Hamburger Helper has been helping people make snappy meals with just three to four ingredients for decades. But how long can this product last?
Does Hamburger Helper expire? Hamburger Helper comes with pasta and a seasoning blend. While the pasta can remain fresh for a long time, the seasonings are susceptible to spoilage, especially because they can contain cheese powder and other ingredients that can expire.
Check out our guide below on how to use Hamburger Helper, how to store it, and how to check for spoilage!
What is Hamburger Helper?
If you have grown up during the 90s then there is a good chance that you would already be familiar with Hamburger Helper and its catchy jingle!
Hamburger Helper was launched as a seasoning mix that contained dry carbohydrates like pasta or rice – and a convenient seasoning mix that included everything that you would need to cook up a fresh and delicious dinner in a matter of minutes.
The product was initially targeted toward people who had little to no time for meal prep.
Hamburger Helper positioned itself as an all-in-one solution that could be added to ground beef to make a variety of delicious dishes.
Hamburger Helper was a huge success and the brand went on to introduce several other subvarieties during its nearly five-decade history.
Today, the seasoning market is saturated with numerous products but Hamburger Helper has still managed to remain relevant due to its commitment to flavor and quality.
What’s in Hamburger Helper?
Hamburger Helper is manufactured by Betty Crocker, the same company behind numerous all-in-one baking goods.
Today, the brand is just called “Helper” and is available in a wide variety of flavors ranging from cheesy pasta to stroganoff, to lasagna, and much more.
Every packet of Hamburger Helper contains a small packet of pasta and a separate packet that contains the seasonings.
To make a dish using Hamburger Helper, you typically start with ground beef.
You can use any type of beef that you want but we recommend going with typical hamburger meat with a balance of fat and lean meat.
Just brown the meat in a pan, add water (or in some varieties, milk), and then top it off with the pasta and seasoning mix.
Cover and cook the meat until it is done and the sauce has thickened and enjoy fresh, delicious, and homemade ground beef pasta!
How is Hamburger Helper Stored?
The seasoning blend comes in a silver pouch that protects the cheese, spices, and herbs from the outside environment.
Each pouch has an expiration date printed on the front.
Now, the important thing to understand is that even though the seasoning mix is in the form of a dehydrated powder, it can still go bad, especially if the box is tampered with.
Even if the seasoning mix is never opened and is stored properly, the flavorings used in the blend can lose their quality and flavor over time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have gone bad in the traditional sense, but they will not taste as fresh and may even clump up.
The best way to store a packet of Hamburger Helper is to store it in the pantry away from moisture, heat, or direct sunlight. If left unopened, the seasoning mix can last up to a year or until the expiration date mentioned on the packet.
But be careful when you store the packet in the pantry! Hamburger Helper contains pasta and the seasoning mix also contains a bit of sugar which makes them a target for pantry bugs.
Pantry bugs are notorious for gnawing their way into boxes and eating food from the inside of the packaging. This is why we highly recommend that you check the packet carefully before using it.
Here are a few ways to store Hamburger Helper:
- Container Storage
- Fridge Storage
The best way to store Hamburger Helper is in a separate airtight container.
If you really want it to last a long time, we recommend that you ditch the cardboard packaging and separately store the pasta and seasoning blend.
Storing these ingredients in an airtight container will help prolong their quality and will also keep them safe from bugs.
Store the container in a cool and dry place for the best results!
In most cases, people like to use the whole packet to make a meal using this product but if you don’t want to use all of it for one dish then you can also store the leftovers in the same way.
Create a small tear from any corner of the seasoning pouch and take out as much of the seasoning as you want in a bowl.
Do not add the seasonings by hovering the pouch over the meat while cooking because the steam (read: moisture) may end up inside the packaging and ruin the powder.
When you’re done cooking, just put a clamp on the leftover seasoning and store it back in the airtight container – but this time, store the container in the fridge.
Keep in mind that an opened pack of seasoning will go bad faster since it is exposed to air. Try to consume the leftover seasoning within 2-3 weeks for the best results.
If you don’t have enough space in the pantry then we recommend that you separate the pasta packet and store only the seasoning packet in the fridge.
Never store uncooked pasta in the fridge as the pasta might absorb moisture!
Store the pasta separately in a cool and dry place.
The seasoning mix can remain in the fridge up to the expiration date – or maybe even a few weeks after the expiration date provided that there are no signs of spoilage!
Inspecting Hamburger Helper for Spoilage
There are several ways to check the quality of Hamburger Helper. Let’s start with the basics:
Inspecting the Box and Packets
As we mentioned earlier, Hamburger Helper is shelf stable so long as it remains unopened.
But since pantry bugs can invade the packet, you should inspect the box for any damage. Look for holes, knicks, or any other type of damage around the box.
Now check the pasta and seasoning packets individually. The pasta packet is transparent which will make it easier for you to check if it is infested with bugs. You can also check the bottom of the packet for any powdery substance.
Powder at the bottom could indicate that the packet has been compromised by bugs and they have already started consuming the pasta.
Check the seasoning pouch, in the same way, to see if it has been damaged or exposed to air.
Inspecting the Seasoning
If the seasoning pouch doesn’t look damaged, then you can open it to inspect the powder inside.
Look closely for lumps or web-like clumps around the seasoning. Give it a light shake to check for bugs or any discoloration.
Hamburger Helper seasonings can either be yellow or white depending on the type of product and cheese added to the seasoning.
If you notice any discoloration, mold, or bug-related damage then you should throw it away.
You can also smell the seasoning to detect spoilage! A regular packet will either smell like spicy cheese or it may not smell like anything at all! Check for any foul or sulfuric notes in the packet which would indicate that the powder has gone bad.
Hamburger Helper has been a helping hand for hungry foodies for generations! Now that you know how to store and check the product for spoilage, here are some related questions:
Why does my Hamburger Helper seasoning clump while cooking it?
If you are using an old packet of Hamburger Helper then the seasoning mix may have lost its quality over time. Even though it will still be okay to eat, you should discard any pieces of meat or pasta with undissolved seasoning over them.
Please only cook with Hamburger Helper after you have verified that it is not spoiled by using our guide above.
Can you store Hamburger Helper in the freezer?
We do not recommend that you store Hamburger Helper in the freezer, even if you store just the seasoning blend!
Freezing the seasoning pouch may affect its texture and flavor.
Since the seasoning also contains dried cheese, freezing it may alter its quality and make the powder lumpy.
How long can Hamburger Helper meals last?
Once cooked, meals prepared using Hamburger Helper will need to be stored like any other dish.
Since this dish contains meat, we highly recommend that you store any leftovers within 2 hours of cooking it.
Meat dishes usually last up to 2-3 days in the fridge at 40F in an airtight container and up to 2-3 months in the fridge if stored properly.
Defrost the frozen meal in the fridge overnight and add a splash of water or milk before reheating it to freshen its texture!