Bowl of American style goulash

We’ve reached the “1 pound of meat isn’t cutting it for our family of 5 anymore” portion of the program. Translation: I am constantly looking for ways to stretch a pack of ground beef, and my American Goulash recipe is the perfect way to do it!

This easy and economical ground beef goulash recipe cooks is a family friendly one-pot meal made with ingredients I always have on hand — plus it goes from stovetop to table in under 30 minutes. Every time I make it, I ask myself, “Is this really it? Am I missing a step?” NOPE! it really is that simple.

Watch How to Make It!

(Looking for more budget-friendly ground beef dinner ideas? Check out my BBQ Cheddar Mini Meatloaves, Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper, and Hamburger Soup!)

Close up photo of a bowl of OMG good goulash

What Is the Difference Between Hungarian Goulash and American Goulash?

Goulash comes from the Hungarian word gulyáshús which means “meat prepared by cattleman” and it’s a dish that dates back to the 9th century. Hungarian Goulash is a thick meat and vegetable stew with a broth that’s heavily seasoned with paprika, while American Goulash is a quick dish made from ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs, and elbow macaroni noodles. It also goes by the name of American Chop Suey.

Whatever you call it, this dish is total comfort food and my whole family scrapes the pot clean every time I make it. Heck, I’ll probably make it for dinner tonight!

Now, what’s the difference between American Goulash and spaghetti? American Goulash combines the meat sauce and noodles in one pot to cook together, while the meat sauce and noodles are cooked then served separately in spaghetti.

Overhead photo of a bowl of american Goulash

Ingredients Needed

I love that I literally always have the ingredients on hand in the fridge, freezer, and pantry to make this easy dinner recipe. Usually the hardest part is remembering to thaw the ground beef ahead of time! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Lean ground beef – I prefer to use lean ground beef so there’s no need to drain after browning. Ground turkey works too.
  • Onions and Garlic — Provide slow cooked flavor with minimal effort and time.
  • Gluten free worcestershire sauce – Not all brands are gluten free, so be sure to check the bottle. I use Lea & Perrins which, at the time of this writing, 8/22, is gluten free in the United States.
  • Pepper and seasoned salt – I use homemade seasoned salt. So easy – just 4 ingredients!
  • Chicken or beef broth – I usually have chicken broth open in the fridge from using it in other dishes during the week, but feel free to use beef broth if that’s what you’ve got on hand instead. 
  • Tomato sauce – You’ll want the kind that comes in a can, vs jarred spaghetti sauce.
  • Petite diced tomatoes – This adds bursts of fresh tomato flavor to the sauce. 
  • Italian seasoning – Here’s one of the big differences between American goulash and Hungarian goulash. Instead of paprika, the American version uses Italian seasoning which includes oregano, basil, and dried parsley.
  • Bay leaf – This adds another layer of flavor to the goulash.
  • Gluten free elbow noodlesI prefer using a corn/rice blend of pasta in this dish, as I feel I can control the texture a bit better than using brown rice pasta. 

Goulash Variations

What I love about this easy American goulash recipe is that it’s incredibly versatile. Think of goulash as a blank slate to add seasonings, spices, and ingredients to in the spirt of traditional Hungarian Goulash. Here are a few ways to switch things up:

  • Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the top of each bowl for a mac and cheese meets spaghetti flavor.
  • Stir in sour cream at the end of the cooking time to make creamy goulash.
  • Stir in shredded mozzarella cheese and garnish with diced pepperoni, or your favorite pizza toppings, for a pizza spin. Don’t forget a dusting of parmesan cheese!
  • Sneak some veggies into your American goulash by adding a cup or two of frozen riced cauliflower when browning the ground beef.
  • Or add 8 ounces of minced fresh mushrooms when browning the ground beef.
  • Add shredded cheddar cheese, chili powder, and a can of black beans or kidney beans to the pot to turn it into Chili Mac.
  • Use Italian Sausage instead of beef for an Italian-inspired spin!

Another Ground Beef Favorite

What to Serve with Goulash

How to Make American Goulash

Step 1: Brown the Ground Beef

Heat a large saucepan, skillet, or Dutch oven over medium-high heat then add ground beef, shallot or yellow onion, and minced garlic cloves. Use a wooden spoon to break up the beef then season with Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and pepper.

Step 2: Simmer the Sauce

Once the beef has browned, add broth, diced tomatoes and sauce, Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, and a pinch more seasoned salt. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Goulash sauce simmering in skillet

Step 3: Cook the Noodles

Stir the elbow noodles into the sauce then continue to simmer for another 12 to 14 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Near the end of the cooking time, you may need to turn the heat down slightly to maintain a gentle simmer. Be sure to stir often to ensure the noodles are cooking evenly.

Elbow noodles being added to goulash

That’s all she wrote – told you it was simple! This American goulash recipe is truly one of the easiest one pot meals you can make. Remove the bay leaf from the pot then scoop into bowls and serve. Again, adding shredded cheese is optional, but highly recommended.

bowl of ground beef goulash

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Store leftover American goulash in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I find the best way to ensure the noodles don’t overcook when reheating is to warm in the microwave, vs reheating in a pot on the stove.

Can I Freeze This Recipe?

Cooked gluten free pasta typically does not hold up well to freezing then thawing. That said, you can prepare this goulash recipe as written, stopping shy of adding the pasta. Cool completely, then ladle the sauce into a freezer bag and freeze flat.

Thaw in the fridge 24 hours before you plan on serving it then pour the contents of the bag into a pot, bring to a boil, add the noodles, and continue to cook per recipe instructions!

More Easy One Pot Meals

American Goulash


My easy American Goulash recipe will be a hit with the whole family! This one pot dish is made with fridge and pantry staples and it comes together in just 30 minutes.


serves 4-5

  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 large shallot or small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 8 shakes gluten free worcestershire sauce (~1/2 Tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon + extra dash homemade seasoned salt (see notes)
  • pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 15oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked gluten free elbow noodles


  1. Heat a large skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add beef, shallot or onion, and garlic then break beef up with a wooden spoon. Season with worcestershire sauce, a dash of homemade seasoned salt, and pepper, then brown.
  2. Add remaining teaspoon seasoned salt, broth, tomato products, Italian seasoning, and bay leaf then turn heat up to bring to a bubble. Turn heat down to medium/medium-low then gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add elbow noodles then continue to simmer, stirring often, until noodles are tender, 12-14 minutes, turning the heat down slightly near the end to maintain a very gentle simmer. Remove bay leaf then taste and add additional seasoned salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve.


Adapted from Paula Deen

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,


Photo collage of American style goulash