312. Make It Monday: Cheeseburgerless Lentil Macaroni

Growing up I loved the Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni.  We didn’t eat it often – my mom absolutely hated it so it was often what we ate on nights dad was in charge of dinner – but I think that just made it that much better.  I ate a ton of “helpers” throughout college, but cheeseburger macaroni always remained my favorite.  I still have a soft spot for this stuff, but I just can’t bring myself to eat it anymore.  Between the crazy high sodium levels and the highly processed “cheese” sauce, it’s lost some of its appeal.  After seeing several Hamburger Helper commercials over a weekend, I decided to try my hand at making a healthier, homemade version.

Lentil Cheeseburger Macaroni
adapted from Baked Mac n Cheese
serves 6 |8 points+ per serving

Lentils replace the ground beef in this dish for a nutritional punch, and the tomatoes add color, flavor, and nutrients.  The taco seasoning adds a bit of a kick.  I used beef broth to maintain the beefy, cheeseburger flavor; however, this could easily be made 100% vegetarian by subbing out veggie broth.

1 cup whole wheat elbow noodles
½ cup dry lentils (You could also use precooked lentils)
3 cups beef broth
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 – 4 oz can diced chilies
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
2 tablespoons whipped butter
2 tablespoons flour
¾ cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. In large skillet combine noodles, dry lentil, tomatoes, chilies, taco seasoning and beef broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
    Note: You can also use a can of diced tomatoes with chilies.
  2. Once mixture boils, reduce heat and cover.  Cook over medium-low for about 15 minutes until noodles and lentils are tender.
    Note: If using precooked lentils, add them after the 15minutes are up rather than in step one.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, whisk in flour to create a roux.  Whisk continuously for about 5 minutes until brown and fragrant.
  4. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a low boil stirring often.  Mixture should thicken.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese.
  6. Add cheese sauce to noodle mixture and stir to coat.

My good camera has gone missing so I don’t have a photo for you.  At least not one that looks like something you’d want to eat.  I really loved this recipe.  I found it very reminiscent of the Hamburger Helper of my youth but with a nice variation thanks to the tomatoes and taco seasoning.  You could easily leave those out for a more “classic” flavor.  The boy liked the flavor, but didn’t love the texture of the lentils.  This is definitely a recipe that will make future appearances in my house.

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