Copycat Hamburger Helper

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A lot of us grew eating boxed meals like the ever popular hamburger helper. You know one pot pasta, ground beef and sauce dish that takes maybe 30 minutes to make and, unfortunately, tastes like it came from a box. And yet it’s still a flavor that tastes like a home cooked meal. So I set out to figure out how I could get close to it without using the box – and that’s how my recipe for Copycat Hamburger Helper came to be.

Copycat Hamburger Helper

The real secrets revealed in this copycat recipe are ground mustard and cornstarch. The ground mustard serves to cut the acidity of the cheese and tomato combination. Don’t worry you really don’t get a flavor of mustard at all. In fact I use it quite often in cheese sauces. The cornstarch does it’s usual duty as a thickener. By combining it with the beef broth, you are able to activate the cornstarch and it will serve to thicken up the sauce in no time.

Copycat Hamburger Helper

Speaking of the broth – it is pretty important to the flavor to use broth and not water. Fun fact – if you were in fact making hamburger helper from a box, replacing the water with broth would give it some great flavor. You could use vegetable broth if you preferred – especially if you wanted to swap out the ground beef for ground turkey (which would totally work out).

You may be wondering why I didn’t make the pasta directly in the sauce (as I often do and most hamburger helper calls for). This was simply because I did not want to use that much broth (you need enough liquid to be absorbed by the pasta and still leave some to make the sauce). You can use any sort of short pasta – penne, rigatoni, rotini, shells, elbows, etc. I used these fun trottole pasta that found at the grocery. Fun pasta shapes just adds to the aesthetic of the dish.

Now Let’s Get Cookin’!


Copycat Hamburger Helper

A cheesy, creamy tomato sauce with ground beef and pasta
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword cheese, creamy sauce, ground beef, ground beef recipes, Pasta, pasta dishes, tomato, tomato sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 6


  • lb Short Pasta
  • 2 lb Ground Beef
  • ½ White Onion diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves minced
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 2 cups Beef Broth
  • 1 15oz can Tomato Puree
  • 1 tsp Ground Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded


  • Start water boiling for pasta.
  • In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add ground beef, onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook and crumble until no longer pink.
  • In a bowl, combine broth, tomato puree, cornstarch and ground mustard. Add to ground beef mixture and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer while pasta cooks.
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook as directed on the package. Drain in colander, shake off excess water and return to pot (away from heat).
  • Add cheese to meat mixture and stir to combine. Once melted add sauce to pasta and stir to combine. Serve with garnish of parsley, if desired.

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Estelle Forrest self-published this cookbook after a lot of playing around in the kitchen. You can purchase your own copy here:


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6 thoughts on “Copycat Hamburger Helper

  1. Looks good. The ground mustard ingredient surprised me. Thanks so much for linking up at the Unlimited Link Party 99. Shared.

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