This classic American Goulash is easy, home-style, comfort food! Made in one pot. Perfect for feeding a crowd or hungry family. Loaded with beef, pasta, and lotsa flavor!
Old Fashioned American Goulash
This American Goulash recipe has been in my family for 4 generations! Goulash has variations in many cultures, but they all center around bringing families together. My grandmother’s sacred recipe ticks all the must-have boxes for “hug-in-a-bowl” pasta recipes: thick tomato sauce, zesty garlic, rich herbs, and as much cheese as I can stand.
My American goulash with ground beef is easy and quick to make and — best of all — it’s a one-pot recipe. You can have this goulash with minimal clean-up. If that isn’t comforting, I don’t know what is.
For a quicker version try my instant pot goulash. Want a chunkier style, you’ll love my beef goulash. Or, for an Eastern European version, my German goulash is authentically, delish!
What is American Goulash
An original American dish of ground beef, pasta cooked in a rich tomato sauce all in one pot. This has been served on American family dinner tables for 5-6 generations. This is wholesome, hearty, dish is American food at it’s best!!
American Goulash vs Hungarian Goulash:
These two dishes are entirely different! Hungarian goulash is an eastern European version of goulash that’s more like a thick, rich stew with chunks of meat and a tomato broth seasoned with paprika. American goulash is generally made with ground beef, elbow pasta, and doesn’t have much if any paprika.
Difference between American Goulash and American Chop Suey?
They’re the same dish with different names. When I got married, I was given my husband’s delicious family recipe for American chop suey. In our house now both are in our regular dinner rotation.
American Goulash Ingredient Notes
- Herbs (Oregano, Basil, Bay Leaves) – Don’t let dried herbs scare you off. If you want your dish to have a bright burst of flavor, you use fresh herbs; but if you want a mellow, warm-and-cozy build of flavor, you use dried herbs. What makes this dish stand out from others are the Mediterranean-inspired spices — the bay leaves, oregano, and basil. If you don’t have all of those, you can swap in 1-2 tablespoons of good ol’, reliable Italian seasoning.
- Seasoned Salt – My grandma was a master of balancing flavors, and one trick she loved was using seasoned salt. Seasoned salt is a great multi-purpose flavor enhancer, and its versatility is endless! Sprinkle it on French fries, zest up roasted veggies, add a shake or two into sandwiches — it adds spices like paprika, turmeric, onion, and garlic, and even a sweet twist of sugar.
- Cheddar Cheese – Shredded versus block cheese. I am a bit of a cheese purist. Those bags of pre-shredded cheese available at the grocery store may look tempting and may save time, but there’s something so much creamier about freshly shredded cheese.
- Obviously, there is NO judgment if you choose to use the pre-shredded cheese for convenience’s sake! To take this goulash pasta recipe over the top,I generally buy a block of cheddar cheese and hand shred it. American goulash with cheese is totally irresistible!
Storing + Freezing + Make-Ahead
- How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge? An airtight container in the fridge is the way to go if you’re planning to finish off this pasta recipe in one to two days — but if you’re wanting to store it longer, you’ll want to transfer it to the freezer.
- Can You Freeze This? Yes! Well, sort of. Pasta is notoriously fickle in the freezer (say that five times fast), as the water content in the noodles can do funky things to the quality. And if you store the sauce on top of the pasta, the noodles will continue to absorb the liquid, making them softer and softer over time.
- After freezing and thawing, this American goulash recipe will be a bit mushy, but that’s one of the beautiful things about comfort food — a little mushiness doesn’t stop it from tasting delicious! But if you only enjoy firm al dente pasta, it’s best to only freeze the sauce, and make the pasta fresh when you’re planning to indulge again.
- As for the American goulash sauce, you can freeze that for up to four months
- Make-Ahead Tips: Thankfully, this recipe is very “make-ahead” friendly. Generally what I do is follow the recipe through step #3. Then I let the mixture cool to room temperature, place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- When it’s time to serve, I bring the tomato-beef mixture to a simmer and continue with the recipe in step #4 below.
Serve this one pot American beef goulash with a simple salad, southern cornbread, my favorite crescent rolls, or my quick and easy Bisquick biscuits.
Variations, Substitutes, + Additions
- Add Vegetables: this is great with a can of drained corn stirred in when you add the pasta.
- Add Beans: A can of drained and rinsed kidney beans or black or pinto makes this an even hardier dish and stretches the recipe to feed more people.
- Keto-Friendly: You can substitute the pasta for angel hair shredded cabbage like in the recipe low carb goulash by Lindsey at The Little Pine. I’ve tried her recipe and it’s actually, really delicious!
Can I Make This In Crockpot?
To transition this to Crockpot, brown the meat first in a skillet. Transfer to the Crockpot, and add the sauce ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
Add the pasta, set the crockpot to high, cover, and continue to cook until the pasta is just tender.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can you make it with other meats? Yes! This is wonderfully made with ground turkey. For an Italian spin, try Italian sausage!
Can the noodles be cooked separately? Yes, but when they’re cooked directly in the beefy tomato sauce they absorb a lot more flavor. Some people like to cook the noodles separately and store them separately so they don’t get too soft.
What is another name for American goulash? This dish goes by many names often depending on what region of the country you come from. Slumgullion, in a casserole version, try my Johnny Marzetti casserole, which is essentially a casserole version of this recipe, of just plain goulash are among some of the names.
Step By Step How To Make
Brown the meat breaking up as it cooks into small pieces. Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through and there’s no longer any pink.
Stir in the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent.
Stir in water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, oregano, basil, bay leaves, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Boil, cover, and simmer.
Stir in the pasta, cover, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaves.
To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with cheddar.
*****See full instructions below.
More Comforting Goulash And Stew
If you make this authentic American goulash recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
- 2 pounds Ground Beef 80/20
- 1 large yellow onion
- 4 large cloves garlic minced
- 3 cups water
- 2 (15-ounce) canned tomato sauce
- 2 (14.5-ounce) canned diced tomatoes juice included
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
- 2 cups cheddar shredded (optional)
- In a large pot, brown the meat (2 pounds) over medium heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks into small pieces. Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through and there's no longer any pink.
- Stir in the onions (1 large) and garlic (4 large cloves). Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in water (3 cups), tomato sauce (2 (15-ounce ) cans), diced tomatoes (2 (14.5-ounce) cans), soy sauce (3 tablespoons), oregano (2 tablespoons), basil (2 teaspoons), bay leaves (2), seasoned salt (1 tablespoon), and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon). Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the pasta (2 cups), cover, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, discard bay leaves. To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with cheddar (2 cups).
Fans Also Made:
- Herbs (Oregano, Basil, Bay Leaves) - Don’t let dried herbs scare you off. If you want your dish to have a bright burst of flavor, you use fresh herbs; but if you want a mellow, warm-and-cozy build of flavor, you use dried herbs. What makes this dish stand out from others are the Mediterranean-inspired spices — the bay leaves, oregano, and basil. If you don’t have all of those, you can swap in 1-2 tablespoons of good ol’, reliable Italian seasoning.
- Seasoned Salt - My grandma was a master of balancing flavors, and one trick she loved was using seasoned salt. Seasoned salt is a great multi-purpose flavor enhancer, and its versatility is endless! Sprinkle it on French fries, zest up roasted veggies, add a shake or two into sandwiches — it adds spices like paprika, turmeric, onion, and garlic, and even a sweet twist of sugar.
- Cheddar Cheese - Shredded versus block cheese. I am a bit of a cheese purist. Those bags of pre-shredded cheese available at the grocery store may look tempting and may save time, but there’s something so much creamier about freshly shredded cheese. Obviously, there is NO judgment if you choose to use the pre-shredded cheese for convenience's sake! To take this goulash pasta recipe over the top,I generally buy a block of cheddar cheese and hand shred it. American goulash with cheese is totally irresistible!
- Add Vegetables: this is great with a can of drained corn stirred in when you add the pasta.
- Add Beans: A can of drained and rinsed kidney beans or black or pinto make this an even hardier dish and stretch the recipe to feed more people.
- Keto-Friendly: You can substitute the pasta for angel hair shredded cabbage-like in the recipe Low Carb Goulash by Lindsey at The Little Pine. I’ve tried her recipe and it’s actually, really delicious!
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Do we drain the hamburger grease or use it in cooking the rest of this recipe?
Hi, Denise. You can if there’s excess grease. Enjoy!
Great flavor and easy to do.
I had too make a couple subs but turned
DH had two helpings.
Yay! So glad you and DH enjoyed!!
Suzie Waclawski says
I grew up on Goulash. This recipe took back I make it the day before so it gets happy before I reheat. I always add dark red kidney beans. Your recipe is spot on!
Hi, Suzie! This is very nostalgic, right? Kidney beans sound fantastic! Thank you too!
Since finding your recipe for goulash, it has become my go to recipe every time I make it!
Thank you, Melissa! It’s so easy to make, right? 🙂
This will be my second time cooking the recipe. My husband had goulash growing up but I never did. This recipe is fantastic. I tried a different recipe but it sure didn’t have the flavor this one does. Thank you for sharing!
Hi, Paula! I’m glad you tried this recipe and you found it perfect for you. Thank you so much for your positive feedback 🙂
Heather Sage says
Great goulash recipe! I would say excellent except I’d use a little less oregano next time. It has strong taste of oregano. Also I used beef broth instead of water.
Thank you, Heather! I’ll try what you did too! 🙂
Kathy Weideman says
The BEST! One of the most requested meals in my home!
That’s amazing, Kathy! Thank you so much 🙂
Keely Figueroa says
My mother-in-law makes this on first night of vacation every year, she sent me the recipe, I loved it so much. My husband cooks this recipe in the fire house and all we have heard are raves of how good it is!! The leftovers are so good, if there is any! You will definitely be getting a second bowl. Best goulash recipe I have found. Made it many times. It always turns out great. I like using the fresh canned tomatoes from our garden throughout the year. So good. Thanks for sharing it.
Hi, Keely. Thank you too! I’m glad your family loved it as much as we do. Wow, you make your own canned tomatoes? That’s so cool! <3
Betsy Rich says
Keely is my daughter-in-law! What a sweet compliment to both of us Thank-you for the recipe that has made me famous for any large crowd gathering we host or are invited to I often double the recipe,. Only change I make is to use favorite pasta sauce in place of tomato sauce. A perfect feast, loved by young and old and everyone in between. Thanks again!
Hi, Betsy! Thank you for your feedback! Maybe you need an extra extra extra batch next time? Hehehe. I’m gonna try pasta sauce too! 🙂
Great one pot recipe! The only thing my Mom did differently was to use worchestershire sauce and add kidney beans. Family and kid favorite, love the leftovers. I used 2 cans Rotel diced tomatoes and mild green chiles since I didn’t have any diced tomatoes on hand. Thanks for all your great recipes….I have 8 to feed most of the time and need to stretch the food $$$$.
Hi, GrannieB! I’m happy you like it! Goulash recipes are so tweakable, right?! I like that it’s budget-friendly too. Thank you for your feedback 🙂
This was ABSOLUTELY wonderful! Unfortunately, after making it, I learned that Hunts Tomato Sauce is known for being EXTREMELY acidic! The goulash would have been soooooo i(much better had I not made this mistake. No Hunts in my pantry ever again!
I did add green pepper and not the bay leaves because I had none. They are now in my grocery list. I also used unsalted beef broth instead of water. I WILL be making this again. 5+ out of 5 stars if I could!!!
Way to go, Colleen! 😀
I’m sure this is an amazing recipe, but I have to stick with my tried and true recipe.
I have never made goulash without green peppers and I don’t use any cheese in mine either.
Here’s my recipe:
Fire roasted diced tomatoes
Dried red pepper flakes to taste
These are the only ingredients I put into my goulash and I never skip or add anything else..
It turns out fantastic every time.
Ooooh that’s fantastic, Linda! ? Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!
This is wonderful. I cooked the elbow macaroni separate so that it was al dente. My company raved about it. I served it with Five Cheese Texas Toast for dipping. Absolutely delicious. I also used fresh oregano and bay leaves. This is definitely a new staple that I will cook often.
❤️ So stoked to hear everyone loved it! Keep it up, Cindy!
This is a flavorful recipe. The only things that I personally feel that should be scaled back a touch are salt and pasta. When the elbows swell from cooking, it makes the dish thick. My preference is a bit thinner sauce. Other than those two easy fixes, I will definitely make it again.
I have been making this since I found this receipe back in 2015. I have some simmering on the stove as I type. Tomorrow we are supposed to have a bunch of snow here in Michigan. I’ll have a big ole bowl of this tomorrow while looking out the window at the snow falling. Have some buttered bread with sugar sprinkled on top. mmmmm. Thanks Kathleen, I still want to trade you in for my wife, cooking wise. 😀
I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying this goulash since 2015! That makes my day. 🙂
Karen Lewis says
this recipe is delicious! made it a few weeks ago….making it again today, and plan on making it for company next week..it’s that good !
Wow, that’s great, Karen! So happy to hear you loved it!
Peggy kight says
Been making this for years it’s just beef casserole!!!
Excellent recipe. Reminds me of the days when I was younger at home. I’ve made this twice. The first time The pasta was mushy. Second time I cooked the recipe and the pasta separately, waiting for both to cool, and then mix them together. That seem to work. I omitted the water since it was not needed because the pasta wasn’t cooking with the recipe. Great comfort food. Thanks
You’re welcome, Paul! ? I sometimes cook the pasta separately too.
Dr George Clark says
I stayed with the complete recipe and it was fantastic, rather a snap to prepare and cook…right to serving.
My guest loved it and I gave up the recipe.
The Roll Up Lasagna is next.
This is similar to a recipe I use but i grate my onions and garlic and add diced red and green bell peppers and a couple of squirts of tomato paste, then add meat and diced tomatoes and tomato juice. Where i really make a left turn is with my seasonings, I use salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and paprika. Don’t really measure just dash stir until it smells right then taste and tweak. I serve with bowls of sour cream, shredded cheese and chopped chives. Never forget a loaf of crusty bread.
I have been looking for years for a goulash recipe that read similar to what my mom made in the 1960’s but none of the recipes ingredients looked quite right to me. Your recipe sounds and looks spot on other than I doubt my mother used soy sauce. I’m going to make it with and without the soy sauce to see which I like better. I also a previous review that said they added celery and that sounds like something my mom would have done also. So excited to try this!!!
That sounds awesome Craig! So glad you want to make this! Let us know how it turns out ?
I’m wondering what brand of seasoned salt works best? Lawry’s, or do you use something different? They all seem to vary in terms of ingredients. Making this soon, and want to get it just right!
Yes, they all vary in terms of ingredients. I use Lawry’s most often but others will work just fine. I hope you enjoy!