American Goulash

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American Goulash — Hearty, easy, comfort food made with ground beef and sausage, tender elbow macaroni, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The mixture simmers in marinara sauce for layers of flavor! Ready in just 30 minutes and makes a big batch that’s perfect for potlucks, picnics, game days, or to have planned leftovers on hand. This classic American goulash recipe is always a family favorite! 

A heaping spoonful of American goulash

I remember both my mom and grandma making goulash. Although sometimes we referred to it as “hot dish” but that’s because I grew up in Minnesota where so many things are just called hot dish!

Old-fashioned American goulash is known for being an easy comfort food recipe with ground beef, macaroni pasta, onions, and green bell peppers smothered in a seasoned tomato-based sauce. 

This hamburger pasta dish is thick, hearty, ready in just 30 minutes, and makes a very big batch.

A nice bonus is that this is also a budget-friendly dish because the ingredients are relatively inexpensive and again, the recipe feeds a crowd.

Overhead view of American goulash ingredients

Ingredients in American Goulash

For this easy American-style goulash recipe that comes together in 30 minutes and in just two pots, you’ll need the following easy-to-find fridge and pantry ingredients including the following:

  • Ground beef
  • Ground sausage (or another ground protein if desired)
  • Elbow macaroni
  • White or yellow onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Garlic
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Marinara or tomato sauce
  • Beef broth
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Fresh parsley

Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.

Photo collage of how to make American style goulash

How to Make American Goulash

Making this recipe for American goulash is a cinch! Simply follow these very basic directions and your American goulash will be ready in no time.

Step 1: Brown the protein(s).

Process shot showing how to make American goulash

Step 2: While the proteins are cooking, boil the pasta

Step 3: To the cooked proteins, add the onion, green pepper, garlic, and stir to combine.

Process shot showing how to make American goulash

Step 4: Add the tomatoes, marinara, beef broth, soy and Worcestershire sauces, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, stir to combine and simmer for 10 minutes.

Process shot showing how to make American goulash

Step 5: Add the pasta into the mixture and stir.

Step 6: Season with parsley and serve! 

Overhead view of a pot full of American goulash

Recipe Tips 

Make sure to use a big pot when you’re making this easy goulash recipe because it makes a lot! Two pounds of protein, a pound of pasta, nearly a gallon of liquids, yep this is a potluck favorite indeed. If you have a Dutch oven, break it out for the American goulash. 

When you’re browning the ground beef and ground sausage, if you see fit, you can drain any grease.

However, if you’re using fairly lean ground beef ~85% or leaner, this likely won’t be necessary. It surely won’t be necessary if you’re also using ground chicken or turkey with the ground beef since they are super lean.

Also a little grease is good because it keeps the pasta from sticking when you’re dealing with leftover goulash. 

I like to use lower or reduced sodium beef broth and soy sauce but it’s up to you.

The consistency of this goulash is thick and hearty — even thicker than chili. However if you want to thin it out a bit, or you’re trying to stretch the recipe, feel free to increase the amount of beef broth to make it soupier or more chili-like.

A serving of American goulash in a gray bowl

Make-Ahead Instructions 

If you’re wanting to simply make the recipe a day in advance for a party for example, go for it.

Refrigerate it and then gently reheat it on the stove when you’re ready to serve it noting it will take a little time to rewarm it since it’s a big pot of food! 

Storing Leftovers 

Goulash is great hot and fresh from the stove but leftover goulash will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

I find that anything with a red sauce or tomato-based sauce actually gets better the next day. Just like a homemade spaghetti sauce, the flavors marry and everything tastes even better after it rests for a day.

A pot of American goulash on the table

Recipe Substitutions   

My recipe for easy American goulash is a prime candidate for recipe substitutions based on what you have on hand and what flavors your family enjoys.

Here are a few substitution ideas that comes to mind:

  • As mentioned, mix-and-match another protein along with the ground beef
  • To make spicier goulash, use hot Italian sausage + ground beef
  • Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to make kicked up goulash
  • Use red, orange, or yellow bell pepper in place of green which is traditional
  • Add black beans or kidney beans for extra protein
  • Use more beef broth if you like a more chili-like consistency
  • Adding 1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream at the end will make for a creamier base
  • Stirring in 1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese will make a cheesy and super comforting base
  • Garnishing with less cheese gives a nice touch of cheese but saves some calories and fat

What to Serve with Goulash 

I remember my mom and grandma serving goulash with nothing more, which is totally fine!

If you’re wanting to balance it out with a fresh salad or roasted vegetables, they are welcome additions or just stick with the carbs and make some easy skillet cornbread.

Photo collage showing various images of American goulash

Recipe FAQs

What’s The Difference Between American Goulash vs Hungarian Goulash?

In case you’re not a goulash expert but are curious what the differences are, allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes about the differences between American goulash and Hungarian goulash:

American goulash tends to be made with ground beef or hamburger meat and possibly another ground protein, there’s elbow macaroni or small-shaped pasta, there’s a tomato-based broth or sauce, and it comes together in 30 minutes.

Hungarian goulash on the other hand is a stew-like recipe made with chunks of beef, vegetables and potatoes, the broth is beef-based like beef stew, and it simmers for many hours. 

What Kind of Protein is Best for American Goulash?

Many people make American goulash with only ground beef. However, I like to also add ground Italian sausage for extra flavor but making goulash solely with ground beef is fine.

You can also use: ground hot Italian sausage (if you like a little kick, ground pork, ground chicken, ground turkey. It’s really up to you based ion what you have on hand and what your family enjoys.

What’s the Best Pasta for American Goulash? 

I use small elbow macaroni noodles that I boil just short of al dente but you can try other small-shaped pasta in your easy American goulash recipe including: small shells, rotini, fusilli, penne, rotelle (small wheels, farfalle (bowtie).

Can American Goulash Be Cooked in a Slow Cooker? 

Yes, you probably can make goulash in a slow cooker. However, because it’s such a fast and easy 30-minute recipe, I don’t see a lot of point to dragging it out into a slow cooker recipe. Although if you’re so inclined, I would follow the overall gist of my Slow Cooker Beef Chili recipe:

1. Brown the proteins first on the stove and then add the onions, pepper, and garlic.
2. Transfer it all to a large 8-quart slow cooker.
3. Add in everything else, except for the macaroni and parsley, and simmer for about 3 hours on low.
4. Add in already cooked pasta, stir, garnish with parsley, and serve.

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4.86 from 7 votes

American Goulash

By Averie Sunshine
Hearty, easy, comfort food made with ground beef and sausage, tender elbow macaroni, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The mixture simmers in marinara sauce for layers of flavor! Ready in just 30 minutes and makes a big batch that’s perfect for potlucks, picnics, game days, or to have planned leftovers on hand. This classic American goulash recipe is always a family favorite! 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10
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Ingredients  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef, ~85 to 95% lean
  • 1 pound ground sausage*, or another ground protein if desired
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, or another small shaped pasta
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced small
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 24 ounces marinara or tomato sauce
  • ½ cup beef broth, I use reduced sodium
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, I use reduced sodium
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or as desired
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as desired
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced; optional but recommended for garnishing

Instructions 

  • To a very large deep-sided pot or Dutch oven, add the ground beef, ground sausage or whatever combination of proteins you're using, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring and crumbling the proteins as the cook to ensure cooking. If necessary or desired, drain off any fat. I don't drain it even if I have some because the fat will prevent the pasta from sticking. Tip - Begin cooking the pasta while the proteins are cooking.
  • While the proteins are browning, cook the pasta in a separate pot according to package directions. Drain and set aside until step 6.
  • To the Dutch oven with the browned proteins, add the onions, green peppers, and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften; stir frequently.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant; stir constantly.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, marinara, beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, stir to combine, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine.
  • Optionally garish with parsley and serve. Leftover goulash will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. It reheats very well in the microwave.

Notes

*You can use 2 pounds ground beef if desired. Or 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound of one of the following:Ground hot Italian sausage (if you like a little kick)
  • Ground pork
  • Ground chicken
  • Ground turkey

General Substitution Ideas:
  • As mentioned, mix-and-match another protein along with the ground beef
  • To make spicier goulash, use hot Italian sausage + ground beef
  • Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to make kicked up goulash
  • Use red, orange, or yellow bell pepper in place of green which is traditional
  • Add kidney or black beans for extra protein
  • Use more beef broth if you like a more chili-like consistency
  • Adding 1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream at the end will make for a creamier base
  • Stirring in 1 to 2 cups shredded cheese will make a cheesy and super comforting base
  • Garnishing with less cheese gives a nice touch of cheese but saves some calories and fat

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 376kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 1177mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 7g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.86 from 7 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Served over penne like a spaghetti sauce so I could freeze some of the sauce. Hubby liked so much he said make this sauce all the time and I sure will. On another note for one of your recipes I wanted to know how much apple pie spice I could sub in another recipe but I don’t remember the recipe. I hope you can find it and post it on this recipe. Your my number 1 recipe website I will visit and make lots more of your recipes.

  2. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Served over penne like a spaghetti sauce so I could freeze some of the sauce. Hubby liked so much he said make this sauce all the time and I sure will. On another note for one of your recipes I wanted to know how much apple pie spice I could sub in another recipe but I don’t remember the recipe. I hope you can find it and post it on this recipe. Your my number 1 recipe website I will visit and make lots more of your recipes.

    1. Thanks for letting me know I am your #1 site to visit, that’s wonderful to hear! And I’m glad this was a winner for you and hubby!

  3. 5 stars
    Great! I served this 20 vegetarian monks and it was well received. I used plant-based sausage and beef flavored crumbles. Overall quite easy and very tasteful. Will use it again.

  4. 5 stars
    Great! I served this 20 vegetarian monks and it was well received. I used plant-based sausage and beef flavored crumbles. Overall quite easy and very tasteful. Will use it again.

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and in over 183,000 blog comments I have received over the past 13 years of blogging, yours is a first with the monks!

      Thank you, glad it was a winner, and that you could adapt it to be vegetarian! Glad you will use it again!