Classic Goulash

8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Classic Goulash with ground beef, bell pepper, onions, and macaroni simmered in a seasoned tomato sauce, is ready in 45 minutes in one pot!

We’re always ready to make hearty comfort food, and if you like this goulash you’ll also love this Pot Roast, Slow Cooker Chili, Sloppy Joe, and Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti!

American Goulash

Classic Goulash is one of my favorite old fashioned recipes. It’s made with ground beef, onion, bell pepper, and macaroni noodles in a seasoned tomato sauce with diced tomatoes. It’s perfect for busy weeknight dinners because all it takes is one pot and less than 45 minutes!

You can also add more flavor to this dish with spices like paprika, or vegetables like mushrooms or spinach. This is also a great recipe to make if you have leftover Marinara Sauce. Goulash is always crowd-pleasing, which makes it a terrific option for potlucks!

Goulash is a hearty recipe the entire family will love. For a complete meal, serve Classic Goulash with a crisp, fresh Beet Salad and Garlic Bread to soak up all that extra delicious sauce.

What is American Goulash?

American goulash is a traditional mid-west dish to serve for dinner or take to a potluck. It’s made with really easy and available ingredients like pasta, ground beef, tomato sauce, and onion. You can also add some minced garlic or paprika to your American goulash, even though paprika is not traditionally used in this version.

American goulash is different from Hungarian goulash because the Hungarian goulash version is more like a stew made with ground meat, paprika, and sometimes additional vegetables and potatoes. Hungarian goulash is also referred to as Gulyas. Gulyas basically translates to cowboy in Hungarian, which is the perfect candidate to eat goulash soup.

How to Make Classic Goulash

  • Add ground beef, onions, bell peppers and garlic to a large dutch oven and cook until it is no longer pink.
  • Drain most of the fat then add in water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low heat and simmer.
  • Add in the macaroni, mix well then cover and simmer an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

More Classic Dinner Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Freeze Classic Goulash?

You can freeze this goulash recipe, but if you’re making it ahead to freeze I recommend undercooking the macaroni slightly, then immediately removing from heat and letting it cool. That way when you go to reheat, the pasta will finish cooking all the way instead of becoming mushy. Defrost in the refrigerator the night before.

How do I thicken Goulash?

We’re not using any all purpose flour in this recipe, but if you want a thicken sauce then next time whisk 1-2 tablespoons of all purpose flour into the onions when they’re cooking, to make a roux. I wouldn’t add more than two tablespoons of flour, or the sauce may get too thick. If that happens, you can add a small amount of broth as well.

How do I make Vegetarian Goulash?

Use a meatless crumble in place of ground beef for a delicious vegetarian take on Goulash. It will still taste beefy, hearty, and delicious. Or you can substitute the ground beef for cooked lentils for a hearty vegetarian meal that’s also high in protein and fiber.

What else can you add to Goulash?

Mix in your favorite veggies like corn, beans, spinach, peas, zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms. Cheese is also a flavorful add-in, which can be melted into the sauce or served as a topping. Top Goulash with sour cream, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped parsley, black olives, or Parmesan cheese.

American Goulash


Key Ingredients in Classic Goulash

  • Beef: Classic Goulash is traditionally made with ground beef. We recommend 85/15 for best flavor and texture in just about every recipe. If your ground beef is sticking to the pan while browning, you can add a small amount of olive oil to the pan.
  • Macaroni Noodles: The macaroni pasta is added to the Goulash after it has simmered for about 15 minutes. When the noodles cook in the liquid, they absorb all the flavors of the tomatoes and seasonings, as well as help thicken the sauce with the starches released.
  • Vegetables: Bell peppers and onions are a classic combination that goes perfectly with beef. They are also easily found year round, which makes Classic Goulash the perfect hearty winter recipe.
  • Tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce combine with the rest of the seasonings to create a savory base sauce that soaks into the meat and pasta and softens the vegetables.

Slow Cooker Classic Goulash

  • Brown the ground beef, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in a skillet.
  • Add beef mixture to slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except macaroni.
  • Cook on high 2-3 hours, or on low 4-6 hours, adding the macaroni noodles to the slow cooker in the last 30-40 minutes of cooking.

Instant Pot Classic Goulash

  • In sauté mode, brown the ground beef, onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Drain most of the fat.
  • Add 1 cup water to deglaze, then add the rest of the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Stir in macaroni.
  • Seal lid and set to high pressure for 3 minutes, then quick release. Stir and serve immediately.

Can you Make Classic Goulash Ahead?

If you’re making goulash ahead, cook the pasta according to package directions and set aside. Then make the ground beef according to the recipe, and store everything in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You may also want to store some extra sauce on the side, just in case it needs it when you reheat it later. When you’re ready, sauté the goulash with the pasta in a skillet over medium-low heat, adding any extra sauce as necessary. Stir as needed until heated through, then serve.

Variations on Classic Goulash

  • Cheese: Make your Goulash extra creamy and cheesy by topping it with with shredded cheddar cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, or Swiss cheese.
  • Noodles: This goulash recipe calls for macaroni, but you can also use egg noodles for this dish if that’s what you have.
  • Meat: You can lighten this goulash up by using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, and adding more vegetables in place of some of the pasta.
  • Broth: You can add more flavor by replacing the water in this goulash recipe with beef broth, so the pasta absorbs the flavor of the beef broth as it cooks.
  • Creamy Goulash: Add a cup of sour cream to make this goulash with a cream sauce. You can also add ½ cup of cheese while the goulash is still cooking instead.
  • Seasonings: You can replace the seasoning in this dish with simple Italian seasoning to save time. This goulash recipe is already seasoned but if you want even more flavor try adding bay leaves, a dash of paprika or garlic, or deglaze the ground beef with ¼ cup red wine.
  • Fresh Tomatoes: I’m using a can of diced tomatoes in this recipe, but you can chop fresh tomatoes if you want to.
  • Fresh Herbs: You can replace the 1 teaspoon each of dried herbs for 1 tablespoon each of fresh herbs. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley for even more fresh flavor.
  • Low Sodium: Make this recipe low sodium by omitting the salt, and using the low-sodium version of canned tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce.

More Easy Pasta Recipes

How to Store Classic Goulash

  • Serve: Do not leave Classic Goulash at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Store: Store Goulash in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
  • Freeze: Freeze Goulash in a freezer safe plastic bag for up to 3 months.
Classic American Meat and Pasta Goulash

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Classic Goulash

Classic Goulash with ground beef, bell pepper, onions, and macaroni simmered in a seasoned tomato sauce, is ready in 45 minutes in one pot!
Yield 8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 2 pounds ground beef , (85/15)
  • 2 yellow onions , chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper , chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 29 ounces tomato sauce
  • 29 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni , uncooked


  • Add the ground beef, onions, bell peppers and garlic to a large dutch oven on medium-high heat and cook it breaking it apart until it is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Drain most of the fat then add in the remaining ingredients except the macaroni, bring to a boil then reduce to a low heat and simmer with a cover on for 15 minutes.
  • Add in the macaroni, mix well then cover and simmer an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally before serving


Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 965mg | Potassium: 1008mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 620IU | Vitamin C: 31.8mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 5.2mg
Classic Goulash Collage

Photo used in a previous version of this post.

Classic Goulash

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. i added a can of whole kernel corn with the juice. so i added 4 ounces of elbow macaroni . i used water so i added one beef bouillon cube and about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. forgive me but i had to slap my mama it was so good. thank

  2. I prepared this with sweet Italian sausage & ground chuck, and added red,yellow,orange peppers also. This is one of my family’s favorite dishes & it’s a one pot meal, & serve it with Texas toast.

    1. Top Goulash with sour cream, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped parsley, black olives, or Parmesan cheese.

  3. Made this for dinner tonight. I added beef stock as suggested by others and it was absolutely delicious. That was the only change I made. I was a little nervous about cooking the macaroni in the sauce but to my surprise, it was great. I love how this is not only a delicious meal but a one-pan meal as well. Easy cleanup is always a bonus for me.

  4. Can you use red, yellow or orange peppers instead of green bell peppers? I find that the green Bell peppers are more bitter when cooked.

  5. I used beef stock instead of water. I did not have oregano or basil, so I put in 2 tsps of Herbs de Provence. Everything else was per recipe. It is so good. I am alone so whatever I make, gets shared with a friend. She loved it!!

  6. I made a VERY similar dish, macaroni cooked with the rest of the recipe, for my family when they were growing up. I used chilli powder and cumin to season instead of Italian seasoning. My original recipe called it Chili Mac. It was so good on those cold 70’s winters in West Virginia! I generally served it with slaw and an apple dessert.

  7. I love this recipe; my take on it is to cut the amount of ground beef to 1 lb instead of 2 and increase the amount of pasta to 16oz instead of 8 to get the balance of meat to data that I prefer

  8. I made this dish according to the recipe in my crockpot. I used low sodium beef broth instead of water and I ran out of Worcestershire sauce so I googled and mixed ketchup and soy sauce. For a kick I added a dash of hot pepper flakes. I just estimated what I thought I needed for macaroni as he likes more. It was tasty, lip smacking delicious! So good I’m going to share some with a neighbor!

  9. I grew up on this wonderful goulash – this one is pretty much exactly like she made it. My mom was such a great cook. I make it but it doesn’t taste as good as hers. Love this recipe. And it gets better aging a few days in the fridge. I sometimes put cheddar cheese on top after heating and stir.

  10. This is an excellent recipe as written, I just substituted beef broth for the water for some extra beefiness and a few chili flakes for some spice. For those of you reporting soupiness, it’s probably because you are cooking the macaroni separate. If you cook it separate then you will not need all the water I would recommend cooking the pasta in the pot with everything else and it will work out fine.

  11. I used beef broth in place of the water. Easy to prepare. Tasted good. My problem was, in spite of how careful I was, I overcooked the pasta. Next time I will cook the pasta separately and add it before serving.

  12. This is a great meal, I made a few changes to make it more to my liking. Used 3 cups of beef broth instead of water and used diced tomatoes with jalapeños and 1lb of hot Italian sausage along with 1lb of ground beef. Not a fan of macaroni noodles so I used rotini instead. Very flavorful

    1. Mickey,
      I know you substituted rotini noodles for the macaroni. What I’d like to know is what how much did
      you use. Thanks in advance.

  13. This was sooo good and super easy. I have always cooked my pasta and added it the goulash recipe I use but I liked it so much better cooking the noodles with the sauce

  14. Made this many many times. We love it, and it’s even better the next day. Noodles I always cook separate. Thanks for sharing??