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!

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

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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

Nutrition

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
Keyword: Goulash
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 upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being 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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Comments

  1. This is the closest recipe to what my Grandmother and Auntie taught me. And it was always goulash and served with white sliced bread and butter. Yum ?

  2. Shame on me for not commenting the first time I made this. Absolutely wonderful as written! Thank you for sharing this recipe! Definitely brought back memories of my childhood, and yes, we called it Goulash “way back when.” Love your recipes!

  3. We enjoyed the Goulash; however, it was not what I expected from the picture. From the picture it looked like a casserole – not a soup. In the picture there must have been more than 8 oz. of pasta. Anyway, the flavor was good and we just ate it as a soup. I had made the recipe EXACTLY as directed with the exact amounts of ingredients – even weighed the pasta. Guess I should have doubled the pasta.

  4. Sabrina, this is the best goulash I have ever had or made!!! We just got done eating and it was a big hit! My fiancée kept making good comments all while we were eating!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
    Jan

  5. Made this today, all loved it. Very easy. Added the sour cream at the end and this made it perfect! Will make this again for sure.

  6. Wow- it turned out delicious, and my family loved it. Very similar to the goulash my mom made. I used lean ground beef and just added a little olive oil to cook the meat and veggies. I used fire roasted tomatoes for the diced tomatoes. And I doubled the macaroni and cooked for only 15 minutes. It was perfect. Thank you!

  7. Wow- it turned out delicious, and my family loved it. Very similar to the ghoulish my mom made. I used lean ground beef and just added a little olive oil to cook the meat and veggies. I used fire roasted tomatoes for the diced tomatoes. And I doubled the macaroni and cooked for only 15 minutes. It was perfect. Thank you!

  8. Good dish but a few tips from me.
    – do not use lean ground beef. There will not me enough fat to cook the vegetables in.
    -DO NOT use small elbow macaroni. It will get “lost” in the recipe (which is what I used). It also became mushy so maybe Rotini or Cavatappi will work better.
    -Chop pepper and onion into small pieces unless you like chunks. Will remember this for next time.
    -8 servings filled up my 4.5 quart bowl. It’s a LOT.

  9. I decided to try a different version and picked yours…very yummy! My mom always called it slumgullion growing up. But her version didn’t have Worcestershire sauce. But here in Ohio a lot call this Johnny Marzetti and it varies on how it’s made depending on what part of Ohio you’re from!

  10. Made the goulash last night. It was delicious! I cooked the pasta separately and cut down on the water. I am so looking forward to the leftovers. Thank you.

    1. Really Loved this. Very tasty and satisfying. I served with green salad and garlic knot rolls for a healthy balanced meal.

  11. Made the goulash and it was delicious! I ran out of elbow macaroni so I had to use penne and it still came out great. I’m looking forward to the leftovers. Thank you.

  12. Probably a stupid question. Do I precook the the elbows before adding them or will they get cooked by just following the instructions. Thanks Paaul

  13. Are you in my brain for cooking? I have made this my whole life I cooked for my family I was 10 and would use what I thought would work together why I never shared my dinner’s idk I bet we have the same skills I use things U don’t but sometimes too much is TOOO MUCH OVER SALTING SUCKS. NO Kosher salt not in my baked dishes.

  14. Sabrina – I have quite a few of your recipes saved. Made this one for dinner tonight – it’s just as delish as all of the others I have tried from your site and has also been saved. Thank you for sharing your talent with us!

    1. I always struggle with measuring pasta in ounces. Is 8 oz just a measuring cup filled to the 8 oz mark with uncooked pasta? That sure doesn’t look like much.

    2. I have not had goulash since my dad passed away almost 30 years ago. I made this and it brought me right back to my youth. I had small elbows so I used the whole box (16oz) and it was perfect! Thank you for their perfect comfort food recipe!

  15. We love this recipe ??Great tasting & easy to make! Thank you!! My friend has made goulash for over 40 years. This is how she makes it too. The only thing she uses sometimes is sage sausage. With that, you don’t put in oregano & basil. She also puts in a little brown sugar!!

  16. We love this recipe ??Great tasting & easy to make! Thank you!! My friend has made goulash for over 40 years. This is how she makes it too. The only thing she uses sometimes is sage sausage. With that, you don’t put in oregano & basil. She also puts in a little brown sugar!! Yummy ?

  17. You bet Hungarian Goulash is a totally different dish than American Goulash. Thank you Sabrina for covering that in your intro. I started testing pasta at 15 minutes and removed from heat at “very” al dente. The pasta continued cooking in the sauce and was just right for my taste after resting.

  18. My Mom made this with homemade bread for sopping. She called it GOULASH. Sorry you are offended by our roots. If we call it goulash then it is goulash–get over yourself.

  19. The recipe was great but the beginning instruction of putting everything in a dutch oven, browning the meat, then draining it and Then adding the other ingredients was a little bit confusing

  20. I have nevere had Goulash Before I married my husband and he would periodically ask for it. I make this all the time in the winter and have been for years. Love it. I do change out the water for broth and use a little mor worchester sauce.

  21. This was phenomenal, so simple for busy weeknights and just like mom used to make. Only criticism is that I actually can’t stop eating it (ha). Thank you so much! 🙂

  22. This is about as much goulash, much less classic, as dry toast smeared with tomato puree is pizza.

    I’m sure this is tasty…but goulash it isn’t.
    Goulash contains paprika. It is a s made with beef chunks or cubes. It does NOT contain Worcestershire sauce, ground beef, or, most particularly, pasta.

    Make your own dish, by all means, but don’t go calling it what it isn’t.

    1. This recipe is most definitely the *American* goulash I grew up eating. If you read any of the post – she even explained that it’s not traditional Hungarian goulash, that it’s classic American goulash. You don’t have to be rude – you could just keep your negativity to yourself.

      1. I’m going to make this. I have made something similar before. This is American Goulash. I have had Hungarian Goulash, that’s a whole different ball game. They are totally different. What’s wrong with some people.?

        1. This recipe looks delicious I’ll be making it today I didn’t read anything that said you have to follow it exactly you can alter it to your own taste people should keep their rude comments to themselves

    2. This definitely is American Goulash We had it as kids growing up Just like most large families on a small budget it is adjusted per household

    1. This is so yummy. I also use the broth instead of water and for a yummy twist, add canned corn in with it, it gives us a lot of texture and really goes well with a goulash. My mom used to make something very similar to this and used the corn. Thank you for helping me find a recipe for Goulash again

  23. I made the Classic Goulash for dinner the other night and it was fabulous ! My husband is a VERY picky eater and even he loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Definitely a keeper.

  24. Excellent! I don’t eat red meat so I used fake ground beef and cooked it separately and used Italian seasoning & liquid smoke and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to flavor the “meat”, then added it to the rest of the recipe later so the “meat” wouldn’t be mushy. So so so good!

  25. I’ve made this recipe a ton since I’ve found it and it’s delicious! Only thing I altered was doubled the macaroni. It’s one of our family favs.

  26. I have been making a version of this for years. I probably never make it the same way twice. It’s my go-to when I want a one pot meal. Yummy!

  27. I made this tonight. It brought back memories of my Mom. She had the same recipe except she added chopped celery. The flavor is delicious ?. It came together beautifully. I made the noodles separate as my husband is Slovak and his family always separated the noodles from the main dish. That’s good because I a. Going to freeze individual servings so when my kids visit they will get to taste some nostalgia from my parents. Thank you for this wonderful recipe ?.

  28. I made this and couldn’t stop eating it. It tasted like my mom used to make. I’ve been making it too much like a spaghetti sauce, so it never satisfied me. This was so good I ate it for several days. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Looks & Smells Amazing! I made this today & we will eat this for dinner the next few nights. I used 1.25 lb ground Turkey, 1 Vidalia Onion & 1 Bell Pepper in tbe 1st step. I added 1 Green Zucchini & 2 small yellow squash into the 2nd step + used beef broth not water & later added 2/3 of a pound elbows then once that cooked I added a pound of mushrooms. Mine is the perfect consistency not soupy at all. Hope everyone loves it ?

  30. I was looking for a recipe that was from my past. Easy to make however 20 minutes and the macaroni was mushy (nasty) and it had no taste… It was not what we made in the South so a bit disappointing. I did notice from past that you do not publish negative comments or low ratings or even a learning experience. However I will post on facebook for you. Try to learn from the negative comments. I want taste that explode in my mouth and not mushy macaroni….

    1. Hi L.A. I actually do take note and post the negative comments. If you didn’t like the macaroni mushy, you can take it off the stove a bit sooner than the 20 minutes, some stoves/ovens cook at slightly different temperatures and I can’t adjust every recipe ion that fact. Hope you try again to your liking.

  31. Super easy to make and soooo good. I use 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning instead of the individual herbs, and a teaspoon of garlic salt instead if garlic cloves, because I’m lazy, but other than that, this recipe is flawless. I use Worcestershire sauce in a lot more stuff now, too. It lends a nice depth to the flavor of lots of beef dishes.

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