Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet Meal is a from-scratch version of the classic Hamburger Helper. Beef and macaroni come together in a cheesy and flavorful seasoned sauce. All you need is a single pan and thirty minutes.
Looking for a nostalgic comfort food meal? If you grew up on hamburger helper, you'll love this cheeseburger macaroni made from scratch.
Macaroni and ground beef are coated in a cheesy, creamy, seasoned sauce. The best part? This skillet meal is ready in 30 minutes or less. Plus, you only need a single sauté pan.
If you're like me and enjoy cooking from scratch, you may prefer the taste of natural flavors and seasonings to artificial flavors. While this recipe is not exactly like the boxed version, I think you'll enjoy it even more!
Ingredients and substitutions
Beef broth can be substituted with vegetable broth or chicken broth if needed, but this will change the flavor slightly.
Milk can be whole, 2%, 1%, or skim. Keep in mind that the lower fat your milk, the less creamy your skillet meal will turn out. I suggest whole milk or 2% milk for this recipe.
Macaroni can be substituted with any medium sized pasta. Shells are a great alternative.
Canned crushed tomatoes can be substituted with tomato sauce if you don't want tomato chunks in your recipe.
Freshly shredded cheese
I highly recommend freshly shredding your cheese from a block for this recipe.
Pre-shredded, bagged cheese is often coated in a powder to prevent clumping, which makes the cheese more difficult to melt. When it does melt, it also gives your sauce a grainy texture.
Skillet meal tips
If you've never made a homemade skillet meal before, here are a few tips for success.
- Is your food sticking to the pan? Add a bit of liquid and turn the heat down - your stove is too hot. Stoves all run at slightly different temperatures, even if they're turned to the same setting.
- Sauce look thin? If your sauce looks thin when you're done cooking, allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes, uncovered. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it stands.
- It is important to properly measure your liquids and pasta for this recipe. Everything is cooked in a single pan, so you'll need an exact amount of liquid to cook your pasta. Improper measuring can lead to a runny sauce.
- Use fresh shredded cheese (ex: cheese grated from a block) instead of pre-shredded cheese in a bag. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anti-clumping powder that will make your sauce grainy as it melts.
Can I make cheeseburger macaroni without meat?
Yes, you can make cheeseburger macaroni without meat!
To make this recipe without meat, omit the ground beef from the recipe. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your pan and cook the diced onion on its own.
Then, continue the recipe as written.
Thickening your sauce
There are no thickening agents in this recipe, like flour or cornstarch.
Instead, you'll be using the starches released from the pasta to thicken your sauce naturally. As long as the pasta and liquids are measured exactly, you'll have just enough liquid to cook your pasta and create a sauce.
If your sauce looks thin, remove the finished dish from the heat and allow it to set, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Your sauce will continue to thicken as it stands.
What to serve with cheeseburger macaroni
Cheeseburger macaroni can be served on its own for a filling meal. If you'd like to add a light side dish like a salad or a vegetable, here are a few ideas for you:
- Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
- Roasted Zucchini and Squash
- Winter Chopped Salad
- Kale Cranberry Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob
- Green Beans and Onions
Cheeseburger Macaroni Skillet Meal
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 16 ounces beef broth
- 8 ounces milk
- 8 ounces macaroni, uncooked
- 14 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Crumble ground beef into pan and add onion. Cook until beef is browned. Drain excess grease from pan if needed.
- Add paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, pepper, beef broth, milk, crushed tomatoes, and macaroni. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 8 minutes, or until macaroni is al dente (refer to macaroni package directions). Stir once halfway through to scrape the bottom and catch any macaroni that may be sticking.
- Remove lid. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve and enjoy.
- Freshly shredded cheese is highly recommended for this recipe. Packaged, pre-shredded cheese often contains powder coating the cheese to prevent clumping. This can cause your sauce to become gritty.
- Other pastas can be used instead of macaroni - bow ties and shells are great alternatives. Check package directions and boil to al dente.
- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator and reheated for 2 days.