Goulash

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Hearty and comforting, American Goulash is an easy old-fashioned pasta and ground beef meal. Beef, peppers, and onions are simmered in a tomato-based sauce and then tossed with pasta and cheese to create an unbeatable savory dish ready in about 40 minutes!

Pair this goulash with some veggies! These roasted sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli, or Italian salad all make great side dishes.

Overhead image of American Goulash in a bowl with a spoon, ready to be eaten.

American Goulash: about this recipe

American Goulash, sometimes called slumgullion, is an American comfort food meal made with ground beef, elbow macaroni, and onions in a tomato-based sauce. Where I’m at, in the midwest, American Goulash is usually just called “goulash,” but is not to be confused with Hungarian Goulash — the Hungarian version is made with stew meat and served over homemade dumplings (called Nokedli).

Most American Goulash recipes cook in one pot — the pasta get cooked in the beefy sauce. I personally don’t prefer this method for a few reasons — one, it’s easy to overcook the pasta and be left with an overly starchy meal. Two, it’s hard to keep leftovers. The pasta continues to absorb liquid and bloats, making the leftovers less pleasant, and, well, mushy. And finally, I’ve found it really doesn’t save time (a pot, yes, but time, no). So for this particular recipe, we cook the pasta separately. I think it makes for the very best goulash!

While the beefy tomato mixture is simmering, the pasta can be cooked and everything finishes about the same time to get tossed together and enjoyed. This

Recipe variations 

  • Cheese: Try adding in half mozzarella and half Cheddar cheese. You can also increase the cheese for a cheesier meat sauce. If you’re lactose intolerant, this goulash is still delicious without cheese!
  • Add extra veggies: We’ll occasionally add in 1 cup frozen corn to the meat sauce. Other veggie ideas include adding a diced carrot or diced mushrooms with the onion and red pepper. Stir in spinach at the end of cooking time.
  • Add beans: Make it more of a chili mac by adding a can of chili beans (pinto beans in chili sauce) or a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans.
  • Fresh herbs: To add some freshness and color, add some finely diced flat leaf Italian parsley to the finished dish.

What to serve with Goulash

Process shots-- images of the cooked pasta being added to the beef tomato mixtures, then cheese being added, and it all being mixed together.

Making ahead of time

As the recipe is written, this meal is excellent prepared ahead of time; in fact, it gets even better as it sits (flavors intensify and meld together). I store the cooked macaroni separate from the cooked meat sauce.

Warm the meat sauce gently in a pot or skillet, over medium low heat, until warmed through. Warm the noodles through by tossing with the warmed meat sauce.

Freezing

The meat sauce and noodles together don’t freeze and thaw well (the noodles become mushy), but the meat sauce alone does freeze and thaw nicely. To freeze, let the meat sauce cool completely and then place in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Date and label the package and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and gently warm through on the stove top before eating. You may need to add in an extra splash of water or tomato sauce when re-heating.

Up-close image of the cooked goulash still in the skillet, with a wooden spoon ready to be served.

Goulash recipe tips

  • Good tomatoes make all the difference in this goulash. I highly recommend San Marzano® or Muir Glen® fire-roasted crushed tomatoes in this recipe. For even more rich tomato flavor, try using 15 ounces of Rao’s® marinara in place of the tomato sauce — yum!
  • Lower quality canned tomatoes have the tendency to be a bit acidic; so if needed, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to counteract that.
  • Freshly grate the cheese: Pre-grated cheese has a cellulose coating to keep it from clumping together and doesn’t melt as nicely or smoothly. You can easily shred the cheese with a properly salt your pasta water here.)
  • Sauté the seasonings: Before adding the tomatoes and tomato sauce, the seasonings get sauteed with the meat and veggies. This helps to intensify their flavors, so don’t rush or skip this step.
  • If you have extra time, allow the meat sauce to simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While totally optional, it does intensify the flavors and result in a richer and deeply savory sauce.

More ground beef recipes: 

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American Goulash

5 from 4 votes
Hearty and comforting American Goulash is an easy old-fashioned pasta and ground beef dish. Beef, peppers, and onions are simmered in a tomato based-sauce and then tossed with macaroni noodles and cheese to create an unbeatable savory dish ready in about 40 minutes!
Print Recipe

American Goulash

5 from 4 votes
Hearty and comforting American Goulash is an easy old-fashioned pasta and ground beef dish. Beef, peppers, and onions are simmered in a tomato based-sauce and then tossed with macaroni noodles and cheese to create an unbeatable savory dish ready in about 40 minutes!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword goulash
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Calories 336kcal
Cost $6.38

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (~1 onion)
  • 1 cup diced red pepper (~1 pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (~3-4 cloves)
  • 1 pound lean (93/7) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: paprika and chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH: garlic and onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces EACH) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 large beef bouillon cubes (See Note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups uncooked macaroni

Instructions

  • PREP: Finely dice the onion, mince the garlic, and finely dice the red pepper.
  • COOK VEGGIES: Place a large cast iron pot on the stove and heat to medium high. Add in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is warm and shimmering, add in the 1 cup finely diced onion, 1 cup finely diced red pepper, and 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender about 5-7 minutes. If anything is browning too quickly or burning, lower the heat. Meanwhile, add another pot filled with water to the stove top. Set heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • COOK BEEF: Increase the heat to high and move the veggies to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the beef to the middle of the pot and let stand for 30 seconds. Flip and stir, letting the other side stand for 30 seconds. Continue to cook the beef, using the wooden spoon to break it apart, crumbling into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink. Drain off any accumulated grease. Lower the heat to medium. Add the 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, and pepper to taste. Stir until spices are fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  • TOMATOES: Add in the tomato sauce and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add in the 2 cans of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and stir together. Crumble in the 2 beef bouillon cubes, add in the 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and the bay leaves. Gently stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover partially with a lid, leaving a little bit of the pot uncovered. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and tender. (If you have extra time, simmer for 30-45 minutes for an extra thick, tender, and savory meat sauce; otherwise simmer until the pasta is done cooking). Meanwhile, shred the sharp Cheddar cheese.
  • MACARONI: By this time, the water should be boiling; season it with salt; I add about 3/4 tablespoon salt to the water. Add in the 3 cups macaroni and cook according to package directions. Once cooked, drain.
  • FINISHING: Remove meat mixture from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. If the goulash will be completely consumed the same day it's made, stir in the cooked macaroni noodles. If you plan for leftovers, add macaroni to individual bowls and stir the meat mixture into the bowls. This keeps the macaroni noodles from bloating when being chilled and stored (I like to store macaroni separate from the meat sauce).

Recipe Notes

Note 1: here are the exact beef bouillon cubes I use. If sensitive to salt, just add one. If you opt to not use the bouillon cubes, make sure to season the meat sauce with salt to taste.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 8servings | Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.7g | Protein: 22.4g | Fat: 11.6g | Cholesterol: 50.3mg | Sodium: 271.7mg | Fiber: 3.2g | Sugar: 6.4g

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12 Comments

  1. This looks like a cold rainy day dish. So yummy and comforting. Definitely going to give this a try. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. It definitely is! 🙂 Pure comfort food! Hope you love it Melissa, you’ll have to let me know what you think! <3

  2. I am so glad I found you . You and your recipes are the best ! I bookmark all of them and this Goulash would go really well with your awesome cornbread I love so much !

    1. Awe you made my day! Thanks so much Victoria! I hope you love this goulash! I do think the cornbread would be delicious with it!

  3. 5 stars
    Last night, I made this recipe as written and using the recommended bouillon brand and John Muir brand tomatoes. It was delicious and flavorful. All my kids enjoyed it.

  4. 5 stars
    Made this according to the recipe using the Rao’s Marinara! I added beef kielbasa because I have a meat guy! DELICIOUS!! Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve been looking for this recipe for a long time! I remember eating as a kid but couldn’t find the exact recipe until now!

    It was delicious. And all 4 picky kids enjoyed it!!

    Ps, the first line in Instruction says to mince the ginger. I’m assuming you meant garlic?

    1. Yay!! So glad this was a hit 🙂 Thanks Jama! And yes, you’re right thanks for catching that I just updated the recipe! 🙂

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