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Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash

This delicious old fashioned ground beef goulash is a recipe reminiscent of what your grandma may have served. Made with bell peppers, onions, tomato sauce, diced or crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and elbow macaroni pasta. An easy dinner that tastes great and feeds a large family or a small crowd. Freezer friendly too.

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American Goulash is one of those recipes your grandma may have served. It seems to bring back fond memories for so many.

It might be an old fashioned dish but it’s still a great little dinner recipes for modern families. There’s a lot to love about it. Let’s discuss.

American Goulash vs. Hungarian Goulash

First of all, this is a recipe for American Goulash which is quite a bit different than Hungarian goulash.

American Goulash features ground beef and elbow noodles and it’s more of a pasta dish.

Whereas Hungarian Goulash is more of a stew made with chunks of beef and can incorporate potatoes and other vegetables.

What ingredients are in American Goulash?

Traditionally, and with this recipes, here’s what you’ll find in American Goulash: elbow macaroni, ground beef, bell peppers, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon of sugar because that’s what grandma did and that’s because it perfectly balances out the acidic tomatoes and peppers.

I like to add a splash of olive oil to enrich the sauce. It seems insignificant but it really makes a difference in adding flavor and a silky smooth texture to the finished dish.

American Goulash Ingredients

Optional Ingredients for extra flavor!

Black or kalamata olives would be excellent in this dish, adding some saltiness and texture to each bite. You could also add chopped artichokes, fresh or dried Italian herbs and Parmesan cheese.

Optional Toppings for American Goulash

Old fashioned goulash is great for families on a budget.

One of the reasons this became so popular back in the day is that it’s really affordable to make a big batch of this filling dish. It’s perfect for feeding big families, growing children, or for making extras to you have lunch to take to work for the week. Ground beef is still very affordable and is typically well-liked even among picky eaters.

Goulash freezes really well so you can portion and freeze some meals for later.

All the food groups.

I love a meal where you get the filling factor of carbs, hearty and flavorful meat plus veggies all in one dish. It makes cooking and clean up super simple and I’m happy because everyone gets some veggies with each scoop.

What type of tomato sauce is best for goulash?

I always say, go with what you have. This recipe works well with crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup or V8 + tomato paste. A combination of these would also work. Try different kinds to vary the flavor a bit if you make this often, or experiment and find what you and your family like best. As long as you’re working with a tomato-based sauce, you can’t go wrong. Tomato paste can be use to thicken any sauce you find too thin.

Can you cook everything, including the macaroni, in one pot?

Yes, if you want. I prefer to cook my pasta separately then combine it with the meat and sauce so I can cook the macaroni just right and drain the water. However, you can cook the pasta right in the sauce if you add water. You’ll end up with a thinner sauce since you’ll need to add 1 and 1/2 cups of water in addition to the tomato sauce. Most of the water will get absorbed by the pasta but if you find your sauce is too watery, then you can add tomato paste to thicken it. If you find it too watery tasting, then try adding some beef bullion powder or Worcestershire sauce until it tastes just right. You may need additional salt as well.

So, up to you how you want to tackle this. Some will argue that traditional goulash is all cooked in one pot and that is what makes it different than spaghetti. To me, the flavor is what sets it apart. Specifically the bell peppers and onions are what give this dish it’s unique taste, apart from spaghetti. I say, there is no right or wrong here. Go with what works for you!

If you’re planning to cook everything in one pot, I’d recommend using a dutch oven. Cook the ground beef, peppers, onions and garlic first, then add the sauce, water and macaroni noodles. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until pasta is fully cooked.

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Freezer Friendly

Goulash is freezer-friendly too so you can make a bunch and freeze half for later. Or share with friends and family. Goulash makes a great make-ahead meal for new moms, sick friends, and new neighbors.

To reheat from frozen: Cover with foil and bake at 350˚ for about an hour and 15 minutes or until center is nice and hot. You can also defrost this casserole first and just bake for about 45 mins.

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This easy recipe for Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash was featured on Menu Plan Monday! and The Country Cook!

Old Fashioned Ground Beef American Goulash

Old Fashioned Ground Beef American Goulash

Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash

This delicious old fashioned ground beef goulash is a recipe reminiscent of what your grandma may have served. Made with bell peppers, onions, tomato sauce, diced or crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and elbow macaroni pasta. An easy dinner that tastes great and feeds a large family or a small crowd. Freezer friendly too.
5 from 7 reviews
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Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Skill Level: Easy
Recipe Type: Beef, Kid-Friendly
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings
Yield: 8 cups


  • 8 oz elbow pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup bell peppers, any color or mix of colors, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes for smoother sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt, more or less to taste


  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • red pepper flakes
  • Italian spices
  • olives
  • artichokes


  • In a dutch oven, cook elbow macaroni according to package, drain and set aside.
  • Set the dutch oven to medium-high heat and add ground beef, diced bell peppers and onion. Cook until ground beef is brown and peppers and onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic paste and cook for an additional minute.
  • Stir in cooked pasta, tomato sauce, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and salt to taste.
  • Serve hot! Offer Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, Italian spices, olives and/or artichokes as optional toppings.


Nutrition Facts
Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Leave A Comment

Rate this recipe:

Andre Fulep

Saturday 16th of October 2021

It is not goulash. Please call it Fred. Or Italian meat Ricochet. Go to a legitimate site and get the recipe.


Thursday 7th of October 2021

Please stop posting this and calling it traditional goulash. It is not. Goulash is Hungarian and does not look like this and has other ingredients most notably it must have Hungarian paprika. Call this what it is. American Chop Suey.


Saturday 30th of October 2021

@Brian, absolutely agree!! I grew up on this stuff. I'm 75 ....

Angela G.

Thursday 7th of October 2021

Brian, People call this dish by different names depending on where they live. In Pennsylvania, people call it goulash. However, it's an American version that's very different than the Hungarian stew. Some people do call this American Chop Suey in other parts of the U.S. as noted in my post and in comments from others.


Monday 4th of October 2021

I never have actually followed a recipe to make goulash but I followed yours tonight. I added fresh Italian parsley and fresh basil from my garden. We enjoyed it! Thank you

Angela G.

Tuesday 5th of October 2021

Sharon, sounds yummy! Glad you enjoyed it.

Randy Sauser

Monday 13th of September 2021

I cube up Velveeta cheese to it

Angela G.

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Sounds yummy.

Sarah Sauls

Saturday 11th of September 2021

I just love this recipe.., when my children were small I made it a lot.