Hamburger Helper Gets a Recipe Rescue: Give our Healthier Hamburger Helper a Try!

Walk into your local supermarket and chances are, that sitting along a very long shelf, you’ll find not one, not two, not three but as many as 40 varieties of Hamburger Helper. Convenient? Yes. Nutritious? Well, we’ll let you be the judge. Nicole, a mom of two from Havertown, PA often relies on Hamburger Helper to get dinner on the table for her two “picky” teens.  According to Nicole, “The kids love the Lasagna-flavored Hamburger Helper.  It’s kind of like spaghetti and meatballs but all mixed up. It’s something easy I can make, but I know it’s not healthy.”  So what’s a busy mom to do? Nicole posted on our Facebook wall and asked us to give Hamburger Helper a healthy makeover. We knew it would be one of our most extreme makeovers ever, but we gladly took on the challenge. Read on for all the yummy “rescue” details and the surprising reaction from Nicole’s family.

A 1 cup serving of Lasagna-flavored Hamburger Helper (prepared according to package directions) has 11 grams of fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, and 770 milligrams of sodium. It also contains some ingredients we’re just not crazy about: Monosodium glutamate, yellow 5 and 6, and red 40. Our rescued version is made with wholesome ingredients. It’s a lot leaner and more nutrient rich thanks to ingredients like lean ground beef, 1% low-fat milk, no-salt-added tomato sauce, frozen chopped spinach, and whole grain pasta.

At first glance, Nicole thought our recipe might have too many steps, but it cooked up quickly. “I’m not used to thickening with corn starch but it was great. I liked the texture and the creaminess,” she told us. Nicole also tried the recipe with ground turkey, but she felt the lean beef imparted a richer flavor and deeper, more pleasing (and familiar) color.

Healthier Hamburger Helper

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (93 or 95% lean)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • One 32 -ounce carton all-natural chicken broth
  • One 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk, divided
  • One 10-ounce box chopped frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • One 12-once bag dried whole grain, wide egg noodles (we used Ronzoni Healthy Harvest)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the meat, Italian seasoning, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and cook, breaking up the large pieces until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat.

3. Stir in the broth, tomato sauce, 3/4 cup of the milk, and the spinach, cover, and bring to a boil.

4. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil, covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 9 minutes.

5. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup milk until well combined.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pasta. Maintain at a low boil and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

6. Top individual servings with additional Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and chopped basil as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 generous cup):  290 calories, 8g fat (2.5g saturated), 400mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 20g protein, 80% vitamin A, 15% calcium, 20% iron

Print Recipe

Nicole made the recipes twice — once with wagon wheel shaped pasta and the second time with the egg noodles. Taste testers, Nina and Alex preferred the wagon wheels (so feel free to use either shape in this recipe), and according to Nicole, the kids liked the recipe and no one tried to pick out the spinach since it blended right in!

We can’t thank Nicole and her kids enough for trying the recipe. We are thrilled everyone liked it! In fact, this summer when the family first tried the recipe, 16-year old Nina packed our Healthier Hamburger Helper in a Thermos and took it to camp for lunch. If you have a recipe that you think needs a “rescue,” send it our way … or tell us about it right here on the blog.

10 responses to “Hamburger Helper Gets a Recipe Rescue: Give our Healthier Hamburger Helper a Try!”

  1. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the meal makeover again! Just the other day, Nina asked me to make the “meal Makeover” Hamberger Helper. It’s what I’ll be serving for dinner tomorrow night!

    • Liz says:

      Nicole, we are so glad to hear your family is enjoying our HH makeover. And Mary Fran, your “note to self” really made us laugh. Yes indeed, this recipe makes A LOT!

  2. Mary Fran (cohmomto3) says:

    This was a hit! Though I did cheat on the nutrition and used ground italian sausage. The kids all asked to take leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Note to self: next time read the beginning about a “large dutch oven” I had to transfer mid recipe from my large skillet. Thank you!

  3. Julie Gettys says:

    This dish look fabulous. I’m putting the ingredients on my shopping list. Thanks

  4. Karina says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! My family loves it. So far I have cooked it twice and everyone seems to enjoy it.

  5. Jerry says:


    Came across your recipe today and just finished my first bowl full and it was really good…thanks for the recipe!

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