Classic Goulash with ground beef, bell pepper, onions, and macaroni simmered in a seasoned tomato sauce, is ready in 45 minutes in one pot!
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!
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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
- 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
Photo used in a previous version of this post.