This beefaroni is the perfect meal that the whole family can enjoy. Made with ground beef, veggies, and pantry staples, it is oh so hearty, comforting, and guaranteed to be on your table in 30 minutes or less!
Thanks to Cabot Creamery for sponsoring this post. I only work with companies that I love and believe in. All opinions are my own.
What is beefaroni?
It's basically elbow macaroni cooked in tomato meat sauce. What's confusing is that there are so many names for this classic combination - Beefaroni, American goulash, cheeseburger macaroni, chili mac, hamburger helper...
Regardless of what you want to call it, one thing is for certain. It is a dish that will give you a hug with each bite.
And I can understand why it's a childhood favorite for so many. It certainly takes me back to my childhood when I first moved to the States from Korea. My mom bought a can of Chef Boyardee, and my sister and I couldn't eat it fast enough.
This homemade beefaroni recipe is an upgraded version that tastes so much better than the canned stuff. Much much better!
And it doesn't take much effort. Just dump, stir, and simmer! Simply perfect for those busy weeknights, just like all of these easy family meals!
I've been making this hearty meal for my kids ever since they were 8 months or so, and it continues to be one of our favorite comfort foods!
And it's a slam dunk meal that, I have a feeling, will hold a special place in their hearts. They literally ask for it at least twice a month.
All this to say, make this ASAP!
- Lean ground beef: I recommend using 85-90% lean beef for best flavor. We personally love and trust ButcherBox's commitment to delivering high-quality grass-fed, grass-finished beef straight to our door. You can certainly use ground turkey or chicken. If you want to make this vegetarian, I suggest adding a 15 ounce can of no-salt-added beans along with the vegetables.
- Mushrooms: white or crimini will work best.
- Green bell peppers: feel free to use whatever vegetable(s) you have on hand. Zucchini, carrots, peas, broccoli...
- Beef broth - You can use chicken broth BUT I highly recommend using beef broth for this as it imparts bolder, more savory flavor.
- Elbow macaroni: I have a very strong opinion that this childhood classic is best with this type of pasta. It just soaks up all the flavors so well. Other alternatives I suggest are rotini or fusili.
- Cheese: it deserves its own section!
What Type of Cheese and How Much?
Let's talk about cheese for a minute because it is a very important ingredient in this dish. It makes the dish melty, gooey, and rich, and because there's no added salt in this baby-friendly recipe, it will add a nice sharp, salty bite for the rest of the family.
For years, our go-to cheese has been Cabot Creamery. There are sooo many varieties to choose from and each one has such distinct and delightful flavor and texture. And their cheddar cheese is 100% lactose-free.
I also love and admire this company for their structure. Cabot is a co-operative owned by farm families in New England and New York with 100% of their profits going back to the farmers. What an incredible community!
I've tried this recipe with both Rustic Pizza and Mac and Cheese, and I can't say that I have a favorite. They're all so scrumptious in their own distinct way.
Step By Step Instructions
- In a large pot, brown ground beef and drain off any excess fat.
- Add veggies and flavorings. If you have a picky eater, try adding some of the vegetables that they're learning to enjoy. I have a feeling when it's combined with this beefy cheesy sauce (and pasta!), they just might give them some love!
- Stir in the liquids and the macaroni and bring the pot to a boil. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the brown bits to dissolve into the sauce. That's flavor!
- After simmering for 10-12 minutes, stir in the cheese.
- Dig in!
Honestly, a big bowl of beefaroni is all you need for a well-balanced meal. That's how we roll, but if you want to include an easy side, here are some suggestions:
- Roasted frozen broccoli
- Frozen green beans
- Frozen brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Healthy cornbread
- Cheesy garlic bread
- Simple side salad
Pasta is such a wonderful vehicle for getting lots of essential nutrients into your baby. For younger babies who haven't quite developed their pincer grasp yet, I suggest using larger pasta shapes like fusili or penne to make it easier for them to grab and bring to mouth.
Is your baby 6 months old and up?
Learn all the secrets to starting solids safely while optimizing nutrition!
If the youngest member of your family is a baby, I would set aside a portion for them (they CAN have a little bit of cheese so you can add some if you wish, just not too much). Here is more information about sodium for babies.
Add as much cheese as you want for the rest of the family. I've found that 2 cups seems to be the sweet spot.
Fridge: transfer leftover beefaroni to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Freezer: I recommend not adding the cheese if you know you're going to freeze all or some (e.g. add cheese to ½ of the dish). Transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. Will keep for up to 3 months.
Here's everything you need to know to safely store leftovers!
More one pot meals
Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (cremini or white button mushrooms)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups low sodium beef broth
- 15 ounce tomato sauce
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni
- 2 cups shredded Cabot cheddar cheese (adjust amount to your liking)
- Brown beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain off any excess fat.
- Add the vegetables. Give it a good stir. Add in tomato paste and seasonings and cook for 5 minutes or so until everything gets well incorporated. Stir frequently.
- Stir in the broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, making sure to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Once it comes to a boil, add the pasta, cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer. Cook 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally. At this point, set aside a portion for baby.
- Stir in cheese. Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- The nutrition facts for sodium doesn't include cheese.
- If you would like to make this creamier, replace 1 cup of broth with milk of your choice.
- Ground beef: you can certainly use chicken or turkey. If you want to make this vegetarian, I suggest adding a 15 ounce can of no-salt-added beans along with the vegetables.
- Will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Hi! Do you use tomato sauce with no salt added for this recipe? I bought no salt tomato sauce but am wondering if it’ll make the recipe too bland.
I did when my kids were babies but not any more. If you do use no salt added, set aside a portion for your baby and add more cheese for the rest of the family if it's too bland 🙂
Easy to make and my 2 yr old son ate it up so fast! Thanks for the healthy and simple recipe for our family!
You're welcome! It brings me so much joy!!
Wonderful! So easy and delicious. I used pre-cooked penne (because I had a lot of it to use up) so I didn't end up adding a lot of broth but it still tasted great in the end. Also used a red pepper instead of green, because that is what I had. Would like to try adding carrots next time. The whole family enjoyed this!
SueHee Kim says
I just made this and it's utterly delicious!! I can't believe how much veggies I can pack into it without it looking like just a pile of veggies. My oldest is having a battle with mushrooms right now but I know he's going to gobble this up. Thank you so much for your healthy recipes!
So good right?! You're welcome!
Thank you so much! It’s the first time in months I’ve been able to get vegetables in my 3 year old. He’s starting to lose weight so I’m trying to figure out ways to get him to eat more and he is extremely picky and actually ate a few bites of this meal.
Oh I'm doing the happy dance with you!
I’ve made this recipe countless times now, and it’s always a hit! Thanks for sharing this excellent recipe!
Yay!! Yes we enjoy this at least twice a month too!
Another staple of ours!! Husband travels for work, so I make this at some point and we literally survive off of it. I sprinkle some cheese on my toddler’s and then serve to her, but I dump the remaining cheese into the main pot and she ends up getting those leftovers the next day 😆
Haha sounds familiar! I save leftovers for husband's lunch but then kids end up eating them
Stephanie J says
Hamburger helper brings back so many memories from when I was kid, so I was excited to try this homemade version for our family. My 14-month-old loved it, along with the rest of the gang, and while I did set some aside for her before I added the cheese, I still ended up sprinkling a couple tablespoons on hers to give it that salty element / flavor since it is low on sodium as is. The cheese was the perfect finishing touch to create that creaminess and flavor, and my daughter had a huge smile on her tomato-stained face by the end of the meal 🙂 I subbed chickpea elbow pasta, and it was great too! Love your blog and your recipes and have been using them since my daughter started solids!
Oh I'm so glad this recipe filled your hearts and bellies with warmth and deliciousness :). Thank you so much for being here and for trying out my recipes!
I have not tried any of these yet, but I just want to say thank you for doing this. I'm a momma bear with a picky eater and its starting to get a little stressful. Thank you so much for the amazing meal ideas!
Thank you so much for being here and I hope you enjoy all the recipes!!
Krista Davies says
So delicious!! I am feeding triplets toddlers and this lasts for days and is one of their favorites (and mine!) Thank you so much for sharing this recipe 😊
Oh this makes my heart so happy! I'm so glad this recipe comes to the rescue for you!!
SO GOOD. This is a staple weekly dinner. Thank you so much
For us too! Thank you for sharing!
Love all of your recipes as recommendation on adjustment for using gluten free pasta such as chickpea, brown rice or red lentil? Our son has a wheat allergy and would love to make this for him. Thanks so much!
You are welcome!!
We have made this a few times and love it! We used to use a different recipe for homemade hamburger helper but when we started having babies, we looked for a recipe that was a bit more nutrient dense and a bit less salty and found your recipe. We love it! Just as good as our old fave and we can feel good about serving it to our kids at any age. I especially like the addition of mushrooms. We all fight over the leftovers!
Aww love hearing this! Thanks for sharing, Hope!
Can this recipe use regular cheddar or jack cheese?
Any cheese that melts well will work!
sooooo good!!!! absolutely love for the whole family. used fusilli vs elbow bc that's what i had and also used a steamed bag of frozen vegetables, chopped them up fine and threw in as the vegetables.
Love love frozen veggies!
Made this for my boyfriend and I, is usually don’t write reviews for recipes but this was AMAZING. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect. Thank you!!
Hi Maci! I'm so glad you're here! So happy to hear that you guys enjoyed this recipe and thank you for taking the time to share ;).
Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe was delicious! I've made several other recipes from this site but this is by far my favorite. It's definitely comfort food but it is certainly elevated (and healthy) hamburger helper. The seasoning is fantastic and it makes a ton! You can you could literally get 12 servings out of this, especially if you serve it with a side salad. It served my husband and I twice (2 double helpings each) and 2 meals for our twin toddlers.
We don't do lactose so I added 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast instead of cheese, the 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of almond milk to make it creamy-ish. I did have to add almost 2 additional cups of broth because at the end of 12 minutes my pasta was not fully cooked but, in defense of the recipe, I'm using a new range and still getting used to it.
Otherwise, I added 3 different types of peppers to equal the same suggested amount and a bit of chopped kale. I can't wait to add this to our rotation. Thanks for the awesome recipe!
It's most def one of our favs and love having all the leftovers too! I will def need to try with milk next time. Thanks for the idea!
How many ounces for the tomato sauce? Thank you!
This was a big hit! I used ground Turkey instead of ground beef, another bell pepper 🫑 and diced tomatoes 🍅 cause I didn’t have tomato sauce- a little liquids but still delicious and lentil pasta.
My 19 month old son ate everything! Husband liked it and I was surprised how delicious and flavorful this is.
So glad to hear! Thanks for sharing!
i came to the blog for the porridge recipe and ended up making the hamburger helper! I'll make the porridge too but this recipe was a hit! Thank you for sharing your hard work Min!
This is one of our favs too!! So happy this was a hit with your family as well 😉
Kiki Khosla says
This has been a favourite in our home since my son was one. I just have to say, great recipe!!
Hillary Rivera says
This is a family staple! Even husband approved. We eat this at least 2 times a month, its the perfect comfort food.
Us too! And so easy to whip up, right?
I made this for dinner tonight and it’s a win!!
My 21 MO ate two serving! He usually doesn’t really eat meat but he ate this without noticing it!
My husband and I both had it for dinner too and I think this is going to be new additional to our family meal!
Whole family loves this!
I'm so glad!
Valerie Birkey says
This is an every other week staple recipe at our house! The whole family loves it! Min’s recipes are the best!
Aww thank you!!
Way better and healthier than the original version. I love how this recipe, and so many of yours, includes different vegies.
Another one of your recipes we all loved - the baby especially, she ate so much of it! Already made it 3 times, it’s so delicious!
Love it!! We make this at least once a month too!
Another delicious recipe for the entire family. Thanks for providing recipes with so much variety
Loved this recipe. It was good for our baby gurl and my husband liked it too!
Yay!! I hope to share more recipes like this!
Hi Min, I was inspired to try this recipe after we had success this morning with our picky 4yr old and your veggie banana waffles. I am surprised & thrilled to say she ate this meal too without any fuss. You are a miracle worker. The only change I made was to half the dry spices (even then it still had enough flavor) but I might try the full tsp of each next time. Thanks again for sharing your talents!
DELICIOUS!! Another great recipe enjoyed by the whole family! thank you so much for sharing!
Yay!! This makes me so happy!!
This is absolutely delicious!!! I followed the recipe to a T, except where I accidently put in the entire box of elbow pasta haha! I added 1.5 extra cups of broth and now we have lots of leftovers. SO Yummy! Thanks for an amazing, hearty recipe.
Yay! So glad to hear you guys enjoyed this dish so much!! Thanks for taking the time to let me know 😉