My cheeseburger macaroni is a fun and delicious recipe that's a bit of a blast from the past, and the ultimate in comfort food filled with irresistible flavor. Prepared with a rich, creamy homemade cheddar cheese sauce filled with seasoned ground beef and diced tomatoes, folded together with tender elbow macaroni, this cozy casserole is then topped with buttery breadcrumbs and baked until golden and bubbly!
Macaroni with a Cheeseburger Twist
When I was a kid, nothing felt more safe and comforting to me than unlocking the front door of our house and stepping into that cozy and familiar world of “home” after a long day at school...
Once I walked in through that front doorway, I would drop my backpack and put away my jacket, and head straight into the living room where my first order of business was to flip on those cheerful and innocent afternoon cartoons that I loved so much.
“Eh...what's up Doc?” would so often greet me.
Ah... to be home was wonderful!
And then I'd realize just how hungry I was, and I'd head into the kitchen next...
I'd grab an easy-to-open-and-heat-up can of ravioli, or beef-a-roni, or some boxed macaroni and cheese, and cook up a little something that would satisfy my young appetite, keeping me company as I unwound a little from my day “out in the world” until my mom came home from work.
So in honor of those innocent days of coming home from school and opening up a tasty little treasure that would warm me to my very core, this homemade cheeseburger macaroni recipe, brimming with lots of flavorful cheddar cheese, seasoned ground beef, diced tomatoes, and a buttery panko breadcrumb topping, seems to be just the ticket.
It's a delicious and utterly comforting cross between saucy macaroni and cheese and a cheeseburger, and a yummy way to cozy up and enjoy a taste of something that reminds me of my childhood!
My Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe with Buttery Panko Topping
Cheeseburger macaroni is one of those recipes that I find myself craving, because I've always been a sucker for unique macaroni and cheese recipes that have all sorts of tasty morsels tucked away inside for bite after bite of savory flavor.
I love how easy this dish is to prepare, as it's really just a casserole in which all of the ingredients are folded together and then spooned into a baking dish, topped with breadcrumbs, and baked until hot and bubbly.
To create that cheeseburger flavor in this dish, I'm using lean ground beef which I first cook until no longer pink, then fold into the cheddar-kissed sauce along with petite diced tomatoes and warm, tender elbow macaroni.
Everything is gently combined, then simply turned out into a buttered baking dish, and topped with panko breadcrumbs drizzled with a hint of melted butter to create that golden crisp topping.
Finished off with a little flourish of sliced green onion, this cheeseburger macaroni is simply irresistible, and a real treat for “kids” of all ages!
Here's a sneak peek at my cheeseburger macaroni recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I cook my elbow macaroni according to package instructions, and hold it warm.
- Next, I cook my ground beef in a pan along with a pinch or two of salt and pepper until no longer pink, and drain it very well of any juices or fat, and keep that warm.
- I prepare my savory cheddar cheese sauce in a separate pot, and then add directly into it my seasoned and cooked ground beef, my warm elbow macaroni, and some diced tomatoes, and then gently fold to combine all of the ingredients.
- I mix together my panko breadcrumbs with some melted butter, and spoon the cheeseburger macaroni into a prepared baking dish, top with the breadcrumbs, and bake until golden, hot and bubbly.
- To finish, I garnish with sliced green onion, and serve.
by Ingrid Beer
Cheeseburger macaroni is the ultimate comfort food, prepared with a homemade cheddar cheese sauce, seasoned ground beef, and diced tomatoes!
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 607 calories per serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
- 8-10 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (slightly generous ½ pound)
- 1 pound ground beef (85/15 ratio)
- Black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onions
- 3 ½ tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon, melted, divided use
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 ½ ounces all-purpose flour (roughly 5 level tablespoons)
- 3 cups milk (2%), room temp
- 2 ¼ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided use
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained very well of juice and patted dry
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Preheat oven to 400°, and lightly mist a baking dish or casserole dish with a touch of cooking spray.
- Cook your elbow macaroni according to package instructions, then drain and keep warm.
- While the macaroni cooks, place a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and once hot, crumble in the ground beef, plus a little pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried minced onion, and cook the beef until no longer pink. Drain the meat completely of juices and fat, and set aside for a moment.
- Next, place a medium large pot over medium-low heat, and add the 3 ½ tablespoons of softened butter in along with the garlic. Once melted and aromatic, sprinkle in the flour and stir, and cook this mixture for about 1-2 minutes. Then, pour in the milk, whisking all the while to avoid lumps from forming, and allow the sauce to simmer for about 8-10 minutes or so, or until gently bubbling and thickened. Turn off the heat.
- Add in 1 ¾ cups of grated cheddar cheese, and whisk until melted into the sauce. Then, add in the ground mustard, about ¾ teaspoons of salt, the paprika, and a good pinch of black pepper, and whisk to combine.
- Next, add into this cheese sauce the cooked ground beef, along with the cooked macaroni, the drained diced tomatoes, and the remaining ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and gently fold everything together until well combined. Check the seasoning to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed, then pour or spoon the cheeseburger macaroni mixture into your prepared baking/casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the melted butter, and using a fork, toss together. Sprinkle this buttery panko mixture over top of the cheeseburger macaroni, then place the casserole into the oven to bake for about 15-20 minutes. (If you'd like a darker crust, turn the broiler on at the end for a minute or two to crisp the crumbs a bit more.)
- Garnish with green onion, and serve.
Tips & Tidbits for my Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe:
- Lean, ground beef, or substitutions: I like to use 85/15 lean to fat ratio when it comes to ground beef for juicy and flavorful results, without any greasiness. If you can opt for grass-fed, organic beef, this adds even more flavor, and is a healthier, better quality option. You could substitute ground turkey or pork, or even use vegetarian crumble for a vegetarian cheeseburger macaroni.
- How to make cheeseburger macaroni ahead: This recipe is terrific as a make-ahead recipe, and the best way to do this is prepare the components and keep them separate, then combine everything the day you'd like bake and serve. To do this, prepare the cheese sauce, cook the beef, and cook the macaroni pasta, and allow it all to cool, then keep in the fridge. The day of, gently heat the cheese sauce, and proceed with the rest of the recipe steps to finish and bake.
- Cheddar cheese for savory flavor, or other yummy options: I'm a big fan of classic, shredded cheddar cheese here, but you can use any other meltable cheese you like such as jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, or even a three-cheese blend of shredded cheeses.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2015, and has been updated with even more love!