Creamy and uber comforting, this homemade cheeseburger macaroni is a leveled-up version of the boxed version.

Top down of cheeseburger macaroni in a yellow dutch oven sitting on a wooden cutting board. There are two white bowls with servings of cheeseburger helper and a blue and white striped linen on the table.

This recipe is…

I love a good noodle-y, cheesy, comforting dish, and this homemade cheeseburger macaroni is no exception! Reminiscent of the boxed hamburger helper of your childhood, this version is both cheesier and made with ingredients that you can feel good about.

Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe Ingredients

The ingredients on this list are pretty basic, and there’s a good chance that you have several of them on hand already. Here’s the full list:

  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds of ground beef (85/15 or 90/10 are both great options)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • 12 ounces of elbow macaroni (we used this one for gluten-free)
  • 3 ½ cups of beef broth
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

Substitutions for This Cheeseburger Helper Recipe

  • Use ground turkey – if ground beef isn’t your thing (or you just don’t have any on hand), feel free to substitute it for ground turkey or chicken.
  • Use less cheese – if you’re looking for a less cheesy variation, use our recipe for hamburger helper instead of this one.
  • Switch up the cheese – feel free to get creative with the cheese here – gouda and gruyere would be really delicious here.
  • Use a different noodle – you aren’t bound to elbow macaroni! Feel free to use any short pasta (penne, fusilli, rotini, farfalle, etc.) here.
Top down of baked cheeseburger helper in a yellow dutch oven. It is sitting on a wooden cutting board, and there is a white and blue striped linen draped to the left side.

How to Make Cheeseburger Macaroni

This homemade cheeseburger is almost as easy as the boxed variety! Here’s how you’ll bring it together:

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  1. Saute the garlic and onion – add the olive oil to a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  2. Brown the ground beef – add the ground beef to the pot with the onion and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes, crumbling as you cook, until browned. If you’re short on time or have a fattier beef, drain the excess fat from the pot. Otherwise, let the beef continue to cook until most of the liquid cooks off.
  3. Add the tomato paste, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper – to the ground beef mixture, add the tomato paste, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Add the broth and milk – add the broth and milk to the pot and increase the heat to high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the pasta to the pot, then reduce the heat slightly to medium-high to maintain a low boil. Cook for 12 minutes, until most of the liquid, has been absorbed and the pasta has softened.
  5. Stir in the cheese – turn off the heat, then stir in half the cheese and top with the remaining half, and cover with a lid to let the cheese melt.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Tips

Be sure to fully cook your ground beef (as in, let it cook until it reabsorbs the fat it released during the cooking process). If you’re short on time, you can drain the fat and move on to the next step. We really just want to avoid a lot of extra grease in the pot, as that can result in a soupy end product.

Make sure you use a big enough pot for all of the liquid and noodles to expand. We used a 3.5-quart dutch oven, which had just the right amount of space, but we would not recommend using anything smaller.

A white bowl with a serving of cheeseburger helper in the bowl. There is a second bowl in the bottom right corner and a white and blue striped linen to the left side.

Storing Hamburger Mac and Cheese

Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stored this way, it’ll last for up to 5 days.

To freeze, simply let the cheeseburger helper cool completely, then cover the dish with aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, either bake from frozen in a 350°F oven for an hour, then uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or place it in the fridge 2 days prior to baking, then bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.

How to Serve

This cheeseburger helper is a filling (and VERY satisfying) meal all on its own, but if you’re craving a little something green, this simple arugula salad would be a really tasty accompaniment. 

How do you thicken cheeseburger helper?

This cheeseburger macaroni is nice and thick as written, but if yours seems a little soupy, feel free to drain off some of the liquid before stirring in the cheese.

How long do you cook cheeseburger helper?

Cheeseburger macaroni takes about 30 minutes to cook from start to finish. It makes for an ideal weeknight meal!

Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe

4.53 — Votes 17 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 5 Servings
Cheesy and uber comforting, this homemade cheeseburger macaroni is a leveled-up version of the boxed version.

Ingredients  

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef 85/15 or 90/10
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • cups beef broth
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions 

  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the ground beef to the pot with the onion and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes, crumbling as you cook, until browned. If you’re short on time or have a fattier beef, drain the excess fat from the pot. Otherwise, let the beef continue to cook until most of the liquid cooks off.
  • To the ground beef mixture, add the tomato paste, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  • Add the broth and milk to the pot and increase the heat to high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the pasta to the pot, then reduce the heat slightly to medium-high to maintain a low boil. Cook for 12 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta has softened.
  • Turn off the heat, then stir in half the the cheese and top with the remaining half, and cover with a lid to let the cheese melt.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • Use ground turkey – if ground beef isn’t your thing (or you just don’t have any on hand), feel free to substitute it for ground turkey or chicken.
  • Use less cheese – if you’re looking for a less cheesy variation, use our recipe for hamburger helper instead of this one.
  • Switch up the cheese – feel free to get creative with the cheese here – gouda and gruyere would be really delicious here.
  • Use a different noodle – you aren’t bound to elbow macaroni! Feel free to use any short paste (penne, fusilli, rotini, farfalle, etc.) here.

Nutrition

Calories: 876kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 71.2g | Fat: 35.9g | Saturated Fat: 18.7g | Cholesterol: 190.2mg | Sodium: 1676.8mg | Fiber: 2.9g | Sugar: 11.2g

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5 Servings
Calories: 876
Keyword: ground beef, hamburger helper

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Brandi Schilhab


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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Making this dish this week for the third time. This one is a hit with everyone in our house! I use whole wheat pasta and tend to need a bit less liquid than called for to get the right consistency

    1. That’s amazing, Claire! Thank you for sharing the pasta tip!

  2. 3 stars
    Just okay. Pasta was too much and dish lacked flavor.
    Felt like I wasted a lot of money on it for no flavor.
    Needed to top with tomato sauce to enjoy it.

    1. What a bummer, Vanessa. We’re so sorry this was your experience!

  3. 5 stars
    Made this tonight for my family of 6. Easy to prepare and yummy! Will make it again.

    1. So glad that it was a hit for the family! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us. -Team FF

  4. Made this tonight…yum!! I only had 1 pound of beef so I used one pound Italian sausage with it. Had to drain the fat. Didn’t have a measuring cup so I put in too much liquid but it was perfect to use an entire 16oz box of elbow macaroni. I also cooked cauliflower and added it to the mix last minute (kind of blends in and makes it a tiny bit healthier!). It’s a perfectly flavored family dish!! Can’t wait to eat the leftovers!

    1. We are so glad it was a hit of you and your family. Thank you for taking the time to share your great substitutes with us! We appreciate you! -Team FF