This hardy American Goulash Recipe is one of my kids’ favorites. It is a classic dish from our childhoods similar to Hamburger Helper, with ground beef and elbow macaroni cooked in a savory tomato sauce and topped with cheese. It’s so easy to make this comforting one-pot meal.
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What is American Goulash?
American Goulash has many names, depending on the region you’re from – Slumgullion, American Chop Suey, Johnny Marzetti, and even Beefaroni. Regardless of what you call it, we can all agree it’s an American treasure of hardy tomato sauce with ground beef, and the pasta is cooked right in the sauce to soak up all those delicious, cozy flavors.
Goulash is a great way to stretch a pound of ground beef to feed a crowd, especially when you want something warm and satisfying. It’s a staple in so many homes just like Sloppy Joes, Beef Stew, and Chicken Noodle Soup. It hits the spot when you’re craving something less fussy but with all the best flavors.
American Goulash Video
See how Natasha turns common pantry staples into a saucy, beefy, warm and satisfying pasta dish in one pot. It’s so easy, you can have American Goulash for dinner tonight!
Why This American Goulash Works
- Reheats well – great for meal prep
- Family and Kid-Friendly – my kids practically lick their bowls clean
- Budget-friendly – satisfying dish to serve a crowd with just 1 pound of meat
- Simple Ingredients – you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry and it comes together in one pot
- Nutritious – great recipe to sneak in extra veggies
- Nostalgic – it must be good if generations of grandmas and moms have served this dish!
It couldn’t be easier to make this homemade hamburger helper recipe with food right from your pantry and refrigerator. You’ll find this recipe is so forgiving and there are plenty of substitution options below.
- Ground beef – We prefer 90/10 lean ground beef so the dish doesn’t get too greasy, or you can drain some of the fat after browning the meat
- Onion, carrot, celery and garlic – this aromatic blend of veggies is the base to great flavor. Cut these finely enough and they disappear in the dish
- Seasonings – The simple combination of dried oregano, salt and black pepper enhances the flavor of the sauce
- Sugar – helps to balance the tomato acidity
- Tomatoes – combining canned crushed tomatoes and double-concentrated tomato paste amplifies the flavor of the sauce.
- Worcestershire sauce – check the label for gluten-free if needed, can sub for soy sauce in a pinch
- Chicken stock and water – flavors and cooks the pasta, use homemade chicken stock, beef broth, or even just water
- Macaroni noodles – we use elbows, but you can substitute any small pasta shape or Gluten Free pasta
- Parmesan Cheese – gives the dish a last punch of nutty saltiness.
I love American Goulash because it’s a forgiving recipe where you can use what you have:
- Meat – substitute Italian sausage or ground turkey for the ground beef
- Pasta – any small pasta works—elbows, bowties, small shells, ditalini, or ziti. Also try whole-wheat, gluten-free, or veggie pasta to make it low-carb. Adjust the amount of water as needed.
- Veggies – add diced veggies in with the onions, such as mushrooms, jalapeños, riced cauliflower, or bell peppers. Or add lighter veggies at the end until warmed through: spinach, frozen corn, frozen peas or even pitted olives
- Beans – stir in a drained can of kidney beans or black beans after the pasta cooks until warmed through
- Spices – sub the oregano for chili powder (and cheddar cheese) for something similar to Chili Mac, or add thyme, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, or Tabasco for a bit of heat
- Cheese – swap parmesan for any shredded cheese you’d like, like mozzarella, cheddar cheese, Mexican mix, or havarti
How to Make American Goulash
This American Goulash recipe is the ultimate comfort food and comes together in one pot. It’s a quick and easy weeknight meal.
- Cook ground beef in a large Dutch oven or pot with 1 Tbsp of oil for 1 minute.
- Stir in the celery, carrot, onion and garlic and sautee until the veggies are softened and beef is browned, 5 minutes.
- Season with salt, oregano, pepper, and sugar.
- Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, chicken stock, and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add macaroni, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until the pasta is cooked through, stirring especially towards the beginning to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick to the pot. Add water as needed if the mixture seems dry.
- Add parmesan cheese and serve with more cheese sprinkled over the top.
Depending on the type of pasta you use, add more water as needed if the pasta seems dry. If you make this ahead, be sure not to overcook the pasta, since overcooked pasta can get mushy and dry when reheated.
What’s the difference between Hungarian and American Goulash?
Both Goulashes are rustic, hardy dishes designed to feed a hungry crowd. The two dishes are quite different in ingredients and flavor so they are easy to differentiate:
- American Goulash is a comforting combination of ground beef, macaroni pasta, and tomatoes with a blend of spices that comes together in one pot. It cooks in under an hour.
- Hungarian Goulash is more of a stew with chunks of beef and vegetables simmered in a paprika broth for hours. It’s typically served over noodles or dumplings.
What to Serve with American Goulash
American Chop Suey is typically served along with a slice of buttered toast, which definitely keeps in line with the nostalgic recipe, but we like to serve it with crusty bread to soak up the tomato sauce along with roasted veggies or salad. Here are some ideas:
American Goulash is meal-prep friendly and perfect for school lunch in a thermos.
- To Refrigerate: Cool and store in an airtight container for 3-4 days (this is the USDA recommendation for using cooked beef)
- Freezing: Cool and store in an airtight container or large freezer zip-top bag for up to three months
- To Reheat: thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat in the microwave or a saucepan until heated through. If it looks dry, add a splash of water to keep the pasta saucy.
American Goulash is the perfect saucy, satisfying dish for cold weekday nights when you’re looking for something cozy but quick to make. This recipe will quickly become your go-to recipe for feeding your hungry family.
More One-Pot Meals
If you love this American Goulash recipe, you’ll love these popular easy dinner ideas:
American Goulash Recipe
This hearty one-pot meal is a saucy and beefy classic American Goulash. It’s a great way to stretch a pound of ground beef for a crowd and is easy to make (and clean up after), cooks in one pot including the pasta, and reheats well so it’s perfect for meal prep.
Servings: 6 servings
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef 90/10
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 tsp granulated sugar, or more to taste
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup water plus more as needed for cooking
- 2 cups macaroni pasta, 10 oz, or any small pasta you prefer
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more to serve
Prevent your screen from going dark
Set a heavy pot or 5 1/2 Qt Dutch oven over medium/high heat and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add ground beef to the hot pot and break it up with a spatula for 1 minute.
Add carrot, onion, celery and garlic and stir until vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Season with salt, oregano, pepper and sugar and stir to combine.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Add macaroni and stir to combine. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, especially towards the beginning of cooking pasts so it doesn’t settle and get stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add more hot water 1/4 cup at a time or as needed if the mixture seems dry. It should remain very moist and saucy.
Stir in parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve with more parmesan.
Make Ahead: Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add water as needed to keep it saucy.
377kcal Calories42g Carbs26g Protein12g Fat