I’m an 80s kid, and I learned to “cook” in the 90s at the height of the Hamburger Helper era. Fry up some greasy ground chuck, toss in a flavor packet, cook with those cardboard noodles. Yum. Well, the other day I was feeling nostalgic and decided I needed to relive my childhood. I tossed on my trusty Chucks, hiked up my pants, and found the only neon shirt I own. Sadly my troll dolls all got a haircut 30 years ago and my BookIt pins have long since expired. But magic happened and my kitchen was flooded with all the aroma of my childhood.
The recipe below is pretty straightforward and uses common ingredients that are probably already in your pantry or can easily be found at the grocery store. Not vegan? You’ll still love this because it has all the flavors without any of the mystery ingredients and buckets of sodium like you get from The Box. You can swap the protein for one of your choosing but I encourage you to try out the pan cooked seitan for ultimate nostalgia.
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Before we dive into the recipe I’m going to give you my seitan “meat” recipe that can be used for this recipe. It’s fuss-free and can be made ahead of time or just use the pan/pot that you’ll be using for the pasta bonanza.
Seitan “sausage” crumbles
- 1 cup wheat gluten
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour in the water, soy sauce, and liquid smoke (if using). Mix until no dry spots remain. Pull the wet seitan apart into small pieces and place in a unoiled non-stick pan. If you’re using a stainless steel pan you’ll want to add a light coat of oil first.
Once all of the seitan is in the pan, place it on high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and break apart with a spatula and cook for another 5 minutes. It’s okay if it’s sticking together at this point, because it will break up into crumbles later.
Pour 2 cups of water or veggie stock into the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until all of the liquid is gone. Remove cover and bring the heat back up to high.
Drizzle 1 Tablespoon of oil over the seitan and cook while flipping and breaking up the seitan pieces into smaller crumbles, the size of chickpeas. Set aside or transfer the cooked seitan to a glass/metal bowl or refrigerate/freeze for future use.
This makes roughly 1 pound of seitan.
Okay, now that you’ve got that seitan ready here’s the recipe for my veganized Hamburger Helper AKA cheeseburger casserole!
Veganized Hamburger Helper
- 1 pound protein of your choice (I used my seitan crumbles from this blog post)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps bring out tomato flavor)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 4 cups veggie broth
- 2 cups non-dairy milk (I prefer oatmilk)
- 2 tablespoons corn starch (whisked into the milk)
- 16 ounces dried elbow macaroni
- 2 cups vegan cheddar cheese (I prefer Violife brand or Parmela )
- If using the seitan from this blog post make that first then transfer it to a metal/glass bowl so you can reuse the pan for the rest of this recipe.
- Whisk the cornstarch in with the milk. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan or dutch oven saute the onion until it is translucent and just starting to brown. Sprinkle the paprika and sugar on the onions and cook while stirring for less than a minute. Pour in the tomatoes, salt, and broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Pour in the oatmilk/cornstarch, stir, and once it starts to simmer pour in the dry noodles. Cover and cook for 8 minutes. Stir. Cook an additional 4 minutes while stirring periodically.
- Add in the seitan or protein of choice, mix, then sprinkle on the cheese. Mix together, turn off heat, let rest for 10 minutes uncovered before serving.
- If you really want to be nostalgic you'll serve this with some Tang in those Disney jam jars! Man, I miss the 80s/90s.
Make sure to check out my Instagram account for even more great recipes! I’m generally too lazy to blog…sooooo…I just post the simplified recipe on my IG.