Healthy Hamburger Helper made in one pot, with 6 simple ingredients and ready in 25 minutes. A creamy, nostalgia-packed dinner made healthier!

We also love this one pot chicken pasta primavera!

Healthy Hamburger Helper garnished with parsley in red pot. Bowl with herbs, pepper grinder and linen towel on a countertop.

I didn’t grow up eating a Hamburger helper because I didn’t live in North America as a kid, but I keep hearing from everyone they make one. So, I had to try and of course a healthier version!

Unlike the lengthy list of other healthy hamburger helper recipes or my Instant Pot goulash, I kept things simple.

Discovering this brand of marinara sauce changes everything and opens a whole world of easy and delicious pasta recipes!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • One pot: A real one pot meal where everything cooks together with easy clean up.
  • 6 ingredients: That are everyday pantry staples.
  • 30 minutes: We all need quick 30 minute meals that save time. Even better, this dish hits your table in 25 minutes!
  • Healthier dinner: Made with wholesome ingredients free from fillers and packets. It’s hearty, homemade, and easy to make gluten free.

Ingredients for Healthy Hamburger Helper

You’ll only need 6 simple ingredients to make a delicious healthy hamburger helper recipe!

Ground turkey, chicken broth, pasta, marinara sauce, cheddar cheese, milk.
  • Ground turkey: Instead of the classic ground beef, I made ground turkey hamburger helper. I used lean ground turkey. You can swap any ground meat, see variations below.
  • Broth: I added low sodium chicken broth as part of the liquid for the sauce. Beef broth and vegetable broth also work.
  • Milk: Adding whole milk or 2% milk makes the sauce rich and creamy. If you use a lower fat milk, such as skim milk or 1%, the sauce may have a less velvety texture.
  • Rao’s marinara sauce: This is a must to perfecting the flavor of this dish and I wouldn’t experiment with another brand. Rao’s marinara is made in Italy and has a distinct taste that truly stands out.
  • Pasta: Go for a short pasta to soak up the delicious sauce, it will also mimic the look of boxed hamburger helper. Choose from regular, whole wheat, or gluten free pasta.
  • Cheddar cheese: Freshly grated cheddar cheese melts easily into the sauce and is much better than pre-packaged cheese with added anti-caking agents. You could also try Monetary Jack, mozzarella, or Colby Jack cheese for a slightly different taste.
  • Oil: Not pictured, but you’ll need a bit of oil for frying. Avocado oil and olive oil are my go-to.

How to Make Healthy Hamburger Helper

This homemade healthy hamburger helper recipe cooks entirely in a single large pot or Dutch oven with hardly any prep needed.

You’ll find a full recipe card below.

Step by step process how to make healthy Hamburger Helper in a pot.
  • Saute ground turkey: Heat a large pot or deep skillet on medium-high heat and add a splash of oil to coat. Add ground turkey and let it cook for about 5 minutes, breaking it into small pieces while stirring.
  • Add liquids and pasta: Pour in chicken broth, milk, marinara sauce, and pasta. Give it a good stir, cover, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. I like to stir a few times to keep the pasta from sticking.
  • Melt the cheese: Turn off the heat, add shredded cheese, and stir until it’s all blended in.
  • Serve: Serve it hot and feel free to sprinkle on some fresh parsley, black pepper, or hot sauce.

Tips for Best Results

Follow these simple tips to create the perfect homemade hamburger helper.

  • Don’t substitute Rao’s marinara: This store-bought Italian marinara sauce delivers rich flavors without the need for additional spices. Other jarred sauces fall short in this level of flavor.
  • Don’t use egg noodles: Their delicacy may make them fall apart, and they won’t absorb and hold onto the sauce as well.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta: Aim for al dente pasta to avoid a mushy texture, especially when cooking gluten free pasta which needs less stove time.
  • Adjust thickness: If the sauce feels too thick, tweak it with extra liquid towards the end. Keep in mind pasta soaks up liquid over time.
Ground Turkey Hamburger Helper served on plates with forks.

Variations and Additions

Feel free to jazz up this healthier hamburger helper with easy swaps and add-ins using whatever you’ve got at home.

  • Use any pasta: I went with cavatappi, or corkscrew pasta, but feel free to use fusilli, elbow macaroni, penne, rotini, rigatoni, or shells. Short pasta with crevices is best for holding the sauce.
  • Pick your ground meat: Any ground meat will work. If you prefer the taste or happen to have lean ground beef, ground chicken, or ground pork on hand, feel free to use it.
  • Add veggies: Throw in some chopped spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, or shredded zucchini. Mix and match, and you just created a variety of healthy dinner recipes.
  • Add some heat: Mix in a bit of cayenne pepper, paprika, or chili powder, or sprinkle with red pepper flakes or hot sauce. If your grocery store has ground spicy Italian sausage, that’s another great way to add heat.
  • Creamy additions: Add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt for extra creaminess.

What to Serve It With?

Pair healthy hamburger helper with some crusty bread or whip up some healthy cornbread muffins to soak up the creamy sauce.

For veggies, I like to keep it simple with air fryer broccoli, Instant Pot steamed vegetables, or a refreshing butter lettuce salad.

And then leftovers make for a perfect healthy lunch all on their own. Enjoy!

How to Store and Reheat

Store: I fed 4 hearty appetites and still had some leftovers. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge, it’ll stay fresh for up to 5 days.

Reheat: Simmer gently on the stove or use the microwave for reheating. Make adjustments to the consistency by adding more broth or milk if needed.

Freeze: I wouldn’t freeze it, pasta doesn’t hold up too well. It’s a quick weeknight meal, and the leftovers stay tasty in the fridge for almost a week.


What is hamburger helper?

Hamburger helper was introduced in 1971 and has been a childhood favorite for many. It’s a packaged meal kit with pasta and seasoning mix that was created to simplify cooking. Just toss in some ground meat and water, and you’ve got a hassle-free one pot meal. Today, there’s a variety of flavors to choose from.

Can I make this hamburger helper vegetarian?

Sure! Make a vegetarian homemade version by swapping out the ground turkey for drained and rinsed black beans, chickpeas, or a plant-based meat, and use vegetable broth.

Can I make it dairy-free or use almond milk?

Yes. Use a dairy-free milk such as almond milk or soy milk and your favorite non-dairy cheese substitute.

More One Pot Dinner Recipes to Try

Close up of you of healthier Hamburger Helper garnished with parsley and ground black pepper.
Ground Turkey Hamburger Helper served on plates with forks.

Healthy Hamburger Helper

Healthy Hamburger Helper made in one pot, with 6 simple ingredients and ready in 25 minutes. Creamy, nostalgia-packed dinner made healthier!
5 from 4 votes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 529
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes




  • Preheat large pot or deep skillet on medium-high heat and add a bit of oil to coat. Add ground turkey and cook for 5 minutes, constantly breaking into small pieces and stirring.
  • Add chicken broth, milk, marinara sauce and pasta. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until pasta is cooked. I recommend to stir a few times to avoid pasta sticking.
  • Turn off heat, add cheese and stir to incorporate.
  • Serve hot garnished with parsley, pepper or hot sauce.



  • Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You might have to adjust consistency with more broth or milk when reheating.
  • Freeze: Pasta doesn’t freeze well, so I don’t recommend to do so.


Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 529kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 500mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe! Thank you for a healthy and quick recipe that gets to the table quickly. My husband loved it and it was delicious as leftovers the next day! Thank you Olena, for all your hard work bringing such delicious meals to our table! ❤️

    1. What cheese do you use? Low-fat cheese or part skim cheese will curdle if cooked longer. Also, you might be overcooking cheese. After you add cheese, you stir and you turn off heat.

5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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