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Healthier Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipes


These homemade hamburger helper recipes from scratch are made out of wholesome ingredients without the chemicals and preservatives the boxed kind has. It's a breeze to make and you will have dinner ready in no time.

Healthier Homemade Hamburger Helper from Scratch #HealthierHamburgerHelper

Chili Mac

Healthier 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 hamburger helper (except for rice, which I think works better using only 1 cup).

After browning and draining one pound of ground beef -  in the same skillet you add water and milk (usually about 3 cups total), seasonings, and simmer (about 12-20 minutes). Add cheese near the end for some varieties.

What you need to have on hand:

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 (buy blocks of cheese and pre-shred it yourself – it makes a big difference).

Some varieties also call for corn or nacho chips, and most call for milk because it makes a creamier sauce.  I always keep a large box of dry milk in my pantry so that I’m never out of milk.

You can freeze milk, but you will have more milk on hand using 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 ("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 coloring.

In homemade hamburger helper, you cut out the dried cheese, preservatives, and food coloring combined with the seasonings in the store-bought 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.


 

Healthier Hamburger Helper 

CHILI MAC Homemade Hamburger Helper (photo above)

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
2-1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk. Bring to a boil and add macaroni and tomatoes. Finally add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook 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. Stir in mozzarella, near the end and sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese during the 5-minute standing period.



CHILI CHEESE Homemade Hamburger Helper

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups elbow macaroni

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 TBS homemade chili powder
1 tsp homemade garlic powder
1 tsp homemade onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain.

Add hot water, milk and pasta 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.


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The above directions are basically the same for each recipe (brown ground beef; drain and add hot water and milk, etc).  

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.


NOTE:
The recipes reflect the store-bought Hamburger Helper in homemade form - including the sugar and salt. You may 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 personal preferences.


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Tips

Do you have a big family
(or just big eaters)? Double or triple the recipe and use a big pot.

Quick 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 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.)

A number of varieties require tomatoes (store-bought Hamburger Helper uses dried tomatoes). Use a can of 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.


Feeling frisky?  Use add-ins anytime you feel like taking an extra few seconds. A cup of black 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 sauté them first separately or put them in as you brown the ground beef to sauté them. Like heat? Add some ground cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to any variety for a spicier version.


In the case of Hamburger 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 stroganoff.

If you can get your hands on some dried mushrooms, add a teaspoon (to the “sauce packet”) in place of the sliced, fresh mushrooms. Fresh is best. It’ll only take a few minutes to prepare them, not adding much to your effort.

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.  Don’t forget to jot down what you did to recreate later.

Taste test while you’re cooking to adjust the seasonings to your own preferences. These measurements are suggestions to get you started.  Add your favorites, jot it down and now you have created your own recipe.  Once you know how you like it, make up your own sauce packets for future use.

 

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LASAGNA Homemade Hamburger Helper

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
2-1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups either lasagna broken into small pieces or small egg noodles
1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add pasta and tomatoes. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella near the end, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese during the 5-minute standing period.






CHEESY BEEF TACO Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
2-1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup rice
1 cup stewed or diced tomatoes

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup corn chips, crushed

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add rice and tomatoes. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is cooked.

Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar plus 1 cup of Frito's during the 5-minute standing period.







BEEF STROGANOFF Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 cup hot water
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups small egg noodles
1 cup mushrooms, sliced

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.  Bring to a boil and add pasta and mushrooms. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.  Stir in the sour cream and heat thoroughly.  







POTATO STROGANOFF Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 cup hot water
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups very thinly sliced or diced potatoes
1 cup mushrooms, sliced

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add potatoes and mushrooms. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.  Stir in the sour cream and heat thoroughly.






SALISBURY Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups small egg noodles

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add noodles. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.






CHEESY ITALIAN SHELLS Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
3/4 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups small pasta shells
1 cup stewed or diced tomatoes

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shredded cheese

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add shells and tomatoes. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook 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 and let stand five minutes.





CHEESY JAMBALAYA Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
3/4 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1 cup rice
1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp basil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add rice and tomatoes. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is cooked.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time and let stand five minutes.




Cheeseburger Macaroni #HealthierHamburgerHelper

Paprika is the "secret" ingredient to get the flavor right with this recipe, and adding more milk than water for a creamy texture.

CHEESEBURGER MACARONI Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups elbow macaroni

Sauce Packet Ingredients:
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tsp paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Place cooked and drained ground beef in a large skillet and add hot water and milk.

Bring to a boil and add macaroni. Add the sauce ingredients, cover and cook on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end (you can toss 1/2 cup cheddar on top at the end, too, if you want, we’re going for cheesy here).

 



Did you notice how similar the recipes are? Hamburger Helper is like a template. (This is how Betty Crocker makes all the different 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 hamburger helper for any variety of Hamburger Helper that appeals to you or you can invent your own. Put labeled sauce packets for your family’s favorite homemade hamburger helper 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.

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. Homemade Hamburger Helper. Real dinner. Real easy. Really in 30 minutes. These recipes adapted from Suzanne McMinn of Chickens in the Road.com



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