Can You Make Hamburger Helper Without Meat?

Whether it’s due to weight watching, health concerns, or simply experimenting with recipes, adding a fresh twist to your meals will make you anticipate mealtime. 

Hamburger Helper is a great way to put a quick meal on the table. This beef-based dish has found its way into many homes and many hearts. This has people wanting to know if you can make Hamburger Helper without meat.

Hamburger helper can be made without meat. 

It is common to use other alternatives to beef like chicken, tuna. 

Come with me as I get into the detail.

Does Hamburger Helper have meat in it?

Yes, it mostly does. Usually, Hamburger Helper consists of ground beef which can be alternated with ground turkey, tuna, chicken, and sausage. If you have health concerns about meat, or you’re maintaining a vegan diet, you may want to consider making your Hamburger Helper with other things. 

Can you make Hamburger Helper without meat?

Yes, most definitely. Although, traditionally, Hamburger Helpers are made with ground beef, but making a Hamburger Helper without meat is not as uncommon as it may seem. 

It is as quick and easy as making it with beef. 

Beef can be replaced with ground turkey, ground chicken, tuna, ground Italian sausage tempeh. 

If you are not interested in substituting meat for anything and you just want to use milk and water, the consistency may change and the sauce may not be as thick as you’d want.

Can you substitute tuna for beef in Hamburger Helper?

Yes, you can use tuna instead of beef in Hamburger Helper.  Hamburger Helper with tuna aka Tuna Helper is a quick fix. It is great for a no-beef diet. Tuna helper can be cooked on the stove or in the oven, depending on preference.

Can you make Hamburger Helper with chicken?

Sure, you can. Ground chicken is a nutritious substitute if you’re making Hamburger Helper without meat. 

The ground chicken will give your sauce an even lighter taste as compared to beef.

Chicken Hamburger Helper does the magic as well. 

When you use chicken in place of the ground beef, you do not necessarily need to sieve out the fat while it is cooking as you do for ground beef. 

Here is a list of some quick how-to recipes for vegan Hamburger Helper and chicken Hamburger Helper:

Read also: Can You Make Hamburger Helper Without Milk?

What is Hamburger Helper?

Hamburger Helper is a popular convenience food that originated in the United States in the 1970s. It is a boxed meal kit that typically includes pasta and a sauce mix that is flavored with seasonings and spices. The distinguishing feature of Hamburger Helper is the addition of ground beef or turkey, which provides a substantial amount of protein and flavor to the dish.

Hamburger Helper is available in a wide variety of flavors, with some of the most popular being cheeseburger, stroganoff, and lasagna. Each flavor typically includes a different shape of pasta and a unique seasoning blend to create a distinct flavor profile.

The recipe for Hamburger Helper is straightforward and easy to follow. First, the ground beef or turkey is browned in a skillet, then the pasta is added along with water, milk, and the seasoning mix. The mixture is cooked until the pasta is tender and the sauce has thickened, resulting in a creamy and flavorful one-pot meal.

Despite its popularity, Hamburger Helper has faced criticism for its high sodium and preservative content, as well as the heavy reliance on meat as a protein source. As a result, many people are looking for ways to make Hamburger Helper without meat, either for health or ethical reasons.

Why Make Hamburger Helper Without Meat?

There are several reasons why someone might want to make Hamburger Helper without meat. One reason is health concerns, as plant-based meals have been shown to offer numerous health benefits. A meat-free version of Hamburger Helper can be a good way to reduce the overall saturated fat and cholesterol content of the dish. This can be particularly beneficial for those with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Environmental concerns are another reason why someone might choose to make Hamburger Helper without meat. The meat industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution. By choosing to make plant-based meals, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Finally, ethical concerns are also a factor for some people. Many individuals are uncomfortable with the way animals are raised and slaughtered for food, and may choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle as a result. Making Hamburger Helper without meat can be a way to align their dietary choices with their values.

While making Hamburger Helper without meat can have many benefits, it can also be a challenge to get the flavor and texture right. Without the umami-rich flavor of meat, it can be difficult to replicate the depth of flavor that Hamburger Helper is known for. Additionally, meat substitutes can be more delicate to cook than meat, which can require some adjustments to the recipe.

Despite these challenges, making Hamburger Helper without meat is an excellent way to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, while still enjoying a classic comfort food dish.

How do you make Hamburger Helper without meat?

Here are the ingredients you need for a nutritious vegan Hamburger Helper:

  • One big onion
  • Four ounces of crisp onions
  • 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
  • A quarter cup of shredded vegan parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of noodle pasta of choice 
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt 
  • 7 ounces of vegan cheddar (make sure it is shredded if solid)
  • 2 tablespoons of toy sauce 
  • A big can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • A tablespoon of garlic powder
  • A tablespoon of onion powder 
  • 2 tablespoons of healthy yeast
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of dried oregano 
  • ½ a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • ½ a teaspoon of dried sage
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika 
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • 1 chopped head of garlic 
  • A pack of meat sausage (chopped inconsistently)

Steps to making a vegan Hamburger Helper

  1. Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your onions and oil in a big Dutch oven and increase the heat to medium/high heat. Leave it to cook for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally till the onions assume a golden-brown look with slightly dark edges.
  2. Bring the heat to medium and add sausage and garlic. Keep stirring, while you add paprika, pinch cayenne, chipotle chili, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, nutritional yeast, and sage. Leave to cook for some minutes while still stirring.
  3. Add the cheese, canned tomatoes, sea salt, tamari. Stir well and let it cook for about 8 minutes. At this point, it has begun to simmer, add the pasta and enough water to cover the noodles barely and cover. Let it cook for 30 minutes. 
  4. Carefully take off the lid, mix well and add your preferred seasonings. Sprinkle some shredded vegan Parmesan and crispy onions. Let it bake for another 15 minutes or till the pasta noodles are cooked to your liking. 
  5. Take it out from the oven and let it sit for a bit because it’ll be too hot.

Read also: 9 Best Spices to Add to Ramen

Tips for Making Meat-Free Hamburger Helper

Making meat-free Hamburger Helper can be a bit of a challenge, but there are several tips and tricks that can help you achieve a flavorful and satisfying dish.

  1. Use a flavorful meat substitute: To get the depth of flavor that ground beef or turkey provides, it’s important to choose a meat substitute that is rich in umami flavor. Some good options include textured vegetable protein, lentils, or mushrooms. Be sure to season the meat substitute well to enhance its flavor.
  2. Add additional seasonings: To further enhance the flavor of the dish, consider adding additional seasonings or spices. Some good options include garlic, onion powder, paprika, or chili powder. Taste the sauce as you go, and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  3. Cook the meat substitute properly: Cooking meat substitutes can be a bit tricky, as they can be more delicate than meat. Be sure to follow the cooking instructions carefully, and avoid overcooking the meat substitute, which can result in a mushy texture.
  4. Add additional vegetables: To increase the nutritional value of the dish and add more flavor, consider adding additional vegetables to the Hamburger Helper. Some good options include bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach.
  5. Experiment with different pasta shapes: While Hamburger Helper traditionally uses elbow macaroni, there are many other pasta shapes that can work well in the dish. Try using penne, rotini, or shells for a fun twist on the classic recipe.
  6. Use a high-quality sauce mix: While it can be tempting to use the cheapest sauce mix available, investing in a high-quality mix can make a big difference in the final result. Look for a mix that uses natural ingredients and is free from preservatives.

By following these tips, you can create a delicious meat-free version of Hamburger Helper that is just as flavorful and satisfying as the traditional recipe.

If you’re interested in a chicken Hamburger Helper, we got you too!

To get started on a chicken Hamburger Helper, here’s a list of what you need:

  • A pound of ground chicken (1 lb)
  • ½ a teaspoon of celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped onions
  • 1 table of chicken bouillon granule
  • ¾ teaspoon of chili powder 
  • A teaspoon of sugar 
  • ¾ teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 3 cups of preferred pasta
  • 1 teaspoon of parsley 
  • A can of diced tomatoes (14 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese 

7 Easy Steps to Making A Chicken Hamburger Helper

  1. Brown the ground chicken, take it out from the heat, and keep the chicken warm.
  2. Boil 3 cups of water.
  3. Add all ingredients (including the pasta) apart from the tomatoes and toppings to the boiled water.
  4. Let the mix cook for about 10 minutes or till it is soft.
  5. Lower the heat, add in the can of diced tomatoes and the ground chicken from step 1, and then stir well.
  6. Let the blend simmer for about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with toppings and stir. 

In less than or about 40 minutes, your delicious chicken helper is ready to be eaten!

Can you make Hamburger Helper without milk and meat?

Yes, it is possible to make Hamburger Helper without milk and meat. The traditional recipe for Hamburger Helper calls for milk to create a creamy sauce, but there are several non-dairy milk options available, such as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk, that can be used instead. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid used in the recipe to get the desired consistency.

To replace the meat, you can use a meat substitute such as tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, lentils, or mushrooms. Make sure to season the meat substitute well to enhance its flavor.

Here is a basic recipe for making Hamburger Helper without milk and meat:


  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (such as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk)
  • 1 package Hamburger Helper seasoning mix
  • 1 cup meat substitute (such as tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, lentils, or mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Additional seasonings (such as garlic powder, onion powder, or chili powder) to taste


  1. Cook the elbow macaroni according to package instructions and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the meat substitute and seasonings, and cook until the meat substitute is browned and crispy.
  3. Add the water or vegetable broth to the skillet and stir in the Hamburger Helper seasoning mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
  4. Stir in the cooked elbow macaroni and non-dairy milk, and continue to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the sauce is creamy.
  5. Serve hot, garnished with additional seasonings if desired.

This recipe can be adapted to use different pasta shapes and meat substitutes, depending on your preferences. With a bit of creativity and experimentation, you can create a delicious and satisfying meat- and dairy-free version of Hamburger Helper.

Can I just use water for Hamburger Helper?

While the traditional recipe for Hamburger Helper calls for a combination of water and milk, you can use water alone if you don’t have or don’t want to use milk. However, keep in mind that using only water will result in a thinner sauce and may affect the overall taste and creaminess of the dish.

If you decide to use water instead of milk, you may want to consider adding additional seasonings or spices to the sauce to boost its flavor. For example, you could add garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or chili powder to the sauce mix to enhance its taste.

It’s also worth noting that you can use a non-dairy milk alternative, such as soy milk or almond milk, in place of cow’s milk if you prefer. Non-dairy milk alternatives can add a creaminess and richness to the dish, similar to that of traditional milk.

Ultimately, whether you choose to use water or a non-dairy milk alternative depends on your personal preferences and dietary restrictions. Experiment with different options to find what works best for you.

By Luong Tan

Luong Tan, the creative and passionate founder of Bourbono, is a multi-talented individual with a deep love for the culinary arts. An accomplished food blogger, cookbook author, and former Ambassador of US cuisine in Vietnam (2015-2016), Luong has been on a mission to share his appreciation for food with the world.

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