Homemade Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper

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 I have two confessions to make today…

Confession #1: Before I moved to Germany I was a boxed food junkie. Most meals consisted of a prepared boxed dinner and frozen or canned vegetables. And I was proud of that. I got married really young, was going to school and working full-time and had very little cooking experience. We were also on a serious budget so when I had a coupon for $.50 off a box of Hamburger Helper that Giant Eagle would triple to $1.50 you bet I grabbed as many as I could.

At the time, this was what I considered a homemade dinner. I bought the box, went home and made it. Even non-boxed foods like Lebanese Loobiya was just a bag of frozen green beans and a can of tomatoes. Dinners were practical, easy and affordable. 

I’ve changed a lot since my young newlywed days but the biggest change was when I moved to Germany. Not able to read German, I couldn’t buy their prepackaged boxed foods and there was only so much boxed cakes, pastas, etc… that I could cram in my suitcases on our home visits. I needed to learn how to cook from scratch. And I did. When it comes to my culinary abilities and creativity, I’m really proud of where I am today.

Ok so that was my first confession. 

Confession #2: I still LOVE Hamburger Helper. It reminds me of my childhood and takes me back to those days in Michigan, cutting coupons and thinking I was the boxed version of Betty Crocker.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hamburger Helper in Shanghai, but like any Western food, it’s probably available somewhere. But, you don’t need to bother to look for it with this fantastic copycat recipe!

There are lots of copycat recipes for Hamburger Helper online. For this recipe, I took a little from this and a little from that, then added what I had available at home to create my version of Homemade Hamburger Helper. In about 30 minutes you have a delicious version of what you get in a box minus the MSG and preservatives.


Here’s a fantastic tip:

I also made a second batch of the spice mixture and put them in a storage container. It’ll make it very easy for Ayi LiPing to throw this dish together. 

The only thing I would do different next time is double the batch! Seriously everyone it’s that good and easy to make!

You can easily double the recipe by just doubling the ingredients. Personally I found the single batch recipe to have waaaaaay too much meat, so when I make this again I’ll keep the meat at only 1 pound. If your family is a big meat family then by all means go ahead and double the meat too. 

I hope you love it! Tell me, what dishes do you miss from your home country?

Serves 6

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Skip the boxed stuff and make Homemade Hamburger Helper from scratch in just 30 minutes!

5Prep Time

25Cook Time

30Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 small Onion, diced small
  • 1T Butter
  • 1 Garlic, minced
  • 1T Cornstarch
  • 1/2T Chili Powder
  • 2t Paprika
  • 1t Salt
  • 1t Sugar
  • 3/4t Dried Oregano
  • 1/2t Dried Parsley
  • 1- 1 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1/2lb (250g) Macaroni Noodles, dry
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese


  1. Brown ground meat in a skillet over medium heat until almost done.
  2. Add in onions and cook until tender.
  3. Drain meat & onions and return to skillet.
  4. Add garlic, milk, 1 cup of water, noodles and all of the seasonings.
  5. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  7. Remove from heat and add cheese.
  8. If pasta is to thick slowly add in up to 1/2 cup of boiling water.
  9. Let stand 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken.


Be careful not to overcook the noodles. They should be served al dente so check them at often as you get closer to 10 minutes. Hamburger Helper's signature noodle is the elbow macaroni, but you can use any kind you have on hand. You can add up to 2 cups of cheese. Combine an extra batch of the seasonings in a ziplock bag and save it for the next time.


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2 Comments on Homemade Hamburger Helper

Recipe Nomad said : administrator Report Jan 18, 2017 at 11:00 AM

So true! In fact I think I'll make this tomorrow for dinner!!

Haley van Os said : Guest Report Jan 15, 2017 at 9:14 AM

I love recipes that are homemade versions of boxes meals! You're always hoping that it will live up to your memories of how the boxed version tastes. In this case it was better! So creamy and dreamy! The spices give it so much flavor, and in this case you know where the flavor is actually coming from, unlike the boxed version!

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