American Goulash Recipe

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This Easy Goulash Recipe is full of flavor and the perfect way to feed a crowd as it makes a huge batch! A simple skillet dinner with tomatoes, beef and macaroni noodles in a zesty tomato sauce creates the perfect comfort food on a budget!

Serve it alongside some cornbread, and add more or less liquid to make it the perfect consistency!

Cheesy Goulash in a white bowl

American Goulash – Easy and Delicious

Call it American Goulash, call it American Chop Suey…  it doesn’t matter what you call it, you’ll just want to call it tonight’s dinner! This is a delicious and easy meal that the whole family loves!

Beefy Macaroni with a savory yet simple seasoned tomato sauce!  I’ve been making this amazing goulash recipe for years, not only does it taste great but it’s a really quick and inexpensive way to feed a crowd (and so much easier to put together than lasagna!)

What is Goulash?

American Goulash is not the same thing as goulash in other parts of the world are not the same thing! This is NOT the same dish as a traditional Hungarian GoulashHungarian Goulash is made with chunks of meat, peppers, paprika and other spices to create a traditional soup.

This particular version is often called Goulash or even American Chop Suey.  It’s similar to a Chili Mac but is more of a tomato sauce flavor (and I skip the chili powder).

close up of American Goulash in a bowl.

When to Add the Macaroni

  • Thicken the sauce: I personally prefer a nice thick goulash so I usually let the meat sauce boil down for a little bit before adding the macaroni.
  • Add Your Favorites: This american goulash recipe is versatile and you can easily add whatever you like. Extra veggies like mushrooms or shredded zucchini, swap out ground beef for other ground meats add extra Italian Seasoning or Chili Powder.
  • Add the Macaroni: If you’re short on time (or prefer your goulash a little bit of a soupier texture) you can certainly just add the macaroni in right away.
  • Top With Cheese: I top this with sharp cheddar to make a cheesy goulash that my kids can’t get enough of! Any kind of cheese will work. If you’d prefer, put it under the broiler for a few minutes until bubbly.

Goulash in bowls at the table

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What To Serve With Goulash

We serve it up with some 30 Minute Dinner Rolls and a fresh Italian salad for a complete meal!  To make it extra yummy, serve it topped with a little bit of sour cream!

The great thing about this goulash recipe is that it’s one of those dishes that tastes just as good the next day (or even better). It keeps well in the fridge for a few days but it also freezes perfectly for lunches or meals later in the week!

Can You Freeze Goulash

You can! Goulash will generally freeze pretty well, apart from the pasta. Once reheated, pasta will often become mushy and overcooked.

If you plan to make a big batch of American goulash to freeze some, cook the pasta separately and add it in as you serve the portions.

finished american goulash in white bowl
4.62 from 36 votes
Review Recipe

Grandma's Goulash

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
This easy American goulash recipe is full of flavor and the perfect way to feed a crowd as it makes a huge batch! A simple skillet dinner with tomatoes, beef and macaroni noodles in a zesty tomato sauce creates the perfect comfort food on a budget!


  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jar tomato based pasta sauce approx. 26 oz.
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 green bell pepper optional
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups macaroni noodles uncooked
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese

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  1. Cook ground beef, onion and garlic over medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  2. Add pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, seasonings, bay leaves and green pepper. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  3. Add in the in the macaroni and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender (about 20 minutes).
  4. Remove & discard bay leaves. Top with cheese and replace the lid. Let sit about 5 minutes or until melted.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 361, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 486mg, Potassium: 947mg, Carbohydrates: 31g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Protein: 33g, Vitamin A: 650%, Vitamin C: 28.5%, Calcium: 179%, Iron: 5.1%

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword goulash recipe
This easy goulash recipe is full of flavor! Tender macaroni noodles are cooked in a beef and tomato sauce. We sometimes add a bit of cheese to create the perfect meal! #spendwithpennies #goulash #americanchopsuey #macaroni #skilletmeal #onepan #meatsauce #tomatosauce
This easy goulash recipe is full of flavor! Tender macaroni noodles are cooked in a beef and tomato sauce. We sometimes add a bit of cheese to create the perfect meal! #spendwithpennies #goulash #americanchopsuey #macaroni #skilletmeal #onepan #meatsauce #tomatosauce

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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  1. I made this last night and it was delicious.!!! I have a picky eater( not a fan of tomatoes) at home so I only used one can of diced tomatoes and two 23 ounce jar of sauce with all the other ingredients included. It was absolutely AMAZING!!! Cant wait to go home and eat leftovers:))

  2. This is a great recipe for young and old alike. My grandchildren love it too. I used frozen green peas in lieu of the green pepper, as it knew it would appeal to them more. A very tasty easy dish!

  3. This is an excellent recipe. I halved it and it still made a lot of delicious goulash. If you make the full recipe you better have a BAP (big a.. pot).
    I followed the recipe and added a little green pepper and served with corn bread

  4. From G in Minnesota…Fantastic tasting recipe: eating the leftovers today of which there was not much. Since it is now just two of us (recently empty-nesters) I halved the recipe and as Holly suggested added some vegetables- zucchini, mushrooms, and summer squash. My wife was thrilled.

    1. I have only made the recipe as written. Other readers have substituted Rotel tomatoes successfully. You could add more tomato sauce as well. Enjoy Jam!

  5. I’m happy that you recognised that this is American and not real goulash. It looks good enough but I remember my grandmother back in the old country making authentic Madarsko Goulash. Now that stuff is authentic. I can’t compare anything called “goulash” to real goulash but I’m still willing to give this a try. Who knows, I might like it.

    1. Relax lol. It’s not that serious. Americans have been making their version for many many years. My own grandmother made “American” goulash back almost 40 years ago when I was just a kid. It’s just food. Nobody is actually comparing the two, they’ve just taken one recipe from a different part of the world, and remixed into an American version.

  6. We did not enjoy this recipe. We felt there was too much pasta for the quantity of meat. Additionally, there was not a lot of flavor.

  7. Being a man that naturally can’t cook didn’t have all the ingredients so I tried it with Old Bay, Ranch seasoning and Swiss cheese. Probably wasn’t your goulash but I ate it anyway. Nice eyes !

  8. Yup.. finally found the right recipe my mom used! Love this! I fried my celery and then onions then added 1 lb ground beef and 1lb ground turkey. Because I added the beef I had to add a little Worcestershire Sauce.

    This was lovely!

    1. Hi Rosa,
      While I have only made this recipe as written, you could most likely leave the sauce out, but it will definitely change the flavor a little.

  9. Thanks for the recipe, Holly. Long-time cook in our household and was looking for a quick friday night dinner after work (so we can get to that wine quicker!) and this fits the bill nicely. I remember my grandma used to make this a lot, so I’m excited to whip it up!

      1. We totally did! Spot on, just like grandma used to make. My fiance even said, “Please put this into the 2 week rotation you have!”, so thank you again! :-)

    1. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds delicious! Let us know how it works for you if you use sirloin roast instead Karen.

  10. I am making this for a friend who just had a baby so she won’t have to cook for a few days. What size fry pan do I need? I don’t have a large pasta pot.

    1. You’ll need a fairly large pan to make this recipe and you’ll want to ensure it has a lid. Mine was about 12″ but it has deep walls (about 3″ deep). You could also brown the beef and transfer it to another type of pot if you need to.

  11. Making this recipe right now. Smells absolutely delicious … can’t wait for dinner tonight! I think I’ll sprinkle mozzarella on top instead of cheddar cheese because that’s our favorite. Love your recipes! :)

  12. My old aunty nelly used to live in America, she was a nurse there in the 1940’s and passed a similar receipy down through the family when she moved back to England it was so tasty n cheap to make I’d love to know if it was grandmas goulash or her own invention it was minced beef, onions, mushrooms, tin of chopped tomatoes, tin of baked beans, tin of sweetcorn, garlic and gravy topped with macaroni with grated cheddar cheese over the top melted it was so so tasty and cheap to make thank you and hope people enjoy what we’ve always called Aunty Nellies mess ❤️

    1. What a great memory to share Jane :) I’m so glad you love this recipe and think about Aunty Nelly when you make it!

  13. My mom used to make this for us it was such a comforting meal. Thanks for bringing back such a wonderful memory. I will be making this soon.

  14. My mother and all the generations before her made this dish. But we called it “Italy-Um”. I’m not at all sure how it’s spelled so I did my best to convey the name I grew up calling this dish. I’ve known the basic ingredients but I never was able to find the exact recipe or as exact to my moms as possible.  My mom passed away in 2001 and she was not known to write down her recipies so I have been looking for it for quite some time.  I think I found it — the holy grail of pasta — I’m just so thrilled to have found it. I can’t wait to make it and serve it to the family. I’ll let you know how it goes!!!

  15. l was searching for a goulash recipe and judging by the readers comments l believe this to be rather close to what my neighbors mom used to conjure up. l’m trying this today with a few variations thanks to some fantastic replies from your readers,thanks guys,loved the comments.*****

  16. I absolutely LOVE this recipe! Have made it hundreds of times and tastes exactly like my mothers! I do add corn but I have 1 question.. My eldest daughter has embraced the vegan lifestyle for the past 3 years and wondering if I need to add anything to replace the meat? Im pretty sure it will taste just as fabulous but wondering about nutritional value of ground beef?? Thanks for any ideas or suggestions!

    1. I don’t follow a vegan lifestyle, so perhaps other readers will have some good ideas. You substitute a tofu that is meant to replace ground beef, found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

    2. I make my goulash with rehydrated TVP (textured veggie protein) and it is so much like a lean ground beef!!

  17. I have made this a couple of times now and it came out saucy both times, but i think i know why. When you said 2 cups of macaroni do you really mean 16 oz’s of weight? I hope so because that is what i am going to do next time.

    1. It’s written correctly. It is supposed to be saucy, but if you prefer less sauce, you can add more macaroni next time.

    1. This uses macaroni noodles and additional ingredients. The noodles are cooked in the sauce which is how a traditional American Goulash recipe is prepared.

  18. I have used this recipe twice now, and it is deeeelicious. I followed the directions precisely.  My husband and son love it too.  It makes a big pot so I have plenty for leftovers for lunches throughtout the week.  Thank you for sharing!

  19. OK…I am embarrassed – what are we supposed to do with the bay leaves? Do we add this with the pasta sauce? And then we are supposed to remove the leaves before serving, right?
    Forgive me as I am not very fluent with knowing/understanding how to cook with bay leaves. We plan on making this tonight! :-) Thank you!

    1. Great question! The bay leaves are added for flavor in the sauce in step 2 with the seasonings.

      Once the sauce is cooked, the bay leaves are removed from the sauce and discarded as bay leaves should never be eaten.

  20. Times and Temp vary from recipe..never seen noodles cook in 20 minutes on simmer, I think heating sauce on Med heat for about 5 minutes and then adding noodles and bring to boil for awhile is better accurate..great recipe though!! Just adjust heating..

  21. The recipe calls for 3 cups of water, but I don’t recall reading anywheres that it is used.

    I assumed it was going to be to cook the macaroni in, but apparently you add the macaroni to the dish and cook it in within it?

  22. I posted a little earlier and now I see it has been removed. I want to know if this can be made in the oven and do I need to cook the pasta first or can it go in the casserole dish with the rest of the ingredients. Thanks and I hopes this one goes through I want to go to the store to get part of the ingredients it calls for.

  23. Can this be cooked in the oven and do I need to boil the macaroni first or I read one recipe where it said to put the macaroni in uncooked. Please reply I am adding this to my grocery list.

    Thanks Eunice

  24. I made this tonight. It was good. I substituted 2 cans of Rotel in place of diced tomatoes (1 mild & 1 orig.). Used the pasta sauce as suggested. I might of messed up on qty of noodles as I forgot to measure. But good nonetheless.

  25. This was delish! I halved the recipe – I didn’t have tomato paste or bay leaves or green peppers – it turned out great – I did have to stand over it and stir it to keep from sticking but I may just need a better pot! It was plenty for me, husband and daughter.

  26. Yep, but meatless with mushrooms and favorite beans. Just wondering… why does it print out with tiny print. Is that your setting, or something wrong on my printer settings. I couldn’t find anything.

  27. Made this today exactly as the recipe was written and as my grandson would say it was absolut Dewishes. Plan to make it often. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

  28. When I grew up in western PA in the 1960s, Mom made this most Mondays and called it Texas hash.

    When my aunt in NC served it to me in the 1980s, she called it slumgullion.

    More recently, a friend who grew up in MI told me that this is what Midwesterners call “goulash,” which could hardly be more different from the true Hungarian goulash.

    It seems to be a venerable all-American comfort food.

  29. I have been using an identical dish for years. I use tomato sauce, rather than paste and pasta sauce.

    I also do not over cook the macaroni, so it will absorb juice and become tasty, as well as finish cooking.

    1. Did you cook the noodles in the dish alone? Or, separately in the water that is called for in the recipe?
      I noticed the recipe calls for 2 or 3 cups of water (going by memory), but it never says anything about using it.

      Thanks for your help :-)

  30. Hi Holly,

    Where did you get the great onion chopper in your Grandma’s Goulash recipe. I need one of those asap!


  31. I grew up in the Boston area in the 60’s and 70’s. My mother got the recipe from the Boston Globe. This was called American Chop Suey. My wife grew up in the NY area and she calls itGoulash. We still refer to it by the name we grew up with. My children love it. This is a recipe that they will continue to make and will pass on. We didn’t put cheese in it. We used Parmesan cheese on it at the table. A winter staple that would Stick to your Ribs my mother would say.

  32. This was a super fun receipe to make and very cheap had everything in the pantry/ freezer. My only question is “can I freeze it??? ”

    Thanks again and ps please post some more of these yummy receipes

    Shell (mum of 2 kids who adore pasta)

  33. This was excellent! I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, only 1 onion, 2 extra oz of pasta sauce, no bay leave, and I left the cheese out so everyone could put as much cheese as they wanted on their individual plates. My husband and I had friends over and they loved it! We also had leftovers for the next couple days.

  34. Thank you so much for bringing this recipe back into my life. My mother used to make this growing up but when I moved out and started my own family I had forgotten about it. Then one day BAM here it is. I just had to make it right then and it taste just like her’s. DELICIOUS. Thanks again.

  35. It is SO easy, and will definitely make it again with our family modifications.

    This was good, but there are a couple things I would change strictly on my family’s own personal preference. The meat was a little bland but I didn’t season it while browning because it didn’t say to. Hoping the leftovers will meld overnight and help that. Also, I would use less oregano next time, but again… that’s a personal preference. It is SO easy, and I will definitely make it again with our family modifications. Thank you!!

    1. I haven’t made this in the crock pot. I do think it would work, you would just need to adjust the time to ensure your noodles don’t overcook.

  36. I make this in the crock pot. I cook theHamburg onions and peppers in the frypan and then dump everything in the crock pot and cook 4 hrs on low. Top with cheese the last 15 minutes

  37. I can’t wait to try this version, I have never make Goulash with Pasta Sauce before, Maybe it may become a favorite for my family

  38. I have some left over elbow noodles that I made yesterday. If I add the cooked elbow noodles do I still need the water and should I shorten the cook time. Thanks!

    1. You wouldn’t need the water and yes, you’ll need to reduce the cook time so the noodles don’t get mushy. I would just thicken the sauce on it’s own for about 15-20 minutes and then give the noodles just a few minutes to heat up and soak in a little bit of the sauce.

  39. This is one of my favorite comfort food recipes now. I’ve been making it for dinner regularly for a few months and I have even made it to have company over. Everyone loves it. I make half a batch at a time and it feeds my husband and I for about 3 days. Sometimes I use ground pork (can be cheaper) and I load it up with a couple very thinly sliced zucchini. The zucchini doesn’t add much flavor but rather absorbs all the other flavors so it is the perfect hidden vegetable. Two thumbs up in this house!

    1. So glad you love it… and I really love your idea with the zucchini! We always have so much zucchini in the summer!

  40. I brown the uncooked macaroni with the hamb, and onions, and add a can of corn and mushrooms gives the dish a hole new taste but is very good

  41. I tried this goulash recipe today, made it for my mom while I was visiting her. I made it exactly, except I only had about half an onion, and it was tasty. I added a bit of sour cream to my bowl, and wish I’d had a bit of cheese to add too :) The only thing I might do differently is boiling the noodles separately, as I felt like maybe they were slightly off.

  42. My grandmother made almost the same dish and called it goulash!.. she added a can of (drained corn) poured it into a casserole dish and topped it with a layer of sliced Cheddar or American Cheese until slightly browned on top.. Yummy Yummy… thank you for posting!

  43. This looks like tonight’s dinner! This is something that everyone here will eat. Thank you for a ground beef recipe that doesn’t use chili/taco type seasonings. Getting tired of that. It uses ingredients I always have in the house, and is easy, to boot.

  44. i add green pepper and use 3 cups of tomato juice and 2 16oz stewed tomatoes 2 cups elbowmacaroni and add my spices 1 tsp oregano 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp chili powder 1/2 tsp basil 1tspcelery flakes 1/2 tsp sugar and salt and pepper everybody says it really good

  45. This was a great recipe and I liked the fact that the pasta cooked in the tomatoes. Thank you for sharing this. It was fast and easy. I sprinkled some grated Havarti Cheese on top…Yummy! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  46. My family has made this for years!!! only we season with paprika & oregano & add corn. Its A W E S O M E and it feeds my family of 3 for at least 2 days sometimes 3.

  47. All can say is WOW! This recipe for Goulash is amazing! The sour cream really sets it off!!!! I could not wait for a reply to my previous question about preparing the pasta separately, however, I made the recipe as directed and cooked the pasta separately. I did prepare a 1lb. box of elbow pasta, mixed it all together and waaaaalaaaaaaa – scrumptious!!!!!

  48. I am in the process of making this as I type. I do have a question about the uncooked pasta. My stove cooks very slow – will the meat sauce be too saucy by adding the 3 cups of water and preparing the noodles separately?

  49. I grew up eating this but it was bland so I changed it when I started cooking it I used spicy v-8 juice tomato sauce and tomato paste diced tomatoes and a big jar of pasta sauce with a lot of seasoning oregano basil smoked paprika

  50. I put a can of kidney beans, diced tomatoes, macaroni,
    some green pepper (to taste) and tble of Worcestershire sauce in mine. This was years ago when I was single, had a low paying job and hamburger was cheap. I’d make up a lot and kept warming it up and it got better each time! lol

  51. I first thought that was an egg on top of the goulash in the photo. But that might not be a bad idea, huh? I think I’d definitely not use the sour cream/cheese mix. Maybe even a couple of eggs?

    1. Hi Rosemary,
      I haven’t frozen this recipe before so I can’t say for sure. Hopefully someone else here has tried it and can offer some advice. :)

          1. Yes, this can be frozen. I always make a big batch so I can eat some now and have some in a month or so. It’s the cook once, eat twice way to save time and dishes.

          2. If I were going to freeze it, or even put it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I would not add the macaroni. After heating it to boiling on the stove (when planning to serve it), I would add the macaroni and cook until done. Just a thought. (Of course you’d have to add the mac and cook as the recipe instructs if you were planning to freeze individual servings.)

  52. I made this a few days ago. So yummy, and very easy. Loved not having to cook the macaroni separately. I cut the recipe in half since there is only tow of us, and it is enough for three meals. Very ecomonical. Thanks for sharing!

  53. I did this recipe today, and it turn out perfectly. The pasta cooked in the meat juices made it flavorful. The half of the recipe is enough for a family of four.

  54. This sounds so easy but one question….by cooking the macaroni right in the sauce…..does the sauce not get a starchy taste from the pasta? And I never thought about serving with cheese and sour cream….Thanks!

    1. The sauce doesn’t get a starchy taste. By cooking the noodles in the sauce, it helps thicken the sauce as well. :)

  55. My Mom used to make this with leftover spaghetti sauce, and added frozen corn seeing this pic reminds me of the good old days around the dinner table! Thanks!

  56. Recipe looks yummy!!! Do have a question tho if you don’t mind. Not that I have a big family but
    My family has huge appetites… Could you give me some insight on how much to use of what say
    If I were to use a box and a half if macaroni ? Thank you very much .

    1. This recipe serves 8 as written. I’m not sure how big your boxes of macaroni are but maybe just measure the dry noodles and you will be able to get an idea as to how many servings you have. :)

  57. This is a family favorite. Our recipe is slightly different. Instead of the jarred tomato sauce, we use tomato juice or spicy V-8 juice, and our pasta is already cooked, so we omit the water. Next time I make this I will add the water and cook the pasta in the sauce. I’m sure the flavor will be that much better. Thank you!

  58. I just made this dish for my family,
    And everybody loves it.I used a big can of
    Crushed tomatoes and a can of tomatoe
    Soup.It is Delish!!!!!! Thank-you for the
    Receipe I will be making this often:)

  59. I just made this for me and my husband tonight for dinner and it was awesome!! Such a great comfort food dish! I halved the recipe and we still had a bunch left over, might have to try and “third” it next time :-). Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  60. I bet this will be so good!!! You can even pour everything into a casserole dish and add mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top yummy. One complaint though and its not about the recipe or the food (its all delishhh) Can you please start putting serving sizes on the recipes? For those of us that are watching what we eat and need to enter this in our recipe builder it would be great to know the serving sizes for all your wonderful recipes!!!!

  61. I have been making this for years. My family loves it.
    My Mom is the one that taught me. This was something she would
    make for dinner for at least once a month as I was growing up. I loved
    it and start to make it for my children which they loved.

  62. How many does this recipe feed? It sounds really good, but I think I would have to double it! I would be feeding 5, 3 adults and 2 children. What do you think?

    1. This serves 8 so there should be enough to go around (especially if you’re having bread and/or salad with it). If you aren’t sure, you can double it or 1.5x the recipe… because this is one of those dishes where the leftovers are wonderful!

  63. I made this Vegan style. Used 2 bags of Boca crumbles for the ground beef, added a large, finely chopped jalapeno for a little kick, & added 3 cups instead of 2 cups of macaroni noodles. It came out more like a thick chili than the photo above, but let me tell you … it was AWEOME! Added some Daiya (vegan) cheese and it made it pure perfect! Will be putting this one in my family recipe binder for sure!

  64. This looks wonderful and I am planning to make it this weekend, but can you please tell me, do I boil the pasta first? Don’t kill me. lol

  65. Been eating this for 50+ years! Instead of pasta sauce, we use tomato soup and stewed tomatoes, crushed in food processor, and omit the bay leaf (YUK). This really is delicious!!

  66. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Hope you are having a great week and enjoy your new Red Plate.
    Miz Helen

  67. Goulash is one of our favorite comfort foods, this looks delicious! Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Miz Helen

  68. This is a great mid-week meal, and my men would love it. Thank you for sharing and linking up with us at the #WWDParty. I hope you have a great weekend.

  69. I can’t wait to make this I love goulash. Thanks for the recipe. Thanks for linking up at Tell Me About It Tuesday. We hope you hop over and share with us again next week.

    1. I just made this and it was to tomatoey. It made a huge casserole. I have enough to take to church here social. It was ok but not like my mommas