Copycat Hamburger Mac and Cheese Recipe

This hamburger mac and cheese recipe is one of my family favorites. It’s simple, comforting, and everyone at our dinner table devours it. A simple copycat version of a classic boxed meal, this dish has a cook time under 30-minutes and is sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.

bowl of hamburger mac and cheese on wood table

Hamburger Macaroni and Cheese

Remove the preservatives and get a fresh flavor with this recipe. It really requires just a few ingredients, most of which you probably keep on hand. The secret to making this super creamy is in the addition of American cheese slices. They have to be real American cheese and not “cheese product” for it to be best.

One thing that is different in this recipe is that it includes bell pepper and onions. While this is not traditional, it is something my family prefers for flavor and texture. Feel free to skip that part of the recipe.

What goes in copycat Hamburger Helper?

Below is the list of ingredients you will need for this recipe, but the measurements will be in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. This is what I use, but you can easily season to your own preferences.

  • Ground beef (or turkey if you want to cut calories)
  • Olive oil
  • Elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • American cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dry mustard powder (or a small amount of prepared mustard)
  • Milk
  • Bell pepper (optional)
  • Onion (optional)
bowl of hamburger mac and cheese on wood board

How do I make this hamburger mac and cheese recipe?

Start by chopping your bell pepper and onion into small pieces. Then, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on the medium heat setting. Once hot, add the peppers and onions, and saute. Stir occasionally, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.

While that is cooking, prepare a large stockpot of water with a punch of salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the macaroni noodles and let cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or as the package directs. You want the pasta soft, but with a bit of bite. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

Then, add your ground meat, garlic salt and black pepper. Cook this, breaking up the meat as you go, until browned and cooked through. This usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Drain any excess grease from the pan. Then, add in the Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Stir together, and add in the cheddar and American cheese. Reduce the heat to low, and stir until the cheese is melted. Now stir in the milk.

Once you have a beef and cheese sauce, add in the elbow macaroni and stir to combine. Taste and season as desired before serving.

blue bowl of macaroni and cheese with beef on cutting board

Make this recipe your own

One of my goals is not just to give you great recipes, but to help you learn how to make food unique to fit your family. We don’t all have the same flavor preferences, and a good home cook will learn to season foods to their liking. So, below are a few variations of this recipe that you may consider when you prepare this hamburger mac and cheese for your family.

  • Use a hamburger seasoning blend to replace the garlic salt and black pepper.
  • For added “heat” mix in 1/4 teaspoon chili powder or a pinch of cayenne.
  • Add in rinsed and drained black beans or corn for a “Southwest” spin on the dish.
  • Use ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or even Italian sausage instead of ground beef.


How long are leftovers of hamburger mac good?

This can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days for the best results. If you don’t think you can eat it before that time, you can freeze in portions for up to 3 months.

How do I make my copycat hamburger helper creamier?

One of the big differences with this recipe is that it isn’t made with as much milk in the sauce. I prefer to use as little as possible, but if you need a creamier result, add milk in 1/4 cup measurements until you get the desired texture. Another option is to save some pasta water to stir in as the sauce cooks.

Making delicious food at home doesn’t require a special set of skills. You just need to begin understanding flavors and preferences. This recipe for copycat hamburger macaroni and cheese is a fun way to have an affordable and easy to prepare meal that you will enjoy, while spending minimal time in the kitchen.

If you like this recipe, then check out my cookbooks. I’ve created 4 books filled with delicious recipes that are easy to make, packed with flavor, and ideal for a new cook!

Hamburger Mac and Cheese
Yield: 6

Hamburger Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Create a delicious version of the classic "Hamburger Helper". This copycat hamburger macaroni and cheese is sure to be a hit at your dinner tale!


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 slices American cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni


  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat setting. Add bell peppers and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender.
  2. While the vegetables cook, prepare the pasta according to package directions, cooking until just tender.
  3. Drain and set aside.Once the vegetables are tender, add the ground beef, garlic salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink.
  4. Add the Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard powder, milk, and cheeses. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring until the cheese is melted. If too thick, add more milk in 1/4 cup increments until desired consistency.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Taste and season additionally if needed.


  • Save pasta water to thin sauce instead of milk if desired.
  • Bell pepper and onion are optional.
  • Use ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork if preferred.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 480Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 651mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 32g

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