Cowboy Surprise

I think in the strictest sense, cowboy surprise basically meant whatever the cowboy had ended up in the pot. But we’ve standardized it a little more (although not with terribly exact measurements), occasionally adding some extra stuff from our fridge like leftover bell peppers or vegetables. It’s kind of like a fancy Hambuger Helper, haha. But it’s pretty cheap and makes lots of good leftovers.

If you’re making it gluten free, I find that gluten free rotini holds up the best. But any gluten free pasta does tend to fall apart eventually, especially with stirring or after microwaving as a leftover. And condensed tomato soup does have flour, so make sure to use the substitute.

Cowboy Surprise

  • Servings: 8?
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Fast and easy, and it makes lots of leftovers.


  • 3 c. Macaroni (uncooked) (or gluten free rotini)
  • 1-2 lbs. Hamburger
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 2 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 2 cans Tomato Soup
    • For gluten free, use:
    • 16 oz. Tomato Sauce
    • 1-2 Tbsp. Sugar (to taste)
    • 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
    • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ c. Ketchup
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. Brown Sugar (about)
  • ½ tsp. Chili Powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 c. Shredded Cheddar Cheese


Cook the pasta and drain. To save a pan, you can cook the rest in that same pan, then add back the macaroni. Cook hamburger and onion, then combine remaining ingredients in pot on stove and heat. Make sure it’s sweet enough. Add cheese at end. For gluten free, make sure to adjust flavors as much as possible before adding pasta because it will fall apart more easily with stirring.

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