Skip to Content

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Hamburger Helper

Nothing says comfort food like this Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Hamburger Helper recipe! Easy to make, so hearty and delicious, this homemade hamburger helper is a classic for those of us who love the boxed version.

If you made my Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Ground Beef Stroganoff, I’m willing to bet you’ll love this easy hamburger helper recipe just as much!

Bowl of homemade hamburger helper.

Not surprisingly, hamburger helper was one of the few meals I loved as a kid (picky eater alert!). It holds a special place in my memory bank as being a meal I always looked forward to.

In fact, I would still eat it as an adult if it weren’t for all the rumors pointing to it not being the best option.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the boxed version, I trust you’ll go bonkers over this simple hamburger helper recipe.

It’s creamy, it’s hearty and filling due to all the protein and carbs with feel good vibes cooked right in.

Plus, the homemade version is relatively clean because it is made with minimally processed ingredients you can find at any grocery store.

I’m betting this is one of those family recipes you’ll make over and over when you’re itching for noodles.

To keep the recipe gluten-free and dairy-free, we simply use gluten-free elbow macaroni and replace the dairy with full-fat canned coconut milk. So easy, so creamy, so dreamy!

Finished Hamburger Helper in a pot with parsley sprinkled on top.

Let’s go down the ingredients list for hamburger helper.

Ingredients for Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Hamburger Helper:

Avocado Oil: Used to cook the ingredients for the sauce, avocado oil is a great high temperature cooking oil that has neutral flavor. If you prefer extra virgin olive oil, feel free to make the switch.

Ground Beef: Be sure to use lean ground beef, or else you’ll end up with a grease pit. If you’re okay with greasy pasta (truly, I am), feel free to use a higher fat percentage. Use 90/10 or 93/7 for optimal results (non-greasy pasta).

Onion & Garlic: Onion and garlic are big flavor makers here! Yellow onion, red onion, and white onion all work. Feel free to scale up the garlic to your personal taste.

Paprika, Oregano, Salt, Black Pepper: The simple seasonings here. 

Full-Fat Canned Coconut Milk: In order to make the pasta rich and creamy yet keep it dairy-free, we need a can of full-fat coconut milk.

Be sure to use full-fat coconut milk (rather than trying a different non-dairy milk like almond milk or cashew milk), because the fat content is what brings the amazing texture. In addition, many other non-dairy milks separate when they are heated to a boiling point and also come with a flavor that isn’t always conducive to pasta. 

Tomato Sauce: A can of tomato sauce brings that tangy flavor we love so much in hamburger helper. You can use pasta sauce (such as tomato basil or marinara sauce) if you have it on hand (you’ll need 1 cup). 2 to 3 tablespoons of tomato paste works as a replacement for tomato sauce as well.

Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour: Used to thicken the sauce to make sure it’s nice and sily and smooth, we need a couple tablespoons of a gluten-free flour blend. I use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, but any brand will work.

You can also use corn starch, tapioca flour or arrowroot flour. You can use wheat flour if you aren’t gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Pasta Noodles: Traditional hamburger helper uses elbow noodles (or macaroni noodles), so we’re doing the same here, but going with gluten-free noodles.

I use Tinkyada Brown Rice Elbow Pasta because I like that it’s made with brown rice for fiber and whole grains.

Use your favorite brand of grain-free or gluten-free noodles, and use any shape of noodle you love! Regular pasta noodles and egg noodles work too!

If you like creating your own twist with recipes, here are some ideas for changing it up.

Big bowl of gluten-free dairy-free Hamburger Helper with a fork.

Optional Additions:

  • To boost the flavor, you can add one teaspoon of both onion powder or garlic powder.
  • For more sauce, add 1/2 cup of beef broth.
  • Add fresh chopped vegetables, such as baby spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots to get in some greens.
  • Drizzle on some hot sauce if you love a spicy kick, or cook red pepper flakes in with the sauce.
  • Toss in 1 to 2 cups of fresh mushrooms at the same time as the onion for a stroganoff vibe.
  • Use Italian seasoning instead of dried oregano if you’d prefer.
  • I’ve learned firsthand that dairy can be a tricky thing. For instance, I react poorly to fresh dairy like cream, sour cream, milk, etc., but I do just fine with most cheeses.
  • If, like me, you can consume cheese without any issue, feel free to stir 1 to 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, or your favorite cheese into the hamburger helper. You can even go with fancy cheese like gouda or gruyere for amazing flavor.

Now that we’re familiar with the simple ingredients for hamburger helper, let’s make it!

How to Make Homemade Hamburger Helper:

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Mine take 12 minutes to cook in boiling water, so I multi-task and cook the pasta and make the sauce at the same time.

Once the noodles are fully cooked (but still al dente), drain them in a colander, rinse them with cold water, and set them aside until ready to use.

Elbow noodles (also known as macaroni noodles) in a colander being drained after cooking.

Heat the avocado oil in a large thick-bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. A very large skillet will work too.

Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer the ground beef to the pot, brown beef, and use a spatula to break it into smaller chunks.

Stir in the garlic, paprika, oregano, salt, and black pepper.

Pour the canned coconut milk and the tomato sauce into the pot and bring everything to a full boil. Stir in the gluten-free all-purpose flour and continue cooking the sauce for 8 to 10 minutes to allow it to thicken and become nice and flavorful.

The complete hamburger helper sauce in a pot.

Stir in the cooked pasta noodles until everything is well-incorporated. If you’d like, you can stir in grated cheese.

Hamburger helper sauce in a pot with cooked noodles added in.

Serve the hamburger helper garnished with fresh parsley in bowls and enjoy!

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Like many pasta recipes, a homemade hamburger helper recipe becomes even more flavorful as it sits, so it will be even tastier the next day! If you have the forethought, make this recipe the day before you want to actually eat it for amazing results. 

Finished hamburger helper in a pot

The way I see it, recipes like this are perfect for the whole family and are also great for meal prep. Hamburger helper recipes are easy to prepare, easy to store and transport, and hit all the macronutrients for a complete meal, ideal for busy weeknights or work lunches.

This simple one-pot meal is an easy dinner any time you’re looking to dive into one of your childhood favorites. Keep it in your back pocket the next time you have a picky eater in your midst as well!

If you love pasta recipes, also check out these gems!

More Delicious Healthy Pasta Recipes:

Let the nostalgic childhood memories come flooding back! I hope this becomes a family favorite for your entire family, as it has for mine!

Big bowl of gluten-free dairy-free Hamburger Helper with a fork.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Hamburger Helper

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A homemade Hamburger Helper recipe that's gluten-free, dairy-free, and healthier than the store-bought boxed version. Healthy comfort food at its finest right here!

Ingredients

Instructions

    1. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Once the noodles are fully cooked (but still al dente), drain them in a colander, rinse them with cold water, and set them aside until ready to use.

    Elbow noodles (also known as macaroni noodles) in a colander being drained after cooking.

    2. Heat the avocado oil in a large thick-bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. A very large skillet will work too. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes.

    Onion sautéing in a large pot.

    3. Transfer the ground beef to the pot, brown beef, and use a spatula to break it into smaller chunks.

    Ground beef and onion cooking in a pot

    4. Stir in the garlic, paprika, oregano, salt, and black pepper.

    Ground beef and onion cooking in a pot with garlic, oregano and paprika added in.

    5. Pour the canned coconut milk and the tomato sauce into the pot and bring everything to a full boil. Stir in the gluten-free all-purpose flour and continue cooking the sauce for 8 to 10 minutes to allow it to thicken and become nice and flavorful.

    Coconut milk being poured into the pot

    6. Stir in the cooked pasta noodles until everything is well-incorporated. If you’d like, you can stir in grated cheese.

    Hamburger helper sauce in a pot with cooked noodles added in.

    4. Serve the hamburger helper garnished with fresh parsley in bowls and enjoy!

    close up image of hamburger helper in a pot

Notes

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If you're able to eat cheese, you can stir in 1 cup of grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese or any cheese you like.

Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1 Serving (of 6)
Amount Per Serving Calories 422Total Fat 22gCarbohydrates 38gFiber 3gSugar 6gProtein 20g

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cindy

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Due to allergies, could I substitute regular milk or non-dairy milk for the coconut in this recipe?

Julia

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Hi Cindy! I'd recommend using heavy cream or half and half for the best results, as it will bring that richness that is classic to the dish. You can certainly use regular milk but the sauce won't turn out as silky-smooth. If you do use regular milk, you may need to add an extra tablespoon or two of gluten-free flour to thicken the sauce more. I wouldn't recommend using any other non-dairy milk besides coconut milk because they lack the necessary fat and often add an unwanted flavor (like almond). Let me know what you try!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe