A keto friendly alternative to the original version, this Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper is made in just one pot and packed with plenty of protein.
Sometimes, we need a dish that mimics a classic comfort food but fits the keto way of eating. This Keto Hamburger Helper will satisfy a craving for hamburger helper but keep you on the keto path!
Hamburger Helper is a set of boxed ingredients which home cooks can combine with ground beef for an easy weeknight meal. It first debuted in American grocery stores in 1970-1971. A hamburger helper box usually contains dry pasta and a spice blend.
To make hamburger helper, the home cook browns ground beef, seasons it with the provided spice blend, and boils the pasta. After combining the seasoned beef and pasta, water or milk is added which further converts the spice blend into a sauce. This is accomplished by the addition of powdered milk in the spice packet.
Modern Hamburger Helper comes in a wide variety of flavors, including beef pasta, cheesy ranch, four cheese lasagna, stroganoff, double cheeseburger macaroni, Philly cheesesteak, and taco. When I encountered hamburger helper as a kid, my favorite varieties were cheesy or had strong taco flavoring. As you might imagine, my recipe today is both cheesy and features taco flavoring.
Making this Recipe
There are two important substitutions to ketofy hamburger helper: the noodles and the spice packet, which includes powdered milk.
For the noodles, I found that cabbage noodles worked beautifully. They are a little thin compared to the usual thick noodles in hamburger helper boxes, but they had the right texture for the dish.
For the spice blend and to make the sauce, I compared a variety of self-contained spice blends at the store. I found that Ortega seasoning mix had the lowest net carbs per serving, with only 1g net carb for the entire packet. Similarly, the canned tomatoes with the lowest net carbs was Del Monte brand, with 5g per can. And I shredded cheese from a block of cheddar to avoid added starch with commercially shredded cheese.
Here’s what you need to make your healthy homemade hamburger helper and how to do it, step by step!
- Veggie Spiralizer: Many people have a small, $5-10 spiralizer. These spiralizers require a lot of force from your wrist to spiralize tubular vegetables like zucchini. To spiralize a larger, round vegetable like cabbage, a different spiralizer is necessary. This spiralizer only costs an extra $10 and spiralizes ANY vegetable, including cabbage. It is also 5x easier and faster to use for other vegetables like zucchini compared to the smaller spiralizer. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Colander: I always squeeze water out of veggie noodles at some point in the cooking process. A nice, roomy colander is best for letting the water drain.
- Skillet/Frying Pan: A frying pan is best for browning beef and making the sauce. Try to get one with a lid so that any meat doesn’t spill over in the cooking process.
- Ground Beef: I usually purchase 80% beef with 20% fat.
- Seasoning blend: I compared different seasoning blends and found that Ortega brand typically has the lowest carb count. It’s also quite flavorful. I chose a blend with a carne asada flavor, but you can pick whatever flavor sounds good to you. Just make sure to check the net carbs!
- Canned tomatoes: the net carbs in canned tomatoes can be quite high. But Del Monte manages to keep their tomatoes’ net carbs at 1-2 grams per ounce of tomatoes. This compares favorably to some other brands which have 4-7 grams per ounce.
- Shredded cheese: I used a block of my store brand cheddar cheese. I shredded it myself with an antique version of this handheld shredder (link). It only takes an extra 5 minutes, but can spare as much as one gram of carbs per ounce of cheese.
- Onions: since this recipe uses cabbage noodles, which add a lot of net carbs, I chose green onions to maximize onion flavoring while minimizing added carbs. Green onion tops also add a delightful green color pop to the dish.
- Cabbage: I love this vegetable. I’m obsessed with the noodles it makes, it keeps for at least a week in my refrigerator after I purchase it, and it only costs $1 at my Kroger.
- Prepare the ground beef.
- Meanwhile, make the cabbage noodles.
- Prepare the sauce.
- Combine the cabbage noodles, beef, and sauce. Add chopped green onions, and you’re done!
Serve this delicious healthy homemade hamburger helper with a simple side like steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, or Caesar salad. Or enjoy it on its own, like we did!
- Choose a different spice blend.
- Try zucchini noodles instead of cabbage noodles.
- Add different cheeses, like Parmesan or pepper jack.
- Adding sour cream or cream cheese to make a thicker, creamier sauce.
- Add water chest nuts or almonds for more crunch.
- Add spinach to easily incorporate a green vegetable.
Cover this casserole and keep it in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber.
The five original Hamburger Helper meals from General Mills via Betty Crocker were: beef noodle, potato stroganoff, hash, rice oriental, and chili tomato.
The original boxed version of Hamburger Helper can have as many as 24g of carbs per serving. My keto friendly recipe has fewer than 5.9g net carbs per serving.
Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper
- Veggie Spiralizer
- Frying pan
- 2 lb Ground Beef
- 1 Ortega seasoning blend packet ,any blend of choice
- 14.5 oz Del Monte Diced Tomatoes (1 can)
- 16 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese ,shredded
- 6 Green Onions
- 1 Cabbage ,medium sized head about 850 g
- Brown the ground beef over medium heat in a large skillet.
- While the beef browns, spiralize the cabbage head into noodles. Bring a small amount of water to boil in a large pot. Steam the cabbage for about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and remove excess water. Set aside to dry.
- After the beef is uniformly browned, add seasoning packet and the canned tomatoes. Let the juices reduce by half, then add the shredded cheese.
- After the cheese melts, remove from heat. Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the cabbage noodles.
- Chop the green onions and stir into the cabbage noodles and hamburger. Serve hot and enjoy!