Hamburger Helper is a brand of packaged food items by General Mills which consists of boxed pasta along with a pack of sauce and seasonings, which can be cooked with water, milk and ground meat to make a pasta dish. Other forms of the food with starches like rice or potatoes instead of pasta are also available under the same name. The company also offers products in the frozen category in which the ground meat is also available in frozen form as a part of the dish. 'Instant' versions of the dish consist of dehydrated meat, seasonings and noodles in a pouch, and the dish can be prepared by simply adding water. Regional variant categories include Asian and Mexican adaptations.
The Hamburger Helper was introduced by General Mills in 1971. In 2007 the company launched its variants specifically for microwave cooking, and hence also removed the microwave cooking directions from the packs of the earlier product. These new variants were referred to as the Microwave Singles line of products.
Hamburger Helper Mascot
The mascot on the Hamburger Helper pack as well as in its TV commercials is the friendly 'helping hand'- a left hand glove with four fingers, which is of animated form.
Hamburger Helper Flavors
- Asian Helper Flavors: These are the Asian-style adaptations of fast food, and include various rice and noodle versions. Some examples are Chicken Fried Rice, Asian Helper Beef Fried Rice, Asian Helper Mongolian Style Beef and Chicken Lo Mein.
- Chicken Helpers: These were launched in 1984. They are designed to be used with boneless chicken breast, which started becoming cheaply available during that period; hence the popularity of these variants grew. Examples are Cheesy Chicken Enchilada, Creamy Chicken Noodle and Chicken Fried Rice.
- Cheesy Favorites: These are cheese rich versions like Bacon Cheeseburger, Cheesy Baked Potato and Cheeseburger Macaroni.
- Homestyle Favorites: They include home-style foods meant to bring the entire family together after a hectic day. Examples are Homestyle Salisbury, Philly Cheesesteak, Beef Pasta and Potato Stroganoff.
- Mexican Favorites: These are adapted from Mexican dishes like enchiladas, nachos and tacos, and include spicy Mexican seasonings. Examples are Cheesy Enchilada, Chili Macaroni, Crunchy Taco and Double Cheese Quesadilla.
- Italian Favorites: Italian style dishes like various types of pastas are recreated in this product line. Some examples are Four Cheese Lasagna, Spaghetti and Cheesy Italian Shells.
- Microwave Singles: Specially designed for microwave cooking, these versions include Cheeseburger Macaroni and Ultimate Cheesy Burger Twist.
- Helper Complete Meals: These are positioned as one-dish meals, and examples are Cheesy Beef Taco, Fried Rice with Chicken and Cheesy Chicken.
- Tuna Helper Flavors: These are variants to be prepared with tuna. They consist of pasta and sauce mix for tuna. Designed to be used for tuna dishes, these versions have fast lost popularity to the Chicken versions. Examples are Cheesy Pasta and Creamy Pasta.
- Whole Grain Helpers: These are made with whole wheat pasta. Examples are Honey Mustard Chicken and Lemon & Herb Chicken.
- In 2005, Hamburger Helper was listed as 3rd among the top 5 American fad foods of the 70s by Food Network.
- 'Beef and Garlic Potatoes', 'Beef Stew', 'Cheddar and Broccoli' and 'Zesty Mexican' are some of the variants of the dish that have been discontinued by General Mills. Another version of Hamburger Helper named 'fruit helper', which was of the dessert category has been discontinued.