Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper

Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper
Jon Jackson


  • 1 pound  whole-wheat fusili
  • 2 tablespoons  butter, at room temperature
  • clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2  large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound  ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon  chili powder
  •   Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup  flour
  • 1 cup  nonfat milk
  • tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup  heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons  fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 cup  Parmesan cheese, grated

I am not ashamed to say that as a child, I loved Hamburger Helper. I loved it so much that I specifically requested it at a sleepover, a story my family friend has never let me forget. Apparently, I told her that my mother makes this wonderful dish that I thought everyone would love for dinner — the illustrious Hamburger Helper. So when we were presented with the challenge of making a healthy grain recipe, my very first thought was to make my own healthy and frankly, upgraded, version of Hamburger Helper.

My first hurdle was the name. Everyone I told had the same (shocking, to me) reaction of semi-disgust and disbelief. But I persevered and I’m glad I did. I used ground turkey, whole-wheat fusilli, grated Parmesan, a touch of heavy cream and butter, and garlic to put together a completely tasty, creamy, satisfying dish. Think of it this way: It’s almost like a turkey Bolognese replacing the tomato stew-like base with creamy cheesy goodness. (Jury’s still out on a new name.)

The saltiness of the Parmesan and the slight sweetness of chopped tomatoes worked so nicely alongside the lightness of the lean ground turkey and the creaminess of the whole thing made it feel slightly indulgent while still being healthy. That my boyfriend got up from the table and went for seconds should be testimony enough. 


Start by boiling the pasta according to the directions on the package. When done, strain and set aside in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of butter.

Put the other tablespoon of butter in a large, deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the onions. Cook until the onions look translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add ground turkey into the pan and break apart as it cooks with a wooden spoon. Cook until you can no longer see pink, about 6-7 minutes. Then add chili powder, salt, and pepper, making sure it distributes evenly. Then add flour to the mix until it looks like the turkey is completely coated.

Add the milk and tomato, stirring constantly and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, once it is noticeably reduced, turn heat down and let the mixture simmer covered for 3 minutes. Once the milk is thickened and reduced, add heavy cream and basil stirring consistently. Then add Parmesan cheese in small amounts, mixing well with each addition. Add the cooked pasta into the pan and let all the flavors cook together for another 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Serve immediately. 


Ground turkey can be somewhat bland if you don’t season the meat before cooking it. Before prepping the rest of your ingredients for this recipe, season your ground turkey with salt and pepper and let it sit before cooking. 


Calories per serving:

369 calories

Dietary restrictions:

Low Carb Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Alcohol Free, No Oil Added, No Sugar Added

Daily value:



  • Fat 94g 145%
  • Carbs 60g 20%
  • Saturated 52g 260%
  • Fiber 7g 29%
  • Trans 1g
  • Sugars 22g
  • Monounsaturated 27g
  • Polyunsaturated 8g
  • Protein 102g 203%
  • Cholesterol 381mg 127%
  • Sodium 2,081mg 87%
  • Calcium 2,019mg 202%
  • Magnesium 183mg 46%
  • Potassium 1,761mg 50%
  • Iron 6mg 35%
  • Zinc 11mg 71%
  • Phosphorus 1,652mg 236%
  • Vitamin A 1,242µg 138%
  • Vitamin C 27mg 45%
  • Thiamin (B1) 0mg 30%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 1mg 76%
  • Niacin (B3) 18mg 90%
  • Vitamin B6 2mg 96%
  • Folic Acid (B9) 87µg 22%
  • Vitamin B12 5µg 79%
  • Vitamin D 5µg 1%
  • Vitamin E 6mg 28%
  • Vitamin K 51µg 64%
See detailed nutritional info Have a question about nutritional data? Let us know.
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