American Goulash is an easy, one-pot, classic comfort food made with ground beef, tomatoes, and macaroni noodles. Enjoy year-round, and delicious leftover, this irresistible Goulash Recipe is guaranteed to win over even the pickiest eaters!
Easy Goulash Recipe
Familiar and comforting, this goulash recipe is like a visit from childhood. Made with simple ingredients, American Goulash is perfect for busy, growing families, or anyone who loves a delicious bowl of cheesy noodles covered in a rich meaty tomato sauce.
Learn all about this iconic (and really good) recipe and how to make it below!
What is American Goulash?
American Goulash is a classic American comfort food popular in the mid-western and southern parts of the United States. Often referred to simply as “Goulash”, this recipe is one of those feel-good, home-style dishes that remind you of home.
Not to be confused with Hungarian goulash, this old fashioned American goulash is made with ground beef and macaroni noodles, not chunks of beef and peppers.
Cooked in just one pot from start to finish, everything about this recipe is easy (including the shopping list).
Often reminded of an extra beefy, extra saucy lasagna that forgot all about the mozzarella and ricotta cheese, kids especially love this Goulash Recipe!
No fancy ingredients for this goulash recipe! Everything you need to make this super hearty, family-friendly recipe can be found at a market near you.
- Olive Oil
- Bell Pepper (Red Pepper or Green Pepper)
- Fresh Garlic
- Sweet Paprika
- Ground Beef
- Italian Seasoning
- Worcestershire Sauce (or Soy Sauce)
- Tomato Paste
- Canned Tomato Sauce
- Canned Diced Tomatoes
- Bay Leaves
- Beef Broth (or Water)
- Elbow Macaroni
- Cheddar Cheese
Should I use lean ground beef or regular ground beef?
Feel free to use any type of ground beef to make American goulash. Since cheese is being added, I like to make this recipe with lean ground beef. This helps minimize the amount of excess grease. Remember, ground turkey or ground chicken is also delish!
Is paprika traditional to American goulash recipes?
Paprika is not usually found in classic, old-fashioned American goulash recipes. However, being the paprika lover that I am, I added it to this recipe. Besides, it helps add such a lovely red color. Feel free to add it to your goulash dinner or leave it out altogether.
How to Make American Goulash
A meal fit for a crowd, I already see myself making this recipe ten years from now when Octavian is in his teens and in sports and, quite literally, eating me out of house and home. This easy recipe is perfect for the whole family!
Here’s how you can make your very own one-pot goulash!
- Cook the mirepoix – this includes the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Get started by heating olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the bell pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, before stirring in the garlic and cooking for one more minute.
- Add the salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix well, taking care not to burn the paprika.
- Add the ground beef (or ground chicken) and use a wooden spatula to break it into smaller pieces. Stir frequently and continue to cook until meat is browned.
- Add the Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste to the ground meat and onions. Mix well to combine before adding the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, add the bay leaves. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally (similar to cooking soup or a thick stew).
- Add the broth and elbow macaroni. Bring to a simmer, then cover. Continue to cook for an additional 12 minutes or so, or until noodles are cooked until al dente.
- Tip– Be sure to stir the pot every few minutes to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese and fresh chopped parsley. Best when served immediately.
Can the Noodles Be Cooked Separately?
You have the option to cook your noodles directly in the thick and hearty tomato sauce or separately.
- In the sauce: There are two primary benefits, the first is that it keeps this American goulash recipe a one-pot recipe. No extra dishes. Hallelujah. The second is that the noodles absorb the flavor from the beef broth and pasta sauce which makes for a more flavorful goulash recipe.
- Separately: The obvious benefit is that you are less likely to end up with soggy pasta noodles, because yes, sometimes soggy noodles happen when you cook everything in one pot. It also makes storing leftover goulash much easier.
Note– If you decide to cook the pasta separately, do not add beef broth to this recipe, or only add what you feel is needed.
Tips & Tricks
- While elbow macaroni is the classic noodle used in this dish, any other small pasta shape will work including ditalini, orzo, and orecchiette.
- For a leaner goulash, trade the ground beef for ground turkey.
- While it would stray from traditional versions, feel free to add more vegetables such as carrot, celery, corn, or parsnip.
- Keep it dairy-free by skipping the added cheese.
- Add more or less liquid to make it the exact consistency you want! This recipe can easily be made into a goulash soup!
- Intensify the flavor even more by deglazing the pan after the ground beef has been cooked with a splash of red wine.
- Replace the diced canned tomatoes with fresh diced tomatoes, if preferred.
- Add some kidney beans or cannellini beans for some extra protein.
- Add different cheeses like shredded parmesan or crumbled feta, or top your bowl with a little dollop of sour cream.
Can This Beef Goulash Recipe be Made Ahead of Time?
However, I highly recommend that you cook the noodles separately from the sauce and add everything together whenever you’re ready to serve it. Ultimately, this will prevent you from ending up with a pot of super mushy pasta noodles.
How to make Goulash ahead of time:
- Cook everything according to the instructions listed below until you get to the step where you add the macaroni and beef broth (or water). Don’t add those.
- Instead, cook macaroni separately, according to package instructions until al dente (you don’t want them cooked all the way).
- Store the sauce and the noodles in separate airtight containers OR wait for the sauce to cool, stir in the noodles, and store together.
- Add the cheese at the time of serving.
Pretty easy, right?
Can You Freeze Leftover American Goulash?
The answer to this depends entirely on your own personal preference.
After cooking, your sauce-covered cooked macaroni noodles will continue to absorb the liquid from the tomatoes and the broth. Ultimately, your noodles will just continue to get softer and softer until completely cold.
Add freezing and reheating to the equation, and, well, you’re going to end up with some pretty soggy noodles.
If this doesn’t bother you (it is Goulash, after all), then I would say give it a try. If, however, you prefer a more firm, intact noodle, then I suggest either skipping freezing or freezing before adding the broth and noodles.
Difference Between American Goulash and American Chop Suey
American Chop Suey, like American Goulash, consists of elbow macaroni, ground beef, sauteéd onions, and a thick tomato-based sauce.
Unlike American Goulash, however, American Chop Suey is typically seasoned with only salt and pepper and is served without cheese or bell pepper.
What is the Difference Between American and Hungarian Goulash
Known as gulyás, meaning “herdsman” in Hungarian, Hungarian Goulash is a beef stew made with onions, beef stew meat (not ground beef), tomatoes, sweet Hungarian paprika, and bell pepper.
Goulash dates back to the 9th century when Hungarian shepherds would cook, flavor, and dry meat that would later be used to make stews a complete meal. Paprika was introduced to Hungary in the 16th century and has since become a key ingredient in not just Hungarian goulash, but all Hungarian cuisine.
A cross between soup and stew, traditional Hungarian goulash is somewhat more brothy and made with fewer veggies and meat.
Two things that always seem to remain consistent? Hungarian goulash is never made with macaroni noodles and is never, ever made with ground beef.
If you try making this American Goulash Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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American Goulash Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onions (minced)
- 1 green bell pepper (seeded and diced)
- 8 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika ((optional))
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce ((or soy sauce))
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth ((or 2 cups water))
- 2 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
- 2 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
- Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until starting to soften and turn translucent. Add the bell pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the salt, pepper, and paprika to the mirepoix. Mix well.
- Add the ground beef to the pot. Use a wooden spatula to break apart the ground meat into small crumbles. Stir frequently and continue to cook until meat is browned.
- Add the Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste. Mix well to combine. Stir in the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Stir in the broth and elbow macaroni, cover, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, or until noodles are cooked to al dente. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired. Enjoy!
- If you don't have any macaroni on hand, any other small pasta shape will work including ditalini, orzo, and orecchiette.
- For a leaner goulash, trade the ground beef for ground turkey. You may also use ground Italian sausage.
- While it would stray from traditional versions, feel free to add more vegetables such as carrot, celery, onion, zucchini, and bell pepper.
- Make it dairy-free by skipping the added cheese.
- Add more or less liquid to make it the exact consistency you want!
- The paprika is traditional to Goulash but less traditional to American Goulash. You may include it or leave it out.
- Feel free to swap the fresh garlic for 1-2 teaspoons of garlic powder.
- No Italian seasoning? Add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and dried basil.
- Allow leftovers to come to room temperature before storing in an airtight container. Leftovers are delicious served the next day, or up to 3 days later.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)