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:

744 calories

Dietary restrictions:

Balanced, High Fiber Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Pork Free, Alcohol Free, No Sugar Added

Daily value:



  • Fat 25g 39%
  • Carbs 99g 33%
  • Saturated 13g 67%
  • Fiber 16g 64%
  • Trans 0g
  • Sugars 6g
  • Monounsaturated 7g
  • Polyunsaturated 3g
  • Protein 37g 74%
  • Cholesterol 95mg 32%
  • Sodium 523mg 22%
  • Calcium 535mg 54%
  • Magnesium 189mg 47%
  • Potassium 890mg 25%
  • Iron 5mg 29%
  • Zinc 6mg 38%
  • Phosphorus 972mg 139%
  • Vitamin A 310µg 34%
  • Vitamin C 7mg 11%
  • Thiamin (B1) 1mg 37%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 0mg 25%
  • Niacin (B3) 10mg 50%
  • Vitamin B6 1mg 39%
  • Folic Acid (B9) 68µg 17%
  • Vitamin B12 1µg 20%
  • Vitamin D 1µg 0%
  • Vitamin E 3mg 13%
  • Vitamin K 13µg 16%
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