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Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper. Swapping the boxed stuff out and making everyone’s childhood dinner completely homemade, and healthier too. Plus so much tastier! Think of this hamburger helper as the tastier, creamier version of what you’d eat as a kid. It’s made with ground beef, seasonings, pasta, and a little shredded zucchini too (for added veggies). Comfort food at its best, this recipe is sure to become a family favorite.

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

I didn’t grow up eating hamburger helper, neither did my brothers. But for whatever reason, this has been a recipe I wanted to try and recreate for a while now. Ever since my older brother mentioned the idea to me a year or so ago it’s been on my “to make” list.

Not going to lie, it’s obviously not my usual kind of recipe, as I tend to sway towards recipes with a bit more color. But something about recreating this in a healthier, tastier, way really excited me.

So while it may have taken me over a year to finally test this out and share, the day is here. And I’m excited because this really is that perfect early fall, September dinner.

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

The idea

So as I said, my brother had mentioned creating a recipe for homemade (not boxed) hamburger helper. He said that if I could make it like the boxed stuff, but with a creamier texture, and a little more depth of flavor, that it would be, “SO GOOD”.

I wasn’t excited at first, but then I started to think about the upgrades I could make. I wondered, “could I make it healthier, but still creamy? Could we add a little flavor, but still keep it classic? And could I make it all in one pot just like the box?”.

All of the challenges started to excite me, so I figured if I could get each one checked off, then I would have a great recipe!

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

This is a one pot dinner, so the details are simple

First of all, find yourself a nice big pot or braiser to cook this in. I love this one and think it’s the perfect size for this recipe.

Now, starting cooking! Simply add the beef and onion to your pot and brown it all over, add in some spices, and then the pasta. And next? The ingredient that adds a little health to the recipe…a bit of shredded zucchini.

I love adding shredded zucchini to pasta dishes like this. Not only does the zucchini incorporate a vegetable into the recipe, but it also adds moisture and creates an even creamier sauce.

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

Finish it up

Once the pasta and zucchini are both added, pour over the broth and milk. Add a squeeze of ketchup (sounds weird, but trust me), then cook everything together until that pasta is al dente.

It’s important to stir the pasta frequently to ensure that nothing is sticking. But other than that, everything is EASY.

The final step is to stir in a handful of cheddar cheese. Serve up the hamburger helper topped with fresh parsley (it needs a little color!) and enjoy!

As I always like to say – homemade is best!

Excited to have this recipe in my back pocket for cozy fall and winter dinners to come. And Creighton’s verdict? He loved every bite. He said, “how could someone not love this? It’s basically mac and cheese with meat…and it’s delicious”.

So there ya go! He doesn’t lie.

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

Looking for other easy family dinners? Here are a few ideas: 

Broccoli Cheddar Chicken and Rice Casserole

One Pan Autumn Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Easy Southern Style Baked Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Cheese Stuffed Pasta Bolognese Bake

One Skillet Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Orzo Bake

Lastly, if you make this Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 421 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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  • 1. In a large pot set over medium hight heat, add the olive oil, onion and beef. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until brown all over, breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder, cook another minute.
    2. Add the pasta and zucchini and toss to coat, then pour in the broth and milk. Add the ketchup and stir to combine. Season with salt.
    3. Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Simmer 5-8 minutes until the pasta is al dente, stirring often.
    4. Stir in the cheese and cook another few minutes until very creamy.
    5. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with fresh parsley. Enjoy!
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Healthier Homemade One Pot Hamburger Helper |

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    1. Hey Makailey,
      If you have a lot of grease then yes you can drain the meat, but if there’s not a lot it’s fine to keep it. Let me know how the recipe turns out, I hope you love it! xx

  1. I love the concept behind this recipe! This is the second time I made this and I made some tweaks;

    I doubled the zucchini, 1.5x chili powder, increased the liquid almost a cup (my noodles needed 10 min of cook time), added a tiny bit of cumin, substituted the ketchup with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and mixed it in after the spices / before the liquid.

    I think if I were to tweak it again, I would use fresh garlic, triple the zucchini, and maybe add 2 tablespoons of butter at the end when adding the cheese.

    I do agree with some other comments about it needing more flavor. I worked in fine dining for years and always asked the chefs for recipes. I couldn’t believe the amount of spices in their recipes but everything was so good! Don’t be afraid to add a larger amount of spice ingredients.

    1. Hey Carmen,
      Thanks so much for making the recipe and sharing what worked well for you! xTieghan

    1. Hey Lauren,
      I would say about 1 cup:) Please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

    1. Hi Amanda,
      Sorry, I’ve not tested this recipe in the instant pot:) Let me know if you give it a try! xT

  2. 5 stars
    Guilty pleasure without all the guilt! I doubled the zucchini (because it didn’t want to waste it. This ended up being a good choice) and added liberal amounts of cayenne and red pepper flakes for a little kick. Far better than the over-processed original H. Helper!

    1. Hi there,
      I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks so much for giving it a try and sharing your review:) xxTieghan

  3. 5 stars
    I substituted beef for turkey and added broccoli for some extra veggies! Came out perfect!

    1. Hey Brooke,
      Awesome!! I am so glad that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for your comment and sharing your feedback! xxT

  4. 5 stars
    Family favorite that gets made several times a month and is often asked for! Comforting meal with less processed ingredients than the boxed stuff!!

    1. Hey Betsey,
      Awesome!! I am so glad that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for your comment and sharing your feedback! xxT

      1. Hi Michelle,
        Nope, the pasta will cook in steps 2 and 3. I hope this recipe turns out amazing for you, let me know if you give it a try! xx

    1. Hey Candace,
      Fantastic!! Thanks so much for trying this recipe, I am thrilled to hear that it was enjoyed! xxT

  5. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe and I think it’s amazing! I added asparagus and tumeric, other than that kept the recipe as is. My fiancé and I follow you on social media and have made a lot of your recipes. Keep up the great work, we look forward to seeing new recipes!

    1. Hey Jerry,
      Thanks so much for your feedback! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks for making it! xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    Comes together so easily! Simple ingredients come together to make this scrumptious dish. Even the pickiest among us sampled some and had to admit that it was good! Will definitely make this one regularly!

    1. Hey Dani,
      Thanks so much for giving this recipe a go and sharing your feedback!! I love to hear that it was a winner:) xTieghan

  7. 3 stars
    I was very excited to try this recipe, especially after reading all the reviews. I followed the recipe exactly except that I didn’t have paprika, so I used Cayenne Pepper instead. The recipe was a tad spicy, but overall it was just bland. I added sour cream to give it some more flavor. I would probably eat it again, but it wasn’t my favorite Hamburger Helper recipe.

    1. Hi Kamryn,
      Thanks so much for giving the recipe a try, so sorry to hear it wasn’t enjoyed. Please let me know if I can help in any way! xTieghan

    2. The recipe calls for paprika… you substituted that with cayenne pepper instead… now you complain and give a low rating for it being too spicy.. wow. Just wow.

  8. 5 stars
    This is the second time I’ve made this recipe. I make it a little differently depending what I have on-hand or what kind of taste I’m going for. One thing I really like about this recipe is that it’s so adaptable. I didn’t have enough beef broth, so I used what little beef broth I had and then used chicken broth for the remainder. For the milk, I used half unsweetened almond milk and half organic half and half.

    To jazz this recipe up, at the beginning where you saute the onions with the beef, I also added some diced green, yellow and orange bell peppers. When the mixture was simmering, I added 1 T Dijon mustard and a sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce. Near the end, I added some frozen peas for color. You could probably throw in some broccoli florets. I also used a mixture of sharp cheddar and gouda cheeses…and then saw I had a slice of havarti with jalapeno, so I threw that in, too. I didn’t have any fresh parsley so I used dried, and added some dried thyme, as well.

    The only “problem” I had with this recipe as others have mentioned, is that you’re going to need a lot more broth than the 2 cups the recipe calls for. The pasta soaks up a lot of the broth so at the end, I had to keep adding more.

    1. Hey Melanie,
      Awesome!! Love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it! Thanks so much for sharing what worked well for you! Have the best weekend:) xx

    2. Haha!! You have to be joking, right?
      If you want to write a whole book on your own recipe in the comment section of someone else’s recipe, then just start your own website. All that extra random crap you threw in your made up pasta recipe has nothing to do with this recipe.

      1. Hi Tami,
        That’s great!! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks so much for making it! xxT

  9. 5 stars
    So quick and easy. It is exactly as promised– a better version of the boxed stuff that I feel much better about my family eating. Egg noodles and gouda cheese are our favorite combination so far, but this recipe is so easily adaptable to whatever noodles/cheese/etc. that you have in your fridge.

    1. Hey there,
      Happy Friday!! I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks a lot for trying it out! ☀️xx

  10. 2 stars
    Even taking into consideration all the comments from other individuals this recipe is bland. I can’t imagine how bland this would be if following recipe exactly. Cook the pasta noodles separately as you would unless you like uncooked noodles. I could see this maybe being a hit with kids? But for me and my husband it was a flop. Disappointing as it had so many stellar reviews….

    1. Hi Carly,
      Sorry to hear this recipe was not enjoyed, please let me know if there is any way I can help! xTieghan

  11. 5 stars
    Wow! This was amazing, my husband loved it as did I. Super easy to make and it turned out great! Thank you so much 😊

    1. Hey Rachel,
      Fantastic!! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! 💕Tieghan