Hamburger Mac and Cheese Recipe: Forget the Hamburger Helper and get this dinner recipe on the table in less than thirty minutes with this super simple hamburger mac and cheese recipe. This homemade version is better than the boxed version!
Easy, cheesy, quick and easy? What more could you want for a weeknight one-skillet dinner recipe? It’s similar to our Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni that has gone viral for years!
Obsessed with one pan or one pot meals like I am? I love how easy the delicious recipes make chaotic evenings. Two of my favorite delicious comfort foods include this Skinny Mexican Skillet recipe and this One Pan Pork Chops and Veggies recipe. They’re delicious during the fall months, as well as all of our casserole recipes.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s ready fast: This easy homemade hamburger helper recipe comes together in 20 minutes or less.
- Uses minimal dishes: This one-skillet dinner requires only a chopping board, knife, skillet, bowl, measuring cup, and cooking utensil of your choice.
- It’s family-friendly: It is perfect for busy weeknights and a dinner your children will actually eat that the entire family will love.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
I’ve highlighted a couple of ingredients below with some relevant notes. Aside from this, the ingredients needed are pretty basic and you might already have them at home!
- Ground Beef – Keep in mind that the leaner the meat, the less grease you’ll end up with. Lean ground beef will yield less grease than 80/20 ground beef. Either way, we always suggest draining the excess liquid after cooking the meat.
- Elbow Macaroni – While any noodle option will suffice, elbow macaroni are a classic and what is used in traditional Hamburger Helper and that is why we went with them!
- Cream Cheese – Cream cheese makes this recipe super creamy and delicious.
- Diced Tomatoes – We opt for pre-diced, canned tomatoes for this. It’s all about making dinner easier so why not?
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese – Again, opt for the pre-shredded cheese at the grocery store. Save yourself the additional time and clean up.
- Sweet Onion – This is where so much of the flavor in this recipe comes from. While you could go with a yellow or white onion, the sweet diced onions provides the superior flavor.
Sometimes substitutions are necessary because of ingredients that are unavailable or needed for dietary restrictions. Here are some suggestions that can help:
- Meat – If you’re not a fan of ground beef, or you want to go with a healthier option, go for some ground turkey. You’ll find less fat in that option and save some calories.
- Dairy – If you’re trying to stay away from dairy products, you can easily make this recipe dairy-free by opting for dairy-free cream cheese and cheese, as well as opting for non-dairy milks over the heavy cream mentioned in the recipe.
- Noodles – Rotini, ziti, bowtie, or shell noodles can be used instead.
- Tomatoes – Substitute the tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce if you like the tomato flavor but not the texture of tomatoes in your mac and cheese.
- Cheese – Cheddar cheese with Monterey jack or Colby jack cheese can be used instead.
- Onions – You can substitute sweet onion with white or yellow onion.
- Heavy Cream – Whole milk or half and half can be used instead of heavy cream if preferred.
- Broth – Feel free to use water, vegetable broth, turkey broth, or chicken broth.
There are so many variations you could add to this recipe. It is pretty versatile!
- Adding Veggies – This recipe doesn’t include vegetables, but you could easily add in some prechopped bell preppers (saute them first and then add them back in at the end) or even some spinach! Some diced green chiles could add some great flavor as well.
- Change Up the Cooking Method – You can also make this hamburger mac and cheese in a large pot instead of a skillet. No difference in instructions or ingredients. You can also bake the cooked hamburger mac and cheese in your oven in a 9×9 baking dish with breadcrumbs or crumbles on top at 375 for 10 minutes or just long enough to brown the bread crumble toppings.
- Adding Seasonings – You could add some onion powder and garlic powder when cooking the meat to add some extra flavor.
- Top it Off – Sauces can really upgrade this recipe! Some hot sauce goes a long way. Top your serving with your favorite hot sauce for a kick!
👩🏻🍳 How to Make Hamburger Mac and Cheese
Putting this homemade cheeseburger macaroni recipe together is super simple and oh-so fast!
This Hamburger Mac and Cheese is broken into 4 components:
- cooking the macaroni noodles
- cooking the beef
- adding in the cheeses
- tying everything together
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
You’ll start this recipe by cooking the noodles in a large skillet before sticking them aside and cooking the ground beef in the same skillet. We’re going for minimal dish cleanup here!
STEP 1. Cook the noodles. In an extra-large skillet, cook uncooked pasta in beef broth for about 10 minutes or until tender, if you prefer al dente noodles you can reduce that time to 6 minutes. Once cooked place them in a large bowl and set them aside in the broth to prevent sticking. (Image 1).
STEP 2. Cooking the ground beef with the onions. Place ground beef and onion into the skillet. Break up the ground beef and cook over medium heat until browned and cooked throughout. The onions should be tender but not burnt. Drain any excess liquid from the skillet. (Image 2).
Tip: Cooking the ground beef with the onions adds some additional flavor to the meat and saves time. If you’d prefer, you would caramelize the onions in the pan first and then add the ground beef.
STEP 3. Adding in the cheeses. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheddar cheese, cream cheese, salt, butter, and heavy cream. Stir continuously until the cheese has melted and all ingredients are smooth and creamy. (Image 3).
STEP 4. Combining all. Add drained noodles and diced tomato to the beef and cheese mixture and stir well until combined. (Image 4).
STEP 5. Serve. Serve warm in the skillet.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Serve warm and fresh. Serving this dish warm provides the best flavor and texture.
- Drain the liquid. After cooking the ground beef and onions, make sure to fully drain the liquid before moving on to the next step.
📋 Recipe FAQs
This hamburger mac and cheese should be enjoyed warm.
You can also make this hamburger mac and cheese in a large pot instead of a skillet. No difference in instructions or ingredients. You can also bake the cooked hamburger mac and cheese in your oven in a 9×9 baking dish with breadcrumbs or crumbles on top at 375 for 10 minutes or just long enough to brown the bread crumble toppings.
The best ground beef to use with this hamburger mac and cheese is 80/20 or leaner. You don’t want very fatty beef because the beef will not crumble and distribute evenly throughout the mac and cheese. It will also be greasy.
No, you do not need to add salt when cooking the noodles in the broth. The sodium in the broth is enough for flavor and to prevent the noodles from sticking.
When cooking noodles in broth, it may take additional time for them to soften as opposed to cooking them in water.
Your cheese may not melt well if it was pre-shredded cheese. I recommend shredding the cheese yourself for the quickest cheese melt. Pre-shredded cheese can be coated with agents that prevent it from sticking together when shipping, which also prevents it from melting together when needed.
🍽 What to Serve with Hamburger Mac and Cheese
This recipe is great on its own, but it’s even better with sides. I suggest pairing it with either our Homemade Focaccia Bread recipe for yummy dipping or our Air Fryer Zucchini to get the veggies in.
Leftovers: This hamburger mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Freeze: Yes, you can make this hamburger mac and cheese ahead of time and freeze it in a freezer-safe container in your freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, leave the hamburger mac and cheese in the container and place it in your refrigerator for 24-48 hours or until thawed throughout.
Reheat: To reheat, you can place the thawed hamburger mac and cheese in a pot on your stove and heat it on medium-low until it reaches the desired temperature. You need to stir it continually so that it doesn’t stick to the pot. You can add small amounts of milk and butter to bring it back to the texture and creaminess you want.
🍜 Similar Recipes
Looking for more easy dinner recipe options for weeknights similar to this one? I think you’d love these quick and easy dinner recipes!
Did you make this? I’d be so grateful if you left a “star” rating below to let me know what you thought! Then, the next time you need a quick and easy recipe, come back to Fantabulosity to browse all of my easy recipes!
Hamburger Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb ground beef
- 16 oz large elbow noodles
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
- 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 sweet onion (chopped)
- 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 5 cups beef broth
- In an extra-large skillet, cook noodles in beef broth for about 10 minutes or until tender, if you prefer al-dente noodles you can reduce that time to 6 minutes. Once cooked place them in a large bowl and set them aside in the broth to prevent sticking.
- Place ground beef and onion into the skillet. Break up the ground beef and cook over medium heat until browned and cooked throughout. The onions should be tender but not burnt. Drain any excess liquid from the skillet.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in cheddar cheese, cream cheese, salt, butter, and heavy cream. Stir continuously until the cheese has melted and all ingredients are smooth and creamy.
- Add drained noodles and diced tomato to the beef and cheese mixture and stir well until combined.
- Serve warm from the skillet.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.