It’s time to take a trip down memory lane because I made you a homemade, creamy, nostalgic, lightened up hamburger helper recipe that you’re going to LOVE.
The team and I tested out this recipe a couple of months back and OMG we kept going back to sneak bites from the pan. Bonus points: Sidney and Viggo gobbled it up for dinner that night even after I mixed in some extra veggies.
This healthy hamburger helper is just as easy to make as it is delicious. You’ll literally cook everything right in one pan with a handful of pantry staples and the result tastes 100x better than the boxed stuff you grew up on. I’ve included tons of ways to customize it with different meat options, veggie add-ins, and even a hint of spice if the kiddos aren’t involved.
OH and it takes just about 30 minutes from start to finish. AKA the ultimate weeknight dinner you’ll make again and again.
What is hamburger helper?
Oh, hamburger helper. The nostalgic, delicious Betty Crocker dinner of my childhood (and probably many of yours!) The OG hamburger helper contains a box of noodles, powdered seasonings and starches and it’s meant to be combined with ground beef for a complete meal. The boxed dinner was actually created in the ’70s during a meat shortage for a quick and easy meal for families.
My lightened up version is almost just as quick and easy, and filled with ingredients you can actually pronounce!
Ingredients in this healthy hamburger helper
I took the original boxed magic and replaced the fillers and pouches with flavorful seasonings, a wonderful homemade sauce, and lean ground turkey for savory protein. You’ll LOVE this lightened up version made with wholesome ingredients you can feel good about. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Ground turkey: we’re skipping the beef and using lean ground turkey for that protein boost. You’ll cook it down with onion and garlic for extra flavor.
- For the sauce: the easy sauce is made extra creamy with low sodium chicken broth, any milk you’d like, and tomato sauce.
- Seasonings: the true healthy hamburger helper taste comes from paprika, dried oregano, and plenty of salt and pepper.
- Pasta: the star of the show! I used pipe rigate pasta because I love how the sauce gets into every little nook and cranny of the noodle.
- Cheese: don’t forget plenty of sharp cheddar cheese. I used my fav Cabot sharp cheddar in this recipe.
Make it your own
This easy hamburger helper recipe is perfect for customizing with ingredients you have on hand. Here are some recommended swaps and add-ins you can try:
- Add a boost of veggies: feel free to throw in shredded zucchini, sauteed chopped red bell pepper, or mushrooms or a few cups of chopped spinach! My kids usually never know that it’s in there.
- Spice it up: if you’d like you can add some red pepper flakes on top.
- Choose your meat: you can absolutely use ground beef or ground chicken if you’d like! Alternatively, you could fold in cooked, cubed chicken breast.
- Pick your pasta: I’ve found that pipe rigate, shells, or large elbow noodles are best for this pasta so that you get the noodles nicely coated with all the creaminess of the sauce, but up to you! You can also, of course, use your favorite gluten free pasta to keep the recipe gluten free.
Can I make it vegetarian?
Sure! Simply omit the ground turkey and fold in a can of chickpeas, black beans, or your fav plant-based meat substitute.
One pan healthy hamburger helper in 3 steps
- Cook your meat. Start by cooking down the ground turkey in a large pot or skillet with olive oil, garlic, onion, salt & pepper.
- Add the sauce & pasta. Stir in all of your sauce and seasoning ingredients until they’re well combined, then fold in the pasta. Bring everything to a gentle boil and cook it uncovered until your pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Tip: stir it every so often so the pasta doesn’t get stuck!
- Cheese it & devour. Finally, remove it from the heat and stir in all of the cheddar cheese. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste, then garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes if you’d like!
Get fancy with a breadcrumb topping
This hamburger helper recipe would also be delicious baked with a breadcrumb topping! Here’s how to do it:
- Step 1: cook the whole recipe as directed and pour it into a 9×9 inch or 11×7 inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
- Step 2: make your breadcrumb topping by mixing together 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Step 3: sprinkle the breadcrumb topping onto the pasta and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F until the topping is golden brown.
You can store any leftover homemade hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Simply reheat in the microwave.
More pasta recipes you’ll love
Get all of my cozy pasta recipes here!
I hope you love this lightened up hamburger helper recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
One Pan Lightened Up Hamburger Helper
The creamiest one pan lightened up hamburger helper made with simple ingredients for a nostalgic, comforting dinner the whole family will love. This healthy hamburger helper takes just 30 minutes to make and is packed with flavorful and protein! Options to add your fav veggies or spice it up if you’d like.
medium yellow onion, diced
lean ground turkey (93% is good)
- Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
low sodium chicken broth
milk of choice
tomato sauce (1 cup)
pipe rigate pasta
shredded sharp cheddar cheese (we use Cabot)
- Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
- For garnish:
- Freshly chopped parsley
Place a large pot over medium-high heat and add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add in diced onion, garlic and ground turkey; season with salt and pepper and break up the meat, cooking until no longer pink, about 5-8 minutes.
Next, add in the chicken broth, milk, tomato sauce, paprika and dried oregano; stirring until well combined. Next stir in the pasta and bring to a slight boil; you’ll cook UNCOVERED until the pasta is nice and tender, about 10-12 minutes (depending on your pasta shape) and most of the liquid (but not all!) is absorbed. You’ll want a little bit of liquid left to make the sauce nice and creamy. Remember you don’t need to have this over a roaring boil, just a gentle boil. Also, be sure to stir every so often so the pasta cooks evenly and doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and stir in the sharp cheddar cheese and add additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately with fresh parsley and red pepper flakes on top, if desired! Serves 4-6.
To make it more nutritious: feel free to throw in shredded zucchini, sauteed chopped red bell pepper, or mushrooms or a few cups of chopped spinach! My kids usually never know that it’s in there.
Spice it up: if you’d like you can add some red pepper flakes on top.
I’ve found that pipe rigate, shells or large elbow noodles are best for this pasta so that you get the noodles nicely coated with all the creaminess of the sauce, but up to you!
See the full post for tips, tricks, and even more ways to customize this recipe!
Servings: 6 servings
Serving size: 1 serving (based on 6)
Saturated fat: 6.7g