Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School

Do you ever get food nostalgic? What about Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes like school? I remember it well. It was a happy day for me when I entered the school cafeteria and there it was.

Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School

Hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes!

As an adult, I can look back on those days and understand perfectly why the school lunch lady served this dish.

It’s Inexpensive: The biggest factor is probably because it’s so cheap. Ground beef is without a doubt the cheapest beef you can get and I’m sure the lunch lady got the cheapest hamburger available.

Its expense is cut even further because it’s also a “meat stretcher” recipe. Meat stretcher is my terminology for any dish that uses a small amount of meat as a flavoring for a dish.

Hamburger is a flavoring for the gravy and then it’s stretched even further by serving it over the potatoes.

Meat stretched two ways!

Most Oriental dishes, for example, are in the meat stretcher category. Rarely, if ever, will you see a big ole ribeye steak served as an entree in an oriental restaurant!

It’s Easy To Make: The fact that it’s so easy to make is without a doubt another reason. School cafeterias are not known for hiring 5-star chefs and most anybody with rudimentary cooking skills can make this dish.

I would be willing to bet money that the mashed potatoes were instant!

The Kids Love It: The kiddies love it and it fills hungry little bellies. Cheap and easy to make is irrelevant if the kiddos won’t eat it! Foods that come back to the kitchen on the tray are not on the school lunch menu long.

I honestly don’t remember any of my friends that didn’t look forward to Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes’ day in the school cafeteria just like I did.

Homemade Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School Ingredients

I make homemade hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes in my kitchen these days just to bring back those old memories. Well, maybe not just for the memories. I still love it. It’s still inexpensive and it’s still easy to make.

I don’t know what the school lunch ladies’ ingredients were but what I’ve duplicated comes pretty close I’m sure. Here is a list of the ingredients I use for my homemade hamburger gravy:

The Hamburger – Like I said I’m sure the school cafeteria lunch lady bought the cheapest ground beef she could find. I really don’t do that.

I use 80/20 ground chuck. There is a big difference.

First of all ground beef can be from anywhere on the animal. And I mean anywhere! Most certainly it contains parts that can’t be easily sold as whole cuts. (Use your imagination!) It could just as easily be called ground cow. It’s also almost always 30% fat.

Ground chuck is from the chuck primal. The same area chuck roasts come from. You can get different lean-to-fat ratios in ground chuck but I always buy 80/20. 80% lean and 20% fat.

Ground chuck is more expensive than ground beef by a good bit. But I try to keep the cost at a minimum by only buying when it’s on sale. Then I stock up, vacuum seal, and freeze.

The Aromatics – Aromatic veggies are essential to hamburger gravy just as they are to many other beef dishes. I don’t have a clue what the lunch lady used in her ground beef gravy but I stick to basics. Onion, bell peppers, and garlic seem to come pretty close to the taste I remember.

Celery is missing. Celery is almost always a part of almost any aromatic combination but when I used it my taste buds gave it a big no, no! Not like the cafeteria lady. Try it if you like. In fact, you can use the aromatics of your choice.

Cream of Mushroom Soup – I’m not sure about this but I don’t think this item was in the Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School. But I find it adds a smoothness to the dish and I don’t think it throws the flavor off that much from my school days.

Mushrooms – I definitely know mushrooms were not in the gravy that I had in the lunchroom. But hey, I threw in the mushroom soup, and I love mushrooms, so I added a small jar of canned sliced mushrooms.

Seasonings – Additional seasonings are minimal. Once again I’m really not sure what the lunch lady added but I like a few dried parsley flakes, some dried basil, and of course salt and pepper. I do a taste test before adding salt because of the salt in the cream of mushroom soup. But I normally do add a little.

Here’s the Hamburger Gravy Like School Recipe

Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School

I have a lot of food memories from my childhood and this is one of the best!

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Hamburger Gravy & Mashed Potatoes Like School
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 395 kcal


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can 14-1/2 ounces beef broth, divided
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Hot mashed potatoes or cooked pasta


  1. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add 1-1/2 cups beef broth, onion, parsley, basil, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes or until onion is tender.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and remaining broth until smooth. Stir into beef mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Serve with mashed potatoes or pasta.

Good To Know: To prevent lumps when thickening with cornstarch, don’t mix cornstarch with a hot liquid. Combine it with a cold or room temperature liquid and gradually add it to the hot mixture in a skillet or saucepan.

How Long Does Hamburger Gravy Last?

The bad news is that hamburger gravy spoils if not handled carefully. Four days is probably the longest you can keep it in the refrigerator.

Even then you will need to be sure that it’s in a good container with a tight-fitting lid. I like to use zip lock bags. You can squeeze the bag when you’re sealing it and remove almost all of the air.

Extending the Life of Hamburger Gravy Even Longer

If you don’t plan on eating the gravy within a few days, freeze it! Unlike dairy-based gravies, this gravy will keep for up to four months in the freezer with almost no loss of flavor.

The container is important for freezing gravy too. The zip lock bag method works very well for me.

There you have it. That’s How to make Hamburger Gravy just like the school lunch lady.

Up Next: 

How To Make Salmon Patties With Crackers

How To Make Salmon Patties With Crackers

Be sure to Follow Foodgasm Recipes on Pinterest for more great recipes!