This easy American goulash is a one pot meal that's inexpensive to make and incredibly comforting! It has tender ground beef and macaroni simmered in a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce.
Love a good old-fashioned ground beef dinner? Try my Easy Hamburger Gravy or my Easy Meatloaf!
What is American Goulash?
American goulash has very little resemblance to Hungarian goulash apart from having beef and paprika in it. Depending on the region in the USA, you'll hear similar dishes variously referred to as American chop suey, Johnny Marzetti, and slumgullion. They're all basically the same delicious beef and pasta recipe that's appeared in cookbooks since 1914!
Whatever you call it, this easy ground beef recipe is great for kids and picky eaters. It's also a fantastic weeknight dinner for busy parents since it's made all in one pot, so clean-up is minimal. Cue the nostalgia with this comfort food classic!
What you'll need to make it
- Olive oil - for sautéing the beef and aromatics
- Ground beef - we're using lean ground beef here
- Garlic and onion - classic aromatics to add layers of flavor
- Bell pepper - either red or green is perfect
- Tomato sauce - for my international audience, canned tomato sauce is similar to passata
- Canned tomatoes - I like the texture that diced tomatoes give
- Beef broth - it adds richness to the sauce. You can also use a half broth, half red wine mix to elevate the dish!
- Italian seasoning - a fabulous blend of dried herbs that conveniently comes in a single jar
- Paprika - I used mild paprika, but you could use hot or smoked to change it up
- Red pepper flakes - optional, but they give a nice little kick without it being spicy
- Macaroni - it's the standard pasta used, but you could sub something that's the same size
- Bay leaves - this might seem like a small detail, but they really enhance this goulash. Don't skip 'em!
- Cheddar cheese - some versions include cheddar while others don't. The cheddar in my version is totally optional.
How to make American Goulash
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
In a soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté the beef, onions, and garlic until the beef has browned. Stir in the chopped bell pepper, tomatoes, beef broth, Italian seasoning, paprika, and red pepper flakes.
Bring it to a boil and then add in the macaroni and bay leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes, then take the pot off the heat, stir in the cheddar, and cover for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Substitutions and variations
- If you prefer, swap the ground beef for sausage meat or ground turkey.
- You could easily add in some extra vegetables (chopped small) if you like. Try mushrooms.
- You can play with the seasonings a bit, but I wouldn't deviate from the liquid measurements too much as it's a one pot pasta and you don't want to end up with too little or too much liquid!
What to serve with American goulash
- It's great on its own, but you can always pair it with a slice of crusty bread or even Garlic Bread.
- If you're craving a salad, I like serving it with mixed greens and this Easy Italian Dressing. Of course, a classic Homemade Caesar Salad works too.
Leftovers and storage
- Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge in an airtight container, but keep in mind that cooked pasta does tend to get a bit puffy/soak up liquid, so it may not be as good after a couple of days.
- Reheat in a saucepan over a low heat until warmed through.
- If you're planning on freezing most/all of the batch, I recommend cooking the pasta separately. To do this, follow the recipe as usual, but use 1/2 cup less of beef broth than the instructions indicate.
Questions about this American goulash recipe? Did you grow up with it? Let me know in the comments below!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 red or green bell pepper chopped
- 1 (14 fluid ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14 fluid ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 cup beef broth (or do 50/50 mix of broth and dry red wine)
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar optional
- Add the oil, beef, onion, and garlic to a soup pot over medium-high heat and cook, breaking the beef up with your spoon as you go along, for about 8 minutes or until browned. If there's a lot of excess fat, spoon most of it out.
- Add the chopped bell pepper, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, broth, Italian seasoning, paprika, and red pepper flakes to the pot. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Stir in the macaroni and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer so it's still boiling, but not too crazy (I used medium heat). Cook, uncovered, for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cheddar. Cover the pot and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pasta has finished cooking. Season with salt & pepper as needed and enjoy immediately.
- Serves 4-6 depending on portion size.
- If you want to make the pasta separately, reduce the beef broth to 1/2 cup and otherwise follow the recipe as instructed (just leave the pasta out).
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
I made this tonight, it's delicious! There's none left! I didn't have any bell peppers so I used a poblano with all the seeds removed so it wasn't spicy.
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
That's so nice to hear, Stella! Thrilled you enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to write a review! 🙂
Kenneth Clark says
Best American Goulash I have ever made. Followed recipe to a T using both the optional cheese and crushed red pepper. Normally I would have used more pasta and cooked at that. Also the beef broth was a surprise. But this will be the way I make it from now on.
Well that's so great to hear, Kenneth!! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know. I'm so happy you gave this version a try.