Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

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It’s a classic that we all ate at some point. This recipe for Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni is my take on it, made with all the flavors and aromas that will take you back to your youth. If you’ve had a busy day, this is the perfect dinner to prepare. You will be surprised at the ease with which this comes together, and you will find that it doesn’t really take a whole lot longer than the boxed version, and it tastes great!

Cheeseburger Macaroni

Do you think back on your childhood and remember things you ate and loved as a kid? I know I do. I can’t tell you how many times I have eaten cheeseburger macaroni in my lifetime. You know, the kind from a box that myself and others from my generation ate after a long day riding big wheels with no helmet and drinking out of the garden hose (I think I just aged myself a bit).

It’s one of those homey dishes that the smell alone takes me back to the days of coloring books and Saturday morning cartoons.

This version has that classic flavor you expect, but with fresh onion and garlic (no powdered versions here) and a homemade cheese sauce. I like making things with as many fresh ingredients as possible, and this recipe is no exception.

Bowl of cheeseburger macaroni

Why You’ll Love Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

What’s not to love here? All the flavors of a cheeseburger AND pasta? Yes please! In case you’re not convinced, here are a few more reasons to love this recipe:

  • Quick and easy for a busy weeknight!
  • Kid friendly.
  • It works well with all sorts of side dishes.
  • Leftovers reheat nicely!

What I really love is that the ingredients are something that most of us keep around the house anyway, so there is no need for a special trip to the store just to make it. Not that I mind running out to buy a few things for something I really want to cook, but especially on a rainy and cold PNW day that we are prone to on my little island, sometimes the last thing I want is to step out of my toasty house.

Ingredients Needed For Cheeseburger Macaroni

What is in homemade cheeseburger macaroni? This ingredient list is not long and pretty simple!

Ground Beef- I used ground beef with 15% fat. You will likely find it labeled 85/15 in the grocery store. I find it has the right amount of fat that I usually don’t need to use the unsalted butter.

Elbow Macaroni- I like using large elbows for this recipe, there is something nostalgic about the shape. However, you could use shells, penne, small elbows, or other short pasta shape if you choose.

Yellow Onion- The onion really adds a lot of flavor. I like yellow onions because they caramelize nicely. Don’t be afraid to let the onion get a little browned when you are cooking them, it adds to that iconic cheeseburger flavor!

Garlic- You don’t need much, and be sure to use fresh garlic and not garlic powder. Add it in toward the end before adding the flour, that way the garlic doesn’t burn.

Yellow mustard- Don’t skip the yellow mustard! It really does push this over the edge as far as that real cheeseburger flavor. Be sure to use classic, plain yellow mustard. Nothing fancy!

Milk- I used 2%, but you could use 1% also. I don’t recommend skim milk because you do want a little fat here, fat is flavor after all. It’s important to note that I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk so I can’t speak to the results.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese- Sharp cheddar is the best choice here, it is going to have the most flavor. While it may be tempting to try American cheese because it is so melty and gooey, American cheese has quite a bit of salt and it will make the dish too salty. If you don’t have or can’t find sharp cheddar, medium cheddar will work fine. As with the milk, I have not tested this recipe with a non-dairy cheese.

All Purpose Flour- You will need this to make a roux which will thicken your sauce. If you have never done this before don’t worry, it is so easy!

Unsalted Butter –You may or may not need the unsalted butter (more on that in the Tips section below).

Salt and Pepper- Of course what is most any recipe without these two?

Equipment for Making Cheeseburger Macaroni

This recipe requires nothing fancy. I use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven to make mine, but a large stock pot will work fine too. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Stock pot or Dutch oven (at least 4 quart size)
  • Wooden spoon or wooden spatula
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons

How To Make Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

There is not much to making the homemade version of this boxed classic, and you’ll love how easy and comforting this dish is.

photos that show the steps for making homemade cheeseburger macaroni.
1. Add the ground beef and let it brown a bit, then add the onion. 2. Meat and onions after browning. 3. Cheese Sauce. 4. Adding the pasta.
  1. Add the ground beef to the pot to brown.
  2. Chop the onion.
  3. Add chopped onion to the pot.
  4. Use the unsalted butter if needed.
  5. Add the flour to the pot.
  6. Once the flour absorbs the fat in the pan, add the milk.
  7. Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  8. Cook the meat, flour, seasonings, mustard, and milk mixture until thickened. 
  9. Add the cheese to the sauce.
  10. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce and stir well.

For more detailed instructions and tips, be sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of the post!

Recipe FAQ

Can I use different types of cheese in cheeseburger macaroni?

You can use either medium or sharp cheddar here, I recommend them over using mild cheddar, it just doesn’t have enough of that cheddar flavor you want in a dish like this. For some added heat, try a little pepper jack with the cheddar!

How should you store leftovers of cheeseburger macaroni?

Store your leftovers in the refrigerator in a container with a tight fitting lid. They will keep for up to a week. To reheat, simply pop it in the microwave!

Can you freeze cheeseburger macaroni?

I have never tried freezing this, and I don’t think it would work very well because of the cheese sauce.

Could ground turkey be used instead of ground beef?

Yes! You may want to add a little bit more salt and pepper to the recipe. 

How can you make cheeseburger macaroni your own?

If you want to jazz this up a little, you can top with caramelized onion, more shredded cheddar cheese, and panko bread crumbs and place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. 

If you are going to add shredded cheese on top, be sure to cook this in an oven safe pot if you want to put the pot in the oven to melt the cheese. You could also drizzle this with a little Thousand Island Dressing or hot sauce.

Tips For Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

  • If you did not use 15% fat ground beef and you find yourself with quite a bit of grease, be sure to add the garlic, salt, and pepper after draining the excess fat from the pan. This way you won’t accidentally pour all of your flavor down the drain.
  • If you use lean ground beef, you may find you need a tablespoon of unsalted butter to help add some fat to make the cheese sauce. All you need to do is add it in and melt it before you put the flour in the pot.

What Can You Serve With Cheeseburger Macaroni?

I love this with a simple green salad and maybe a dessert like my Dark Chocolate Goat Cheese Brownies with Honey. I also like it paired with a classic dessert like my Strawberry Shortcake In a Jar.

Need a quick side to go with your homemade hamburger helper? Try Air Fryer Delicata Squash, it is so easy! I also love this with Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto.

If you love a meal that takes you back, I know this cheeseburger macaroni will become a favorite in your household. I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as my family does. 

If you made this homemade cheeseburger macaroni recipe, please leave a comment or rating and let me know!

If you’d like to share this recipe with friends, make this dish, take a picture of it, and tag me @thecoppertable in a post on Instagram, pin to a Main Dishes or Dinner board on Pinterest or share on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else you like! 

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Cheeseburger Macaroni
Yield: 6 servings

Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This homemade version of that classic hamburger helper we all ate as kids is all grown up! Fresh garlic and onion and an easy to make cheese sauce really elevate this dish. It will take you right back to your childhood!


  • 1 pound ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp plain yellow mustard
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz large elbow macaroni (about 2 1/4 cups measured out)


  1. In a dutch oven or other large stock pot, brown the ground beef on medium high heat while you dice the onion.
  2. Once the onion is chopped, add it to the pot and continue cooking until the beef is well browned and the onions are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. If you dont have much grease in your pot, add the unsalted butter. If you have what appears to be at least 2 Tbsp of fat you should not need the butter. If you used beef with a rather high fat content, you may need to drain some of it off at this point.
  4. Add the all purpose flour and stir, cooking about 3 to 5 minutes, until you no longer smell flour and it has absorbed the grease.
  5. While the flour and meat mixture is cooking, put a large pot of water on to boil for the macaroni.
  6. Add the milk, salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and plain yellow mustard and to the flour and meat mixture and stir until mixture begins to thicken and reaches a slow simmer.
  7. Turn the heat to medium and while the sauce is simmering shred the cheese.
  8. Once the water in the other pot is boiling, add the macaroni and cook to al dente or according to package directions, whichever you prefer.
  9. While the macaroni is cooking, add the shredded cheese to the sauce and turn down to medium low, stirring until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce.
  10. Once the macaroni is cooked, drain and add to the sauce and stir well, allowing the cheese sauce to thoroughly coat the pasta and serve.


If you use ground turkey, you will probably want to add another 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper to this recipe to add a little extra seasoning.

Don't skip the plain yellow mustard! It takes the cheeseburger flavor of this to a whole other level!

For ways to jazz this recipe up a little, be sure to check out the blog post for tips!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 904Total Fat: 62gSaturated Fat: 33gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 212mgSodium: 862mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 59g

All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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