Best Recipe for American Goulash

This Goulash recipe (American style) is the ultimate pantry-friendly, make-ahead family pleaser, and is on your table in just over 30 minutes! The juicy ground beef and pasta simmer in ONE POT for extra flavor and ease, with a cozy, multi-dimensional sauce the whole family will CRAVE.  This American Chop Suey is easy to customize with ground turkey, different veggies, pasta, etc. so you can make it at a moment’s notice to fit your pantry or your cravings!  

This Goulash recipe is sponsored by Zoup! All opinions are my own.

American goulash (American Chop Suey) in a large pot garnished with parsley


Watch How to Make Goulash

This American Goulash Recipe is a good-old-fashioned classic! 

  • HEARTY AND COMFORTING.  This Chop Suey recipe is warm, cozy, rich, and savory, with a hint of sweetness and complex layers of seasonings.  Your whole family (kids and adults alike) will beg for it again and again!
  • THE BEST BROTH. I use Zoup! Good, Really Good® Beef Bone Broth made with the freshest and finest ingredients to create rich, complex, homemade flavor!
  • NOSTALGIA WITH EASE.  My dad used to whip up a big pot of goulash to greet us when we got home from piano lessons over thirty years ago. If he can do it, you can do it in just a few steps!
  • ONE POT.  Everything, including the pasta, simmers in one pot for fewer dishes to wash and more time to spend with your loved ones.
  • PANTRY FRIENDLY.  Besides the beef (keep it stocked in the freezer), all the ingredients are pantry friendly for a cozy last-minute dinner or a great way to feed a crowd. 
  • QUICK.  A hearty batch of goulash will be waiting after quickly browning the beef and onions, then dumping in the pasta and simmering.
a pot of goulash (American Chop Suey) with macaroni, ground beef, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and tomato sauce
top view of serving goulash in a bowl
ingredient icon

Best Ever American Goulash ingredients

Keep these ingredients stocked to make goulash any night of the week! The list may look lengthy, but most of the ingredients are dump and simmer. (Full recipe measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.)

  • Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the quintessential pasta for goulash. Sometimes the macaroni will be labeled “small” which is what you want.
  • Ground beef:  You can go pretty lean in this goulash recipe because the ground beef cooks in liquid and is swaddled in the rich sauce.  Go for 90-93% lean, meaning 90% is lean and 10% is fat.  The fat will give the ground beef juicy beefy flavor without excess grease. 
  • Beef Broth: A high-quality broth will give this dish a rich flavor. For this recipe, I turn to Zoup! Good, Really Good® Beef Bone Broth.
  • Marinara sauce: A jarred marinara sauce keeps this American Chop Suey extra quick and easy with lower acidity. Please use a quality brand; my favorite is Rao’s Homemade sold at may grocery stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or on Amazon HERE.
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes:  These are wonderfully smoky with a sweet complexity and less acidity than traditional tomatoes. Use regular if you can’t find fire roasted.
  • Green bell pepper: This adds an earthy crunch to cut through the sweet and savory sauce. I don’t recommend any other color bell pepper or the dish will be too sweet.
  • Corn: Optional, but a childhood-favorite addition! Use one 15 oz. can sweet corn or 1 ¾ cup frozen corn (no need to thaw) for a dimension of flavor and texture.
  • Aromatics: Use 1 chopped yellow onion and 4-6 cloves of garlic depending on your garlic love. You may substitute with powders for a shortcut.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This is a flavor bomb all packed into one bottle, so please don’t skip! The umami tanginess is necessary to cut through the sweetness.
  • Dijon mustardThis deepens the flavor and adds that extra “yummy something” that you can’t put your finger on. 
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: Please use a block of cheddar and shred it yourself for superior flavor and melting ability.
  • Seasonings: Paprika (regular, not smoked or sweet), oregano, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper round out the sweet, savory, earthy flavor profile.
showing how to make goulash (American Chop Suey) by lining the ingredients on the counter
showing how to make goulash (American Chop Suey) with an up close of the correct beef broth to use

Goulash variations

Goulash is meant to be customized to fit your mood, budget and pantry. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use lean ground turkey or chicken: Omit the salt and add 2 teaspoons Zoup! Good, Really Good® Culinary Concentrate™ Beef Base with Bone Broth or granulated beef bouillon to mimic the missing beefy richness, then salt to taste.
  • Use Italian sausage: Mild or hot ground Italian sausage would be tasty.
  • Use a different pasta: Use a sturdy, medium pasta such as radiatori (another fav), medium shells, rotini, penne, fusilli, etc.  Keep in mind that this recipe is designed for elbow macaroni so you may need to adjust the liquid ratio.
  • Swap vegetables: American Chop Suey is meant to be a clean-out-the-fridge/freezer meal, so add anything you like such as petite peas, frozen vegetable medley, green beans, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, etc. You can even add leftover roasted vegetables at the end of cooking.
  • Add shredded veggies: If you really want to camouflage the veggies, mince them in the food processor and cook with the beef – they’ll blend right in!
  • Use a different cheese: Try Gouda, Pepper Jack, Asiago, Fontina, Muenster, etc. to switch up the flavor profile.
  • Add beans:  Add kidney beans, more cheese and a healthy dose of chili powder to create more of a chili mac.
  • Make it saucier: This goulash recipe is supposed to be on the thick side, but if you would like it saucier or brothier, add additional beef broth.
  • Gluten-free goulash: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Make dairy-free goulash: Omit the cheese.

How to make American Goulash

Follow below for step-by-step photos of how to make goulash! (Full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add the ground beef and cook until the beef is almost cooked through.
showing how to make goulash by sautéing onions, then browning the beef
  • Step 2: Add bell peppers, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes.
showing how to make Goulash by sautéing bell peppers, onions and red pepper flakes

  • Step 3: Increase heat to high and bring to a boil while you stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pasta and cheese. Cover to help bring to a boil.
showing how to make goulash by adding tomato sauce, corn and seasonings to the pot
  • Step 4: Once boiling, add the pasta and boil (uncovered) just until al dente, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often so the bottom doesn’t stick and burn. 
showing how to make goulash by stirring macaroni into the simmering pot and cooking until al dente
  • Step 5: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese a handful at a time until melted.
showing how to make goulash by stirring in cheese a handful at a time
  • Step 5: Season to taste, then dig in!
showing how to make goulash (American Chop Suey) by stirring the cheese into the pasta and beef

TIPS FOR making Goulash Recipe

Follow these tips for the best American Chop Suey yet!

  • Use a large pot: A 6-8 quart Dutch oven is ideal for this recipe because it is narrower, so more of the pasta is covered in the liquid, ensuring it cooks evenly. It also comfortably contains all of the ingredients for stress free simmering.
  • Soften onions: Take care the onions are completely softened before adding the liquid ingredients because they won’t soften more after boiling – no one wants crunchy onions!
  • Cook pasta at a rolling boil: Wait to add the elbow macaroni until the tomato sauce mixture is at a rolling boil, otherwise it can become chewy or gummy.  
  • Don’t overcook the pasta! Test the pasta about 2 minutes before the box recommends – pasta should be al dente – meaning it should still be a little firm in the center (i.e. have a “bite” to it).  It will continue to cook while you stir in the cheese and from the residual heat from the large pot.
  • There will be extra liquid: The pasta won’t soak in all of the liquid once al dente, so don’t worry about it looking “saucy.” The excess liquid will combine with the cheese and become the sauce.
  • Add more broth as needed: If there isn’t extra liquid (due to variables in one pot recipes such as pot sizes and materials, actual simmering temperatures, etc.), and the pasta isn’t cooked by the time the liquid is evaporated, add additional beef broth ½ cup a time as needed.
  • Add the cheese slowly. Add your cheese in multiple batches – a handful at a time, stirring until completely melted, before adding more.
  • Adjust to taste: Make this goulash recipe your own! You may want extra paprika, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, etc.
serving American Chop Suey in a bowl garnished with parsley

 What to serve with American Goulash?

top view of goulash in a pot showing the beef broth used

Goulash Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between goulash and American Goulash?

The main difference between traditional goulash and American Goulash is traditional goulash is a Hungarian stew made with chunks of meat (usually beef or pork), potatoes and carrots, heavily seasoned with Hungarian paprika served over noodles. American Goulash, on the other hand, is made with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and pasta (typically elbow macaroni) all simmered together in a tomato-based sauce and relies more on Italian seasonings.

What is another name for American goulash?

Another name for American Goulash is “American Chop Suey.” Depending on the region, it may also be referred to as “American-Style Goulash” or simply “Goulash.”

Is Hamburger Helper the same as goulash?

American Goulash and Hamburger Helper are both American comfort food classics, but they differ in composition and flavor. American Goulash features ground beef, pasta (like elbow macaroni), tomatoes, any veggies, and spices, particularly paprika, all cooked together in a tomato-based sauce. Hamburger Helper also features pasta and ground beef, but is cooked in a creamy, cheesy sauce, traditionally without added vegetables or tomatoes.

What nationality eats goulash?

Hungarian Goulash is the mother of all Goulash recipes, even our macaroni studded American Goulash finds its roots in the famous national dish.  Over the centuries, Goulash was embraced all over Europe, and eventually the world, even a far as the Philippines!   Here are some varieties of goulash from different countries:  

1. Austria: Austrians enjoy Wiener Saftgulasch, which loosely translates to “Viennese gravy goulash.” It is aptly named because Viennese-style goulash consists of tender beef and onions without any other added vegetables.  The beef is coated in a thick, dark, and smooth gravy that reduces and thickens over the slow cooking time.
2. Czech Republic:  you will find český guláš (Czech goulash) or hovězí guláš (beef goulash) in the Czech Republic.  It’s a thick stew also made with beef, onions and spices without additional vegetables. “Guláš” boasts a similar flavor profile to Hungarian Goulash but does not include other vegetables. It is often served topped with sliced onion and a side of simple boiled dumplings accompanied by Pilsner beer, the Czech drink of choice.
3. Croatia: Croatian “Gulaš” is often made with venison or boar instead of beef with the addition of sliced or shredded carrots and mushrooms. It is traditional served over a bed of polenta.
4. Germany:  Beef Goulash (Rindergulasch), Venison Goulash (Wildschweingulasch), Pork Goulash (Schweinegulasch) and Wild Boar Goulash (Wildschweingulasch) are all popular in Germany!  German Goulash omits the potatoes and replaces some of the broth with red wine. In northern Germany, it’s often served over boiled potatoes. In southern German, it is served with Spätzle, a homemade noodle. 
5. Romania:  includes Transylvania which was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire so its Goulash is very similar to Hungary’s.  Romanian Goulash also includes beef or pork, onions, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes and sour cream.  In some areas of Romania, sauerkraut is added.  It is served over Romanian polenta, dumplings or pasta.
6. Serbia:  Serbian Goulash is also very similar to Hungarian Goulash with the inclusion of vegetables but usually made with lamb or pork instead of beef. It can also boast a different flavor profile with the inclusion of chili pepper and cinnamon.  It is typically served over mashed potatoes or pasta.
7. North America: Goulash in America is more like hamburger helper than a stew.  It first showed up in North American cookbooks around 1914, made with elbow macaroni, ground beef and canned tomato sauce.


Goulash dates back to 9th century Hungary. During that time, Hungary was the home to massive herds of cattle that herdsman drove to Europe’s biggest cattle markets from Vienna to Nuremberg.  To feed themselves along the journey, the herdsman would claim the leanest cattle to butcher along the way. 

They would spice, cook and dehydrate the beef and store it in a bag made from sheep’s stomach.  This created a portable meal that only needed water to rehydrate, and could be supplemented with ingredients found along the way or carried in saddlebags such as onions, cured bacon, or lard.  The stew was then cooked over cast-iron cauldrons over an open fire until rich and tender. The portable nature of Hungarian Goulash made it extremely popular and soon it spread to other countries, becoming the peasant dish of the masses. 

In the 15th century, peppers arrived from America to Hungary.  The Hungarians dried, crushed, and made them into paprika and soon paprika became the quintessential, signature spice of Goulash.  By the late 17th century, Goulash was beloved by most of Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s during the split of the Austro-Hungarian empire, that Hungarians declared Goulash their national dish as a way to distinguish themselves from their Austrian oppressors. Today, Goulash is just as beloved in Hungary and around the world.


Goulash originates from the Hungarian gulyás meaning “herdsman” or “cowboy,” a nod to the herdsman who invented the portable, dehydrated stew. Over time, the dish became gulyáshús, which translates to “goulash meat,” meaning, a meat dish prepared by herdsmen. Today, gulyás refers both to the herdsmen, and to the soup.

up close of serving of goulash (American Chop Suey) showing the recipe ingredients




©Carlsbad Cravings by

top view of goulash in a pot showing the beef broth used

Goulash (American Style)

This Goulash recipe (American style) is the ultimate pantry-friendly, make-ahead family pleaser, and is on your table in just over 30 minutes! The juicy ground beef and pasta simmer in ONE POT for extra flavor and ease, with a cozy, multi-dimensional sauce the whole family will CRAVE.  This American Chop Suey is easy to customize with ground turkey, different veggies, pasta, etc. so you can make it at a moment’s notice to fit your pantry or your cravings!
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 35 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

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  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar


  • Cook beef and onions: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, while crumbling the beef, until the beef is almost cooked through.
  • Sauté bell peppers: Add bell peppers, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes (beef should be cooked through). Drain excess grease if needed.
  • Add ingredients: Increase heat to high to bring to a boil while you stir in all the remaining ingredients except the pasta and cheese. Cover to help bring to a boil.
  • Boil pasta: Once boiling, add the pasta and boil (uncovered) just until al dente, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often so the bottom doesn’t stick and burn. DON'T overcook because the residual heat will continue to cook the pasta once removed from the stove. Note, there will be excess liquid once the pasta is cooked that will become the sauce.
  • Add cheese: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese a handful at a time until melted. Taste and season with salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. If you would like a saucier pasta, stir in additional beef broth.

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  1. Lisa says

    Made this for dinner tonight (minus the corn because I forgot it) and it was easy and delicious! I can always count on you for great recipes!!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Lisa! I am so glad it was a hit!

  2. Meggan says

    I just made this for Sunday lunch and my family LOVED it!!! I didn’t change a thing. This is def a keeper!!!

    • Jen says

      Yay! I am so glad that it was a hit!!!

  3. Ashley M says

    Sooooo good! I actually made it with hot, ground sausage (I was out of ground beef), and a jar of Arrabbiata sauce (because that’s what I had). Made it pretty spicy, but no complaints at all! Yum!

    • Jen says

      I love spicy! I’m glad that it turned out so well!

  4. Jennifer says

    This is delicious!! I have made this many times because my family loves it, especially my son, he loves the leftovers and will take it to school for lunch and eat it cold:)
    Thank you for a great recipe!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thanks Jennifer! Tell your son he has great taste 😉 Thanks for making my recipes!

  5. Jennifer says

    We love this recipe! It is Delicious. My son asks me to make it all the time. It’s flavorful comfort food. Thank you for the recipe!!