Popular Hamburger Helper Flavors, Ranked Worst To Best

Hamburger Helper may not be what you think of when you hear the words "gourmet food," but when you need a satisfying family dinner on the table fast, it certainly gets the job done. And while boxed and packaged foods may have largely gone out of style in recent years, let's just be honest with ourselves — sometimes, they're not so bad. That's especially true when you have a busy lifestyle and don't want to spend money on eating out every night of the week (an act we've all been guilty of from time to time).

However, if you don't know your way around the Hamburger Helper scene, you may be a bit overwhelmed when you first see how many different options there are. We were surprised when we found out that there are way, way more flavors than we remembered from our own childhoods — and that's not even including Chicken or Tuna Helper, either.

So, before you make a decision about what kind of flavor you want the next time you're at the grocery store, you should get a rundown of our favorite — and least favorite — flavors in the Hamburger Helper line. That way, you will have a rough guide to work from to determine which boxes you should pick up and which you should leave behind on the shelf. And while these are some of the most popular options, you should remember that there are others available that you can check out as well.

16. Four Cheese Lasagna

When you hear the word "lasagna," what comes to mind? If you're like most people, you think of a layered pasta dish with plenty of cheese, yes, but also lots of tangy marinara sauce. It's about as classic a meal as you can get and it's pretty much universally beloved. That's why it's such a crime that the Four Cheese Lasagna from Hamburger Helper is referred to as "lasagna" at all.

This stuff is about as far away from actual lasagna as you can get. First of all, there's no tomato-based sauce. We can't even figure out why, as that would have made the dish so much better. On top of that, this definitely isn't going to come out like a layered casserole, as you can probably imagine. Instead, the pasta is just shaped vaguely like sheets of lasagna. If all that isn't disappointing enough, the cheese in this stuff isn't remotely good. You're not going to get real cheese in here, after all. Instead, it's just a cheese sauce that comes as a pretty sad dehydrated powder.

If you think that such a description sounds unappetizing, you'd be totally right. And apparently, lots of others agree with us. If you take a look at this product's rating on Betty Crocker's own website, you'll see that it's only received three stars (at the time of writing). That should say something about how disappointing this Hamburger Helper meal is. Take a look at the other options instead.

15. Bacon Cheeseburger

If you're looking for a meal that will put you to sleep before you even start eating it, then you've found exactly what you're looking for when you pick up a box of Bacon Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper. We really didn't think that this selection would be so bland, but what we discovered when we tried this stuff out was definitely disappointing — and we definitely won't make the same mistake again.

There's really nothing special about this dish. There's the macaroni, which you could pick up literally anywhere. Then there's the cheese sauce, which is about as flavorless as sauces come. In fact, it barely tastes like cheese. It's more of a watery slurry that just barely coats your pasta. And while we thought the bacon might amp up the flavor a bit, we were completely wrong. It turns out that you can actually barely taste the bacon. The only real flavor in this meal will come from the beef itself, and that's not even sold as a part of the product.

Also, we think that when it comes to a dish that's this simple, you shouldn't worry about getting a boxed meal. Instead, you could easily make this stuff with ingredients from scratch. Not only will it taste better that way, but it will almost definitely be healthier that way too, considering it probably won't include additives like sodium phosphate, disodium inosinate, and enzyme-modified cheddar cheese such as what you'll find in Hamburger Helper meals.

14. Spaghetti

The first thought we had when we looked at this box was: Why on earth would anybody buy this product? Look, we know that not everyone is amazing in the kitchen. Some people just don't have (or don't want to develop) the skills it takes to cook. That's totally okay — we can't all be good at everything. But there are some dishes that you should know how to cook even if you're not brilliant at it. Surely, spaghetti is one of those dishes.

Luckily, spaghetti is exceedingly easy to make. That's why we were so confused about the Spaghetti Hamburger Helper. Why would you specifically need these ingredients in a box when you probably already have everything you need to make the dish at home? Seriously, it's not that hard to buy a box of pasta and some sauce (which would almost definitely taste better). That's why we think you shouldn't touch this Hamburger Helper flavor with a 10-foot pole. There's just no reason to. And even if you were looking for the ultimate ease, you'd probably be disappointed with the flavor of this dish as well.

It certainly doesn't taste like traditional spaghetti, so don't get your hopes up. It's basically just what tastes like low-quality pasta and sauce. Then, you add in the ground beef, which gives you a weird twist on what should be an effortless and classic meal. Our advice? Learn how to cook spaghetti yourself and avoid this packaged food at all costs.

13. Lasagna

We've already expressed our anxiety at finding out that the Four Cheese Lasagna Hamburger Helper isn't really lasagna in any way, shape, or form. So it shouldn't surprise you to see the regular Lasagna Hamburger Helper flavor here too. We have some of the same complaints, namely when it comes to the pasta that's included in this dish. Of course, you're not going to get real sheets of lasagna when you go for this option, either. If that's what you're looking for, then you should move onto the pasta aisle at your local grocery store.

That being said, there are some factors that make us like this option better than the four cheese one. First of all, this option does have a tomato-based sauce. It's not particularly good, but it's better than the powdered cheese monstrosity we mentioned before. This one also seems to go better with the meat, though we prefer more flavorful ground sausage to ground beef in this situation.

Even with some slight improvements on the other lasagna dish, this still isn't a meal that we can truly get behind. It's really lacking in taste and calling it lasagna when it's definitely not kind of throws us off and wants to make us pass it up entirely. It should have a completely different name. When it comes to lasagna, you should definitely set your standards higher than what Hamburger Helper is offering you here. You're worth it.

12. Potatoes Stroganoff

If you're like us, you may have thought that Hamburger Helper only made meat and pasta dishes. However, that's not really true. They have a few selections that actually don't involve pasta at all, though they're still pretty typically heavy on the carbs. Some of these creations are dubious, though, like the Potatoes Stroganoff Hamburger Helper. While it's not the worst item you can get from the brand's line, we're still seriously not big fans of it.

First of all, it should come as no surprise to you that the potatoes aren't the freshest spuds you've ever eaten. They come dehydrated in a box, after all. If you really love potatoes, you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed by these sad examples. Sure, it's easy ... but at what cost? Then, there's the sauce. This white sauce is super bland and doesn't make those subpar potatoes into anything special. It definitely doesn't taste bad, but it's just so unremarkable that you'll forget about it before you even swallow your first mouthful.

Like a lot of Hamburger Helper meals, the main thing that saves this dish from being very depressing is the fact that you add meat to it. Combining this with ground beef does take it up a notch, as the beef plays well with the potatoes and adds flavor. Other than that, this potatoes stroganoff is pretty much a total bust in our books. It's only acceptable if it's the last Hamburger Helper box available at the store.

11. Beef Pasta

Doesn't "beef pasta" sound super vague? Don't quite a lot of pasta dishes have beef in them? Why can't they be more specific? But, alas, "Beef Pasta" is all that you're going to get here from Hamburger Helper. Is this dish kind of tasty? Sure. But it's also kind of random and definitely very basic. It's literally just noodles, pasta, and a salty sauce. Unlike many other Hamburger Helper recipes, this one doesn't involve any cheese to speak of. Instead, the sauce is made with soy sauce. This is something different and novel for the line, sure, but it's still not as good as a sauce that you could make at home.

And that's why this dish doesn't rank any higher on our list. While the taste isn't bad and it's something we wouldn't mind eating, there's still no reason to buy this box when you could make something just like it yourself — something that would probably taste a lot better, to boot. If you have a few seasonings in your pantry, you can make your own sauce that rivals the one you'll get in this box any day.

If you want the ease of having everything together and ready for you from the get-go with no effort involved, then go ahead and indulge in this meal. But for us, it's just not worth it. That's especially true when there are other, superior Hamburger Helper flavors right there on the shelf next to this one.

10. Three Cheese

Cheese lovers, we've got the Hamburger Helper recipe for you ... well, maybe. If you're not picky about the kind of cheese you eat, the Three Cheese Hamburger Helper may just become your new go-to easy meal when you just can't be bothered to make something from scratch. However, if you really love picking out the best cheese available at your local farmers market, you may want to skip this one completely. There's a pretty low chance you're going to love this flavor, considering the fact that the cheese in the recipe is actually dried.

As the name suggests, the sauce boasts three different kinds of cheese: Parmesan, cheddar cheese, and bleu cheese. While the flavor is decent, we couldn't really pick out these specific cheese flavors when we tasted this meal for ourselves. We also have a sneaking suspicion that there's not actually that much cheese in it, as annatto has also been added to the ingredients list. Annatto lends an orange hue when it's added to food like Cheez-Its, so we think that the rather bright yellow color isn't necessarily coming from the cheese.

Overall, this pasta dish is just okay. The cheese sauce is better than many of the others on the list, but it's still not anything especially impressive. At the end of the day, it will make an average meal, so it may not hurt to keep some in your pantry for when you're just feeling lazy.

9. Cheesy Hashbrown

Here's another potato recipe, which we were pleasantly surprised to find. And while it's definitely not the best of the bunch, we liked it a lot more than the potatoes stroganoff. The Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper almost feels like it should be a breakfast item, but we think that it's probably meant to be eaten for dinner. But don't let that stop you: Whip it up whenever you want it most.

Again, the potatoes in this dish are dried, which means you're not getting the best-quality potatoes around. But they're not cut into coins like what you'll find in the inferior potatoes stroganoff Hamburger Helper. Rather, they're cut into a more traditional hashbrown shape, with long, thin pieces. For some reason, that cut makes these potatoes seem somewhat more appealing than the other spuds we encountered from this brand. Also, the cheese sauce seems to melt into the potatoes in this one more, infusing them with way more flavor.

Now, don't get us wrong, as we wouldn't say that this dish is anything extraordinary. However, if you're interested in trying one of Hamburger Helper's potato dishes, we'd venture to say that this one is your best option. Of course, if you have time to chop your own potatoes and make a cheese sauce, we'd suggest you do that instead. But everyone has to take a shortcut sometimes!

8. Cheddar Cheese Melt

Now, if you're looking for a cheesy selection that's better than the others we've mentioned so far, you may want to grab the Cheddar Cheese Melt Hamburger Helper the next time you see it on store shelves. With the other cheesy dishes, we couldn't really pinpoint what kind of cheese we were getting. With the cheddar cheese melt, though, you can definitely taste the cheddar specifically, which is why it's nabbed a better spot on our list. While, yes, the cheddar cheese is still dried, it at least has a flavor that we actually enjoy.

We also like the flat, fun noodles that come in this one. Other than that, it's pretty simple, which is why it's not ranked any higher. We're not necessarily fond of their pairing suggestions for this dish, too. Most of the time when you make Hamburger Helper, you're probably cooking with ground beef or ground turkey. But often, there is another protein suggestion on the box. The suggestion here? Hot dogs.

Look, we get it if you're cooking for kids and you're just trying to make the little ones happy. They may have picky taste buds, and you can certainly make this into an occasional treat. But otherwise, adding hot dogs to the mix takes this from a vaguely unhealthy meal to one that really starts to turn your stomach. So, we highly recommend that you just stick with the traditional ground beef add-in here.

7. Cheesy Italian Shells

You may not be shocked to learn that the Cheesy Italian Shells Hamburger Helper is really similar to the cheddar cheese melt. In fact, let's just be honest: There's a homogeneity in the selection of Hamburger Helper meals that makes you wonder how much they're really changing the recipe from one flavor to the next. But we're going to say that this one is a little bit better than the last because it has something the cheddar cheese melt doesn't, and that's the shell pasta.

It's just a fact that shells are a superior pasta shape. They form a nice little pocket that holds perfectly onto the cheese sauce here, basically turning it into an edible cup for your sauce. Because they curl in on themselves, the texture is also arguably much better than most other pasta shapes. And you can eat them with a spoon, which qualifies this meal for true binging status. Anything that has shells gets high marks in our book, but the flavor here is pretty good as well.

It does taste largely like the cheddar cheese melt, but this one includes Parmesan as well. The Italian seasonings definitely take it up a notch, too. We wish they would've made this one stand out from the rest a little bit more, but we all know that Hamburger Helper isn't really about pushing culinary boundaries, anyway. It's not our absolute favorite, but we still give the cheesy Italian shells a thumbs up.

6. Chili Macaroni

Do you want chili for dinner? That's going to mean a lot of prep work. First, you have to chop all the veggies, then you have to mix them with your protein of choice, and then you have to put it on the stove for several hours to allow all those flavors to mingle into something delicious. Yes, this may be the ideal way to make chili if you want a high-quality, healthy meal to share with your family. But sometimes, you just don't have any extra minutes in the day to throw a meal like this on the stove. That's when you should turn to the Chili Macaroni Hamburger Helper.

Of course, this stuff isn't like real chili (for one, it's got way more carbs from all that macaroni), but it still has the same taste and is easy to throw together when you're in a pinch. It has chile pepper in it that you can taste from the very first bite, and that certainly gives it a bit of zing, though we wouldn't say it's spicy by any means. (If you like spice, we definitely recommend adding a bit of crushed red pepper to the mix — it makes this dish significantly more delicious).

We also love the suggestion provided on the box for this one. Instead of adding another meat, you could also pair this dish with black beans. That would make for a slightly healthier vegetarian option and it stays true to a real chili.

5. Cheeseburger Macaroni

If you're looking for a Hamburger Helper flavor that pretty much the whole family will love, you can't go wrong with the Cheeseburger Macaroni. This flavor isn't groundbreaking or creative. It won't make you rethink boxed meals or decide to eat Hamburger Helper every night. But it will keep your family full and give you something tasty to eat after a long and busy day.

When you think of Hamburger Helper, this dish is probably what you think of. It's got the easy-cooking macaroni and comes with a simple cheesy sauce. They don't overdo it by adding a ton of extra flavorings and trying to make this meal into something that it's not. Instead, they just lean into the standard-ness of it, and we actually prefer it that way.

There's just something about this dish that's weirdly nostalgic. Whether you ate this at home as a child or had something similar, it will bring you back to simpler times. And because kids are sure to eat it up right away, it's the perfect thing to serve to little ones with picky appetites.

Just remember that you can put darn near anything in Hamburger Helper, so don't be afraid to get a little creative here. If you don't have any ground beef or turkey on hand, we think you could put some bacon in this and make it taste even better. It may not be the healthiest choice, but it will taste good.

4. Deluxe Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. If you love it, you're in luck, because the Deluxe Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Helper is actually incredibly good. It's no wonder it got four and a half stars on the company's website, quite a bit higher than the vast majority of other flavors. One reviewer said, "This is one of my family's favorite quick dinners. Hamburger Helper is an easy and quick, but delicious dinner. These are good when you're having a busy night and need a good but quick meal. They are very tasty and guaranteed to satisfy everyone, even the pickiest of eaters."

That makes sense because this dish will appeal to pretty much everyone. The pasta is a nice shape that catches the white sauce well. Adding some ground meat to this mix is amazing, but we think that some hearty meatballs could make it even better. If you want to make things as simple for yourself as possible, you can even purchase pre-made meatballs that will make everything come together in a flash. And if you want to add some green to the mix, peas would make a healthier addition.

While this may not really be your classic beef stroganoff, we think it's close enough to the real thing, especially when you're in a hurry and you need to get dinner on the table fast. Give it a try for yourself so you can see what the hype is about.

3. Southwest Pasta

We wish that more Hamburger Helper selections were as good as the Southwest Pasta Hamburger Helper. In fact, it may be our absolute favorite, but it didn't rank quite as high as the others because there are a lot of other ingredients you need to add to it to make it taste as good as it can be. Of course, you start with the box mix and the meat of your choice. Of course, you can use beef, but relatively healthier black beans make an excellent replacement in this dish (and they make it appropriate for vegetarians — perfect if you're feeding a big group!).

However, now's the time when you really get to spice things up, though. If you really want to give it a Southwestern twist, you should add some cooked corn as well as some diced green chiles. Those who want to keep things simple and easy can get canned versions of these add-ins, but you can also use fresh if you don't mind just slightly more prep time.

Even if you don't add all those extras, though, you're still going to love how tasty this pasta is. It's got a hint of spice, but it's definitely not overpowering — even the pickiest eaters in your crew should want to eat this stuff up. The sauce is unlike anything else we've tasted from Hamburger Helper, which is definitely a good thing. Once you try this dish once, you'll want to serve it up all the time.

2. Salisbury

A Salisbury steak is delicious, but it can take a lot of time to cook. With that consideration, a meal like Salisbury steak may be out of the question if your day is already full to the brim with tasks that need to be completed. If you want to enjoy those same flavors with a lot less effort, you should turn to the Salisbury Hamburger Helper. While it may not sound like the most delicious flavor on the list, it's one of our absolute favorites. The creamy sauce coats the noodles perfectly, and it's missing that cheesy taste that you'll find in most other Hamburger Helper meals. This one pairs really well with ground beef, so we recommend sticking to that suggestion if you can.

And if you want to take it to the next level? One reviewer at the Betty Crocker website has some helpful suggestions: "It's good when used as a base. I do highly recommend dicing up and sautéing half an onion with the meat and then adding dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce and some beef bullion to add more of a homemade flavor to it. You could even add peas and put it over mashed potatoes if you wanted to stretch it even further."

Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to get creative here. Even if you were to just add the meat and nothing else, this would still make a tasty, quick meal on its own.

1. Tomato Basil Penne

We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw that the Tomato Basil Penne Hamburger Helper got a five-star rating on the company's website, but when you try it out for yourself, you're going to see why right away. First of all, there aren't very many dishes in the Hamburger Helper line that utilize penne pasta, so that definitely makes this one stand out. But there's also the fact that the sauce is super flavorful. It has a distinct basil flavor that's enhanced even further if you add fresh basil to the mix. And while ground beef is a good option as an addition, we think it's even tastier with some ground sausage, perhaps with a decently spicy Italian sausage.

Oh, and this flavor is just begging for you to add some spice to the pot. Why not toss some red pepper flakes into the mix, for instance? That will give the end result a kick that makes it all even more special.

When you choose this tomato basil penne meal, you can have a delicious pasta dish that comes together quickly and that tastes nothing short of amazing. What more could you want from an easy dinner? Feed this to your family and they are sure to ask for it on a regular basis.