This homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe is a from-scratch Hamburger Helper copycat. Creamy, cheesy, and filled with tender macaroni, this great recipe is a winner for the entire family!
Like any kid who grew up in the 90's, I've had my share of hamburger helper. And why not? It was a kid-approved meal that was easy for parents to make. It required just a pound of ground beef and a box, so I can definitely see the appeal!
Nowadays we're a little more focused on healthier options than we used to be. That often means making things from scratch. This easy homemade hamburger helper recipe is the perfect compromise between minimally processed and nostalgic comfort food.
But the best part? Even though it's made from scratch, it's actually pretty quick and easy to make. It also happens to be way better than the boxed stuff. In fact, it's one of my husband's favorites (a close runner-up to Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Chicken).
Why You'll Love This Recipe:
- It's made with real ingredients and has yummy homemade flavor, all while being reminiscent of the meals you had growing up.
- Perfect for the pickiest eaters and is a meal the whole family will love.
- One of the best easy weeknight dinners!
- You can still make this recipe even if you forgot to thaw your meat. Just add the frozen ground beef into the skillet and flip the piece back and forth. Scrape off the browned and cooked parts each flip, and continue until the beef is fully cooked.
Oh, and I also have an Instant Pot Hamburger Helper recipe for those of you who want to make this easy recipe even easier!
- Macaroni: Since this copycat hamburger helper recipe is for the cheeseburger macaroni version you'll want to use elbow macaroni as your pasta.
- Ground beef: Typically I make this recipe with lean ground beef (both the homemade version and the boxed version), but you could easily substitute ground turkey or chicken.
- Broth: I recommend a low-sodium beef broth for the best flavor. The recipe does work well with chicken stock in a pinch.
- Seasonings: You'll need some black pepper and seasoned salt. If you don't have seasoned salt you can use a bit of salt along with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and a little extra ground pepper.
- Sour cream: This makes the creamy sauce once the macaroni is done cooking in the skillet. I recommend using a thick sour cream (like Daisy brand). Heavy cream has worked really well in a pinch too!
- Shredded cheese: Sharp cheddar cheese that has been grated off the block is the best option. Pre-shredded cheeses have anti-caking agents added to them, so they don't melt into a sauce as seamlessly.
You'll also need: Butter, onions, garlic, ketchup, dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
How to Make Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni
Step one: Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then drain off any excess grease and add in the seasoned salt, pepper, ketchup, dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
Step two: Pour in the beef broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Step three: Add the elbow macaroni into the skillet and stir, submerging it under the liquid.
Step four: Bring the mixture to a boil. Once a low boil is reached, reduce the heat to low-medium and place a lid on the skillet.
Step five: Cook for 11-13 minutes (no peaking until at least 9 minutes are up), or until the pasta is al dente or cooked to your liking.
Step six: Add the sour cream into the hot pot of homemade hamburger helper, and stir it until it completely incorporates into the liquid, forming a thick sauce.
Step seven: Add the shredded cheddar cheese and stir it into the hot pasta until it's completely melted, forming a thick cheese sauce.
Step eight: Taste and adjust the cheeseburger macaroni to your liking (more salt, seasoning, cheese, etc) and garnish with fresh parsley or chives if you want to add a touch of color.
Step nine: Serve and enjoy!
We rarely have leftovers of this family favorite because my husband always goes in for seconds, but when we do they are easy to store. And they don't stay in the fridge for long!
Just transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave in 45-second intervals until warmed through, OR in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water added.
What to Serve with Hamburger Helper
- Garden Salad
- Steamed broccoli or green beans
- Corn on the cob
- Mashed potatoes
- Veggies and dip
- Roasted veggies
- Steamed or roasted cauliflower
- Dinner rolls
- Sauteed mushrooms
- Grilled veggies
Variations and Substitutions
With ground turkey: Substitute the ground beef for ground turkey. Just make sure to add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet before adding the meat, since ground turkey is very lean and can easily stick to the pan.
Gluten-free: Substitute the macaroni noodles for gluten-free elbow macaroni. You may need to add a bit more liquid and stir frequently in the beginning. Use whatever method you typically use when cooking gluten-free pasta.
Added seasonings or flavors: Feel free to add some seasonings to your taste, or even a touch of tomato paste or tomato sauce if you want a slight tomato-y taste. For seasonings, you could use smoked paprika, chili powder, or your favorite seasoning blends.
Instant Pot: If you want to make this recipe in the Instant Pot it can easily be done! Check out my Instant Pot Hamburger Helper recipe for detailed instructions and ingredient amounts.
If you loved this Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe, let me know by leaving a 5-star review in the recipe card or comment below! You can also tag me on Instagram @dashfordinner.
Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni (Hamburger Helper)
- Heavy-Bottomed Skillet with a lid
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound ground beef lean
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 ½ cups low sodium beef broth or water
- 1 ½ cups elbow macaroni
- ½ cup sour cream or heavy cream
- 2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet with a lid (or Dutch oven) over medium heat.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet and allow it to melt.
- Add in the onions, and cook until softened - about 5 minutes.
- Then add the garlic to the skillet and cook just until fragrant - about 30 seconds.
- Quickly add the ground beef to the skillet, using the bottom of a wooden spoon to crumble it.
- Cook the ground beef until no longer pink, then drain any excess fat.
- Add in the ketchup, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and black pepper, and stir until combined.
- Pour in the beef broth and use the bottom of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the elbow macaroni. Stir well.
- Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to low-medium and place the lid on top of the skillet.
- Cook for 11-13 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.
- Stir the pasta to loosen any stuck-on pieces on the bottom, then add in the sour cream (or heavy cream) and stir until well distributed.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the shredded cheddar cheese, stirring until it’s completely melted.
- Serve immediately.
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