Back when I was a working mother with two young children to feed, Hamburger Helper was a lifesaver to get the evening meal on the table within an hour of getting home from work.
Although many different ingredients can be added to Hamburger Helper to put your own spin on the recipe and to make your own unique version, the 3 basic ingredients called for are meat, water, and milk. But, what if you are out of milk?
Here are 18 of the best substitutes for milk in making Hamburger Helper. I put them in order from what you are most likely to have on hand. I’ll also be sure to give you the correct ratios as well.
1. Water and Butter
Water can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper, but the recommendation is that 1 tablespoon of butter is added for every cup of water used to keep the fat content the same.
Water + 1 T of butter/cup of water can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
2. Cream or Half-and-half
Cream or Half-and-Half can be used instead of milk but will make a thicker and creamier dish. For that reason, I recommend using approximately equal parts of cream and water to prevent making such a thick dish.
A mixture of 50% Cream or Half-and-Half and 50% water can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
3. Sour Cream
Sour Cream can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper but will need to be thinned. I recommend using 75% sour cream and 25% water. Sour Cream will also change the taste of the meal, will make it thicker and denser, and will add a slightly tangy flavor.
A mixture of 75% sour cream and 25% water can be substituted for milk at a 1.1 ratio.
4. Yogurt, Plain or Greek
Plain or Greek Yogurt can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper, but like sour cream, will need to be thinned to avoid creating a thicker texture. Here again, I would recommend using 75% yogurt and 25% water to counteract the resulting thicker texture.
A mixture of 75% plain or Greek yogurt and 25% water can be substituted for milk at a 1.1 ratio.
Mayonnaise can be substituted for milk in preparing Hamburger Helper, and it will create a thicker and richer meal.
Substitute the total amount of milk for 1/3rd that amount of mayonnaise, or the Hamburger Helper meal will be too thick and too sour.
6. Meat Stock
For a more savory rather than creamy Hamburger Helper, use chicken or beef stock instead of milk or a milk substitute in making a Hamburger Helper meal.
Meat Stock can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
7. Almond Milk
Almond Milk can be substituted for milk in preparing Hamburger Helper, and even though almond milk is slightly thinner than cow’s milk, there should be very little difference in the finished product. A big plus for those who are lactose intolerant is that almond milk is much easier on the stomach.
Almond Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
8. Cream Cheese
Cream Cheese is a good substitute for milk in preparing Hamburger Helper. It will produce a much richer flavor, and because cream cheese is much more dense than whole milk, only use half as much cream cheese as milk and add just ¼ cup of water to thin the cream cheese slightly.
Substitute 50% cream cheese + ¼ cup of water for every 1 part of milk called for in the package directions.
9. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated Milk is basically whole milk which has been reduced by about 50%, so all that is required to use it in preparing Hamburger Helper is to reconstitute the evaporated milk by adding equal parts evaporated milk and water and then measuring the amount called for in the package directions and adding it to the other ingredients to prepare the Hamburger Helper. There should be no difference in the taste or texture of Hamburger Helper made with evaporated milk and that made with regular milk.
Reconstituted Evaporated Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1.1 ratio.
Pro Tip: I always keep a few extra cans of evaporated milk on hand because it is such a good substitute for milk in almost every recipe and because it is easy to store long-term.
10. Powdered Milk
Powdered Milk can be used as a substitute for milk in making Hamburger Helper. While many people do not like the taste of reconstituted powdered milk for drinking, it works very well as a substitute ingredient in most dishes that call for milk.
Reconstituted Powdered Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1.1 ratio.
Pro Tip: Powdered milk is definitely a good item to keep on hand as a substitute for milk in most recipes, and a dry version of buttermilk is also available that can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in many dishes that call for buttermilk. Both of these items are easy to store for long-term use.
Lactaid is almost the same texture as cow’s milk, maybe just slightly thinner, and can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper without significantly affecting or changing the taste or texture of the meal. This would be a good option for people who are lactose intolerant.
Lactaid can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
12. Soy Milk
Soy Milk should make Hamburger Helper, which is very similar in taste and texture to that made with regular milk, but be sure to use unsweetened plain soy milk to avoid changing the flavor of the meal.
Soy Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
13. Oat Milk
Oat Milk would create a non-dairy Hamburger Helper which would be a very similar meal to Hamburger Helper made with milk but could slightly change the taste.
Oat Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
14. Rice Milk
Rice Milk is thinner than milk but can be used in making Hamburger Helper that is lighter in texture and not as creamy as Hamburger Helper made with milk or other dairy products.
Rice Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
15. Cashew Milk
Cashew Milk can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper, but because cashew milk is slightly thicker than cow’s milk, the Hamburger Helper could be a little thicker.
Cashew Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
Pro Tip: Cashew Milk is nut-based so those who have nut allergies should avoid using this type of milk.
16. Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk can replace milk in making Hamburger Helper. Even though Coconut Milk, which is made from the flesh of the brown coconut, is a thick milk that will make the Hamburger Helper rich and creamy, it does have a strong coconut flavor that will significantly change the taste of the Hamburger Helper meal.
Coconut Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
17. Goat Milk
Goat Milk is very similar in texture and flavor to cow’s milk and should make Hamburger Helper that is indistinguishable from Hamburger Helper made with cow’s milk. For those with digestive issues, goat milk does have the benefit of being easier to digest than cow’s milk.
Goat Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
18. Hemp Seed Milk
Hemp Seed Milk can be substituted for milk in Hamburger Helper because it has almost the same fat content as cow’s milk. But, it has a strong nutty taste that will adversely affect the taste of the Hamburger Helper.
Hemp Seed Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
What Ingredients Can I Add to Hamburger Helper?
Extra ingredients that can be added to Hamburger Helper depends for the most part on the version of Hamburger Helper that is being cooked. Here are 12 examples of the ingredients that can be added to Hamburger Helper:
- Onions, sauteed
- Peppers, sauteed
- Celery, sauteed
- Mushrooms, sauteed fresh or canned
- Fresh Herbs
- Spices such as Paprika, Chili Powder, Parsley, Cayenne Powder, Garlic Powder
- Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
- Water Chestnuts
- Mixed Vegetables
- Green Beans
- Broccoli Florets
Can I Make Hamburger Helper Without Meat?
Making Hamburger Helper without meat can result in a very tasty meal, especially if you add fresh vegetables. Just remember that you will only have a meal that is approximately half as much as it will be if you were to add meat.
By the way, you may want to check out my article on How To Make Hamburger Helper Without Meat (That Still Tastes Good) as well. It covers this topic in much greater detail.
Can I Substitute Ground Turkey for Ground Beef in Making Hamburger Helper?
Ground Turkey can be substituted for Ground Beef in making Hamburger Helper for a lower fat and lower calorie option.
What Sides Can I Serve With Hamburger Helper?
Hamburger Helper is a complete meal, especially if you have added vegetables. However, a side consisting of a green salad or any steamed fresh vegetable with rolls or crusty French bread will round out the quick but perfect meal.
How Long Does It Take To Make Hamburger Helper?
Hamburger Helper can be made in approximately 30 minutes from start to finish.
How Long Does Hamburger Helper Last?
Hamburger Helper still in the box is usually good for up to 2 years past its “best by” date. It is possible that it can remain edible far past that, however. Even so, since it is such a low-cost food, it is not worth the risk to eat it if it has expired many years ago.
Prepared Hamburger Helper will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To keep leftover Hamburger Helper for a longer period of time, place it into a freezer-safe container, wrap the container in plastic wrap and then in foil to prevent freezer burn, and place in the freezer for up to 3 to 6 months. The USDA recommends storing casseroles in the freezer for not more than 3 months.
Be sure to cool Hamburger Helper to room temperature before refrigerating it, and either cool to room temperature or refrigerate first before storing it in the freezer. Hot or even warm food should never be put into the freezer.
How Do You Reheat Hamburger Helper?
Hamburger Helper can be reheated in one of three ways: in the oven, on the stovetop, or in a microwave.
- To heat in an oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place the Hamburger Helper in an oven-proof dish, cover, and heat for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on whether it is still frozen or has been thawed.
- To reheat on the stovetop, put the Hamburger Helper into a saucepan large enough to stir the leftovers as they heat. Cook over low to medium heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and stir often.
- To reheat in the microwave, place leftovers into a microwave-safe container and heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring at least once every 45 seconds to a minute. Do not overheat.
Hamburger Helper has been marketed by the General Mills Company since 1970. The early 1970s was a time when beef prices were soaring, and the economy had weakened. The claim by General Mills that their new product, Hamburger Helper, which has since been renamed Helper, would stretch a pound of ground beef to feed a family of five was a welcome claim.
Unfortunately, we only liked one of the five original flavors, but that was one more quick meal to add to my recipe arsenal, and over the years, the taste was improved, and many more varieties were added so that now there are over 40 different flavors that include Chicken Helper, Tuna Helper, and Homestyle Helper.
Should you find yourself in the position of wanting to make Hamburger Helper, but you have no milk on hand. Hopefully, this list will help you find a substitute. If all else fails, you can always try the water version. By adding a tablespoon of butter for each cup of water, the dish will be more rich and flavorful.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.