Wait. Did I just cook with canned soup? Why, yes I did. (Hamburger Pie, Anyone?)

This is it—that easy recipe for Hamburger Pie that so many of us grew up with. Yes, it uses canned soup, but don’t turn your nose up too soon….no, it’s not gourmet, but it’s a wonderfully hearty and comforting recipe that will taste good right now in this coldest of months. PS: kids love it.

Gah! I've spent much of my food-writing career writing cookbook copy like this. I don't think I ever came up with something as wonderful as, "Park dinner in the oven"! Briliant

Hamburger Pie, straight from the 1953 edition of the Red Plaid Cookbook. And can I just say that I’ve spent much of my food-writing career writing cookbook copy like those words above, and yet, I don’t think I ever came up with something as wonderful as, “Park dinner in the oven”! Brilliant.

I’ve often remarked that French home cooks use convenience products–from pasta sauces to premade pastry crusts. But one thing I have never seen ever, in all my time in La Belle France, is a recipe that calls for condensed soup. So no, this recipe isn’t French. But lately, I felt compelled to make it, and I’m glad I did.

Vertical Hamburger PieThe recipe springs from the 1953 edition of The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book–known around BH&G offices as “The Red Plaid.” The recipe has been reprinted in many subsequent editions of the book, including two of the three editions I worked on in the past 15 or so years.

Hamburger Pie is basically an American version of Britain’s Shepherd’s Pie–the classic dish of a chopped meat filling (often lamb, sometimes beef, leftover from the Sunday roast) and gravy, topped with mashed potatoes and baked.

How is Hamburger Pie different than Shepherd’s Pie? For Hamburger Pie, the meat is simply ground beef (not minced roast, as in Shepherd’s pie); instead of gravy, a can of soup is used, and the cook adds veggies to the filling.

It’s an all-time favorite that’s morphed a bit over the years. In my mother’s 1950s edition, Hamburger Pie calls for canned green beans; the whipped potatoes on top get enriched with an egg. However, the recipe in my most recent edition of the Red Plaid cookbook calls for frozen green beans (much, much better than canned!); as for the potatoes, gone is the egg, and in its place a sprinkling of American cheese. Thus completes the dish’s transformation from English standby to American favorite.

I messed with the recipe just a wee bit: Frankly, I love frozen mixed vegetables–they just add color and variety to the dish. And I definitely use Cheddar instead of American (though your kids might prefer American). Frankly, you could use any semi-firm cheese you wanted, as long as it shreds easily and melts well (Swiss, Comté, Fontina, Monterey Jack, etc.). I also added just a touch of water to the filling to keep it moist while baking.

I make no apologies for cooking with condensed soup; sometimes, it feels right. May this recipe offer you warmth and comfort to you and your family–as it did for me and mine, last night.

Hamburger Pie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 14th edition.
  • 1¼ pounds baking potatoes (russet or Yukon gold), peeled and quartered
  • 1¼ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2½ cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 1 10.75-ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup milk (or more as needed)
  • ¾ cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
  1. Cook potatoes in enough boiling salted water to cover for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook meat and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain fat. Stir in the mixed vegetables, tomato soup, the water, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish or casserole. Set aside.
  3. When potatoes are tender, drain, then mash with an electric mixer on low speed; add the butter and milk, beating until light and fluffy (add a couple more tablespoons of milk if necessary). Season to taste with salt and pepper
  4. Drop the mashed potatoes in six equal mounds on beef mixture. Sprinkle cheese over the potatoes. Bake, uncovered, in a 350°F oven about 30 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

PS: One thing that vaguely ties this recipe to French cooking is that the French indeed make a version of Shepherd’s Pie, though it’s called Parmentier, named after a Mr. Permentier who introduced the potato to France.

Other Retro-Recipes You Might Enjoy:

Best Church Basement Lasagna

The Best Church-Basement Lasagna (from the same cookbook as Hamburger Pie).



Turkey Divan


Best Recipe for Turkey Divan (great with chicken breasts, too).

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3 comments to Wait. Did I just cook with canned soup? Why, yes I did. (Hamburger Pie, Anyone?)

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eight − = 7

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