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.
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.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- 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.
- 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
- 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 make 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 1/2 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.
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.
6. Stir in the macaroni and cook for 9 minutes.
7. Stir in the vegan cheese sauce. Simmer. Serve!
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.
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.
- A refreshing leafy green salad with a light dressing
- Roasted brussels sprouts or other veggies with olive oil and rosemary
- Garlic bread rolls
- Sourdough toast
- Corn with butter
- Steamed broccoli or green beans
More vegan pasta recipes:
- Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
- Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
- Stuffed Shells with Almond Ricotta (No Tofu)
- Coconut Cream Pasta (Gluten-free)
Vegan Hamburger Helper
Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, use Metric measurements and measuring spoons.
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil
- 1 lb (454 g) vegan ground, I used Beyond Meat
- 1 large (150 g) onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) paprika
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) cayenne or chipotle, optional
- 3 tbsp (44 ml) brandy or white wine, optional
- ½ cup (123 g) pasta sauce, pomodoro or marinara
- 3 cups (710 ml) vegetable stock
- ½ cup (118 ml) soy milk, or cashew or light coconut milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 oz (227 g) elbow macaroni
- salt and pepper, to taste
Vegan Cheese Sauce (See Notes for Substitution)
- 1 medium (140 g) potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium (80 g) carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 small (25 g) onion or shallot, or 1 tbsp onion powder
- 4 tbsp (16 g) nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup (60 ml) olive or capers brine, optional
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) vegan lactic acid, or 2 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) liquid aminos, or tamari
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 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 (140 g) potato ,1 medium (80 g) 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 tbsp (30 ml) oil
- Add the onions and cook until they start to brown for about 3 minutes.1 large (150 g) 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 (454 g) 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 (5 g) paprika ,½ teaspoon (2 g) cayenne or chipotle ,½ cup (123 g) pasta sauce ,3 tbsp (44 ml) 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 (710 ml) vegetable stock ,½ cup (118 ml) 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 (227 g) 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 (25 g) onion or shallot ,4 tbsp (16 g) nutritional yeast ,¼ cup (60 ml) olive or capers brine ,1 teaspoon (5 g) vegan lactic acid ,1 teaspoon (5 ml) 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.
- 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 1/2 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.
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?
Thanks for trying it Robert! I actually have used a similar cheese sauce to make mac and cheese. You can find the recipe here: https://www.fromthecomfortofmybowl.com/vegan-mac-and-cheese/ which includes two different sauce options.
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
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.
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!
I’m happy you enjoyed it Lucracia! Thank you!
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
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.
I’m happy to hear that Brandy! Thank you for trying it!
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!
Thanks so much for the feedback Melina! I’m happy your family could enjoy it and really wish you could too.
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!
Thanks so much Dena! So happy you could make it your own and still enjoy it!
Are the nutrition facts for 4servings or for 1 serving?
It’s for 1 serving.