This Healthier Hamburger Helper is creamy, delicious, easy to make, and loaded with veggies! This one-pot recipe is a perfect hearty dinner. It cooks up in just 30 minutes and can be easily made gluten free!
Quick and easy dinners are life, especially ones that are family-friendly. This Healthier Hamburger Helper is definitely going to be added to the rotation. Made all in one pot, with delicious ingredients, and loaded with veggies…it is sure to win over the hearts and tastebuds of all. A homemade version of the classic every 80’s kid remembers, this 30 minute dinner uses simple real food ingredients but is just as flavorful! Plus, it can easily be made gluten free.
Pump up the veggies
Loving the veggie-loaded vibe and want to add more veggies to this Healthier Hamburger Helper? Here are a few ways to get more vegetables into the classic remix.
- Saute 8oz chopped mushrooms in with the ground meat.
- Stir in 1 cup frozen riced cauliflower into the pot when you add the pasta.
- Once pasta is cooked, stir in 1 cup frozen peas.
- Add 1 cup of grated zucchini to the pot when you add the ground meat.
Did you make this hamburger helper—and have leftover spinach you don’t want to go to waste? Check out How to Store Spinach (and keep it fresh all week long).
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of pasta can I use?
You can use any kind of pasta in this dish, including whole wheat, bean-based, or gluten free. Check the package for cook time and taste the pasta to make sure it’s cooked through before you move on with the rest of the recipe. Some pastas will absorb liquid faster than others, so you may need to add more broth before the pasta is fully cooked.
Can I make this dairy-free?
You can use an unflavored, unsweetened dairy-free yogurt alternative. Leave out the cheese and taste the finished pasta and add more salt and pepper as needed. Or use your favorite plant based cheese. Vegan cheeses melt in different ways, so be familiar with the dairy-free cheese you opt to use. I like Chao brand best for dairy-free melting and taste.
What can I use if I don’t have lean beef?
You can make this Healthier Hamburger Helper with any ground meat you prefer or have on hand. We like using lean beef so that this one-pot pasta recipe is a bit lighter. However, you can use ground turkey, chicken, or even bison. If you have regular ground beef on hand, you can cook it in a separate skillet and drain off the extra fat. Then add it to the homemade hamburger helper. Easy peasy!
Can I make this vegetarian?
If you are looking for a vegetarian twist, you can make a few small tweaks to this Healthier Hamburger Helper recipe to make it meat free. If you are open to using a plant based meat replacement, brands like Beyond Beef would work great in this recipe. If you’d like to keep the ingredients of your food as simple and natural as possible, I’d suggest replacing the ground meat with cooked brown or french lentils.
Time saving hack! Use your food processor with the “S” blade attachment to finely chop your veggies quickly to make prep done in minutes.
Other quick, veggie-loaded one-pot dinners!
- 20-Minute Creamy Broccoli Pasta
- One-Pot Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta
- Hearty Chicken-Vegetable Quinoa Soup
- One-Pot Curry Lentil Soup
- Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Healthy Stuffed Pepper Soup
Loving these one-pot pasta recipe and are hungry for more?
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Healthier Hamburger Helper (with veggies!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large carrot grated or finely chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cups baby spinach roughly chopped or sub 1 cup defrosted frozen spinach
- 8-10 ounces elbow macaroni or other small-shaped pasta use gluten free for a gluten free option.
- 3 cups broth
- ¾ cup plain yogurt whole milk or 2% recommended
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot or high-sided skillet. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add ground beef, breaking it up into small crumbles. Cook until browned. Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds to develop the flavors. Add Worcestershire sauce, spinach, pasta, and then stir in the broth.
- Cover and bring up to a simmer. Cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. If the liquid fully evaporates before the pasta is cooked, stir in an additional ½ cup of broth or water.
- Remove lid then stir in yogurt and cheese. The pasta will absorb more liquid as it sits, so it’s ok if there seems to be a lot of sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- Enjoy warm.
- cook time will vary based on type of pasta you use.
The nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and may vary based on the product type, servings and other factors. If you are following a diet, please consult with a professional nutritionist or your doctor. Stay healthy!
Soooo good! I wanted a hearty meal to help me stay warm in the cooler weather, but I also wanted to make sure it had some good (healthy) stuff in it. This recipe is a healthy twist to a classic feel good meal. I can’t wait to eat leftovers. Everyone at my house thought this was a hit!
I am so glad, Jen!!
This was really good, like really good! Definitely going to be a regular at our house!!
I am so happy to hear that, Erin! Thanks for taking the time to share.
This was delicious, easy and loved by the fam jam even my more skeptical eater enjoyed and took it for lunch the next day!
That is so awesome to hear, Erin!!
And Taesha hits a home run again! I love this one pot meal. It’s a very easy meal to make. The flavor is so nostalgic of hamburger helper, but I love that its loaded with veggies. My husband, who can be hesitant towards new recipes, ate two bowls full, so I will definitely be making this again! Thanks for another great recipe Taesha.
Yay! This review made my day, Larissa! Thank you for taking the time to share!
This recipe is amazing! It is a hit with everyone in my family…they love it so much, I usually double the recipe so they can have it for lunch the following day.
I love how easy and flexible the recipe is. It is the perfect week night meal.
I am so happy to hear that, Nicole! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
Can I substitute sour cream if I don’t have yogurt?
I miss read the recipe! I thought it was saying whole yogurt or 2% I didn’t realize I could use milk before I asked the question. Sorry about that.
No worries! Always happy to help!
I’ve already reviewed this before, but I’m here to say this recipe is awesome! It has become my go to for “I need a hearty dinner, but I want it quickish and with low effort”. 😂. I generally have these ingredients on hand & if I don’t Taesha has great suggestions on how I can modify it. 5 stars. So yum! & make great leftovers…if there are any.
I love that you love it so much that you came back to review it AGAIN! You are awesome.
I just made this and it’s a winner!!!! I used morning star crumbles in place of beef. So good!!!
So glad you loved it and were able to make it veg so easily! I love a good adaptable recipe! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.
I made this recipe last week for 3 adults. Everyone had 2 bowls and there were resounding whines that I should have doubled the recipe so everyone had some for lunch the next day! 😎
My son ate the small leftover bowl for breakfast!
I’m delighted to hear it was such a hit, Kelly! Thanks for sharing!
They begged me to make it again this week!
Music to my ears!
This was delicious! Loved by the family and very easy to make! A comfort food you can feel good about eating!
I’m so glad you all enjoyed it, Laura!
Does it matter what type of broth you use ? Beef , chicken ?
Nope! Use whatever you have on hand. Just know that all broth varies a bit in flavor and saltiness!
Thank you ! I made it last night , it was delicious!
Such a delicious and healthy meal that is unbelievably easy to make. This has a become a favorite in our house!
So glad, Victoria! We love it in our house too!
So, so delicious. Great flavor, filling, my whole family loved it. Perfect for easy leftovers too. So good and quick to make, I sent to family and friends. This will become a staple. Thank you! Oh, and I ended up omitting most of the yogurt (because I ran out, oops) and it still came together well, was a good, thick consistency and tasted great.
Oh that is great to know, Erin! I’m so glad you enjoy it so much. Thanks for taking the time to share!
I’m doing a bunch of cooking ahead right now, does this freeze well?
I’ve never had a lot of luck with freezing pasta but other people swear pasta freezes great! I think if you are open to the cooked pasta being a bit softer in texture once defrosted, then it should freeze fine.
That makes sense. Not sure I want to risk it, this recipe looks amazing!
Delicious! Saw your post on ig and immediately made it for dinner. Such a winner even with some allergy swaps. Can’t wait to make it again! Thank you!
Do delighted you enjoyed it, Sarah! What swaps did you make, if I may ask? I know other readers would benefit from knowing what modifications work!
Of course! I subbed the yogurt with coconut cream, left out the cheese, and used coconut aminos instead of worchestire. The coconut cream left it so creamy and we didn’t miss the cheese! Also used jovial rice penne which held up better than the banza. ❤️
Delicious! The whole family loved it!
So glad to hear that, Sarah! Finding family approved veggie-loaded recipes is such a win!
I haven’t tried it yet but I am super excited to! In an effort to help my dad with his declining health, I’ve been on a mission to provide him homemade TV dinners instead of the preservative packed pre-made stuff (cooking is too much work for him). Just a couple questions: Any modifications you recommend if going straight into the freezer? Regarding the spinach- does it make a difference between the frozen or fresh in my scenario? I just wonder with the water content… Also, if you have any other suggestions regarding frozen dinners or sneaking veggies (he’s like a kid regarding healthy eating) I would love to hear your advice! THANKYOU!!! <3 <3 <3
Samantha, I just love that you are doing this for your dad and am so honored that you are trying TNN recipes for him! I so hope he loves them and they are a success in helping him feel his best.
Re the spinach: fresh or frozen should be fine to use.
As for freezing: I would consider cooking until the pasta is just al dente. In my experience, defrosted pasta tends to be a bit softer than it was before freezing, so hopefully cooking it to al dente will help it to hold onto a firmer texture once thawed.
Have you tried my tater tot casserole?? I bet that would be another great one to stock him up on! https://thenaturalnurturer.com/healthier-tater-tot-casserole-with-veggies/
Absolutely love this recipe! I made with chickpea pasta which was new to me but still delicious in this recipe! I actually made this as my meal prep for the week so glad I’ll get to eat it a few more times!
Yay! I am so glad, Kamisha!
Delicious! Made it tonight with the suggestion of adding mushroom to the beef. Definitely will make again!
Wooohoooo! So glad to hear that, Erin!
This was absolutely delicious. Didn’t eat hamburger helper growing up it my husband did and he said it definitely was similar. Comes together super quick….I used a mini chopper to get the carrots chopped super quick and used turkey instead. It was just so good and can’t wait to make again. Will probably try with impossible meat for my vegetarian friends!
I’m so delighted to hear that, Beckie! Thanks for taking the time to share!
Nourishing! I made several modifications I’ll list as I didn’t have many ingredients:
1) used same pan for hamburger and drained grease after cooking onions, carrots, and hamburger.
2) was hesitant to use water because I didn’t have broth and it wasn’t noticeable.
3) coconut aminos in place of w. sauce
4) extra 1/2 t. Chili powder since I didn’t have paprika.
5) 0% Greek yogurt since that’s what I had.
6) no cheese
Would make again with a glass of wine haha! I get why people drink when cooking.
Excellent subs and so glad you enjoyed!
Definitely adding this to our rotation! Soooo good!!
So glad you enjoyed it as much as we do, Jacci! A total family favorite here. Thanks for taking the time to leave a review!
So delicious! My husband and kids liked it soo much I made it a week later. Easy, quick and way better than the box!
So glad you all enjoyed it, Amber! Delighted you have a new veggie-loaded recipe to add to your dinner rotation!
Delicious!! I added the suggested zucchini and riced cauliflower. Perfect. Baby loved it, toddler liked it, adults loved it. We will definitely make this regularly.
So happy to hear all of that, Hannah! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review!