Some people are very opposed to convenience foods such as Hamburger Helper.  While I suppose in general I have turned into such a person, I do think that those types of products have their place.  Obviously they are convenient, but they can also be a starting point for someone who knows absolutely nothing about cooking to slowly learning that they are capable of making something edible.  I certainly ate my fair share of Hamburger Helper growing up and during college and you know, it really doesn’t taste all that bad.  My culinary interests clearly have grown far beyond the boxed food realm, but every once in a while I crave the old childhood favorite.  Now that I tend to avoid most processed foods though, I opt for this homemade version instead.  With multi-grain pasta, ground turkey and homemade taco seasoning, this is a much healthier copycat that tastes better than the boxed version.  I made a few minor changes to add a bit more flavor, and I also reduced the liquid a bit to thicken the sauce.  This is a great meal that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.


1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)


  • 01

    Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.


  • I love pasta with cheese :)

  • Annie this looks so easy, and exactly like the type of dish that my husband would love. We haven’t had anything near this flavor profile in months, and after so serendipitously finding cheddar cheese (finally!) this would be a very welcome surprise for my husband for sure! I have two small quick questions – is that cilantro that you garnished with? and what do you think about adding in a few green chiles too?

  • Lacey

    Oooo…I’m so excited. I’ve been trying to substitute ground beef with ground turkey lately and this look great! I can’t wait to try it out. thanks for sharing. oh, and I tried your homemade taco seasoning just last night and it is wonderful! I don’t think I’ll ever go back :-)

  • I never had the boxed version, but your “clean” version sounds tasty! Thanks for sharing it.

  • This comforting meal looks delicious! Definitely on the “to-make” list.

  • Stacy/Pumpkinseed12

    Yours looks even better than mine! I made this on Sunday and we loved it more than the boxed version as well!

  • Annie

    Hi Jenn,
    Yep, I used cilantro to garnish. It was a nice addition. I think green chiles would be a great mix-in!

  • When you posted on WC that you were making this not too long ago I immediately thought it sounded like something amazing for us because my husband LOVES hamburger helper and the idea of this is so similar. I’m so glad you’ve posted this because I was thinking about making it next week.

  • Looks fantastic, I’ll definitely be trying this one out!

  • it sounds wonderful!

  • Yum, Yum, Yum!! Can’t wait to give it a try!! :)

  • we’re moving in a couple weeks so I’m in pantry clean out mode and running out of ideas…this is PERFECT! Thank you!

  • That looks delicious! I must admit I still love Hamburger Helper because it’s so quick and easy, but I’ll be making your taco mac instead from now on. Thanks for the recipe!

  • this looks good, i want to try it and make more healthy if possilbe

  • Glad you liked it! Its one of our favorites now. I’ve been making it almost once a week which is unusual in our house… I’m usually trying out new recipes! :-)

  • Annie

    Great idea! I too tend to turn my nose up at boxed foods and prepared items, however, I have to come clean to crraving some Hamburger Helper now and then. I’ll definitely be trying this – I wonder if anyone has a homemade recipe for the cheeseburger macaroni….that was always my favorite.

  • HI Annie, I’m Anne and I have a site, so when I found you and THEN found that you had a son named Andrew-I do as well, I knew I would love your blog and I DOOO! It is so sophisticated, I just love it, can’t wait to have more time to look around!! annw

  • I usually avoid boxed meals too. But recently my Dad gave me four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I tell ya, it has been so good and I have enjoyed the heck out of some powdered cheese sauce. Don’t tell anybody!

  • I totally agree with you – boxed mixes serve a great purpose for those learning to cook or trying to get a quick meal on the table. I love how you’ve ‘healthified’ this dish and used fresh ingredients!

  • Pamela

    I have all the ingredients – I think this will be perfect for our family dinner tomorrow night. Thanks for sharing this!

  • My husband and I have a fun-loving ongoing argument about Hamburger Helper. I’m not a fan, but he grew up on the stuff and I think he gets nostalgic for it! I’ll have to make this for him this week!

  • …and I just read the other comments. Looks like my husband isn’t the only one who loves his Hamburger Helper. Funny!

  • Just put this into my ‘recipes to try’ folder- so excited. This meal is right up my cooking alley!!!

  • Sara G

    Looks delish and couldn’t be any easier. Thanks for the recipe, Annie! Looking forward to giving it a try sometime soon. I work full-time and have 2 little ones, so I’m always on the hunt for something healthy and quick! :)

  • suzanne

    Looks wonderful. I am putting it on my things to try list.

  • Hollie

    This looks great except my family does not like ground turkey. Do you think i can use hamburger instead or would it be to heavy?

  • Annie

    Hollie, sure, you can always sub them interchangeably, it just won’t be as healthy. If I were you, I would just use the turkey. They probably wouldn’t even notice if you didn’t tell them. I wouldn’t!

  • You are so right about it being a starting point…I was always experimenting and adding to the boxed versions…until I just started making my own and not from a box!

    This looks delicious!

  • This looks so good! Thanks for sharing. :D

  • I made this last night for dinner and it was so yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah

    I made this last night for dinner also, thanks for the great idea. The Taco seasoning is awesome!

  • Shelbi

    I saw you post this yesterday and knew I had to make it for dinner! I just finished my plate! It was fantastic! Thank you for the delicious recipe. I used low fat cream cheese and sour cream, so it was pretty healthy too.

  • chpdlivr

    Made this tonight for the family. My 24 year old will not eat ground turkey, but I had this all made before he got home. Can you say 4 helpings????
    OMG………it’s a keeper.
    Love your blog!

  • Great recipe!! I too grew up with the occasional homemade meal being replaced with Hamburger Helper, but I love the idea of a homemade version. We just recently started making our own taco seasoning and what a difference. Now we have a great recipe to try it out with.

  • Just the kind of recipe that my family loves!

  • Erika

    I am just wondering if anything can replace the cream cheese in this recipe? I am NOT a fan at all! Anyway, thank you. Love you site and your recipes, I’ve made so many! :)

  • Annie

    Erika, I don’t know, that’s what gives it the creaminess. I guess you could just add more sour cream but I’m not sure how that would taste or if the texture would be right.

  • That taco pasta looks really tasty!

  • Made this tonight. It got a thumbs up from my husband, his brother and sister. Yum!

  • lee

    I love this type of recipe. If you have Italian, Chinese, Japanese, or American versions please post. I am making this this week. I know we are going to love it. thanks for the great recipes.

  • This post was timely. We were hungry and feeling quite tired. We had everything on hand and it was very tasty.

    One method I changed was with the meat. I browned the meat, added the seasoning, then added 3/4 cup of water, turned the heat on medium-low and allowed the flavors to absorb for 30 minutes.

    I’ve found that it helps the flavors incorporate deep into the meat grounds and increases the flavor.

  • Kristin

    I made this on Friday night and it was great! It also warmed up perfectly the next day. One suggestion: get rid of the turkey fat before adding the onions. Leave just enough to coat the onions. I was able to drain almost 1/4 of a cup of fat!

  • Jenn

    Have you ever tried not draining the tomatoes and using that liquid instead of the pasta water? Just wondering. We had this last night and it is definitely in the “keeper” pile! Thanks!

  • Annie

    Jenn, I haven’t tried that but that is a good idea!

  • Just made it for dinner tonight, it’s great! I added in some green chiles, and used yogurt instead of sour cream, and garnished w/ some avocado on the side. Thanks for posting such a yummy recipe!

  • Laurie

    This is my new favorite site Annie you are fabulous! This dish was so good.

  • Mercedes

    Thanks for posting, this looks so good! I’d love to see more weeknight recipes if you have them. :) Yum yum!

  • Annie

    I have a quick/weeknight category in the pull-down menu.

  • Heidi

    Hi Annie,
    Made this last night and it was so yummy and SO easy! Great weeknight meal for sure! Thanks

  • Heidi

    PS have you announced the Earth Day giveaway winners yet? Just curious. Thanks!

  • Annie

    Yep, quite a while ago on the mango sorbet post.

  • WOW. This is SO good, and so easy to make! We used to love Hamburger Helper, but this is just as quick and easy but tastes SO MUCH BETTER! Thanks for providing a non-packaged alternative that doesn’t take hours to prepare.

  • I made this meal tonight for dinner… it was fabulous! I love how quick and easy the recipe is, yet it is still very flavorful. Thanks so much for another great recipe!

  • jaimeleben

    This was so good, my husband assumed it was bad for him, and was pleasantly surprise when I told him it was not.

  • Sarah

    looks fantastic!

  • Kim M.

    Hi Annie, this was so good. It was a big hit in my house. Even my little one year old son ate it happily and he is a very picky eater. In fact, my husband asked me to go the next day and make it again the following night for dinner. Thanks! This one’s a keeper!

  • Wow, Annie i know that you have many amazing recipes but this someone is one of my favorites and Adam’s too! Miss you guys

  • Heidi

    I just made this for my family tonight. They all loved it. My picky four-year- old daughter said I could make this every night! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great recipe! I also wondered about not draining the tomatoes and using that liquid. I even think I would use the water and the tomato juice, I think I would like it “wetter”. I’m looking forward to the Italian version if you ever try to make that! :)

  • Chris

    I finally got around to making this! It was so good! Thanks for sharing this recipe – it is a great weeknight meal and will be a regular in our household! Thanks!

  • I will admit I was slightly skeptic when I first read this as I despise boxed meals, but when a Sunday night rolled around with little time to cook I decided to give it a go. My 3yo son ate this meal faster than he’d ever eaten anything in his short life and even ate seconds! It was so tasty and just full of flavor. The cream cheese really made it. We didn’t have all the ingredients to make your taco seasoning so I used some Napa Valley Mexican Fiesta in place and it was great. Thank you for providing such quick and delicious meals that appease even the pickiest of eaters. :-)

  • Kathleen

    I just made this for dinner last night – YUM! It was quick, easy, & very tasty! I even added some green peppers! Thanks!

  • Lisa

    Made it and loved it! Even my 19 month old who usually won’t touch meat gobbled it up

  • Jacqueline

    This was fabulous! Everything was on hand and the kids loved it – with one serving leftover (and one of the kids has already claimed it for tomorrow LOL)

  • Heather Hensley

    I made this tonight, and it was great! Thanks!

  • I made this for dinner the other night – both me + my husband loooooved it! :) Yum, yum, yum!

  • Christine

    This was so delicious and easy to make! I am enjoying it right now with friends :)

  • Jen

    Finally got around to making this after reading all the raves on TB for months. It’s definitely on my regular rotation now because my 20 mo old ate seconds. Mixed some veggie puree in for him and he chowed down! Now, if you could just come up with an alternative Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, my hubby would be in heaven! :-)

  • Tamia

    Made this last week and it was delicious! Thank you for the great recipe!

  • Yum! I didn’t have any hamburger so I substituted a can of kidney beans and a can of no-bean chili. My family loved it. Thanks for all of your great recipes— I always go to your website for last-minute ideas and inspiration.

  • Brooke

    Just found your website, everything looks so good! I tried this last night and my bf and I loved it. I added some chopped black olives to mine at the table, it was great!

  • Kate

    Wow! I’ve seen this recipe several times as I browsed your site for dinner ideas but always passed it by. But we are snowed in today and had (almost) everything on hand, so I decided to give it a go. It’s absolutely great! It’s delicious, filling, and very economical (my husband is finishing up medical school – I’m sure you can understand the importance of price in deciding what we cook :)). Thanks so much for all of your wonderful food.

  • I am trying an experiment this week. I chose 5 recipes from your site to make a weekly menu. Creamy taco mac was the first and it was GREAT! Super easy to make and my 15 month old even ate it (she is going through a very picky phase)! The most exciting part is that when I went to the grocery to pick up items that I didn’t already have as staples in my pantry…I only spent $36! I can’t wait to try my next recipe…parmesan crusted pork chops. Thanks for sharing your fun and easy recipes!

  • Adrianne

    this meal is such a life saver! love it, it’s on our menu, on the reg. thanks!

  • Stefanie

    This dish was so good! I used greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make it a little more healthy (couldn’t tell the difference at all). Also, next time I won’t use the reserved pasta water. I didn’t need it. So, so good. My boyfriend had two helpings and literally licked his bowl!

    I also think the turkey sauce would be good without the pasta and served with homemade warm tortilla.

  • Tried this last night – it was addicting for sure, and easily adaptable into a Weight Watchers meal using light sour cream and light cream cheese. Nicely done!

  • Emily

    Great dish! I added red pepper flakes which added a bit of pizzazz.

  • This is a great recipe. It is creamy and flavorful! It is like tacos, but not! I usually don’t like ground turkey, but the turkey wasn’t dry in this dish at all. Thank you! :)

  • Katherine

    If I hadn’t lived on Pasta-Roni in college, I think I would still be terrified of a kitchen. Easy prep meals like that (and Hamburger Helper) certainly have their place – but I can’t wait to try this made-over version!

  • Melissa

    This dish takes boxed meals to a different level. I made a few changes, using penne pasta, adding extra garlic and red pepper flakes. Also, I cooked the onions in oil first for about 5-7 minutes and then added sweet Italian turkey sausage (removing the skin and crumbling it in). I doubled the recipe and we (family of 5) have eaten this twice already AND I froze the rest for later.

  • Erin

    I just made this for me and my husband (we’re eating it as I type!) and the first thing he said was that it reminded him of “stovetop” and that it was really good. I never really had hamburger helper much when I was younger, but I definitely like this version! yum :)

  • Debra

    I made this for tea tonight and the whole family loved it! I just love your site and I’m looking forward to trying lots more of your recipes. Can’t wait to get to see the other school Mums and friends to spread the word about you in Adelaide!

  • Rachel

    I made this last night (I had everything on hand, and even had the right amount of cream cheese I needed to use up). It was a hit! I did use the tomato juice instead of pasta water and it turned out just fine. I’m looking forward to having it for lunch today.

  • Liz

    This was enjoyed by both my 5 year old and my hubby – which is sometimes hard to do. My daughter actually said that it was so good she wanted it for breakfast. I used beef, since hubby hates it when I sneak turkey in. But it was good. I used to make a similar dish using boxed macaroni and cheese and I’m so glad I found this alternative! Thx! OH and I love the taco seasoning. I’m sold

  • I just made this recipe. In fact, I’m eating it right now. It is AMAZING. I’ve seen knock-off Hamburger Helper recipes before, and they just didn’t taste all that great, but this recipe? Winner! It’s going in our recipe book. Thanks for sharing Annie!

  • Misty

    I made this with your recipe for taco seasoning too & it was so yummy! Thanks for the recipes!!! I love them both

  • I wish I saw this last night when we were trying to decide on dinner! I love Hamburger Helper but always feel guilty buying it, now I dont have to :)

  • Mindy

    I know lots of people have already said it, but I felt it couldn’t hurt to add that I just made this dinner tonight for me and my two year old — and we both loved it! especially me :D. it was absolutely delicious and so much better than anything that could have come out of a box! I have never been disappointed by a recipe from your site so far and this one is definitely getting added to my “make for the husband when he’s home from deployment” box. thank you!

  • tee

    mascarpone might be a good substitute.

  • Yummy! I am putting this on the menu for next week!

  • Diane

    Hello! I just came across this recipe this morning while browsing different cooking blogs. I had all the ingredients and also some leftover taco meat in the fridge, so I went downstairs and started throwing it all together..YUMMY!
    Quick, Easy, Yummy!
    Thanks for sharing!!
    Have a great day!

  • Made this tonight- it was delicious- thanks!

  • yum! we had this for dinner tonight. so good! i used light cream cheese and light sour cream and it was still so creamy and delicious. i’ve loved everything i’ve tried from your blog so far. i’m looking forward to trying more recipes. thank you!

  • Mandy

    I use a can of un-drained Rotel instead of the tomatoes and the water and it is delicious!

  • Melissa

    This is delicious! i loved hamburger helper growing up, my dad was a single father, and even though he cooked homemade meals 90% of the time, i kinda loved the days he was tired and i got my boxed treat. This is far tastier than the boxed version, and also so much healthier! I used light cream cheese because thats what i happened to have on hand. My fiance loved it! I love how this recipe uses ingredients i almost always have on hand. Thanks so much Annie!

  • Just visiting for the first time from MPM… the “creamy” part caught me on this one. I love adding sour cream or cream cheese and how it makes a regular dish more special. I found something called “Pato sauce” that I use now instead of taco seasoning. It’s got a little more kick and I like it better than the packet. I’m going to have to try this one out!

  • This is the ultimate comfort food for me. I’ve never had the boxed kind, but I think I would be very disappointed with it after having this. I decided to try it when I was making taco salad and had wayyyy too much taco meat. I put some in a pan and put in everything and started it that way. I love this so much I always keep rotini, shells, or ziti, and packet of ground turkey in the freezer for when I need some taco mac in my system. I always eat this when I’m stressed or sad, it perks me up. I can’t thank you enough for that alone:)

  • Keisha08

    I am new to this site, and I’ve looked over several recipes. I decided to go with this recipe first and I must say I made the right choice. This dish was awesome! I added a little fresh cilantro, and my husband raved over how good it was. I’m even more excited to try others recipes. Thanks Annie!

  • Alexandra

    I made this for dinner tonight but substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream. Absolutely delicious! And I loved the sodium free taco spice blend. It’s great to have it on standby now for next time I want to make tacos/fajitas!

  • Alicia

    I just made this last night and it was great! I used the rotel diced tomatoes with chiles and some salsa and it added a nice kick to the meal. I love the versatility of it!! Thanks so much.

  • Holly McCullough

    Made this tonight, Annie! It’s delicious. And so easy! I just so happened to have everything I needed in my kitchen (and I haven’t been to the store in 10 days!) plus, lots of leftovers. Always a win. :)

  • annieseats

    Yay! So glad you enjoyed it :)