The Best Hamburger Helper You’ve Ever Had

Clever tricks and smart additions make for one killer one-pot cheeseburger macaroni with over 6,000 reviews.

By Priya Krishna

Hi! I’m still here, Sam’s still on vacation, let’s talk about what to cook this week.

Sometimes, you put a recipe out into the universe and genuinely wonder: Will anyone care? It’s the scary, vulnerable side of developing recipes, and I felt it when I first published this recipe for homemade Hamburger Helper (above) in 2019.

I had first tasted it at a potluck, and it knocked me sideways. How could something so simple and stoneresque taste so complex? On a whim, I emailed Mark Rosati, the culinary director of Shake Shack, who had made the dish for the potluck, and asked him for the recipe.

At that point in my career, most of my recipe development was rooted in Indian food. In many ways, the recipe felt like a left turn, what with all the American cheese and bacon. And Hamburger Helper is so deeply retro — would people still be interested in cooking it?

Yet, like all my favorite dishes, Mark’s recipe was filled with clever tricks. Deglazing the pot with wine lends brightness. The mix of American and Cheddar cheeses gives you both gooeyness and nuttiness. The generous glugs of hot sauce (I like Tapatio!) put a sharp accent on the dish, making it feel more restaurant-y than supermarket-y.

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Homemade Hamburger Helper

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More than 6,000 reviews later, it might be one of my most-cooked recipes on New York Times Cooking. At the very least, it’s a go-to of my former downstairs neighbors; I could always detect the smell of the dish on my way up the steps. And it’s clearly a favorite of the reader Dan_Dags: “I got drunk and made this when my fiancée wasn’t home and got all these stains on my undershirt when I ate it (I spilled on myself) and it was so good and I don’t even care.”

Here are some other favorites to cook throughout the week!


I’m currently staring at an eggplant the size of a newborn baby sitting on my kitchen counter, and puzzling over how to make a lunch that I’ll want to eat all week. The solution? Yewande Komolafe’s mushroom and eggplant yassa. Like all Yewande’s recipes, it has so many layers of interesting flavors and a punchy sauce to finish. The Komolafe guarantee!


This light and bright version of white chicken chili from Lidey Heuck screams, “Cook me on a busy weeknight!” and can be dressed up according to each eater’s preferences (hello, parents of picky children).


I don’t have a grill, so I’ll make this grilled halloumi and zucchini with salsa verde on a grill pan. Thanks to the salty cheese and salsa — throw those two on anything and it’ll be delightful — it’ll taste very close to the real-deal grilled version.


Every time I see a Hetty Lui McKinnon cookbook on a friend’s shelf I get excited, because everyone deserves to have Hetty’s brilliance in their lives. She has an uncanny ability to utterly transform shortcut ingredients with just a few steps. In this case, store-bought gnocchi is crisped in a pan and tossed with tomatoes, herbs and sliced onions. Summery greatness.


The wiggle of a panna cotta will never not be a charming sight. Use this Lidey Heuck recipe as your starter kit and get creative while gussying it up: with fresh peaches, a berry reduction or perhaps even chocolate syrup straight from the bottle.

That’s it from me for now. For more food shenanigans, you can find me at @priyakrishna on Instagram. Kim Severson will be with you next week. Over to you, Kim!

Priya Krishna is a Times Food staff reporter. She is the author of multiple cookbooks, including the best-selling “Indian-ish.” More about Priya Krishna

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