This easy American Goulash recipe is full of hearty ingredients that will warm you from the inside out.

Simple ingredients like ground beef (hamburger meat), canned tomatoes, elbow macaroni, and onions are all cooked in one pot for an easy hearty meal.

It’s packed with zesty flavor and the perfect way to feed a crowd on a budget! Serve it alongside some cornbread or homemade biscuits for sopping up the sauce in the bottom of the bowl!

American Goulash cooked in the pot

What is Goulash?

American Goulash and Hungarian Goulash are two completely different dishes.

American Goulash is not the same thing as goulash in other parts of the world. Like many dishes that have the same name (like dumplings for example) the ingredients and preparation are different.

The difference between Hungarian and American Goulash:

  • Hungarian Goulash, a robust beef and onion soup seasoned with Hungarian paprika and sometimes containing potatoes and/or carrots (more often made without vegetables though).
  • American Goulash is old-fashioned goodness. It’s a simple dish consisting of ground beef and elbow macaroni in a tomato-based sauce. It’s classic American comfort food that also goes by the name “slumgullion”, Hamburger Goulash, or “American chop suey” among many others!

American Goulash in bowls with a pot full in the back

Why We Love This Dish

  • American goulash uses a few simple inexpensive ingredients, it’s a great way to feed a crowd.
  • It needs only one pot which means less mess and fewer dishes to wash!
  • It’s really easy to make and great for beginners, it’s cozy and tastes great!
  • This recipe can be stretched to feed a bigger crowd by adding extra pasta and sauce.
  • Double up the batch or freeze leftovers for future meals.

ingredients for goulash on a table

Goulash Ingredients

GROUND BEEF: Ground beef (or hamburger meat) gives this dish its base and adds lots of flavors, Italian sausage can be substituted for the beef for extra flavor.

ELBOW MACARONI: Use whatever pasta is on hand! Elbow, small shells, bowties, or ditalini all work well.

SAUCE: Goulash has a rich zesty tomato sauce! Use your favorite jarred pasta or marinara sauce combined with a can of tomatoes (and juice!). We add water to cook the pasta but you can use beef broth in place.

The sauce is seasoned with tomato paste and Italian Seasoning for an extra boost of flavor.


  • Add some shredded carrots or red bell peppers for a bit of sweetness in the zesty sauce. Diced celery is great in this recipe too.
  • Stir in some Worcestershire sauce, a sprinkle of chili flakes.
  • Stretch out the meal with extra pasta (and water) or a can of drained kidney beans (or your favorite kind of beans).
  • Top it with cheese if desired.

ingredients for goulash in a pot

How to Make Goulash

It’s literally as easy as 1,2,3.

  1. Brown beef, onion, & garlic in a large pot or dutch oven.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for pasta. Cover and simmer 15 minutes to thicken.
  3. Add pasta and simmer until tender.

Serve goulash with bread, or dinner rolls for dipping and dunking.

adding elbow macaroni to goulash


Keep leftover American goulash in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stove before serving. Freeze chilled portions in zippered bags with the date labeled on the outside for up to 4 weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

pot full of American Goulash with a spoon

More Easy Ground Beef Pasta

Did your family love this American Goulash? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 

pot full of American Goulash with a spoon
4.96 from 517 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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American Goulash

Goulash is a simple skillet dinner with tomatoes, beef, and macaroni noodles in a zesty tomato sauce. It's a perfect comfort food on a budget!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups marinara or tomato-based pasta sauce approx. ½ of a 26 oz jar
  • 1 ¾ cups beef broth or water or as needed
  • 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 green bell pepper diced, optional
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaves 2 if they are small
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1 ¼ cup elbow macaroni noodles uncooked
  • ½ cup cheddar or mozzarella cheese, shredded, optional


  • Cook ground beef, onion and garlic over medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  • Add water, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, green peppers (if using), seasonings, & bay leaves. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  • Add in the elbow macaroni and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender (about 20 minutes).
  • Remove & discard bay leaves. Top with cheese if using and replace the lid. Let rest about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.



This recipe can easily be doubled to feed a crowd (serving sizes can be adjusted in the print screen).
For heartier appetites, the meal can be stretched with additional pasta (and water/broth), canned beans or chopped vegetables. (diced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, corn, or additional bell peppers). Any ground meat can be substituted for beef. 
Start with the amount of broth/water as listed and add extra if needed (depending on pasta shape). The goulash will thicken as it cools and rests. Depending on the size and shape of your pan, you may need to add a little bit more liquid. Keep an eye on the dish as it cooks and add more liquid as needed. The mixture will thicken slightly as it cools.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
4.96 from 517 votes

Nutrition Information

Serving: 2cups | Calories: 217 | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 562mg | Potassium: 812mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 587IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg

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

Course Beef, Dinner, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American

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About the author

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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Recipe Rating


  1. When I make American Goulash, I typically throw “stuff” together. This time, I followed this recipe with the following additions. . . I added organic corn and spinach, and I tossed in tsp of paprika and sugar , and a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce. For the cheese, I used grated Parmesan cheese. This stuff is awesome.5 stars

  2. Added a bit of yellow mustard, soy sauce and brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Really makes a huge difference! Great base recipe!4 stars

  3. This is a great, hearty recipe, especially for cooler evenings. I’ve made it several times. As a fun variation, I sometimes make this recipe using stewed tomatoes. If you like stewed tomatoes, it adds a nice extra bit of flavor.5 stars

  4. I made this tonight exactly as written, other than using fresh tomatoes because I was out of canned. Very tasty and we are looking forward to the leftovers for lunch!5 stars

  5. It’s a good recipe, but it’s not goulash unless you add paprika. The word goulash it’s so means meat, stew with vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices.
    So I added a lot of Hungarian paprika, which this dish was good in itself but definitely stepped it up to a goulash flavor.4 stars

    1. This is an American goulash which is a different recipe than Hungarian goulash. Hungarian goulash is more soup/stew like and has lots of paprika.

      Although, paprika would be a great addition to this recipe as well. Thanks for sharing, Jackie!

    2. This recipe is American Goulash & has no paprika in the traditional recipe. Paprika is a major spice ingredient in Hungarian Ghoulash which is perhaps what you have in mind. Hungarian Ghoulash & American Goulash are nothing alike but of course you can tweak your recipes anyway you like including this one.5 stars

  6. This is now my go to recipe for goulash.
    Love the flavors & one pot recipe. The goulash is delicious! Thank you!5 stars

      1. Hi Patrick, this recipe has been tested as written but you can halve this recipe to feed four. Or it makes delicious leftovers!

  7. Very good Goulash!! Thanks a bunch!

    I’ve been making goulash off and on for many years. Far more frequently, I make a cook-it-all-day recipe for tomato sauce (Italian Grandma’s recipe) and we just love what the tomato paste does for that sauce. I cannot believe I never thought of using paste in goulash, so thanks for giving us that depth of flavor in this well-loved old-fashioned dish.

    Never thought of fully cooking the macaroni in the goulash either… always half-cooked it, drained, then added it to the goulash pot to simmer a few more minutes. So again, from this old-ish cook, thanks a bunch for that idea and saving on the dirty dishes.

    Lastly, we really love corn in our goulash. It’s great to just add some fresh corn right to the pot for a few minutes prior to it being done, but frozen or canned work too.5 stars

    1. I love to hear different ways this recipe has been passed down. Thank you for sharing Melissa!

  8. I made this goulash for us here I love goulash recipes.
    I just haven’t made it in decades so I almost forgot about making some until I ran across this recipe that I enjoyed..

    I also added frozen 1/2 cup spinach and 1 cup corn to go with my goulash.
    Because the tomato was acidic I added teaspoon of sugar.
    That actually made it less acidic for sensitively to tomatoes.

    Several people in the house prefer corn.
    I almost put in carrots I know would have been delicious.
    I just was pressed for time that’s why I chose this recipe.

    1can diced tomatoes with oregano and garlic.
    1can of tomato sauce with also Italian seasoning and garlic.
    1 clove fresh garlic chopped fine instead of using minced garlic in the jar.

    I wanted full flavor so I added beef broth instead of water.
    I added W Sauce sprinkling until I get the flavor along with lots of other seasonings.
    2 cups of beef broth for the 2 cups of large elbow macaroni to cook inside the mixture.
    I didn’t have medium elbow macaroni.
    So went with what I had in the cabinet.

    I added shredded cheddar cheese to my bowl.
    I let everyone else decide what they wanted before I added it to the whole pot.
    Some don’t like cheese which is okay because that’s what makes goulash special you can add anything to make it.

    Once again thank you for sharing your awesome recipe 5 stars

  9. For YEARS I have been searching for this that was what my mom made when I was a child. THIS is it! Thank you. Eager to make it for my family soon.

  10. Very good, browned and drained meat first, then added fine chopped orange pepper, onions and garlic. Omitted tomato paste added 2 tbl Worcestershire and a 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. Turned out great5 stars

  11. I make this a few times a month and absolutely love it as does my son. NO adjustments or substitutions needed at all because it is fantastic just as is. It reminds me of the goulash the nuns used to make when I was in grade school! Sometimes my mom would give me the 50 cents so I could buy the lunch when they made it. Thank you again Holly!!5 stars

    1. I love when food brings back good memories. I am so glad you love this recipe Rachelle!

  12. Really good, and easy! I made some adjustments. I always brown the green pepper with the onions and garlic. Added some Worcestershire sauce to the beef while browning. Instead of marinara sauce I used crushed tomatoes and added it a few mins before the other liquids. Instead of a can of diced tomatoes I chopped up a couple fresh tomatoes. I also added some red wine to the sauce.5 stars