How to Make Old-Fashioned Goulash

This old-fashioned goulash recipe is a savory, satisfying dinner that cooks up in a single pot.

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There’s Hungarian goulash (or gulyás). Then there’s the American version found in our old-fashioned goulash recipe. The former is a stew that was originally made by shepherds in 9th century Europe, and later, changed to include paprika as a primary seasoning. It’s a slow-cooked dish made with onions, spices and chunks of meat.

American goulash—also called American chop suey or slumgullion—combines macaroni noodles, tomato and ground beef. It’s a common dish in school cafeterias and on dinner tables throughout the United States.

Unlike the original, which takes several hours, this version is a quick-cooking, one-pot meal!

Old-Fashioned Goulash Recipe

ingredients for goulashTMB studio

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Tools

Directions

Step 1: Saute the meat

top view of Sautéing meat in a dutch ovenTMB studio

In a large skillet or Dutch oven like this, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink and onion is tender, 4-5 minutes, breaking beef into crumbles as it cooks. Drain.

If you use lean ground beef, or don’t mind some extra fat, you can skip the draining step.

Step 2: Simmer the sauce

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings, and bring to a boil. Want to bring this dish closer to its Hungarian roots? Add some Hungarian paprika in place of (or alongside) the Italian seasoning. Interested in a fresh take? Try this Southwestern Goulash with corn, green chilies and cilantro.

Step 3: Add the mac

add macaroni to dutch ovenTMB studio

Stir in macaroni. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until macaroni is tender, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like your pasta more al dente, start sampling noodles after 9 or 10 minutes, and turn off the heat whenever it’s to your liking.

Step 4: Make it cheesy

Remove from heat. If desired, sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let stand until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. I’m personally a huge fan of Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar, but if you can’t find that where you live, check out our Test Kitchen’s list of the best shredded cheddar cheese. And if you don’t happen to have cheddar in the fridge, don’t be afraid to sprinkle this dish with Parmesan, mozzarella or a combo of the two.

Tips for Making Old-Fashioned Goulash

Can goulash be frozen?

It’s definitely possible to freeze goulash if you have lots of leftovers, but cooked pasta mixed with sauce tends to end up with a less-pleasurable texture after freezing and thawing. For best results, freeze the beef and tomato combo, thaw and bring to a simmer, and then add the pasta as directed.

What’s in a traditional goulash recipe?

American goulash actually has very little in common with the Hungarian version! In Hungary, it’s typical to use melted pork lard to cook onions and cubes of beef and then add tomatoes, garlic, and other seasonings. The stew is rich with root vegetables and potatoes, and usually includes paprika and caraway.

Want to try more Hungarian-inspired dishes? Here’s a recipe for Paprika Chicken, and another for Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage.

Why is American goulash so different?

In the American “melting pot,” traditional foods from around the world have been modified beyond recognition, but sometimes kept the same name. In 1909, a newspaper published a recipe called “American Goulash,” which consisted of cubed beef steak baked with rice, tomato and onion. Thereafter, some of the published American goulash recipes had more in common with the original dish, while others moved toward the macaroni recipe we know and love today.

Suzanne Podhaizer
Suzanne has been working in the food space as a chef, editor and writer for nearly 20 years. After earning her degree in food studies at the University of Vermont-Montpelier, Suzanne worked as the food editor of Vermont’s Seven Days newspaper and won a national award for her food coverage. Her next venture was a farm-to-table restaurant with a changing menu for which she developed hundreds of recipes. These days, she develops and shares all kinds of recipes and cooking techniques at Taste of Home, makes maple syrup and grows vegetables, mushrooms and edible flowers in Vermont. She’s also a traveling retreat cook and loves feeding artists to help fuel the creative process.