The original Hamburger Helper flavors were a hit with families
It was easy, it was delicious enough (as I recall — it might have been gross!), and I was extremely pleased with myself.
Various dishes from classic beef stew to casseroles were the original one-pot meals, but for the sake of convenience and efficiency, Hamburger Helper was the preferred one-pot meal for my family in the 70s and 80s — especially after my mom started nursing school.
Introduced under the Betty Crocker brand by General Mills in 1971, the original Hamburger Helper flavors quickly gained a loyal following — for their convenience and ease of use, yes, but also because so many people loved them!
The original Hamburger Helper was a boxed kit that included pasta, a powdered sauce mix, and a packet of seasonings. Home cooks simply had to brown some ground beef, add the contents of the box and water, and simmer for a few minutes to create a delicious and satisfying meal. The boxes then made five one-cup servings. (Package sizes have changed since the 1970s. Back then, the Beef Noodle flavor contained 7 ounces of mix. Now, the Beef Pasta flavor mix weighs 5.9 ounces, but still calls for 1 pound of meat.)
Over the years, General Mills has expanded the product line to include a vast variety of dishes, but some of the classic Hamburger Helper flavors (Cheeseburger Macaroni!) remain the nostalgic choice for many home cooks still today. -BB
Retro 70s Hamburger Helper flavors (1973)
With six flavorful varieties of Hamburger Helper dinner mixes to choose from, you can serve hamburger to your family as often as you like. One pan, one pound of hamburger, and one package of Hamburger Helper make one happy family!
Flavors available then: Rice Oriental, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Hash Dinner, Chili Tomato, Potato Stroganoff & Beef Noodle
One-dish meals heat up the food market (1974)
By Ruth Gray – Tampa Bay Times (Florida) February 3, 1974
At a recent meeting of consumer writers in Washington DC, a speaker mentioned the fact that the one-dish meals — those packages to which you “just add one pound of hamburger” or other meat — are about the hottest thing in today’s retail food market. The consumer was evidently ready and waiting to try the various new one-dish products which today flow to the grocery shelves.
In the first few months of 1973, the advertising industry claimed, the one-dish meals were a $300-million business. The first products appeared on the retail market late in 1971.
Today’s market is growing, too. For the homemaker-in-a-hurry, there’s a lot of convenience in that box or packet. And that’s what many of today’s homemakers are after. But, that homemaker might take time to ponder if such an item is worth it in convenience. After all, she can make almost the same one-dish meal ‘from scratch” and probably have one that tastes at least as good if not better and costs less.
The 2.75-ounce packet of sauce mix and the 2.75-ounces of dehydrated potatoes in one product package (Hamburger Helper) cost 65 cents. But, say manufacturers, the dinners are worthwhile because they not only save time in assembling the items necessary, but only high-quality ingredients (noodles, potatoes, macaroni or beans plus any seasonings) are used.
Some shoppers say they won’t buy the one-box dinners because of the preservatives used or the slightly unnatural taste of some of the dried ingredients.
The ingredients in Hamburger Helper make a long list: dried potatoes, dried onion, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified corn starch, enriched flour (bleached), dried peas, dried carrots, salt, dried tomato, vegetable oil, sugar, dextrose, caramel color, monosodium glutamate, lactose, beef fat, natural flavorings, autolyzed yeast, sodium caseinate, dried celery, potassium and calcium phosphates, citric acid, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, spice, dried garlic, and freshness preservers, sodium sulfite and BHA.
Manufacturers claim the packaged mixes should be fresher since the product is sealed when packaged. The same foods at home might not be as fresh, especially in the case of spices.
While manufacturers of such items as Hamburger Helper, Skillet Magic, Big John’s Hamburger Fixin’s, Chef’s Surprise and Add ‘n Heat say the convenience of the product is worth much to today’s homemaker, they also claim the food shopper is more inclined to buy low-costs meats and dress them up with the aid of one of the one-dish packages.
I sampled three of the products — McCormick’s “Skillet Magic,” Hunt’s Big John’s “Hamburger Fixin’s” and General Mills “Hamburger Helper.” My favorite of the three was “Skillet Magic” while my husband voted for ‘Hamburger Helper.”
In case you’d like to try your own stew “from scratch,” though, here is a one-dish, nutritious, old-time stew recipe for you.
Kitchen kettle stew recipe
1 pound beef stew meat
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 medium potatoes
4 medium carrots
4 small onions
1 green pepper, cut up
1/4 cup cold water
Coat pieces of meat with flour and brown in hot oil in a heavy kettle. Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper and thyme. Add water only to cover meat.
Cook, tightly covered, 1 hour over low heat. Add potatoes carrots, onions and green pepper. Cover kettle and simmer until vegetables are done, 20 to 30 minutes.
Dissolve leftover flour in 1/4 cup cold water and add to stew. Cook until mixture thickens slightly. Add more flour if necessary. More salt and pepper can be added, too. Makes 4 servings.
Beef Romanoff Hamburger Helper main dish (1978)
If it’s one of those days when you’re running late, but you still want to serve a deliciously different dinner, reach for new Beef Romanoff Hamburger Helper.
It’s a hearty blend of sour cream and Cheddar cheese sauce subtly sparked with garlic, dried onion, Worcestershire seasoning, and packaged with enriched egg noodles. And you can make it in one skillet right on top of your stove in just minutes.
“Hamburger Helper is as easy for moms to fix as it is for kids to like.” (1978)
A busy mom can make Hamburger Helper in minutes… and kids take seconds.
Betty Crocker’s Hamburger Helper Lasagne (1979)
Nothing can get you down like meat prices going up. And nothing can help you fight those rising prices like Hamburger Helper. Because Hamburger Helper can help you turn a single pound of hamburger into a hearty meal for a family of five.
“And we can do it in just a snap!” See the package for budget-stretching recipes.
Tamale pie: Dig into a Mexican fiesta (1981)
Turn plain hamburger from OK to Ole… with new Hamburger Helper Tamale Pie… All the fixins for an authentic cornmeal topping that’ll make your family say “Magnifico.”
Hamburger Helper helped her hamburger make a great meal
1980s beef vegetable soup made with Hamburger Helper (1983)
New from Hamburger Helper: Pizzabake (1985)
Instead of plain hamburger tonight — have a Pizzabake! It’s a delicious new Hamburger Helper flavor you make a new way — in the oven. Just prepare the easy no-knead crust, top with hamburger and the special pizza sauce, and bake together for a delicious meal.
Vintage 80s Hamburger Helper meat loaf mixture (1988)
Use Hamburger Helper mix to make Beefy Mexican soup (1988)
Betty Crocker HH Deluxe chili with beans (1988)
Take the shortcut to homemade chili… beans and chunky tomatoes in liquid tomato sauce
Boxed beef noodle dinner mix (1988)
Beef noodle… it simmers up into a thick, beefy gravy with oodles of noodles, for rib-stickin’ fare that satisfies the heartiest appetites.
Creamy Hamburger Helper Stroganoff with sour cream (1993)
Get real Mexican: Beef taco flavor dinner mix (1993)
Cheeseburger macaroni (1998)
Hamburger Helper lets you dress up ordinary hamburger to create satisfyting main dishes your family will love. Just add mabuerger to any of our tasty recipes, like Cheeseburger Macaroni made with enriced pasta and real ingredients.
Retro 90s Lasagne boxed mix (1999)
Hamburger Helper cheddar & broccoli flavor (1999)
Superheroes can get pretty hungry. So what do you give ’em for dinner? Something that will have ’em at the table faster than a speeding bullet: New creamy Cheddar & Broccoli.