Creamy, cozy, and seriously delicious, this Vegan Hamburger Helper tastes just like the original stuff you got in a box, but better because it’s healthy! It’s also fast, super easy, and requires only one pot to make, so it’s sure to become a favorite among kids and adults alike.
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Hey Internet, it’s getting much colder where I am, so I’ve been craving warm comfort food. In my book, of course, that’s cheesy pasta dishes for sure.
This meatless hamburger helper (it’s vegan too!) is based on a dish I ate more than a few times as a kid. My mom would make it on nights my dad worked late, and I always remembered begging her to make another box after us kids polished it off.
The concept of hamburger helper, I guess, is that all you need is a pound of ground beef (and probably butter or milk or something) plus the box to create a meal for your family. So I set out to make hamburger helper vegan.
Well in my opinion, this recipe is just as easy, doesn’t depend on boxed ingredients (unless you count the pasta!), and is quite delicious but also healthy and cholesterol-free!
My vegan hamburger helper recipe actually started off as just a craving a few months ago. I was craving that cheesy, beefy, slightly tangy (almost stroganoff-like) flavor. Of course I wasn’t going to eat something not vegan, so I tried to recreate it vegan-style.
At first I used packaged vegan ground meat, but it left me feeling tired and sick to my stomach. I don’t eat a lot of oil, so heavy meals often give me an upset tummy.
So I worked on creating meatless crumbles, just for the sake of this recipe! They will of course also be useful in all sorts of other meals, like nachos or a vegan tomato meat sauce for spaghetti.
Honestly, this recipe is pretty similar to my vegan American goulash / chili mac, but this one’s got vegan cheese instead of tomato…
Anyway, I think you’ll find that this is a quick and easy meal to make for your family or just yourself--the leftovers are absolutely delicious anyway.
What You’ll Need
So, to start, you’ll need one batch of my vegan meatless crumbles OR you can use about 2 cups of prepared vegan ground meat from brands such as Gardein or Beyond Meat.
Obviously you’ll also need some pasta and here’s where you can customize. Use a bean based pasta for more protein, or use a gluten-free pasta if you need this to be GF. I used macaroni for this.
You’ll also need vegetable broth to cook the pasta in. No straining or draining here! You COULD use water, but veggie broth has so much more flavor. I like to use low sodium vegetable broth.
As far as flavoring goes (and I’m not talking about the cheesy sauce quite yet), I used something a little strange… ketchup and (Dijon) mustard!
I know it sounds weird but they just so easily gave it that sweet and tangy kick it needed! Feel free to substitute whatever you’d like. Not a ketchup fan? Use a little tomato sauce.
Anyway, NOW let’s talk about that cheesy sauce. This sauce takes this meatless hamburger helper to another level!
The base of this sauce is tofu (I bulk buy firm tofu so that’s what I use, but you can use less blending liquid if you buy a softer tofu.). You can substitute soaked cashews or sunflower seeds -- or even white beans! -- if you like.
The blending liquid can be unsweetened non-dairy milk, but I just used water and thought it was pretty dang good.
I also used the juice of a lemon and a splash of apple cider vinegar for tanginess. You could just use one or the other, but I liked this combination of flavors.
Now for seasoning: I used garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and a pinch of turmeric for color. I get my spices from The Spice House because it saves me money and I love not having a million different size and shape jars in my cupboard.
Oh, and nutritional yeast will make this taste super cheesy and delicious. If you’ve tried nutritional yeast and didn’t like it, you should really try it again but you could just use more spices instead.
The first time I tried nutritional yeast, or ‘nooch’ as us vegans affectionately call it, I tried it on its own and hated it. Someone told me to just throw it in a cheesy sauce, and then I was a convert! It just adds a delicious flavor to what I put it in, but I still wouldn’t eat it on its own.
Tips for Making Vegan Hamburger Helper
- If you’re using my homemade meatless crumbles, jump over there and make them real quick. You don’t even need to clean or empty the pot!
- Either way, start with your homemade or store bought vegan grounds in a large nonstick pot over high heat, and stir them around for a few minutes so they can start to brown.
- Then add the ketchup and mustard, stir, and let cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Next, add the pasta and vegetable broth. Stir well, turn the heat down to medium, cover, and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until pasta has cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed. If the liquid is absorbed before the pasta has cooked, add a bit more vegetable broth or use water--you shouldn’t need to, but pasta can differ.
- While that cooks, combine your cheesy sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth.
- Once the pasta is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed, you can add in the cheesy sauce and stir it well. Let it heat for just a minute or two, then serve it up and enjoy!
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
More Easy Pasta Meals
I love quick and easy pasta meals. It satisfies my cravings for pasta and my lack of energy in the evenings.
That’s why I seem to have a bunch of pasta meals that take 30 minutes or less to make--here’s a few of my favorites.
- American Goulash (Chili Mac)
- Chickpea Florentine
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta
- Garlic Noodles
- Veggie Lo Mein
- Spinach Noodle Kugel
- Kale Mushroom Pasta
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who is vegan but occasionally misses the flavor of meat (but not the cruelty–he insisted I add that line).
This vegan hamburger helper is:
- “Meaty” (hold the cruelty)
- and great for anyone in your life that either isn’t vegan or vegetarian yet and needs to be convinced or is already and just kinda misses the taste and mouthfeel of meat.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!