macaroni and cheese with grounded beef

Hamburger Helper (Everything You Need To Know)

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Hamburger Helper might be among the top ones from your list of favorite meals. At any hour of the day or night, this easy-go Hamburger Helper Recipe can meet your cravings. It is a trendy household name that gets prepared just within thirty minutes. Even then, there remain few questions regarding your favorite meal. So, we are here with your answers.

Your favorite hamburger Helper recipe usually requires milk. But you can always find significant dairy and non-dairy milk alternatives when you are in a hurry. You can thicken your runny sauce using cornstarch mix. If you are not up for the meat in your meal today, you can go for meat substitutes. However, you should drain the grease from it when using grounded meat.

Hamburger Helper is not only an easy pick at any hour but also a wholesome, healthy meal for your family. It serves a great variety of flavors to make you satisfied. You don’t need great fancy ingredients for making this mouth-watering recipe. You can find everything around you or just make smart substitutes without sacrificing the taste.

What is Hamburger Helper?

Hamburger Helper is a packaged pasta brand that started its journey in 1971. It is manufactured by General Mills. The basic version of Hamburger Helper comes in a box of dried pasta along with seasoning. It is supposed to be cooked with ground meat.

A box of Hamburger Helper

However, it offers a great variety of flavors, including lasagna, bacon cheeseburger, cheeseburger macaroni, Philly cheese stick, and lots more. There are several variations designed over the years for different meats. Some of them are as follows:

  • Tuna helper
  • Chicken helper
  • Pork helper
  • Asian helper
  • Fruit helper
  • Whole-grain helper

How to Make a Hamburger Helper Without Milk?

As a substitute for milk in Hamburger Helper, almost any milk-based product works pretty well. You can try any milk-based product of both animal and plant origin. You can go for dairy products like cream, cheese, butter, and yogurt. On the other hand, you can try non-dairy or plant-based milk products as a substitute for milk.

It’s essential to know the effects of these milk alternatives in Hamburger Helper. Moreover, it would help to keep in mind which proportion you will use for the substitutes in your recipe.

Substitutes of Milk in Hamburger Helper

In order to make Hamburger Helper without milk, you should get to know about the milk substitutes first. A few milk alternatives to use in the recipe are as follows:

  • Sour Cream

The creamy texture of Hamburger Helper comes from milk. But, sour cream can be a great substitute for milk to serve this purpose. Sour cream will offer a unique texture and flavor in hamburger helper. 

Sour cream is widely used on foods like Hamburger Helpers to give it a creamy touch. Moreover, it helps in thickening the consistency owing to its acidity. So you must be careful regarding the amount of sour cream you add. Too much sour cream might give rise to excessive thickening, which furthermore hampers the taste.

  • Heavy Cream

Heavy cream can be an effective substitute for milk in Hamburger Helper due to its rich, velvety touch. It possesses a thicker consistency. So, you can easily dilute them using water before adding them to the Hamburger Helper.

In case of substitution of one whole cup of milk, you can use a half cup of heavy cream along with a half cup of water. The mixture will show remarkable results in creating a rich and creamy texture in your dish, even in the absence of milk. In addition, if you are lactose intolerant, heavy cream can be an optimal option since this high-fat product contains almost no lactose.

  • Cream Cheese

Cream cheese can serve as a pretty good substitute for milk in your recipe. It comes with the desired creaminess. Moreover, it adds an amazing flavor of cheese to your Hamburger Helper. However, if you are a calorie counter, cream cheese won’t be your option due to its heavy calorie and fat content.

Different flavors of Hamburger Helper demand milk in different ratios. While replacing a half cup of milk, you will usually require a quarter cup of cream cheese and a quarter cup of water. So, you must remember the proportion of cheese instead of milk for a perfect recipe.

  • Mayonnaise

If you are running out of milk, then look around for some readily available ingredients like mayonnaise. You can even prepare mayonnaise at home using oil, egg yolk, and acids like lemon juice or vinegar. In comparison to milk, mayonnaise has a very thick texture.

Three tablespoons of milk are equivalent to one teaspoon of mayonnaise due to its thick consistency. So, carefully add the required amount of mayonnaise to your recipe. Else, you might find the texture to be super thick. The proper amount of mayonnaise will enrich the texture and flavor of your dish.

  • Plain Yogurt

It’s no big deal if you don’t have milk while preparing Hamburger Helper. You can always go for plain yogurt instead of milk. Milk usually dilutes the consistency of the dish when added. But yogurt ensures the proper thickness of the dish while adding a creamy texture to it.

So if you are in a hurry and have no milk for your Hamburger Helper, replace milk with plain yogurt. You can use it in a similar amount as the recipe would demand the amount in milk. But if you are using Greek yogurt, you should dilute it with water first.

  • Water with Butter

It’s surprising, but you can utilize water for replacing milk with the addition of little butter. The butter itself is pretty thick if you consider adding it as a substitute. For each cup of milk, you can use one cup of water with one teaspoon of butter. You can raise the quantity of butter if you want a thicker consistency.

Water itself, being lighter and devoid of flavor, helps to dilute the consistency of the sauce. You can further maintain the texture and thickness by the addition of butter in the proper amount. The mixture of water and butter is pretty much preferable in place of milk.

  • Margarine

If you like butter, then you will probably prefer margarine as a replacement for milk. Margarine tastes almost similar to butter. But it’s more like a non-dairy substitute for butter. So you can add margarine to achieve a cream-like texture.

You have to add one cup of water along with one teaspoon of margarine instead of each cup of milk. You are sure to love this flavor of margarine if you already like butter. So, try out this substitute for milk in the Hamburger Helper recipe.

  • Stock/ broth

Instead of using milk, you can utilize stock or broth in your Hamburger Helper recipe as per its flavor. For instance, if you are using a chicken-flavored Hamburger Helper, you can go for chicken stock. Similarly, if you have a beef-flavored one, choose beef stock. However, it might add a less creamy texture due to its lighter consistency.

If you don’t want any milk-based product to substitute for milk, then stocks can be your most preferred option. The light and delicate texture of stocks add savory to your Hamburger Helper. It’s also a wise choice for people with lactose intolerance.

  • Plant-based/ Non-dairy Milk Alternatives
Organic soy milk

If you have lactose intolerance, then using these non-dairy milk alternatives can work significantly for you. These also help in adding a creamy texture to your meal.  Moreover, these plant bases milk alternatives are of great value for your health. These will help enhance your immune system. 

Plant-based milk substitutes are highly preferable for vegetarians. Different types of non-dairy milk alternatives of various consistency are available. You can observe some of their names in the following list:

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk

How to Get a Hamburger Helper to Thicken?

To fix the consistency of Hamburger Helper sauce, you can add some cornstarch. Cornstarch helps in concentrating the sauce mixture. So, mix some cornstarch in cold water, or you can shake them in a bottle. Then, add this cornstarch mixture little by little to your sauce. It will aid in attaining the desired consistency of your sauce.

Whenever you pour water while preparing Hamburger Helper, make sure you are adding it slowly. Else, your sauce will have a runny consistency. You can also add milk instead of using water to keep the sauce more cream-like and less diluted. If you are running short of milk, you can choose milk alternatives from the given list above.

You can add dairy milk substitutes like butter, sour cream, or any such product of your choice. They will reduce the diluteness of the sauce by thickening it. Thus, you will get a meal of preferred consistency and taste.

Thinning is a very common issue while preparing the hamburger helper. Whether you are new or experienced in cooking hamburger helpers, this common scenario can often occur. So, you should consider these tips in case you end up with a runny meal.  

How to Make a Hamburger Helper without Meat?

Tuna, mushroom, fish, vegetables, tofu are a few substitutes for the beef you use in hamburger helpers. If you are allergic or just vegetarian, then you can try out some of these alternatives.    

You can make your Hamburger Helper as per your taste. It can be with or without meat according to your requirements. So if you are a vegetarian or concerned about leaving meat, you can make your meal without meat. Nevertheless, it won’t be compromising in being a delicious flavor. 

You can go for several substitutes for meat based on your desires. On the following is a list of a few replacements of meat to use in Hamburger Helper:

  • Tuna

If you are a pescatarian who doesn’t eat meat but loves eating fish and seafood, then tuna can be your favorite option. If you are a vegetarian, you can go for vegan tuna.

Adding tuna instead of meat to your Hamburger Helper recipe will enhance the taste to a great extent. This delicious alternative might make you forget ground meat.

  • Mushroom
sautéed mushrooms

Mushroom can be an excellent substitute for meat in your recipe. It is rich in taste and has a meaty touch. It is even a healthier option than ground meat.

You can sauté mushroom in vegan butter along with adding vinegar and black pepper. Try adding mushroom to your recipe and embrace its amazing taste.

  • Fish

If you are a fish lover, then you can substitute meat with some wonderful fish. Fishes can act as a source of protein and add a new flavor.

You can add fish-ball or related stuff to your recipe to enhance the taste. Fish is low in fat, along with having several other nutritional values.

  • Vegetables

As a replacement for meat, there is an abundance of vegetables. Vegetables not only act as a substitute for meat but also work impressively for your immune system.

You can add several veggies like tomato, broccoli, peas, and so on. The flavor of your Hamburger Helper can also help you in choosing the right veggies for your dish.

  • Frozen vegetables

Frozen veggies can also be a substitute for meat. They will add a new dimension to the taste of your Hamburger Helper.

You can add the frozen veggies ten minutes before you finish cooking. You can also add canned veggies in the same manner. Pour off the can of water before adding the veggies.

  • Cheese

Cheese can do wonders in any dish whenever used. As a substitute for meat, the cheese will make the dish wholesome by its extraordinary flavor.

So if you are thinking of replacing meat with any readily available ingredient, cheese can always be an option. Enjoy your meal of Hamburger Helper with cheese.

  • Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, and TVP

Tofu and tempeh are plant-based vegetables made from soybeans. They can act as a substitute for meats in Hamburger Helper.

Seitan comes from wheat gluten. Texturized vegetable protein, also called TVP, has its origin in soy too. They all make great substitutes for meat.

Why Drain Grease from Hamburger Helper?

If you do not drain the grease from Hamburger Helper, a considerable amount of fat might remain. It can often be risky for you to consume a high amount of fat over a more extended period of time. So, it is better to drain the grease and take steps for a healthier approach towards any recipe.

Usually, ground beef possesses a remarkable amount of fat. Consuming a high amount of fat is unhealthy for all of us. That is why it is recommended to drain grease from ground beef. Cooking and draining ground beef can significantly lessen the content of fat and calories.

Though we are well aware that we should drain the grease from ground beef, we are careless regarding the proper way to do it. We must not throw the grease randomly in the sink. Thick grease can clog the plumbing pipes, which further results in their blockage.

How to Get Grease Out of a Hamburger Helper?

You can drain the grease, dab it with some paper towel or use a strainer to strain all the grease from your hamburger helper. 

Draining out the grease is a vital act during the preparation of the hamburger helper. You must get grease out of it meticulously. You can adopt the following options while doing it:

  • Push the meat to the other side of the pan using a fork or spoon. Incline the pan along the empty portion, which will help the grease accumulate in that corner of the skillet.
  • In order to remove the grease from the pan, you can use a large metal spoon. You can line a cup or bowl with Aluminum foil and spoon the grease into it.
  • Absorb the grease using some paper towels to clean it up. If there is more grease remaining, then continue dabbing it using a few more towels.
  • Using tin foil, create a bowl and keep a strainer over it. Then, pour the ground beef along with the grease into the strainer. Wait for a few minutes to complete dripping inside. After completion, when the grease cools down, throw away the tin foil.

How to Give Hamburger Helper More Flavor?

Adding some extra ingredients like diced onions, pepper, chilies, mushroom, spinach, etc. can greatly enhance the flavor of your hamburger helper. 

You can always be creative to add more flavors to your favorite Hamburger Helper recipe. Hamburger Helper comes in a variety of flavors. For a different taste, you can bring other additions to make it more delicious. Some generalized add-ins for Hamburger Helper are as follows:

  • For browning meat
  • Dice and add to the raw meat one whole white onion.
  • Add 1-2 tbsp fresh minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
  • Add black pepper and Italian seasoning to the browning meat
  • Add green chilies or jalapenos
  • For liquids and pasta
  • A container of sliced mushroom or a small can of mushroom
  • Frozen or can dried broccoli and peas
  • A can of whole or sliced black olives
  • A handful of raw spinach

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