until melted.2 cups cheese
- Let stand about 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken.