Skillet Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole has all the flavor of a classic bacon burger combined with pasta for a hearty casserole the whole family will love.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ve no doubt had the boxed dinner help-you hamburger stuff. This was all the rage in the 70’s & 80’s.
I’m not here to praise or condemn it; it has it’s place in the world. But I will say this: The cheeseburger one NEVER tasted like an actual cheeseburger. Noodles, meat, cheese do not a deconstructed cheeseburger make.
The secret, as they say, is in the sauce!
How to make Cheeseburger Casserole Sauce?
This recipe wasn’t one that was quickly whipped up and then posted. If I was going to claim a macaroni casserole that tasted like a bacon cheeseburger, well, IT WAS going to taste like a bacon cheeseburger.
Five batches later, I landed on the right ingredients and the right ratios of those ingredients. You may look at the list and be like, whoa there, that’s some serious ketchup or mustard or pickle you’ve got going on there.
But I promise, they are what gives this recipe that true cheeseburger taste. The bacon does its part all on its own because, hello, bacon!
You will need the following to make the sauce base.
- beef broth (I use low-sodium)
- Worcestershire sauce
- yellow mustard
- pickle juice (brine from a jar)
- cornstarch (OPTIONAL depending on how thick you like your sauce)
The hardest part of the recipe was getting the right balance of these ingredients to get the quintessential or iconic burger flavor.
The first round: blah, not much better than the boxed stuff. Edible, yes, but not cheeseburger-y enough.
Second round, much better with the taste but still off the mark on the flavor I was after.
Third round resulted in an off-tune choir of angels singing to let me know I was on the right track.
Eureka was struck on the fourth round. The flavor was there, spot on. The massive group of taste testers all agreed, this was the correct version. The elusive flavor I was after had been achieved. And the varsity choir of angels showed up this time.
The fifth batch was just to make sure I was right, which I was (nope, no vanity here, folks.) But also because the taste testers from round four devoured the entire thing before I could snap a single picture.
How to make Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole in the skillet?
I’ve also provided directions on how to make this in the slow cooker (Crockpot). They’re in the notes section of the recipe card.
As always, get all your prep done before you begin. Measure out your ingredients because once the bacon and meat cook, this recipe comes together rather quickly.
Before you begin cooking in the skillet, get the pasta cooking in a boiling pot of generously salted water. Be sure to stop about a minute before the package directions. The pasta will finish cooking on both the stove top and oven.
I found it easier to take my knife or kitchen shears and chop the bacon before cooking it. But you’re welcome to cook up the strips and crumble it afterwards.
Heat the skillet and cook the bacon until crispy. Remove it from the skillet once cooked. I usually place it on a paper towel lined plate or bowl to soak up any excess renderings.
Discard all the bacon renderings except 1-2 tablespoons. I like to sauté the onions in the renderings to enhance the overall flavor of the casserole.
If you’re opposed to using bacon grease, you can use butter or your favorite cooking oil.
Once the onions have begin to soften, crumble in the ground beef. I use a lean beef, around 90%.
After you’ve crumbled the ground beef into the skillet, sprinkle all the spices in and mix well. Stir frequently and cook until done. Drain any renderings.
While the beef is cooking, mix up the sauce and set it aside if you’ve not done it during prep.
After the meat is done and been drained, stir in the bacon and pasta to the skillet of seasoned meat and onions. Turn off the heat for this process.
Over medium heat, pour in the sauce mixture. Stir well making sure it is fully combined into the meat and pasta.
Once the sauce has been completely mixed into the skillet, add the dill pickle relish and mozzarella cheese. Make sure it all gets stirred in well.
Bring the mixture to a simmer. This will allow the sauce to thicken and the dish will come together, usually around 5 minutes or so.
Do I have to use dill pickles?
No, use what you like.
The goal was to make a skillet dinner that tasted like a cheeseburger, but used pasta for the carb instead of a bun. Most fast food places use dill pickle, so that’s the flavor I went with.
If you prefer sweet pickles on your burger, swap the juice and the relish out to sweet. Same goes for bread and butter pickles or any other flavor.
Now if you just hate pickles, I suppose you can omit them, just don’t tell me.
Sprinkle as evenly as possible the cheddar cheese over the top of the skillet.
Try not to use pre-grated cheddar It doesn’t melt as nicely and often has a funky taste. But I won’t judge you if you do…we’re all in a hurry, I get it.
Once the cheese is on, toss this bad boy in your pre-heated oven and wait as patiently as you can for it to finish. This is usually where my patience thins, but trust me, it’s worth the 10 minutes or so in the oven.
The sauce really has time to meld into the meats and pasta. Plus both the mixed in and topping cheeses melt into the dish, creating one sensational bite.
Once the timer sounds, pull the skillet out of the oven. Allow it to rest for a couple of minutes. This resting time is for two reasons:
- it allows the dish to come together into a thick casserole, the heated liquids settle back in.
- as you can in the picture above, there is some grease that comes to the surface. This is from both the meats and the cheeses. I dab this off with a paper towel.
Now you’re good to go, serve this Skillet Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole up and wait for the family to praise your skills in the kitchen.
Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole
- 12-inch cast iron skillet
- 8 oz. elbow macaroni (any small pasta)
- 1 lb bacon chopped
- 2 tbsp. bacon grease (butter or oil will work too)
- ½ cup onions finely diced
- 1½ lbs. ground beef
- ½ tsp. salt +/-, to taste
- ½ tsp. pepper +/-, to taste
- ½ tsp. granulated garlic (or powdered, not garlic salt)
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1½ cups beef broth
- 4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1¼ cup ketchup
- 4 tbsp. yellow mustard
- 2½ tbsp. dill pickle juice (brine from a jar)
- 1 tsp. cornstarch (OPTIONAL)
- ¼ cup dill pickle relish (or finely diced dill pickles)
- 4 oz. mozzarella cheese grated/shredded
- 4 oz. cheddar cheese grated/shredded
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions EXCEPT stop cooking one minute before it should be done.
- Heat the skillet over medium-high heat.
- Cook the chopped bacon, reserving 2 tbsp. renderings once done, drain the rest; set aside.
- In the same skillet, return to medium-high heat.
- Add the reserved bacon renderings and onions, cook for one minute.
- Crumble the ground beef into the skillet, stirring to mix in the onions.
- Add the salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika.
- Cook about 5 minutes or until done, drain any renderings.
- In a medium bowl, combine the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, and cornstarch; whisk until combined; set aside.
- Once the beef is cooked, remove from heat.
- Add the bacon and the cooked/drained pasta to the skillet, mixing it completely into the seasoned beef.
- Over medium heat, pour in the liquid mixture, stir to combine.
- Stir in the pickle relish and the mozzarella cheese.
- Cook until it starts to bubble and the sauce begins to thicken; about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese to the top.
- Place the skillet in the oven uncovered and cook until the cheese is melted; 7-10 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy.
Slow Cooker Bacon Cheeseburger CasseroleThis casserole will work well in the slow cooker, especially if you prep the night before and toss it together in the morning. Read over the regular directions first before beginning these alternative directions. Cook the noodles according to package direction, but stop ONE minute before the time indicated. Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent clumping. Allow to cool, then seal in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator (if prepping ahead, otherwise do this before the end of cooking time and omit the oil.) Cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet, set aside. Quickly sear the ground beef with the onions and spices in the same skillet; drain the renderings. The beef doesn’t need to be fully cooked, it will finish cooking in the slow cooker. Mix the meats together. Allow to cool, then seal in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator (if prepping ahead, otherwise toss it in the slow cooker.) Mix the sauce ingredients together, seal in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator if prepping ahead; otherwise toss it in the slow cooker with the meats and mix well. Once the sauce and meats are in the slow cooker, stir in the pickle relish and the mozzarella cheese. Place the lid. Cook on LOW for 4 hours. After the cooking time, open the lid and stir in the cooked noodles. Once combined, sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top. Replace the lid and cook for an additional 30-60 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
What to serve with the Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole?
Looking to make this a fully rounded meal? Well then I’ve got your back.
A cocktail, two side dishes, and one delicious dessert. Enjoy.
This post has been updated from its original publishing on November 7, 2017 with new photography, content, recipe card, and clarified directions.