Healthy Hamburger Helper
This healthy hamburger helper is total comfort food! This 30 minute, one skillet meal is great for family dinners. It comes together quickly and easily. This healthy version is incredibly flavorful and made with wholesome ingredients. Both kids and adults love this healthier hamburger helper!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- This healthy hamburger helper is a childhood favorite.
- Everything is made in one pan.
- It takes less than 30 minutes to make.
- This healthier version is made with nutritious ingredients.
- It is suitable for many diets.
- This recipe is Paleo friendly, grain free friendly, gluten free, nut free, dairy free, and sugar free.
- For a Whole30 and low carb version, use spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
- Check out this Buffalo Chicken Pasta for another family favorite dinner.
Ingredients & Substitutions
These are the main ingredients and substitutions for healthy hamburger helper. Scroll down to the recipe card for full ingredients list and instructions.
Ground meat adds hearty flavor and protein. Ground beef, turkey, pork or sausage can be used. Cook until brown and crumbly.
Finely diced sweet onion adds a great flavor. Use white onion if desired. Red onion does not work.
Both garlic powder and onion powder add even more flavor! In addition, black pepper and sea salt add a subtle flavor. Taste as you cook. Then, adjust seasonings as needed.
Nutritional yeast adds a great cheesy flavor despite being dairy free. This is key in achieving the classic hamburger helper taste.
Tomato sauce adds a hearty flavor to the sauce. Feel free to use plain or garlic marinara sauce.
Chicken broth smooths out the sauce. If needed, beef broth can be used.
Canned coconut milk adds all the creaminess. If not dairy free or Paleo, half and half or creamer can be used.
Tapioca flour helps thicken the sauce. Cornstarch is a direct substitute.
Any type of pasta works. Depending on the pasta used, carefully monitor pasta. You may need less simmering time. I used a grain free elbow pasta to keep this recipe Paleo.
Taste & Texture
This healthy hamburger helper is hearty, savory and incredibly flavorful! I was shocked by how much it resembles the classic dinner recipe. The taste is similar to a cheeseburger skillet.
The meat is crumbly and the sauce is thick and creamy.
How to Make
First, add ground meat to skillet over low medium heat. Cook until brown and crumbly. Discard excess grease.
Add in chopped onion. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir to prevent burning.
Then, add in all remaining ingredients (the pasta will be uncooked at this point). Stir to combine.
Bring mixture to a boil. Lightly boil for 5 minutes.
Then, reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes, up to 20 minutes. Mixture may need more broth as it continues to simmer. Stir occasionally.
Finally, remove healthy hamburger helper from heat. Ladle into bowls!
Expert Tips & Tricks
This homemade hamburger helper recipe is pretty forgiving. Feel free to adjust seasonings to suit your taste.
To make the sauce more creamy, use more coconut milk.
To make the sauce more thin, add more broth.
If using frozen ground meat, thaw beforehand.
Ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, or ground sausage can be used. Additionally, ground chicken would work too.
Use unsweetened canned coconut milk. It is usually sold in the Asian aisle or baking aisle.
If not dairy free or Paleo, replace coconut milk with creamer or half and half if needed.
Cornstarch is a perfect substitute for tapioca flour.
Adjust cooking time as needed depending on pasta used. Some pastas require longer or shorter cooking times.
How to Serve & Store
Serve healthy hamburger helper hot and fresh!
This comfort food is great by itself or served with a side dish. Serve with a side salad, roasted veggies, or another favorite dish.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat, add to a skillet over low heat. Add in some broth or water to prevent dryness. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until warmed through.
Alternatively, microwave until warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hamburger helper from the box is not overly healthy. It is highly processed. This version uses healthier ingredients.
Substitute any ground meat for ground beef in hamburger helper. Ground turkey, pork, chicken or sausage can be substituted.
Use gluten free pasta to make this recipe gluten free.
Any ground meat works.
Sure! For Paleo, use grain free pasta. For Whole30, make recipe as is, but omit pasta. At the end of the recipe, stir in cooked spaghetti squash.
Use pasta that reheats well. Some gluten free pasta does not reheat well. Otherwise, anything works well!
You May Also Like
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken
- Whole30 Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs
- Instant Pot Chicken Stew
- Dairy Free Beef Stroganoff
- Instant Pot Steak
If you make this healthy hamburger helper recipe, I would really appreciate a review! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I would love for you to follow along! For more ideas, see these Lunch and Dinner Recipes.
Get the Recipe: Healthy Hamburger Helper
- 1 pound ground meat, turkey or beef
- ½ cup sweet onion, diced finely
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- 2 tsp tapioca flour, or cornstarch
- 8 ounces pasta of choice
- First, add ground meat to skillet over low medium heat. Cook until brown and crumbly. Discard grease.
- Add in chopped onion. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Then, add in all remaining ingredients including uncooked pasta. Stir to combine.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Lightly boil for 5 minutes.
- Then, reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes, up to 20 minutes. Mixture may need more broth as it continues to simmer. Stir occasionally.
- Finally, remove from heat. Ladle into bowls!
- Ground beef, turkey, pork or even sausage can be used.
- Feel free to taste as you cook. Adjust seasonings as you see fit.
- Canned coconut milk makes the sauce extra creamy. If not dairy free or Paleo, feel free to use half and half or creamer.
- Replace tapioca flour with cornstarch if desired.
- Any type of pasta can be used.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Each serving size is about ½ cup in size. This recipe will feed 3 to 4 adults or 6 kids.
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8 Comments on “Healthy Hamburger Helper”
I added paprika to mine and it was perfect! Great recipe.
So glad to hear that! The paprika addition sounds delicious.
This is delicious! So easy and quick, great for busy week nights. My husband loved it and even requested leftovers for lunch 🙂
Highly recommend this!
Thank you so much, Ann! I really appreciate your thoughtful comment and review. So glad it was a hit!
This blew my husbands mind. Probably the best review you could ever get! I’ve already got more meat thawing to make it again!
I am so happy to hear that, Jessica! That is the ultimate compliment. So glad you both enjoyed it!
Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious! Followed the recipe exactly. Will definitely make this again very soon.
Hi Jen! I am so glad to hear that. I love this hamburger helper too!