Vegan Hamburger Helper

bowl of vegan hamburger helper

♫ Listening to: Take Back The Power by The Interrupters ♫

I have a confession to make. I’m an imposter (an impasta-er?). Why, you ask? Because I didn’t actually grow up on hamburger helper. My dad was a hippy and never bought what he referred to as “junk food.” He was also mostly vegetarian, and since hamburger helper isn’t vegetarian, that means it had 2 strikes against it. I grew up without oreos, lunchables, soda, or hamburger helper. I was the weird kid with the pb&j on whole wheat bread that could have built a house stronger than 2 of the 3 little pigs.

Luckily, I had friends with normal parents, so I have had hamburger helper at least once in my life. And therefore making hamburger helper vegan for this recipe wasn’t a huge challenge for me. I know there are different flavors of hamburger helper, and I think this one is most similar to the recipe for hamburger helper beef pasta. Does it actually taste like hamburger helper without meat? I’ll let you be the judge of that. If you make this recipe for hamburger helper, tag me or message me on instagram (@vegandollhouse), and let me know what you think.

Both sets of vegan hamburger helper recipe instructions below (instant pot and stovetop) result in a super creamy hamburger helper without milk. In both versions of the recipe, you only need to use one pot, which helps cut down on kitchen cleanup, giving you more time to pet dogs. You’re welcome.

This recipe makes 6 servings of vegan hamburger helper.

Vegan Hamburger Helper Recipe (Instant Pot)

Vegan Hamburger Helper Ingredients for the Instant Pot

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 8 ounces (225g) vegan ground beef (2 beyond burgers)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (optional)*
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ¼ cups (1L+60mL) of veggie broth
  • 1 pound (16oz/450g) dried elbow macaroni (or substitute any pasta shape)
  • 7-8 ounces (200-225g) shredded vegan cheddar cheese (I use violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite)

Vegan Hamburger Helper Directions for the Instant Pot

total time: 45 minutes

Dollhouse Shortcut

To save time grating cheese, you can use a container of kite hill queso in place of the cheese.

Press the sauté button on your instant pot when you’re ready to start cooking.

Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and the diced onion to the instant pot liner as soon as you want.

Sauté until the onions get soft and start to become see-through.

Add 2 Beyond Burgers and break them up with a spoon or silicone spatula as you mix them in with the onions. You can use any brand of plant based ground beef in this recipe, but I usually use Beyond Meat.

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped or minced garlic.

Press the cancel button on the instant pot after a few minutes or when the ingredients start to stick to the bottom, whichever comes first.

Add 4 cups of veggie broth, 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (this is optional), ½ teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon pink sea salt (or any salt you have in your kitchen). I usually don’t have veggie broth in my pantry so I use 4 cups of water plus 4 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base to make my own broth.

Scrape the bottom of your instant pot liner with a large spoon or a silicone spatula to loosen any pieces of stuck-on onion or vegan meat. This will reduce the chances of your instant pot displaying the ever feared BURN message it tells us when it’s feeling exceptionally mean.

Add the macaroni pasta and stir it all.

Lock the instant pot lid, and turn the valve to the closed position. On mine, it’s called sealing, but I just push it to the back, and I know it’s sealed.

Press the pressure cook button and make sure it’s on high (low is also an option on mine). Increase or reduce the time based on the shape of your pasta. If you’re cooking macaroni noodles (also called elbows), set the time to 2 minutes. If you’re cooking shells, set the time to 5 minutes. For other pasta shapes, here’s a trick I learned from other people’s blogs. Just take the shortest cooking time on the package of pasta (for my elbow pasta, the cooking time says 5-7 minutes), divide by 2, and then round down to the nearest whole number.

Release the pressure manually once the cooking time ends, and it starts counting up for the minutes it’s been done. Releasing the pressure manually just means to move the valve from sealing to venting, or from the back position to the front position. BE CAREFUL when you do this. I usually hold a towel to protect my hand from the steam. I also set my instant pot under my kitchen hood and turn on the hood before I release the pressure. My old coworker taught me that trick to save your cabinets from getting warped.

Stir the pasta.

Add in the grated Violife epic mature cheddar (or any vegan cheese you like) and stir until it’s all melted. You can save a little of the grated cheese to add to the top before serving if you want.

Serve and top with reserved grated vegan cheese (optional).

bowl of vegan hamburger helper

Vegan Hamburger Helper Recipe (Stovetop)

Vegan Hamburger Helper Ingredients for the Stovetop

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 8 ounces (225g) vegan ground beef (2 beyond burgers)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (optional)*
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 6 cups (1.5L) of veggie broth
  • 1 pound (16oz/450g) pasta (I’ve used shells and elbows)
  • 7-8 ounces (200-225g) shredded cheddar cheese (I use violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite)

Vegan Hamburger Helper Directions for the Stove

total time: 33 minutes

Dollhouse Shortcut

To save time grating cheese, you can use a container of kite hill queso in place of the cheese.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add diced onions.

Sauté until the onions get soft and start to become see-through.

Add 2 Beyond Burgers and break them up with a spoon or silicone spatula as you mix them in with the onions. You can use any brand of plant based ground beef in this recipe, but I usually use Beyond Meat.

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped or minced garlic.

Add 6 cups of veggie broth, 2 tablespoons optional organic tomato paste, ½ teaspoon optional black pepper, and ½ teaspoon optional pink sea salt (or any salt you have in your kitchen). I usually don’t have veggie broth in my pantry so I use 6 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base to make my own broth.

Put the pot on the stove on high heat.

Add the macaroni pasta and stir it all.

The above steps usually take me about 15 minutes.

Cover the pot with the lid.

Reduce the heat to medium low as soon as it starts to boil. Mine usually takes about 5 minutes to start boiling after I cover it.

Set your timer to 10 minutes if you’re using elbow pasta. If you’re using shells, set your timer for 13 minutes.

Stir the pasta every minute to keep it from boiling over. This is the only downside to making hamburger helper on the stove (versus in an instant pot).

Taste one of the pieces of pasta when the timer goes off to see if it’s done. If it’s not done, cook it for another minute and taste it again.

Stir in 7-8 ounces shredded vegan cheese (I use Violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite, but you can use any kind you like).

Serve immediately.

taking a bite of vegan hamburger helper

Substitutions and Tips

Mashup Idea

You can use the method described in this hamburger helper recipe, along with the ingredients in my tuna casserole recipe to make tuna helper.

Plant-based burgers

This vegan hamburger helper recipe calls for 8 ounces of ground beef, which is the equivalent of 2 beyond burgers. However, if your family doesn’t actually like meat, you might try just using half that amount. I grew up mostly vegetarian, so I prefer half the amount, but your typical muggle who likes the taste of meat will want this recipe as is.

Sometimes, I add a pound of frozen broccoli to the ingredients when I first start to cook the meal. You can do this with spinach, broccoli, mushroom slices, peas, or whatever other veggies you like in your mac and cheese.

Garlic Substitute

If you don’t have fresh garlic, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, but don’t add the garlic powder until you add the liquid.

Can you really make Hamburger Helper without milk?

Yes! I promise it really works. Because we use the exact amount of liquid we need and don’t boil and then drain the pasta water, we save all that creamy starchiness, eliminating the need for milk.

Can you save Hamburger Helper leftovers?

Yes! Leftover hamburger helper will stay good in a tupperware in the fridge for 5-6 days. If you don’t think you’ll eat it that fast, you can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Just let it cool on the counter to room temperature before you package and freeze it. When you reheat it, just add a few tablespoons of water to the pot when you’re stirring it.

Other Similar Recipes

If you like this hamburger helper recipe, you should also check out this mac and cheese recipe.

Here’s a live stream of me and my friend Kimmy making this hamburger helper.

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic (or non-GMO) version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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To preserve your privacy, I've decided to remove the commenting feature from this website. However, I still VERY MUCH want to hear from you. If you have any questions about this recipe or just general comments, please reach me via my email, Twitter, or Instagram.