This is a traditional American goulash recipe that's easy to make with ground beef, tomatoes, and noodles, a one-pot comfort dish that always satisfies.
It's goulash time, my friends! I grew up with dishes like this, simple one-pot meals with lots of ground meats and noodles, easy to make comfort foods that don't take much time or effort.
Dishes like this make sense to busy people who need to feed a hungry family. This American Goulash recipe is the perfect example of this. It's so easy to make with seasoned ground beef cooked up with elbow noodles in a tomato based sauce.
I say "American Goulash" because while here in the U.S. we may think of this as a classic goulash recipe, there is another famous goulash called "Hungarian Goulash" that is quite different.
American Goulash Vs. Hungarian Goulash
American goulash may have evolved from Hungarian goulash, but they have become quite different over the years. Old World, traditional Hungarian goulash was a simple stew of meats cooked in pot with paprika, thickened by the collagen of the meat in the slow cooking process.
American goulash evolved to use ground meats instead. It also evolved to incorporate an obvious Italian influence, opting for more Italian seasonings, and a tomato-based sauce.
You may have heard it referred to as "American chop suey" "Slumgullion", "Beefaroni", or "Johnny Marzetti", among others.
This recipe is similar to the one I grew up with, though I like to add in a few optional additions to spice things up, as I usually do.
Let's talk about how to make goulash, shall we?
American Goulash Ingredients
- Olive Oil. For cooking.
- Vegetables. Onion, green bell pepper, garlic. I like to use 2-3 jalapeno peppers in place of the green pepper for a spicier version.
- Ground Beef. You can also use ground turkey or pork for a lighter version.
- Seasonings. Use your favorite Italian seasoning blend, or use a mixture of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Also, paprika (I like hot paprika), salt and black pepper, and bay leaves. Simple seasoned salt is also a popular addition, found in many American kitchens.
- Canned Tomatoes. Canned are best for making this recipe easy. I prefer fire roasted tomatoes for a flavor boost, but you can use canned diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.
- Beef Broth. Beef bouillon is great for this.
- Worcestershire Sauce.
- Elbow Macaroni Noodles. You can use others, but these are more traditional.
- Cheddar Cheese. Optional, if you'd like a slightly cheesy version.
- Optional Additions. Red pepper flakes and hot sauce, for Mike's spicy twist.
How to Make Goulash - the Recipe Method
This is a general overview of how to make goulash. You can find the printable full recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.
Cook the Onion and Peppers. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and cook 3-4 minutes to soften.
Brown the Ground Beef. Add the ground beef and break apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes, until browned and mostly cooked through.
Bloom the Garlic and Spices. Add the garlic, Italian seasonings, paprika, red pepper flakes (if using) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 1 minute, stirring, until the garlic becomes fragrant and the spices bloom.
Add the Tomatoes and Liquids. Add the roasted tomatoes, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Also add optional hot sauce, if using. Stir to combine.
Simmering Time. Cover and simmer 20 minutes to let the flavors develop.
Add the Noodles. Stir in the macaroni noodles and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, or until the noodles are softened to your liking.
Make it Cheesy! For a cheesy version, stir in shredded cheese and cook until nicely melted through, 2-3 minutes.
Boom! Done! Your goulash is ready to serve. Easy enough to make, isn't it? This is a huge pot and will serve lots of people!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Seasonings. Most recipes call for a simple blend of Italian seasonings, though you can use your favorites. I find this recipe enjoyable to make when I add in a good mix of different spices.
- The Noodles. You'll find most classic goulash recipes with elbow macaroni noodles, but you can realistically use any noodles. Smaller noodles are best, as opposed to long noodles, like spaghetti noodles.
- The Ground Meats. Ground beef is traditional for goulash, though you can use ground turkey, chicken, or pork for a lighter version. Use a mix. It's really interesting with Mexican chorizo and Mexican spices for a Mexican spin!
- Mike's Spicy Twists. When I make this, I swap out the bell peppers for jalapeno peppers. I add hot paprika, though you can add cayenne, as well as spicy chili flakes. I also love it with a few dashes (or more!) of habanero hot sauce, plus some more for serving. I just have to be careful not to make it too spicy for Patty!
Leftovers and Storage
This recipe will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container. It isn't bad served cold, but is easily reheated in a microwave or tossed in a hot pan.
You can also freeze it for 2-3 months, though the noodles can get a bit mushy after thawing.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this easy goulash recipe. It's an American classic goulash! Let me know if you make it. I hope you spiced it up a little!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
American Goulash Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 large green bell pepper diced (use 2-3 jalapeno peppers for a spicier version)
- 1.5 pounds ground beef
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend or use 2 teaspoons dried basil, 2 teaspoons oregano, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon paprika I use hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional, for spicy – use more as desired
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 15-ounce cans fire roasted tomatoes or use canned diced tomatoes
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- Hot sauce to taste (optional, for spicy)
- 2 cups macaroni noodles uncooked (elbow macaroni)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded (or more to taste. Optional - you can use other melty cheeses if preferred)
- Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and cook 3-4 minutes to soften.
- Add the ground beef and break apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes, until browned and mostly cooked through.
- Add the garlic, Italian seasonings, paprika, red pepper flakes (if using) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 1 minute, stirring, until the garlic becomes fragrant and the spices bloom.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Also add optional hot sauce, if using. Stir to combine.
- Cover and simmer 20 minutes to let the flavors develop.
- Stir in the macaroni noodles and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, or until the noodles are softened to your liking.
- For a cheesy version, stir in cheese and cook until nicely melted through, 2-3 minutes.