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Hamburger Helper Taco and Pizza Bake
In the mid-eighties, Hamburger Helper decided to take things in new directions and introduced two “bake” products to their lineup. First was their Pizza Bake, which was released around 1984. This was followed up over a year later (1985/1986) by Hamburger Helper Taco Bake.
On the boxes for these products, they refer to them as Tacobake and Pizzabake, but in print advertising, they often referred to them as two separate words, Taco Bake or Pizza Bake. I am going to use the latter in this post.
For those who have not had Hamburger Helper, it is a packaged product where you only need to just add hamburger, everything else is included. Usually that meant some sort of noodles and a spice package to season the meat.
Bakes were a simple, but innovative variation on the Hamburger Helper model. Instead of noodles, you had bread at the base. With Pizza Bake this resulted in a product that looked very close to a pizza, a very meaty pizza, but still a pizza.
The Taco Bake used a cornbread base, and a taco-flavored meat sauce. Even those of you who didn’t try this culinary masterpiece might remember this commercial.
I really came around to the Taco Bake, mostly because it was so different from anything else I was eating at the time. Pizza was everywhere, but Tacos in mid-eighties New Jersey were still not a common food to find. We didn’t have any Taco Bells near us, and I cannot recall one school cafeteria day that involved tacos.
So when my sister, who had eaten tacos before, brought this home, it was greeted with mild excitement and a bit of skepticism.
That skepticism was washed away quickly by tasty bite after bite of taco flavor soaked meat and cornbread. I cannot say it was the best thing I had ever eaten, but it was important as a bridge food. After having this, the idea of tacos was not only “normalized” in our family, we started to actively seek them out.
Shortly thereafter, we were experimenting with actual tacos and eating at restaurants that served them. This of course opened my family up to all sorts of new foods. Not bad for a $1.27 purchase at the grocery store.
The Hamburger Helper Bakes were a product of the eighties, but I have seen a few mentions of them moving into the nineties. The exact date that they stopped making them is hard to pin down, but one thing I can say is that it was way too short.
While Taco and Pizza Bake are no longer made, the memory of them is strong with those who enjoyed them. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that many copycat recipes are available online. Some of these recipes just seek to capture the exact original Bakes. While others take it in new and exciting directions.
So if you are looking for a fun meal that could serve an entire family, why not do a search for Taco or Pizza Bakes. When you do, make sure you set an extra place at the table for me.