June 16, 2020


Who else loved Hamburger Helper as a kid? This healthy version has no artificial additives, and can easily be made dairy-free or vegan! It’s balanced in protein and carbs, and significantly lower in fat and sodium too. This Healthy Hamburger Helper tastes like a fresher, home-cooked version of my favorite boxed meal. Best of all, it’s ready to eat in under 30 minutes! Feel free to add mushrooms, peppers, or a side salad for even more veggies 😉

Did you know? Grass fed beef contains up to five times the amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats compared to conventionally-raised beef, as well as higher amounts of the Vitamins E and A. (source)

Choosing lean ground beef

This Healthy Hamburger Helper calls for 93% lean ground beef, which is much lower in fat and total calories than 85% lean. If you can only find 85% lean, simply drain the browned beef and rinse with hot water for nutrient content closer to 90% lean.

Making this dish vegan

Of course, you could also use lean ground turkey or even Beyond Beef or Impossible Burger for a nearly identical vegan version. If making this vegan or dairy free, I highly recommend VioLife Cheddar Shreds, or Daiya Cheddar Shreds as a close runner-up!

The creamy sauce (without milk)!

Instead of adding two cups of milk, I was able to get a creamy, thick sauce by adding a little gluten-free flour to the pasta broth, along with the cooked noodles, diced tomatoes, seasoned beef, and sautéed onion. You seriously don’t miss it! Even without cheese the sauce becomes thick and velvety, coating the pasta noodles just right 😉 You can use beef broth or vegetable broth for vegan.

Choosing the pasta

Speaking of pasta, I used red lentil pasta (fusilli)! I am obsessed. It’s got the same texture of regular pasta with more protein, fiber, and nutrients. I can’t do chickpea pasta (I get so bloated!), but that’s another option. You could also use high protein wholegrain wheat pasta if tolerated.

The only other ingredients you’ll need are a few dry spices and optional fresh parsley for garnish. Such an easy, family-friendly meal (the kids were begging for more)! We will definitely be making it on repeat.

Here’s the printable recipe for this Healthy Hamburger Helper! I hope you’ll rate and comment below if you try it 😉

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Healthy Hamburger Helper

This Healthy Hamburger Helper is gluten-free, easily made dairy-free or vegan, lower in fat and sodium, and high in protein. Kids will beg for more!
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 497kcal
Author Sarah Wilkins, No Excuses Nutrition


  • 2 lbs. raw 93% lean ground beef* or meatless ground
  • 1 1/2 cup (2 small) onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt optional
  • 1 tsp. chili powder optional
  • 15 oz. dry red lentil pasta*
  • 4 cups beef broth*
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese* can use dairy-free
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped

*See above for substitutions.


    • Brown ground beef in a nonstick skillet until no pink remains, then add chopped onion and sauté until translucent.
    • Season beef and onion with spices (paprika, onion powder, garlic, pepper, salt, chili powder).
    • Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of broth to a boil and add pasta, cooking 7-8 minutes until al dente (slightly firm).
    • Add diced tomatoes to simmering broth, along with seasoned beef.
    • Sprinkle in flour and cheese, gently stirring until combined.
    • Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley if desired (optional). Makes approximately eight 10-ounces servings.
    • Leftovers will keep in the fridge in an airtight container up to one week, or in the freezer up to one month.


    Calories (per 10-ounce serving): 497kcal, Total fat: 16.2g, Sat fat: 7g, Carbohydrate: 43g, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 45g, Sodium: 497mg

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