Vegan Hamburger Helper

Vegan hamburger helper is a hearty, delicious one-pot meal. It’s easy to cook on a weeknight offering the comfort of hamburger helper, but 100% vegan. 

vegan hamburger helper in a bowl with spoon

You may have seen or had the boxed version you find at the grocery store. Perhaps it was a childhood staple! This vegan hamburger helper was inspired by the popular New York Times version.

It’s comforting and satisfying. The macaroni soaks up the creamy, tomatoey sauce. The vegan cheese sauce adds some nice creaminess. I used it in this Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe and it's so good!

The best part is you only need one pot, and it comes together fairly quickly. It’s an easy way to feed your whole family.

Key Tips to Follow

1. Use a premade pasta sauce. To speed up the cooking time, use your favourite store-bought marinara or pasta sauce. It’ll be equally as delicious and saves you time in the kitchen.

2. Season well at the end of cooking. Many of the ingredients have enough salt added. This includes the stock, Beyond Meat, pasta sauce and cheese sauce.

It’s best to be light-handed with the salt at the beginning and add more if needed at the end of cooking.

3. For a creamy vegan cheese sauce, save the veggie cooking liquid. After boiling the potato and carrot save the cooking liquid. It’s got flavor and potato starches to help your sauce bind together making it creamier.

vegan hamburger helper in skillet with wooden spoon

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Oil
  • Onion
  • Vegan Ground Meat - I used Beyond Meat but this recipe will work with soy crumbles, cooked lentils or any other preferred brand of meatless ground.
  • Garlic
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne or Chipotle (Optional)
  • Brandy or White Wine (Optional)
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Vegetable Stock - I used Low Sodium Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base mixed with water.
  • Soy Milk
  • Bay Leaf
  • Elbow Macaroni
  • Salt and Pepper

Ingredients for Vegan Cheese Sauce

  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Onion or Shallot
  • Nutritional Yeast - Adds a mild cheese flavor
  • Lactic Acid - It's often added to cheese to give a sharp flavor. It gives this cheese sauce a stronger tang and I highly recommend it for vegan cheesy recipes.
    Be sure to look for a vegan version. If you're unable to find it, use apple cider vinegar, olive or capers brine.
  • Olive or capers brine - Also contains lactic acid and other flavors that makes the sauce really good.
    It's a great way to use up the liquids. If unavailable, use more lactic acid or vinegar instead.
  • Liquid Aminos
  • Salt and Pepper

You can also use 1 ½ cups (170g) of your preferred brand of vegan cheddar cheese in place of the cheese sauce.

How to Make Vegan Hamburger Helper

1. Make the vegan cheese sauce by boiling the chopped potatoes and carrots. Blend with some of its cooking liquid along with the remaining cheese sauce ingredients.

2. Season lightly with salt and pepper. You can always add more at the end of cooking. Set aside.

3. Clear out the pot you used to boil the veggies. In the emptied pot, brown the onions, garlic, and vegan ground meat, breaking into small pieces. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

side by side photo showing onions and beyond meat being browned in a pot

4. Stir in spices, brandy, and pasta sauce. Cook for a few minutes.

5. Add veggie stock, soy milk, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

side by side photo showing how to cook beyond meat for vegan hamburger helper

6. Stir in the macaroni and cook for 9 minutes.

7. Stir in the vegan cheese sauce. Simmer. Serve!

side by side images of vegan hamburger helper in a pot with vegan cheese sauce added

Recipe Variations or Substitutions

  • Philly Cheesesteak version: Slice the onions and add green peppers to the sauce. Substitute the pasta sauce for a little tomato paste and extra veggie broth. Substitute the liquid aminos for mustard in the vegan cheese sauce.
  • Plant-Based Taco version: Add cumin and diced jalapeño peppers. Substitute pasta sauce for a little tomato paste and extra veggie broth. Top with crunchy corn tortilla chips, cashew cream or vegan sour cream. Add sliced green onions.

Soy Milk: If you can’t eat soy or don’t have soy milk on hand, you can substitute for cashew milk or light coconut milk. They will both offer creaminess and flavor to the dish.

Elbow Macaroni: Any short pasta shape will work well!

You can use conchiglie and orecchiette, which both have little cavities for the sauce. Alternatively, you can opt for a small, hollow pasta like penne, rigatoni, rotelle, or ziti.

Liquid Aminos: You can substitute liquid aminos for soy sauce or tamari for savoriness and umami. 

Lactic Acid or Apple Cider Vinegar: For acidity and tang, you can substitute for lemon juice.

Storage Suggestions

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave in a heat-safe dish for a few minutes with a tiny splash of water to rehydrate the macaroni.

Alternatively, you can reheat on the stovetop on low with a splash of water.

This dish can be frozen for up to a month. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Serving Ideas

More vegan pasta recipes:

vegan hamburger helper in a bowl with spoon

Vegan Hamburger Helper

4.91 from 21 votes
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 55 mins
Total: 1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 4
Calories: 693kcal
Print Pin Rate
This hearty, delicious one-pot meal is easy to cook on a weeknight! A childhood comfort food favourite that’s 100% vegan.

Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, select the Metric option below and use measuring spoons.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 lb vegan ground, I used Beyond Meat
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne or chipotle, optional
  • 3 tablespoon brandy or white wine, optional
  • ½ cup pasta sauce, pomodoro or marinara
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup soy milk, or cashew or light coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Vegan Cheese Sauce (See Notes for Substitution)

  • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small onion or shallot, or 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 4 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup olive or capers brine, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vegan lactic acid, or 2 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon liquid aminos, or tamari
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Add the chopped potato and carrots to a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil until the potatoes are cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes.
    1 medium potato ,1 medium carrot
  • Remove from heat. Add the cooked potato and carrot to a bowl with the cooking liquid. Set aside to cool.
  • Return the empty pot to the stove over medium heat. Allow any remaining liquid to evaporate then add the oil.
    2 tablespoon oil
  • Add the onions and cook until they start to brown for about 3 minutes.
    1 large onion
  • Add the garlic with the vegan ground. Use a spoon to break it up into smaller pieces. Cook until it’s browned for about 5 minutes.
    2 cloves garlic ,1 lb vegan ground
  • Lightly season with salt and pepper. Many of the other ingredients already have salt added. It’s best to be light-handed with the salt at the beginning and add more if needed at the end of cooking.
    salt and pepper
  • Stir in the paprika, cayenne/chipotle, brandy and pasta sauce. Cook for 4 minutes while scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
    1 teaspoon paprika ,½ teaspoon cayenne or chipotle ,½ cup pasta sauce ,3 tablespoon brandy or white wine
  • Pour in veggie stock and soy milk. Add the bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes at high heat.
    3 cups vegetable stock ,½ cup soy milk ,1 bay leaf
  • Remove the lid and stir in the macaroni. Cover and cook for 9 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.
    8 oz elbow macaroni
  • Meanwhile, in a blender, combine cooked potato and carrots with the remaining ingredients for the cheese sauce. Add ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and blend until creamy. Season lightly with salt (about ½ tsp) and pepper. Again, you can always add more at the end.
    1 clove garlic ,1 small onion or shallot ,4 tablespoon nutritional yeast ,¼ cup olive or capers brine ,1 teaspoon vegan lactic acid ,1 teaspoon liquid aminos ,salt and pepper
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir in the vegan cheese sauce. Continue to cook on low until it thickens for about 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve warm.

Notes

  • Lactic acid, apple cider vinegar, olive brine and capers brine all give the sauce a sharp, cheesier taste. Use one or a combination of all of them and adjust to your taste.
  • You can also use 1 ½ cups (170g) of your favourite brand of vegan cheddar cheese instead of the cheese sauce.
  • Try soy crumbles, cooked lentils or your preferred brand of meatless ground for this recipe.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container or in the freezer for up to a month.
  • Reheat in the microwave or stovetop with a bit of water added.
  • Recipe adapted from New York Times
  • More vegan one-pot recipes: Sweet Potato Chili, One-Pot Pasta, Jambalaya.
Tried this recipe? Upload a photo in the comments below!If you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a rating. It really helps the blog.

Nutrition

Calories: 693kcal | Carbohydrates: 73g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 1633mg | Potassium: 1075mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 3333IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 190mg | Iron: 6mg
Nutrition Disclaimer
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian

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15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this last night, and my partner and I couldn't stop eating it. It was so good. Thankfully she had some leftovers for her lunch today. I might make it again tonight. I wonder if you could use that cheese sauce alone to make mac and cheese?

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is SO good! I omitted most of the optional ingredients and I subbed vegan Alfredo sauce for the marinara due to a tomato allergy but it turned out perfect! I’ll definitely be making this again. How does it turn out after freezing it? Im always afraid to freeze meals

    1. Thank you so much for trying it Mackenzie! The pasta might become mushy after freezing and thawing, but it'll still be tasty. Cooking the pasta to al dente helps too.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this today and it was sooo delicious!! The only substitute I made was to use the “no beef” Better than Bouillon in place of the veg broth. The cheese sauce is amazing, but honestly I tasted the pasta before I added it and it was still delicious!

  4. I made this today with TVP, I had to bump up the seasonings a lot to accommodate for the blandness of the crumbles, but this recipe was very yummy

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe was so easy and good. The hubs loved it so much he had seconds. I used tofu for mine since I had plenty that needed to be used. I will definitely be making this again.

  6. 5 stars
    I followed the recipe as is. My kids and husband think it’s amazing! That’s a win in my book. (Unfortunately I lost my taste so can’t give a personal opinion) It is a pretty quick meal to make. Thank you for the recipe! I will continue to make this!

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback Melina! I'm happy your family could enjoy it and really wish you could too.

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is the real deal! My mom hated to cook so HH was a staple at our house. She would probably make fun of me for making this from scratch, but IT"S SO WORTH IT. I used tempeh and a different cheese sauce recipe, but the flavor is IDENTICAL. Thank you Jhanelle! You are a genius!