Vegan Hamburger Helper

When times are stressful I crave the cozy comfort that can only be brought by foods from childhood. In the earliest years of a vegan diet, these moments left me feeling deprived. Today I just lean into that “mostly vegan” practice and have a serving of homemade macaroni at the family gathering. Eventually I learned to make satisfying vegan versions of most things, especially veggies and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, stuffing/dressing and so much more. While happily scrolling through Instagram months ago I saw Timothy Pakron,aka Mississippi Vegan’s photo of his take on vegan Hamburger Helper. I can’t tell you the last time I thought about Hamburger Helper, but I was overcome with memories of the funny white glove (was it supposed to be an oven mit or something?) that was on the box of Hamburger Helper and other 1980s delicacies like Rice-a-Roni, both with enough salt to cause great concern for all of our cardiovascular health, I’m sure.

Anyway, I read the vegan Hamburger Helper recipe and I even though I personally don’t super love cooking with meat substitutes, the nostalgic cravings spurred on by a stressful week got the better of me.

Timothy Pakron’s version has a little spicier than my kids approve of, so I toned things down just a little. I also moved to a stove top only version because my dutch oven is on the smaller side. It makes 6-8 servings and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.

With that, I introduce you to Mostly Vegan Mamas Vegan Hamburger Helper!

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package of your favorite ground meat substitute, I use Beyond Meat
  • 1 25 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 16 oz shells pasta
  • 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • optional handful of vegan (or not vegan) cheese, I use Violife Cheddar shreds
  • 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 3-5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 shake of smokey paprika
  • optional: extra spices!! a shake or three of smokey paprika, one shake hot pepper, a few shakes garlic and onion powder

Directions

  • In a 8 quart pot, over medium heat saute onion, garlic with ground beef substitute, being sure to break apart the beef into a crumb size texture. If it doesn’t have a juicy quality about it, add a little extra olive oil.
  • Add all herbs and spices (except the optional extras!) and stir for until it smells amazing (1-3 minutes)
  • Add fire roasted tomatoes, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, cheese or cheese substitute
  • Stir in pasta
  • Add enough water to just cover the pasta
  • Stir well and let simmer. While the pasta cooks stir frequently (but not constantly) to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. As the pasta cooks it will get thick and creamy. You may need to add a little extra water. When the pasta is done, check out the overall texture. If the pasta falls apart from the sauce easily you may need to add a little water. Scoop-able and creamy is the way to go.
  • Taste test! I like strong flavors, and I shake extra everything until there is a nice balance of salt and spice. I generally add extra of garlic and onion powder, a little extra olive oil and soy sauce and just enough chipotle chili to make the kids a tiny bit made at me.