This vegan hamburger helper is an easy cheesy hamburger pasta. The vegan version has all the creamy cheesiness of the original dish, made meatless and dairy free! You will love this fast and easy meatless hamburger helper. The ultimate comfort food for the whole family, ready in 30 minutes.
How many of you grew up on this childhood favorite boxed dinner? There is something so nostalgic about the hamburger helper from childhood - creamy, cheesy, and beefy - but definitely not vegan. With a few easy substitutions, we can get the same creamy result made with plant based ingredients. Plus, making it yourself is better than the boxed version anyway!
- Save the remaining pasta water to help thicken the creamy sauce.
- Use your favorite plant based meat substitute, like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger.
Ingredients for Vegan Hamburger Helper
You know I love simple and easy to find ingredients, and this dish is no different. You should be able to find all of these ingredients in your local grocery stores.
Vegan meat crumbles - Lucky for us, there are a ton of different plant based meat options and meat substitutes on the market now. I've tried this recipe with both the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger brands and it came out great. You can also use vegan ground beef and break it up into crumbles yourself.
Pasta of your choice - This dish works well with any pasta shape. I like using elbow macaroni pasta, but corkscrew (cavatappi) also works well.
Tomato paste - Buy the kind in the squeezable tube for less waste.
Vegetable broth - Use whatever brand you prefer. You can use homemade broth also.
Vegan cream cheese - This should be available in the vegan section of the grocery store. I personally love tofutti or trader joe's brand.
Vegan cheddar cheese - Same as above. You can also substitute for vegan pepper jack cheese for a hint of spice. I recommend Mykonos.
Spices - You probably already have these spices on hand - paprika, chili powder, and thyme. You can also add a pinch of garlic powder.
How to make vegan hamburger helper
I love this homemade vegan hamburger helper recipe because it's a delicious and easy meal (and you know I love a lazy weeknight dinner).
First, in a medium pot, whisk together the water, tomato paste, and 2 cups of veggie broth. Heat until boiling, add in macaroni noodles (or your favorite pasta) and reduce to a simmer. Cook until noodles are al dente, stirring often.
Do not drain any excess liquid from the pasta. There should be about ¼ cup remaining. This pasta water will help the final dish to be extra creamy. Set pasta and remaining water aside.
Next, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic with olive oil until fragrant, then add in vegan meat crumbles and heat for 5 minutes.
Once the vegan meat is heated, add in vegan cream cheese, vegan cheddar cheese, paprika, chili powder, and thyme. Stir to combine, then add in the cooked pasta with the extra liquid.
Turn off heat and allow cheese to melt for about 3 minutes, mixing well to combine all ingredients. Do a final taste test and add sea salt and black pepper as needed.
Top with fresh parsley, green onions, or hot sauce!
How to store leftovers
Store any leftover hamburger helper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
How to reheat
To reheat this vegan cheeseburger macaroni, add a little water or non dairy milk (like cashew milk or unsweetened almond milk) to loosen up the cheesy sauce. Microwave or reheat in a skillet.
Substitutions & Variations
You can add some extra ingredients to this recipe, or substitute some things out to your liking. Here are a few ideas.
- Add in a can of fire roasted tomatoes with juices drained to the pasta sauce for some extra veggies.
- You can also try a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies for a little kick of spice.
- Use smoked paprika instead if you like a smokey flavor.
- Instead of vegan meat crumbles, you can use vegan ground meat and break it up while cooking.
- If you prefer not to use a plant based meat substitute, you can add in cooked green lentils or chopped mushrooms instead.
- If you want more veggies, you can add in a diced green pepper and sauté with the onion and garlic.
- To make this vegetarian instead of vegan, you can use non vegan cheese.
- You can omit the garlic if you have an intolerance.
- To make this recipe gluten free, use gluten free pasta. Also sure your vegan cream cheese and cheddar cheese are gluten free as well.
- Make it spicy with a pinch of cayenne pepper or adding a diced jalapeño.
- Add a bit of nutritional yeast for extra cheesy flavor.
If you want to make the boxed version of Hamburger Helper vegetarian, you can use a meat substitute like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger. But this from scratch version is way better in my opinion!
Some popular brands of vegan cheese are Mykonos (my personal favorite), Violife, Follow Your Heart, and Daiya.
I don't recommend freezing this, as the noodles will get mushy.
Other quick and easy recipes for dinner
- Easy Vegan Buffalo Mac and Cheese
- Easy Vegan Black Bean Sheet Pan Tacos
- Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi
- Easy Buffalo Chickpea Sandwich
Vegan Hamburger Helper
- 1 cup Water
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 cups Vegetable Broth
- ½ lb Pasta of your choice I like elbow or corkscrew
- ¼ cup Yellow or White Onion finely diced
- 2 Cloves Garlic minced
- ½ cup Vegan Meat Crumbles I like Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat
- ¼ cup Vegan Cream Cheese
- 1 cup Vegan Cheddar Cheese
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Ground Thyme
- Fresh Parsley for garnish finely chopped
- In a medium pot, whisk together the water, tomato paste, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
- Add in pasta and reduce to a simmer. Cook until noodles are al dente (approximately 12-15 minutes) stirring often. Do not drain any excess liquid. There should be approximately ¼ cup of liquid remaining. Set pasta and remaining water aside.
- In a separate skillet, sauté garlic and onion over medium heat with olive oil until fragrant.
- Add in vegan meat crumbles and heat throughout, for about 5 minutes.
- Once heated, add vegan cream cheese, vegan cheddar cheese, paprika, chili powder, and thyme, plus cooked pasta with the extra liquid.
- Turn off heat and allow to warm for 3 minutes, mixing well to combine all ingredients.
- Option to top with parsley and hot sauce! Enjoy.